Editor's Note: This article was originally written by patient expert John S. Bell.
I had not intended to take the month of August off from writing these posts, but I am back now, with a little progress to report but some setbacks as well. The diet has been going well; my exercise program, not so much. Accenting the positive today, I want to talk about diet, and what I have learned over the last year. The good news for the end of summer is that my morning weigh-ins have stayed between 165.5 and 167. I have been keeping the weight off and have even shaved a pound or two since my last report in July.
This September is an anniversary of sorts. It is a year from when I first started losing weight from my high last summer of 220 plus pounds. Of course as I discovered a few weeks later, the weight loss was just one of a list of symptoms of runaway hyperglycemia. Starving yourself on a cellular level while your blood sugar goes through the roof is not a recommended diet plan, trust me on that. My intentional weight loss started at the end of last October after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Eleven months and fifty pounds later, here is some of what I have learned:
Adjust your attitude about food. I had always resisted the idea of "going on a diet." It seemed like just one more burden on an already stressful life. And we all obsess about food too much anyhow don't we? What I had to realize is that I was already on a diet. Sometimes I think we should stop naming diets after their creators or the foods you can (or can't) eat . We should name them after the long term effects they have on our health. I realized I was on the "Have the wife push me in a wheelchair to the cardiologist while waiting for an early and unpleasant death diet." Eating fewer calories, far fewer carbs and a lot more vegetables didn't seem quite as much of an imposition as part of a "Live long enough to see my grandchildren and be healthy enough to play with them diet."
Don't waste time looking for the perfect diet, just do something. I discovered that there are more diet plans than anyone could possibly try in one lifetime. And what is worse, many of them give contradictory advice. The good news is that, if you are in bad enough shape, almost anything will help. After ignoring the obvious hucksters and con-artists, you will find legitimate testimonials for almost any eating plan. It seems to me that the process of paying attention to what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it in itself has a good effect regardless of the particular diet you are on. That leads us to the next point.
Pay attention I am a great believer in weighing yourself regularly, even daily. There is actually some research that backs this up. If you do this thinking that the scale reading is a daily test which you pass or fail, you will drive yourself crazy and probably chuck the whole project. Just treat it as one more item of information, along with your blood glucose reading, your overall energy levels, how you are sleeping, how hungry you are; the list could go on. A lot of the damage we do to ourselves with food, we do almost unconsciously. When I pay attention, I eat less and eat better. I wish I were organized enough to keep a daily food diary, but even without that level of dedication, the more aware I am about my physical condition, the better the choices I make. So, what are some good choices?
Low carb works for me. When I was first diagnosed I spent I lot of time reading through the American Diabetes Association web site. Hey, while I wasn't thrilled to be a diabetic, I thought it was nice that I now had my own research and lobby group. I looked at their nutritional advice but was surprised when I found that most of most of the people I was reading who had their own blood sugar under control paid little or no attention to the ADA's recommendations and instead focused on carbohydrate intake in general with specific focus on a food's glycemic index. I have followed in the footsteps of the carb restrictors and have seen both my weight and my blood glucose go down substantially. There are some online conspiracy theorists who claim that the ADA has been slow about getting on the low carb bandwagon because they are in the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it is simpler than that. Sure, some of us can control our glucose levels with diet and exercise, but if you can't, or won't, then you will eventually go on medication. If you are a Type 2 on medication, you have a short term and a long term problem. The short term problem is hypoglycemia. Drastically cutting carbohydrates without adjusting your meds will definitely put you at risk. Your long term problem is your heart. Until very recently, the accepted wisdom on heart disease is that you worry about fats, not carbs. It is only in the last few years that the conventional wisdom has been challenged by new research. So, don't blame the ADA for being cautious. At the same time, you may want to give low carb eating a try. It has worked for me. It might work for you too.
Next time, exercise plans, failures and new strategies. As always, your comments both positive and negative are welcome!