David Mendosa’s Journey from Sick and Obese to Total Wellness, Part 2: Losing a Lot of Weight
In part 1 of my interview with David, he and I discussed his journey to obesity and diabetes. If you’ve already read that, then skip the introduction below and go directly to the interview that follows it. In part 2, David and I talked about his dramatic weight loss and how he gained control of his health.
My friend David Mendosa writes on the HealthCentral Diabetes site. Although we have not yet met, David and I have become friends because we share a common bond – we each were fat and sick with diabetes and other obesity-related diseases. And each of us has taken similar, yet slightly different, journeys to wellness.
The common thread is that we each lost a significant amount of our body weight, and have made lifestyle and dietary changes to maintain that weight loss for the long term. This has affected the remission of our diabetes and improved our overall health and quality of life. I cannot stress that last point enough: Improved our quality of life.
Oh yes, and our journeys have led us to health activism. David is well-regarded as a diabetes advocate. In this interview, David and I discuss his transformation from fat and sick to total wellness and his health activist endeavors. In fact, David and I talked about his journey in such detail that I had to break the interview into several parts to make it easily to digest. Believe me; you do not want to miss a word he says. David has a fascinating patient journey conquering not only obesity but also several obesity-related conditions. Please read on…
David before and after dramatic weight loss.
Q: By 2007, you had lost a significant amount of weight and went off all of your anti-diabetics. Please expound upon this fascinating change in yourself.
A. Even though in 2005 I had been writing solely about diabetes for a decade, I was still fat. My blood sugar level wasn’t too bad, about 6.5 or so. But my weight had crept up in the previous five years until I weighed 312 pounds, taking me right to the border of being morbidly obese. Then the first of a new class of diabetes drugs, GLP-1 agonists, became available. This drug, Byetta, changed my life. By late 2007 my weight was down to 168, and I was so jazzed about Byetta that I wrote a book about it.
Still, I wanted to manage my diabetes without any drugs at all. The only way that I know that we can do that is on a very low-carb diet. It is carbohydrates, after all, that raise our blood sugar levels. So since late 2007 I have followed a low-carb lifestyle exclusively. In fact, I eat fewer grams of carbohydrates now than I did then, about 50 grams each day. That’s because I can see that it works for me both for better weight control and better blood sugar control and because I combine my very low-carb diet with two other diets.
One is the Paleo diet, modeled after Loren Cordain’s book The Paleo Diet. That’s the recommendation not to eat anything that our ancestors didn’t eat before the agricultural revolution. That was only about 10,000 years ago, not a long time at all in terms of the ability of our bodies to genetically adapt to new foods. I actually follow a variant of the Paleo diet, called the Primal Diet, because I do eat yogurt. MBL note: dairy is not eaten within the Paleo Diet guidelines. Read about the Primal Blueprint Total Body Transformation
The other diet I follow is the one taught by Dr. William Davis in his book Wheat Belly. That book finally convinced me that wheat, as well as the other grains, aren’t healthy for us. I wasn’t eating much wheat, rice, corn, or other grains anyway, because the starches in them raise our blood sugar levels more than anything. They are, of course, also not a part of the Paleo diet. But I wasn’t strict in excluding them as I am now.
Q: There are a great many people that follow a grain-free diet for health reasons, myself included. Will you please share your perspective on why grains and sugars should be eliminated from our diet?
A. While we have many good reasons to eliminate wheat in particular from our diets, my motivation is basically that I know that wheat and the other grains are high in starch, and starch raises our blood glucose faster than anything. Actually, my first big interest in researching diabetes focused on the glycemic index, which measures how fast different foods raise our blood sugar. My first book was about the glycemic index. Grains have some of the most fast acting carbohydrates, but in fact potatoes are even worse for our blood sugar, so for years I have avoided them.
Sugar is not a part of my life in any way, either. There are a lot of sugars, but when I talk about sugar, like most people I mean regular table sugar, which is sucrose, and high-fructose corn syrup. Both sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are about half glucose and half fructose. Glucose is bad enough because its high glycemic index will raise our blood sugar really fast. Fructose actually doesn’t have a high glycemic index, and that has fooled many people. You can still see products that are essentially pure fructose sold as being healthy for people with diabetes. Agave nectar is one example. With fructose the problem is that our bodies handle it differently, in this case through our liver, and any amount above the minimal amounts in most fruit is dangerous to our liver.
Q: What are your current A1C results and weight?
A. This morning my weight was 154, which is actually below my goal of 156. At my goal weight my body mass index is 19.5, and that is in the low normal range. It is in this range that some large studies have shown are the healthiest for us, particularly for minimizing the risk of cancer. Specifically, I like to be at or below 156 pounds for what most people might consider a frivolous reason. Since at my worst I weighed 312 pounds, I can now say that I am half the man that I used to be.
I measure my A1C every month. A few days ago it was 5.2 and the previous month it was 5.1. That’s almost certainly down in the normal range, in other words the level that young, healthy people who don’t have diabetes or pre-diabetes have. But that level might be even lower, less than 5.0. So that’s my goal. I will let you know when I reach it!
In part 3 of my interview with David, he and I take a deep dive into the diet specifics that have enabled him to maintain his 156 lb weight loss for years.
Living life well-fed,