Tuesday, February 28, 2017

One Year Later

A year ago, I discovered, after waking up one morning to find my vision had suddenly and severely deteriorated, that I had developed Type 2 diabetes.

I've been through many life changing experiences in my 65 years, but this one has been bigger than most. Being a pig-headed and contrary woman, I was determined to fight it. I left the doctor's office without much idea of what to do, with a booklet that told me little that was helpful in the way of dietary advice useful for a gluten-free vegetarian. I have, of necessity, found my own way to deal with eating: the first step was cutting out sugar of all kinds. The next was searching the internet, reading on the computer, and then on Kindle because my vision was too bad to read a book: on screens, words can be made bigger.

I settled on following, broadly, Michael Mosley's book, The 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet. First the food and exercise components.

My diet is now not quite as strict as at the beginning, in that I often eat 2 portions of fruit a day now instead of just one, and I have slightly bigger helpings than when I was trying to limit myself to 800 calories a day. I eat vegetables, though never potatoes, and never more than one small serving of other root vegetables per day. I eat eggs and cheese. I have a protein shake made with milk kefir and / or yogurt each morning, and a little homemade buckwheat cereal with a small portion of fruit. I eat nuts and seeds, and a little grain-free bread - a loaf lasts me two weeks. I eat legumes, despite their carbs, because they are also protein.

I also started walking: 2 - 3 times a day to start with, but now usually only once a day, sometimes not at all as in, no deliberate fast walking.

The strict regime I started with enabled me to lose another 20kg on top of the 5 kg I lost prior to diagnosis. I have gone from the top end of the 'overweight' category (though I never quite hit the obese category) down to the lower middle end of the 'normal' category.

My blood sugar fluctuated quite a bit to start with, and I had to be very careful to eat  very little and to exercise every day. We went on holiday for two weeks and sitting in the car proved very detrimental to those blood sugar levels. Now the levels are much more stable: I don't get down as far, nor as high, as in those early days. It will be interesting to see how driving affects them when I go away a year later, this April. As well as testing my levels two or three times a day, I also have a blood test every three months, which measures my average blood glucose over the previous 4 - 6 weeks At diagnosis, mine was 98 which is 'extremely high'. At my latest test it was 31, one point down from three month's ago: the normal for non-diabetics is under 40. If I had not had the previous tests, I would not now be diagnosed as diabetic.

The following are some of the benefits of finding out I have diabetes, and of removing sugar from my diet, and considerably reducing my consumption of other carbohydrates.

  • weight loss
  • improved fitness - I can wield a chainsaw again for the first time in 3 years.
  • the disappearance of the 'heat' rash I'd had on and off for a few years - and it disappeared as soon as I stopped eating sugar, before I lost most of the weight
  • the headaches I'd had increasingly, disappeared. I noticed in December when I cracked my head on the watertank stand - the resulting headache made me realise I hadn't had one for months.
  • the mental fuzziness that had worried me for a several years, and which had cleared somewhat when I had stopped eating gluten, disappeared. Alzheimer's might not happen for a while longer.
  • the athletes foot that always troubled me in winter disappeared.
  • For the first time in decades, I have been able to find swimming togs that fit me - the bigger sizes assume that you have broad shoulders, so for years I spent my time in the water constantly hitching up my togs, and sometimes, embarrassingly, not quite soon enough. And for the first time in decades I have lain on the beach sunbathing.
  • the hot flushes which have plagued me for since the onset of menopause, and which remained long after I was post menopausal, reduced in both frequency and intensity as soon as I cut out sugar.
  • I'm enjoying clothes: I've bought a few, altered a lot, thrown away huge bags full, and have bought a proper dressmaker's dummy to replace the customized paper tape one Mac made for me. Not only was it totally the wrong shape, but now I felt I deserved the real thing.
  • I have found out which friends are worth keeping, and which ones proved not to be worth keeping. The former were people who asked how I was at least occasionally, who listened, who still cared, who still spent time with me. The latter included those who distanced themselves, avoided me, judged me for my so-called self-inflicted condition and found me wanting, and those who continually try to get me to eat and drink: 'just one or two won't hurt you.' Apparently some people can't cope with conversing with me unless I am poisoning myself at the same time. 
  • I have a greater appreciation of life.

In Michael Mosely's book there is a third strand, beyond the diet and exercise stands: the mind. He recommends meditation, mindfulness in particular. I have tried meditation off and on since 1969, and always felt uncomfortable. Actually, it scared me shitless: I would find myself falling into oblivion, losing my Self. However, I was committed to following this man's suggestion, so I enrolled in a night class. I didn't enjoy it. The same old problem arose, and this time my body took over and saved me by constantly, and pretty much instantly falling asleep every time. However, I really liked the guy who taught it and at the end, it emerged that he was also a counselor, and so I started going to him on a weekly basis. He has helped me immensely - previous attempts to get help for my mental health issues have had very limited benefit, but this time, with someone that really gets me, I have finally reached a point where I feel I am becoming the person I am meant to be. I'm putting depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and childhood issue behind me. And I'm finding I'm now able to meditate sometimes.

Thanks to diabetes, I've finally got to grips with life. I'm ready for new adventures. They might not be what most people would think of as adventures, but that's what they will be for me.


Debbie said...

I loved reading this! It's so nice to hear of all the good things that came of your health motivated lifestyle changes. And maybe it will inspire me to take better care of myself and see what happens. Thanks for sharing this.

Sandra Dodd said...

I always enjoy your writing, Cally, and I'm glad to see this retrospective on how you go to a calm, strong place.

Cally said...

Thank you, Debbie and Sandra. It is lovely when people express support. :-)

Jinger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jinger said...

Very cool! I was diagnosed with MS in 2011 and also found a list of positives to take from that diagnosis. Rock on, Cally.