Diabetes Update

I meant to post this update earlier, but just kept putting it off.  Back at the beginning of October I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  3 months later my glucose levels are practically normal.  I went from risk of everything bad  associated with diabetes, to “you should be totally fine as long as you keep up the good work”.

By the numbers:

Before: glucose 239 mg/dL
After: glucose 104
Normal (65 – 100)
Triglycerides: you don’t even want to know
After 119
Normal < 150
Before: Hemoglobin A1c 8.5%
After: Hemoglobin A1c 6%
Normal: (4.0 – 5.6)

It’s Just a Problem I Need to Solve

I did all that in 3 months.  I lost 20 pounds, feel better than I ever have in my life, dropped down to a size 32in waist in jeans (still tight, but give me a few more weeks) size medium in t-shirts (holy crap I haven’t worn those in years) and the ability to do more pull-ups than I ever have in my entire life (I’m not giving you the number because it’s still a ridiculously small amount).

How did I do this?  I just changed my diet and kept exercising.  I broke the problem down into 3 distinct goals that I gave myself 6 months to achieve.  I did that because I’m supposed to get my blood work done every three months (though after this next test I may be able to only have it done every 6 months – if I keep the numbers down).  For the first 3 months the goal was eliminate drinking, breads, and keep sugar under 35g per day.

I was mostly successful.  I did stop drinking (which is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do).  I reduced the amount of bread and flour I eat.  I basically do a gluten-free(ish) diet.  I don’t eat flour tortillas anymore, only corn.  I don’t eat bread almost at all (I did have a few burgers in December and did have way more pizza than I should have).  Finally I was essentially able to keep the sugar intake below 35g.  No sweets at all.  No soda.  I check the ingredients and nutrition panels of everything that I eat.  Fortunately I’d already started drinking my tea with artificial sweetener.

For this next 3 months the goal is to get up to 4 workouts a week (I’ve only been doing 2).  The great news is that to reduce your glucose levels a combination of cardio and weights is best.  That means my workouts just need to increase in number, not change significantly.

For the final 3 months I intend to try and cut out red meat. And eat pizza only once a month (yes that’s a real goal for someone like me – I’m basically a Ninja Turtle with how much I love pizza).

So you like change, well CHANGE!

I knew basically that my drinking was most likely the problem.  I love me some bourbon.  The thing about alcohol is that it’s a double whammy when it comes to diabetes.  Alcohol that the liver can’t process is turned into sugar and thrown back into your blood stream.  And, alcohol keeps the pancreas from producing insulin. So not only do you have more glucose in the blood, but you’re keeping your body from producing the thing it needs to convert that glucose.

So I figured once I stopped drinking my levels would be pretty normal.  But I wasn’t taking any chances.  The elimination of bread did wonders.  I also had to adopt an “eat this, not that” type of mentality.  I chose corn tortillas instead of flour, lettuce wraps instead of sandwiches, quinoa or brown rice instead of white, red potatoes instead of russet, corn chips instead of potato chips.

I still eat at some of my favorite places.  Just get a freedom bowl with no rice instead of a Freebird burrito.  Unwich from Jimmy Johns.  Carne Guisada is considered a good choice from Mexican restaurants.  Crispy tacos are another good choice.  Also, I can still enjoy chips and salsa or guacamole.

I also have to say how much I appreciate My Fit Foods.  During that first week when I was trying to figure out what to eat, finding out that every meal they carry scores low on the glycemic index was a relief.  A tasty, tasty relief.

The Inspirational Part?

I’m not saying anyone can do what I did.  I truly believe that living in Austin made the transition a lot easier.  I have Whole Foods nearby, not to mention my local H-E-B carries a decent amount of gluten-free options.  We also have many Vegan and Vegetarian restaurants.  Promise Pizza down the street offers a gluten-free/dairy free pizza that is delicious.  Heck, Mr. Gattis offers gluten-free pizza as well.  Having those choices makes things much easier than if I had to hunt for the healthy stuff.

I also have to thank my friends who were really supportive and helped me see that the future wasn’t as bad as I originally thought.  Special thanks to Shannon for being my un-official-official personal trainer.

I know I hate when people say, “If I can do it so can you!”, but considering I was a person who drank every weekend, ate pizza and buffalo wings nearly every weekend, and only worked out once a week (if that), I really think you could do this as well.  If I, a person who would choose not to workout occasionally on weekends because it would interfere with my reading, can get 2 workouts in a week, then you should be able to as well.  I, a person who I know ate french fries multiple times in a week, can make dietary changes necessary to lose 20 pounds.  Then you really should as well.

That said, I wasn’t ever going to make those changes.  I had to have a doctor tell me, “Your triglycerides are so high you’re at a high risk for heart attack in the future.”  “If your diabetes worsens, you could lose a foot,” is what it took for me to get serious.  But I did, and hopefully if that moment happens to you, so will you.

I really do miss drinking, though.  I never liked the saying, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” so instead I’ll say, “no bourbon tastes as good as having all my limbs”. (Or, as Jenny and I came up with, “Pizza doesn’t taste as good as having legs”)

If you’re struggling with diabetes I hope you find what it takes to make it through.  I know not everyone can deal with diabetes by just changing their diet, but changing your diet can make dealing with the it a lot easier.

See you back here in late April with another update.


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