Documenting Progress

I had a medical appointment yesterday, which in itself is not remarkable, but that revealed a very good result.

I should back up a step and explain that, since about June of last year, I have altered my approach to managing my physical maladies, adopting a very low-carb diet(1) and following an intermittent fasting schedule(2) along with ramping up my physical activity. These changes flowed into the fact that I also started taking a pair of antidepressants in October that helped clear my head so I could focus better on what I am trying to do. Finally, in December I started taking Trulicity in addition to insulin and metformin

When I got out of the hospital a couple of years ago, my A1C was 8.5 and my blood glucose was running in the 450s mg/dL (yes, I am aware of how dangerously high that all is). At my last appointment, my A1C was 7.1 and my blood glucose average was around 180 mg/dL.

Fast forward to yesterday, and after about 9 months of focused effort, my A1C has dropped to 6.6 and my blood glucose average sits at around 161 mg/dL.

The moral of the story is that, if you are suffering from similar issues to mine, there are methods to overcome the obstacles those issues present. The right combination of medications, diet, and exercise can pay huge dividends in a short period of time and offer the promise of remission if not recovery.

DLH

(1) I try to keep my daily intake of all carbohydrates between 20 and 40 mg a day and do so by avoiding all sugars, modern grains (basically, anything containing wheat or rice), and manufactured foods. In general, I also try to keep the foods I consume in the low Glycemic Index range (below 55). Foods called Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and the like) are great for this.

Understand this kind of diet can be a huge adjustment, and if you decide to try it, there may be a period of transition where you experience symptoms similar to coming down with the flu. Also, if you have other health issues, be careful not to make them worse by following this diet. Be sure to consult your health care provider as you move forward.

(2) There are as many opinions on intermittent fasting as there are people who try it, and I don’t have a specific recommendation of where to start, but in general, the idea is to limit your calorie consumption to a narrow window once or twice a day. For me, this means usually eating one big meal between 2 and 4 and another smaller meal about an hour before bed (this helps level out overnight blood sugar spikes). These meals can vary somewhat based on my daily schedule, but in general results in there being at least 12 hours and as many as 16 hours between caloric intakes.

This method of eating helps encourage your body to take advantage of its already extant biological pathways that are part of the “feast and famine” experienced by our ancestors. Doing so helps our bodies use calories more effectively and, once you get into the habit, often results in eating less.

2018 goes out a lot better than it came in

With the year drawing to a close, I would be remiss if I did not revisit where I find myself now after the past couple–and really the past few–years of illness and struggle.

One of the most important health changes I have ever experienced happened in the form of starting a mild anti-depressant at the end of September. The changed I experienced upon beginning that medication is real and enduring and has enabled nearly everything else that has happened since then.

The biggest subsequent change has been to dedicate myself to a series of dietary and exercise changes in the hope of wrestling my life back from my health. I have virtually given up process sugars, modern grains, and processed foods. I have begun an intermittent fasting regimen. I have starting moving more than I have in years.

Specifically, I am walking and using a bike trainer, and plan to start running and attending a yoga class after the first of the year. If those efforts go well, I plan to start trail hiking and purchase an e-bike for longer-distance rides sometime in the next year.

I have begun using light therapy as part of a daily program that involves waking up using light instead of sound and also using a therapy panel as part of my daily routine. The effect this has had on my mood and energy level cannot be understated.

Perhaps most importantly, I am confident that I can do the things I plan for the first time in a really long time. I am hopeful for the new year, and those are strange words coming out of my mouth.

More will follow.

DLH

Keep your blood sugar in check. Seriously

One of the more disconcerting experiences I’ve had in this journey so far is moments when my blood sugar has been out of check due to various factors ranging from the unknown to my own stupid behavior.

Now that I am on medication and insulin to regulate things, I can tell almost immediately when things go out of whack. When things get too low, I get weak and shaky quick, and when things get too high, I get bone-crushingly tired to the point I have to lay down or I’m going to just sleep where I am.

Unfortunately, this is a new normal for me, but one that has specific and enduring ramifications for anyone trying to be healthy. My own body’s reaction may be extreme, but you may recognize the symptoms in how your own body reacts to food and activity. Those reactions aren’t normal and I implore you to consider them carefully to avoid having to go what I have gone through.

I will be the first to acknowledge that better eating–the real key to blood sugar management and to avoiding a whole host of chronic illnesses–is time consuming, expensive, and sometimes downright boring. It is also one of the best choices you will ever make.

If I may be so bold, consider the following as a minimum: stop drinking sugared beverages of any kind and stop eating refined sugars. That change alone will pay dividends you can’t imagine. If you want to go beyond that, read food labels compulsively (there are plenty of websites out there that will help you learn to understand what’s making you sick) and eat vegetables like it’s your religion. If you want to go all the way, only eat food that you know who grew it. I promise. It will make a difference.

It will be worth it if you do. You don’t have to learn the hard lesson I have.

DLH

Experiments

Last week, I learned the hard lesson of not eating too much at one time, something I hope I don’t soon forget. But, the experience got me to thinking about the side effects, especially as they relate to my blood sugar that I am monitoring twice a day.

When I went into the hospital, my numbers were dangerously high (along with apparently everything else being dangerously out of whack…), but a regular course of insulin injections brought them down to more manageable levels. Since I’ve been home, my numbers have still been high, but far better than they were.

What I wanted to find out is whether I could affect those numbers even more by changing my approach to what, how, and when I am eating, how much water I am drinking, when I am taking related medications, and how much physical activity I am getting.

Granted, those are a lot of variables to monkey with at once, but they all have a common component of metabolism, and metabolism is a key factor in my greatest risk factor, that being the fact that I am still well overweight.

As things stand now, I am waiting to eat until I am discernibly hungry, which means that I don’t have a regular meal time schedule as it is difficult to predict when I might be hungry. Further, I am consuming massive amounts of water, right now at least a gallon to a gallon and a half a day. I also increased the time between doses of my medication to spread it more evenly through the day. Finally, I am using a regime of “natural movement” exercises to increase my physical activity as I build up the stamina to do more.

I have been following this plan for about three days now, and the result is that my blood sugar number was in the “normal” ranger for the first time in quite a while yesterday afternoon and again tonight. Granted, this plan is not without cost, as I suspect some part of my fatigue is related to the change in quantity and timing of calorie intake, but my hope is that I can retrain by body to get used to the change and also lose weight in the process.

Presuming my numbers stay where they are supposed to be, I will continue this process for as long as it works or until I come up with something better.

DLH

Small victories

I was able to eat raw greens last night for the first time since this ordeal began. Previous attempts resulting in me getting rather sick, so I had been avoiding them.

This is an exciting development as it adds salads to the the things I can eat, representing a great expansion of my diet. That is a good thing given how limited it is right now.

Some days, you just have to celebrate the small stuff because that’s what there is.

DLH

Seriously, dude, no

Of all the changes I have had to endure since this new reality began, I have struggled with none more than the fact that I will likely never be able to eat the same way I used to again. That’s an ironic struggle given the fact that how I once ate was a significant contributing factor to how I got here in the first place.

I should also clarify that the dietary changes themselves are not as difficult for me as portion control. As anyone who has been heavy knows, you get hungry, and sometimes it takes long enough for your body to realize it’s full that you eat more before it says no.

The cruelty of this new state is that feeling of satiation takes even longer than it did before for reasons I have not quite figured out yet, so managing how much I eat has become a battle of willpower that I already, on occasion, have failed to win, with predictably uncomfortable results.

It appears that one of my enduring tasks on the road ahead will be learning to master my own instinct when it comes to how much I eat. That’s going to be a difficult task, but one I must master if I am to avoid far worse consequences.

DLH

Already, the first of what I suspect will be many pauses

From the beginning, I intended this blog to be a blow-by-blow account of my journey, so there are going to be times when that account may be uncomfortable for some or downright icky. If that’s too much information for you, please do not read on.

That said, my digestive system has been fragile since I got out of the hospital, and I have had to be especially careful with what and how much I put in it, lest it get angry, which it does with a certain ferocity.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t have some kind of indulgence to blame for today’s upsettedness, as far as I can tell. I woke up this morning to system-wide discomfort reminiscent of a stomach bug or the way my allergies sometimes wreak havoc on me. Whatever the cause, in my current fatigued state, it’s taking it out of me.

Not to worry, though, as this feels nothing like the lead up to my bout of pancreatitis. I’m paying very close attention to those signs, as you might imagine. My hope is that this will pass and I can get back to the business at hand soon.

DLH