As I continue this freedom journey...experiencing freedom from the sweet, sugary chains that once held me so tight I struggled to breathe, people are noticing and beginning to ask what I'm doing. I cannot point to specific plan or diet that gets the credit.
Simple answer? God is leading the way and I am following.
Keep reading for the more complicated answer. ;)
(for those who have already read the details but want to skip to the ongoing updates of weight loss and blood test results, click here to skip to those details)
Background and spark that lit this fire:
Years ago I felt like God was telling me to give up junk sugars and sodas.I tried...and failed. Tried and failed. A repeat course that left me discouraged and frustrated...and fat (correction: carrying too much fat. I have fat, I am not fat. I have fingernails, I am not fingernails).
Fast forward several years to the latter part of June 2015. I injured my back while stubbornly moving furniture by myself. Experiencing the loss of my normal mobility was frustrating to say the least. As I slowly healed and started regaining my mobility, I found myself more appreciative of the freedom I had always taken for granted. When I received the news I had diabetes, I knew what was at the end of that road because of what I'd seen happen to others with the same diagnosis. I did NOT want to lose my mobility again...it is far too precious a gift to squander!
Immediately I made up my mind to do whatever I needed to do to overcome this disease.
I was told it never goes away...except for a few who had gastric bypass surgery. I did not want to go that route, but that news gave me hope that I COULD get rid of it if I get rid of the excess weight I've been carrying around for far too long. And so my journey began.
There have been MANY changes that have happened so far...and probably many more to come as I learn more about nutrition. I decided I'd better start logging these. They may seem overwhelming all together, but the changes have been happening little by little and overall the process has been less daunting that way.
Resources and tools that have helped:
I picked up the free tools again that myfitnesspal.com provides (another try, fail, repeat process I've tried in the past). I am much more honest these days with my recording of what I eat...because I use it to look back at what I ate on a certain day if my blood sugar spikes. If you want to see my food diary, send me a message and I will give you my profile name there (if we know each other, I will approve the connection). I finally opened up my food diary so friends on mfp can see what I'm doing. Never been courageous enough to do that. One more "side effect" from all this learning about nutrition and the foods (and nonfoods) we consume...no more shame. :)
I watched a presentation on blood sugar online and ordered the book offered at the end of it. The booklet is called "Smart Blood Sugar" and is by Dr Marlene Merritt. EYE OPENING.
(note: I watched the full presentation and then ordered the book at the end. You WILL be offered additional items repeatedly, which is annoying to say the least, but if you keep clicking the no response, eventually they do let you go and don't charge you for more than what you agreed to)
At around the same time, I began reading a book called "Get Your Fats Straight" by Sarah Pope. More eye opening information! I highly encourage everyone to read this entire book, but this is one of the sections that floored me most (I'm glad she has a blog that I can share):
I had already switched to whole milk a couple of years ago, when I'd learned about the additives put in lower fat milks to make them taste good. And I'd already switched to real butter many years before that when I learned how close the chemical makeup of margarine was to plastic. Just didn't seem healthy. I was right.
Yes, the cost is higher for the milk and butter I buy that are from grass-fed cows, but they are tastier, easier for my body to digest and the overall food budget is not hurting because we can now eat healthier portions so we buy less of the other foods than we did before. It's a win-win situation!
Food Prep details (pics included at end of article):
I started paying closer attention to portion sizes and sugar content. (MUCH easier to do now that I've added healthy fats back into my eating)
I invested in more 1/2c (4oz) and 1c (8oz) containers, adding canning jars in those sizes to the plastic bowls I already owned.
I started cooking batches of meat then dicing them up and putting them into single serving containers (I learned that 4oz chicken is 1cup diced, and 4oz steak is 1/2cup diced)...putting some in the fridge for the next couple of days' meals and freezing the rest for later.
I discovered sugar in my jarred spaghetti sauce so I used the meat sauce for the lasagna recipe (no sugar in that) for pasta. Made up a double batch and did the same thing, storing some in fridge and some in freezer in individual portions.
Using the recipe builder on the myfitnesspal site, I was able to tell it how many servings the batch provided (1 cup each) and it calculated the nutrition information.
I did the same thing with taco meat (1/2c servings).
Started using Ole Extreme Wellness tortilla wraps instead of bread.
I started measuring EVERYTHING as I was tracking it. Not just for me, but for my guys as well. I never had a good grasp of proper portion sizes...and I've been surprised at how little (and also how much, depending on the item) is in a single serving size. For example, a box of elbow macaroni says it serves 8. I divided the box into 8 portions, which ended up being a little over a half cup each when uncooked. I put them into snack baggies and put them back in the box. When I made pasta for us one night, I took out a baggie for each of us anda single serving jar of pasta sauce to match from the freezer. Was shocked at how much pasta it ended up being for each of us after it was cooked. :)
When I have days that I need to switch to something with less carbs than the pasta, I learned to shred cauliflower to use in place of pasta or rice. I have one cup servings in the freezer so it's easy to grab and heat up.
I also LOVE LOVE LOVE that I can take an old favorite recipe and put the ingredients into the mfp recipe builder to get the nutritional information. I am free to cook instead of relying on packaged meals like in the past.
I typically keep sliced strawberries, measured out in 1/2c portions in snack baggies, in the fridge. Add to that a couple of Tablespoons of Reddi Whip and it's a sweet little dessert at the end of the day. Sometimes it's fresh grapes measured out in the baggies, or cans of "no sugar added" fruit divided into 1/2c bowls.
I keep hard boiled eggs on hand for a quick protein snack.
I also keep cottage cheese on hand, stored in 1/2c bowls, at the ready.
I keep cashews measured out in single serving portions in snack baggies in the pantry (and in my purse for situations when I need something in my stomach but there isn't anything suitable to be found for me).
Adding a Tbs of dark chocolate morsels to the bag of cashews is a sweet little treat when you would like something special. I NEVER liked dark chocolate...was a milk chocolate only gal...but after not having any chocolate for a long time, then trying these dark chocolate morsels, it was just right.
Added a probiotic to the vitamins we already take every day (One a Day for women for me and One a Day for men for my guys, cod liver oil capsules for all).
The dreaded "E" word...lol...Exercise:
We get to the gym sporadically these days. 30mins on the elliptical machine is my favorite choice.
*update* At around the 50lbs down from diagnosis point, the weight was not dropping as consistently as it had been in the beginning...so I've added exercise on a more routine basis. Right now my plan is to get to the gym 4x per week. 30mins of elliptical each time and adding weight machines to that (Mon & Thu upper body muscle groups, Tue & Fri lower body muscle groups)
Avoiding Artificial Ingredients (Fake Foods):
I am avoiding all transfats and hydrogenated oils that I possibly can. Switched from using crisco in my baking to using coconut oil. Switched out olive oil in my cooking (it retains nutrients better in cold dishes than heated) and went back to using butter.
I am avoiding everything that has the word hydrogenated in it, because transfats/hydrogenated fats are dangerous and without a doubt contribute to heart disease. I no longer eat fried anything in restaurants because I don't know if the oil they are using is safe. The unsafe fats are cheap and easy...and rampant in our American restaurants.
I am avoiding aspartame. As in NONE. I had to give up chewing gum as a result, could not find a single gum without either sugar or aspartame. That was hard for me at first, but now I don't even miss it. I carry tic tacs instead...but have found less need for it (I am curious about this new change in my breath...but haven't gone too far down that rabbit trail yet).
I'm learning more about insulin and its job in our bodies. Insulin doesn't know what to do with the chemicals in our foods, so it stores them as fat. It knows that chemicals have no nutritional benefit...but has to do something with it so it defaults to storage.
Healthy fats (like found in whole milk, real butter, whole milk cheeses, and nuts) actually serve a great purpose for all of our bodies but especially for diabetics: satisfying hunger and steadying blood sugar levels.
I recently learned that MSG is bad for diabetics (well, everyone really, but especially for diabetics) because it tricks the body into reacting to foods as if they are something they are not. It makes your body believe there is more protein than there truly is (allowing food manufacturers to use less real meat in their product). It activates your pancreas to produce more insulin even when there are no carbs present (can cause further damage to the pancreas from being even more overworked). This makes you feel hungry sooner than you otherwise would have...which means you eat more to compensate. I not only have to look for monosodium glutamate in the ingredient list but also the word hydrolyzed. Hydrolyzed proteins work the same as msg and should be avoided for good health.
This is where it got a bit more difficult. I chose to look at all the ingredient labels for the foods we already consume...to be dismayed at finding MSG in many favorites (Ranch dressings, Cavenders, canned soups). I want to give my pancreas a break (without the side effects of common diabetes meds)...so I choose to avoid MSG when I can. I am learning to use different seasonings, breaking out of old routines (not a bad thing, but difficult for routine-oriented people like myself). A dear friend shared with me a recipe for homemade ranch dressing that will be safe for me (and my guys! I want to take better care of them too). I also just found a ranch dressing mix at Whole Foods that does not contain MSG...SCORE! :)
It is a much greater challenge to find restaurants where I can safely consume. MSG is in so many processed foods which are found in American fast food establishments. KFC being the worst. BK the second runner up. The stuff I learned on this site only reinforced what I have already been experiencing myself by trial and error. http://www.msgtruth.org/whywe.htm
I am experiencing more success in bringing my daily blood sugar numbers into the approved ADA range now that I'm adding more fat in my diet and consuming less carbs (note: not all carbs, just certain types listed below*, and it's not cutting them out completely but instead limiting them) and COMPLETELY avoiding the low-fat/no-fat chemical experiments masquerading as food.
*carbs to limit until I heal*
no more than 60g/day of the following:
~~bread, crackers, chips, cereal/granola, bran, breakfast bars/granola bars, energy bars, oatmeal, pasta, rice
~~candy, baked goods, pastries, cookies/cakes
~~fruit juices, energy drinks, soda, milk
~~fruit, beans, potatoes/sweet potatoes, corn (including popcorn)
(of the above list, I will not forego the milk, so I count that in my 60g limit, as well as some fruit daily)
Reflections about this process:
The best side effect to me is not just the weight loss (steadily losing 1-2lbs a week...a safe, healthy rate) but the fact that I can walk into any grocery store and not hear the "siren call" of all the stuff that I previously could not resist. I am FREE from the sugar addiction that plagued me almost my entire life...and been an albatross around my neck for too long a portion of my adult life. I never want to lose this new-found freedom. I am learning how to make my old favorite recipes less harmful (finding replacement ingredients for those laden with chemicals that are harmful to our bodies). I can bake for others and not feel the need to consume. I can be around others who are partaking in things I cannot because the sugar levels are too high to be safe for me right now...and I am completely okay with it. THAT is the part that is mind-blowing to me. I do not feel deprived...I feel set free!
The journey continues...and I am enjoying the "side effects" of my current choices...my clothes are becoming too big and weigh-in Wednesdays (my choice...weighing in once a week around the same time with the same clothing articles on) feel as exciting to me as Christmas morning rather than the dread I used to feel when forced to look at the numbers on the scale. I have more energy than I have enjoyed in quite a number of years. My skin went a little bananas for a while, breaking out like a teenager, but is now clearer and softer. I am now able to wear my wedding ring (hasn't fit since sometime during our tour in Altus) and even was able to put on the mother's ring my guys gave me...haven't been able to get that one on in many years before Altus! I am seeing numbers on the scale I haven't seen since our time in ND. <3<3 <3 FREEDOM <3 <3 <3
WEIGHT LOSS UPDATE:
18 May 16
51.3lbs down since diagnosis
68.3lbs down from top weight
THESE CHANGES ARE WORKING!!!
I have not taken even one dose of diabetes meds nor cholesterol meds.
13 Jul 15 A1C was 8.8
(below 5.7 is normal for non-diabetics)
19 Oct 15 A1C was 5.4
19 Jan 16 A1C was 5.6 (even though it raised slightly, the interim months included major holidays that revolve around non-routine foods)
Liver enzymes are back in normal range (had been elevated for years).
Good cholesterol (HDL) is up and bad cholesterol (LDL) is down.
Cholesterol total is in healthy range. :)
21 Jul 16 A1C is 5.2!! woohoo!!
***24 Nov 15***
Well THAT is interesting!
So Sunday night I ate foods I don't normally consume. It was a special occasion and I allowed myself this, still maintaining portion sizes as best I could.
I was pleased that the blood sugar readings that night and the next morning were not high.
However, there was a price to pay for my indulgence. I experienced food cravings that I have not had to deal with in MONTHS. Last night I caved in to the cravings and ended up going over my daily calorie limit and (more important to my goal) my daily carb limit.
A restless night of poor quality sleep, a complaining digestive system, and a higher than my recently normal fasting blood sugar reading this morning are the fruits of that cave-in.
Not worth it in the long run!
I let my guard down because I had only been watching for blood sugar spikes, hadn't even considered cravings returning.
Back on track today. I will be careful on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), but still enjoy the traditional favorites. I know now to expect the cravings and be on guard Friday and Saturday to keep them from taking over before my body returns to its new normal self. ;)
Planning ahead is vital to winning this conflict! LOL
***8 Jun 16***
Well, here I am again...getting back on the healthy wagon after having fallen off recently. LOL
We took an 8 day vacation to see family and friends and I allowed myself to consume foods that I don't normally consume on a routine basis. It was vacation...and it was easier that way. I was happy last week when the weigh-in result was only a one pound gain. However, what I didn't pay close enough attention to was the cravings that had returned. It was taking more quantity to satisfy those cravings. Then National Donut Day came and Krispy Kreme happened...and that led to a seriously out of control weekend like I'd not experienced since before my diabetes diagnosis. No matter how much I consumed, the feeling of being satisfied was always out of my reach. The more sugar (and artificial ingredients that I'd previously been avoiding) that I ate, the more my body demanded. I was trapped again in a cycle of misery and my blood sugar was steadily climbing out of the normal ranges where I prefer to keep it. I was not in the danger zone but if my goal is still to avoid the medications, I HAD to get myself back under control. And that IS still my goal...the side effects of eating healthier/cleaner are far more beneficial and enjoyable than those that come with the meds.
Today is a better day and I am glad. I feel more in control of my own body. The cravings are subsiding slowly. I know if I stick to my plan, they will disappear again.
Addictions are hard.
There is so much that I have learned/am learning throughout this process but not the least of which is a growing compassion toward those who struggle with other addictions like drugs and alcohol. Kicking addictions are extremely difficult, but thankfully, not impossible. They/we need your prayer cover every day. Only God can change our hearts to desire what is best for us over what is only temporary pleasure...
***8 Dec 17 fb post***
God is so very good!
I've been struggling for the past year and a half with so many things, not the least of which has been obedience in the area of food.
I went to bed last night with one plea. "God, please help me!" Woke up this morning to the daily verse from the Bible app I recently put on my phone (had one app already, but tried another that a friend was using).
In my teen years I had clung to this specific verse during a period of intense and deep spiritual growth. He has proven to me time and again that if I put Him first in my life, He will fill in the rest for me. I've been wracking my brain to figure out what I need to do to get back on the right track with my eating. I keep "falling off the wagon" after short bursts of victory. What was the key that had removed the cravings from me before? Today's verse highlighted the correct answer like a Las Vegas marquee. Yielding to His leading is what was restoring my body to better health before. Turning to anything else in times when I need comfort will never bring the same reward or satisfaction. HE is the key!
The verse? Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.