Diabetes, Weigh loss, and Living with my Disease
First, let me say that I am not a diet or fitness expert. What I am is an overweight small town lawyer who lives with his wife and sons on a hillside sheep-farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I am also a diabetic, diagnosed with Type 2 at the end of October. When I was in college back in the 70's I weighed in at 125 pounds,soaking wet and could easily run a mile in under five minutes. This past summer I started ignoring the scale when it hit 220. It was harder to ignore the sweating, thirst, fatigue, frequent urination and blurred vision that kicked in this fall. I tried anyhow until I got to the point that climbing the stairs to my office left me pale, shaking and exhausted. I swallowed my pride and went back to my doctor to get a new order for the blood work I didn't bother with after my physical back in April. As they say, denial ain't just a river in Egypt. The results hit hard, though they should not have come as a surprise: a fasting glucose of 311 with an A1C that said I had been averaging in the high 200's for the last few months. A spot check with a glucose meter gave a reading of 395. As a bonus, my bad cholesterol was up and Dr. J had a little furrow of unhappiness in her brow when she talked about my liver numbers. It was the usual story; too many empty calories, too little exercise, a stressful job and a slowing middle aged metabolism. I really should have known better. My father had a quadruple bypass around my age, followed over the next decade by kidney failure and loss of both legs from diabetic complications. He didn't watch his weight or keep up with his exercise program in the years after his diagnosis. While I am in most respects proud to be my father's son, this is one way in which I do not intend to follow in his footsteps.
My doctor stressed the need to move aggressively on both my diet and my lack of physical activity. She also put me short term on a daily dose of Lantus given at bedtime with a pen injector. The insulin made a remarkable difference in how I felt day to day, but the sight of that syringe going into the flab around my waist each night was a powerful motivator to start some serious changes.
The first hurdle was my eating habits. A typical breakfast pre-diagnosis was a cup of coffee on the way out the door. If I was on the road between court-houses I might add a doughnut or a grease and cholesterol combo from a drive-through, but most mornings coffee was it until lunch. Lunch was usually eaten out, and always substantial; the special at my favorite Mexican restaurant, with seconds on the soda and tortilla chips; a pass through one of the three all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet restaurants in town; or just super-sizing it at one of our local fast food joints. Dinner was not much better, even when eaten at home. Heavy on the meats and starches, light on the vegetables and followed by snacks until bedtime. And when I say snacks, I do not mean carrot sticks. Think bites of fudge ripple alternating with the contents of a can of Pringles.
As for exercise, I was starting from a dead stop. For the last few years I have been living proof of Newton's First Law of Motion; you know, the one that says that an object at rest will stay at rest?
Next week, I will report on the basic changes I've made over the last three months and the surprisingly positive results. Right now, I am highly motivated and the memory of how sick I felt in October is still fresh. The challenge for the year be maintain my motivation when it sinks in that this is not a sprint, but a marathon and the quick results from the easy changes are history. I look forward to sharing this journey with you and hope you will share your own stories and suggestions in the comments section.