How I got started
I got my first non-spam comment on this blog the other day, which was great, because I do wonder sometimes if anyone is reading. The commenter asked how I got started on my do-it-yourself diet plan, and I realized that I haven’t talked about the actual mechanics of my diet all that much.
I had no obvious symptoms of diabetes, although now that I know I have it, it is easy to look back and say “Oh, well that was probably because of the diabetes” for various health issues. I was diagnosed when my doctor ran a fasting blood sugar as part of a fertility workup. When the first test came back with a blood sugar level over 200, my doctor actually thought it was a lab error. But the retest proved it was no mistake.
However, I had to wait two long months before I could in to see the endocrinologist, so I was pretty much on my own at the start. I knew two things – my blood sugar and my cholesterol were high. My high blood sugar was most likely contributing to my high triglycerides, which were making my cholesterol high over. So I went to the library and got out a bunch of books on diabetes and nutrition. I went out and bought Diabetes for Dummies, which I can highly recommend. And I started learning. It turns out there are three keys for controlling your blood sugar.
1) Monitoring your carb intake. People think sugar when they hear diabetes, but it’s the carbs that break down into sugar that are the real problem.
2) Portion control
The interesting thing about the three keys is that they’ll pretty much work for anyone who wants to lose weight, not just diabetics. I read the books, and then I started making big changes to my diet. I added more whole grains. I switched to a Kashi 7-grain oatmeal, bought whole wheat English muffins, tried corn-based cereals and whole grain pasta.
I obsessively read labels in an effort to avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup and to establish serving sizes. Did you know the serving size of most store bought blueberry muffins is 1/3 of a muffin? Eat a whole one and you’ve consumed 600 calories – close to half the calories I should eat in a day. I flat out gave up soda. Once I started paying attention, I realized I had been eating way more food than I needed. I also figured out that I could use about half of the amount of cheese I had been using in various dishes, and still enjoy it just as much. I measured everything – how much olive oil I put in the pan when I cooked something, how much pasta I put on my plate to be sure it was just one serving, the cheese I grated on to my baked potato, my baked potato to see how many ounces it was – everything!
I switched from snacks like pretzels to more carb friendly ones like part skim string cheese and whole wheat crackers, veggies dipped in hummus, whole wheat cinnamon bread, and nuts. I learned that if I ate small meals and regularly spaced snacks, my blood sugar stayed more level and easier to control. And I got less hungry and likely to overeat if I carefully timed my meals.
And I started going to the gym and working out at home. I was really lucky, because my boss and my friend Becky were both there as gym buddies for me. I was scared to go to the gym. I hated the equipment, and I was sure everyone there was judging me for not being fit. You always read in magazines how they recommend that you have a workout partner, and it really does help. There have been times when the only reason I made it to the gym was because I knew Becky was waiting for me. She helped me overcome my fear of the elliptical machine, and convinced me that I could handle running. And she was right! The trick is to just try stuff out. The first time I got on the elliptical, I think I lasted for five minutes. The first time I got on the treadmill to practice for my 5k, I thought I was going to die, but now I regularly run 5 miles. I’m trying to build up to six miles in an hour. If you keep at the exercise, the strength and stamina will come, I guarantee it.
Next time: what happened after I finally got to see the doctor
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