A Life Changing Moment

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote in his poem “Rainy Days” these famous words:

“Into each life some rain must fall”

On March 7th, during my yearly physical, a little rain fell on me because that is the day I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.

As bad as the announcement was, this was not a total shock.  Not because I don’t eat healthy, exercise and watch my weight but because genetically the odds were in favor of me contracting this disease.  My dad was diagnosed with it in his early 40’s and there were others in his family that died from complications of this disease (his mom and two of his brothers).

But even though I expected it, I was still in denial for the first couple of days.  My active lifestyle and stellar annual physicals had lulled me into a false sense of security that I’d somehow cheat this disease even though I was hard wired to get it.  And besides, I don’t fit the typical definition of someone who contracts Type II diabetes.  I don’t smoke.  I only drink water and avoid soft drinks and sweet tea (which is tough to do in the South!).  I don’t eat sweets and in fact I don’t even like them.  But that didn’t matter.

I must admit that I had made some lifestyle choices that weren’t the best over the past couple of years.  I significantly dropped off from my normal exercise routine and to make matters worse, I didn’t reduce my carb intake which resulted in my putting on about 15 pounds.  I also stayed up too late (blogging!) and didn’t get the amount of sleep I required which also contributed to my weight gain.  But still, I was in descent health and could still run a mile without stopping which is better than a vast majority of Americans.

The fact still remained that I had this disease and now it was time for me to make lifestyle changes to combat the disease.  Although this sounds harsh to some, my goal now is to die from something unrelated to Diabetes.  In an effort to hold me accountable to that goal and to share my story with others who may be in a similar situation, I’ll start a new ‘Diabetes’ category on my blog and this first entry will catalog the start of my journey living with this disease and catalog the progress I’ve made so far.

I’m still in a learning mode about this disease and there are orders of magnitudes of information that I don’t know.  The small lifestyle changes I’ve made over the past few weeks are only based on limited research on the internet and what I know about how my body responds to exercise and diet.

Unlike many who contract this disease, I’m not totally ignorant on a healthy lifestyle because I’ve been a runner since March of 1999.  When I turned 30 I found myself about 20 pounds overweight and decided to do something about it and running was something that I immediately took to.  I completed the Chicago Marathon in 2000 and ran 5-10 races a year up until a couple of years ago so I know how to train and fuel my body with good foods to keep my body in top shape.

Within the last few weeks, here are the changes I’ve made as well as some of the existing things I continued in an effort to reduce my blood sugar levels.

  • I started running or cycling 5 days a week (30-60 minutes for running and 1-2 hours cycling).
  • For my lunches on the weekdays I eat only a veggie sub from Subway.
  • I started taking one aspirin (325 mg) each day after my lunchtime run.
  • I now get 6-8 hours of sleep each night.
  • My meals are now smaller and more frequent and my daily meals look something like this – a small breakfast (oatmeal or breakfast sandwich), a mid morning snack of fruits/almonds/berries, veggie sub for lunch, a mid afternoon snack of fruits/almonds/berries and then a modest healthy dinner at home.
  • I restarted my daily dose of Acai berry juice (this is my favorite).  I used to drink this daily when I was exercising more regularly but then stopped it when my exercise dropped off.  This is not only a great tasting beverage but I find it has many beneficial health benefits as well.
  • I continued to take 2 multivitamins per day (I use these).
  • I started Metformin which is a standard entry level Diabetes drug.  Fortunately, I have not experienced the side effects of this medicine and as I enter into care of an Endocrinologist, my medicine and dosage may change but for right now, I think Metformin has been very beneficial to me over the past few weeks.
  • I limited myself to one alcoholic drink per day.

The graph below represents my daily blood sugar measurements (twice per day – out of bed and before dinner) over the past month.  The red dots show when I started to take Metformin (staring with one pill per day with the first red dot and then two pills per day after the two red dots).

blood sugar measurements

As an engineer, I’m fascinated with data and love the challenge of trying to figure out what process inputs affect the process output so I’ve enjoyed charting my blood sugar measurements after making various lifestyle/medicine changes.  You can see there was a lag of a couple of days when I started Metformin and the step function drop in blood sugar.  You can also notice the steady trend down in measurements and, more importantly, the less variation in measurements as I’ve progressed.

Now that I know the symptoms of this disease, I realize that I’ve been living with this for over a year and thankfully I got this wake-up call early enough to hopefully do something about it.  I will post regularly about Diabetes as I learn more and when I can share my progress and the lifestyle changes that I make that I feel have had an effect on my blood sugar.  I will be candid and tell the good with the bad in hopes that others may benefit from my sharing or maybe others who are more experienced battling this disease can counsel me on ways I can improve my health.

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20 Responses to A Life Changing Moment

  1. tomwys says:

    Nice bit of intelligent introspection!

    You obviously have a goal of improving the world, and you’ve done well. Don’t stop doing so!

    Resist the temptation to even think about giving it up! Celebrate the fact that multitudes are on your side, and wishing you well!!!

  2. blaine says:

    Cosmo,

    I was diagnosed with diabetes last year and have completely reversed it. I am not even pre-diabetic now. I am high normal.

    Read this:

    http://www.diabetologia-journal.org/Lim.pdf

    also this:

    http://www.bloodsugar101.com/

    You have my email. I’m happy to help any way I can. Recipes, what to eat, what worked for me, etc.

    If you want to talk, I will give you my cell phone.

    Don’t give up hope. I can tell you it’s at least possible to reverse diabetes because I did it.

    It may not work for you but it’s definitely worth taking a shot at seeing if you can do it with diet and exercise alone.

    The best analogy I can come up with on how most doctors treat diabetes is you have a camp fire going and you keep pouring gasoline on it. They give you a fire extinguisher to knock the fire down.

    Much better to stop putting gasoline on the fire. You can also use coal. Coal will still give you the heat you need and it is much easier to control the size of the fire compared to gasoline.

    The good news is we are omnivores and can run equally well on gasoline or coal unless we have a metabolic problem and can’t handle the gasoline.

    Blaine

    • blaine says:

      I just reread your diet blog and the problem may be the “sub,” the fruit and juice. Read Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. One of the things he says in his book I found so outrageous that I tested it on myself with my blood sugar monitor.

      He says 2 slices of whole wheat bread can spike your blood sugar more than a Snickers candy bar. Didn’t believe it. So I tested it and sure enough, for me at least, that turkey sandwich on whole wheat is as bad as a snickers bar. I couldn’t believe it.

      A 6″ Sub has over 40 carbs and 6 sugars. That’s 80% of the carbs I eat in a whole day and 33% of all the sugar.

      Juice will spike your blood sugar. I don’t drink any juice, ever! Much better to eat the whole fruit that has fiber to moderate your glucose uptake. Ditto for liquid milk. I had to give it up.

      One of the things people don’t realize is that fruit has been selectively bred to have tons more sugar in it than 50 or 100 years ago. Yellow bananas didn’t even exist in nature before a mutation was discovered on a plantation in 1838. Wild bananas, or “plantains” need to be cooked and have more seeds than a watermelon and a fraction of the sugar. Now I’m dating myself. Do watermelons still have seeds? You get the point.

      A whole large apple (which is good for you right?) has more than 20 grams of sugar which is more grams of sugar than I eat in an entire day from all sources! I still eat some apple but only a quarter at a time and usually before I exercise so I can burn the sugar content. Same for bananas. I eat raspberries almost every day. They are the lowest sugar fruit with the highest fiber. (frozen in a protein smoothie works great)

      Last year this time I couldn’t run a quarter mile. Now I do 5k in 28 minutes. Ride 80 to 100 miles a week on a bike and try to swim at least a mile. I’m 61 years old. 162 pounds on a 6’1″ frame. 10 years ago I weighed close to 250.

      Being diagnosed with diabetes was the best thing that ever happened to me because unlike you, I was never fit. I sat on my ass and ate expense account meals every day for over 25 years. Now, for the first time in my life I’m lean and fit.. Went to my local Kroger yesterday and measured 12% body fat. That would never have happened without the
      diabetes wake up call.

    • cosmoscon says:

      Thanks for the inspiring story Blaine! Your story is what I hope happens to me over the coming months/year but like I said in the post above, I’m still very ignorant about this disease and in a learning process.

      Your two links are very interesting and I’ll mention these to the endocrinologist that I will see this week.

      I have some really good resources to lean on but I may take you up on your offer for a conversation later once I know more. I do have your email address and thanks so much for offering your help. That means a lot.

      • blaine says:

        It’s a scientific fact that almost everyone who has type2 and gets bariatric surgery is cured of their diabetes. The first link I sent you is the only trial I know of that has duplicated the results with diet alone. The sample size was tiny but the positive results are encouraging.

        Very little research has been done on low calorie, low carb, ketogenic diets with diabetics. Almost all diet trials exclude diabetics from the panel. Stanford is doing a small trial now on which diets work best for insulin resistant people but there is no information on when the results will be published.

        There is so much conflicting information of what diabetics should do that I decided not to wait, to believe no one and conduct a clinical trial of one on myself. (N of 1). All I needed was a $20 glucose monitor from Walmart and several hundred strips.

        I saw almost immediate results when I cut out all sugar, drastically lowered carbs and exercised more.

        You are right to be cautious because if you are taking medication and reduce your carbs like I did, the literature warns you could lower you blood sugar too much and become hypoglycemic. The same is true for exercise. When you exercise, it can also lower blood sugar and if you do it too much, it can stress your body causing cortisol (stress hormone) releases that will increase you blood sugar. It’s a tricky balance. (I didn’t exercise at all when I first went on the ketogenic, low carb diet and didn’t start exercising until my blood sugar was under 175, never longer than 40 minutes until it dropped to normal levels.)

        I have spent over a thousand hours researching this subject and while I am not a scientist I do have a research background and I have reviewed most of the major peer reviewed studies released in the last 5 years.. (I was an executive for many years with the second largest market/media research company in the country.)

        Results from a sample of one mean nothing except for showing it is possible to reverse diabetes.

        There is hope.

        Good luck.

  3. tannngl says:

    Cosmocon, I’m so sorry this has happened to you. But! we know so much more today about this kind of diabetes.
    I personally have a friend in Georgia, a Navy vet who drank quite a bit, loved his sweets, was a cook and shared many recipes with me. He was very overweight, had hypertension and then, type 2 diabetes. He’s in his 50’s. After just treating with diet and exercise, he decided, enough! He, too, took his medical problems in hand and ate very low carb, bicycled, did weight lifting and running. Within just a few months he was off all medication. His blood pressure was normal, his blood sugars were normal, all without meds. That was 3 years ago and he is still maintaining. I am so proud of him.
    I pray you will be able to do the same and it looks like you are on your way.
    I used to be VP in a hospital and 1 of my responsibilities was quality improvement. I loved data, graphs. Probably could have been an engineer instead of a nurse. I think this is what draws me to your posts. So I will be very interested in your qualifying and quantifying your progress!!!
    God bless you!

    • blaine says:

      This is a link to a very large, multi-year diabetic study published November 2012. 5,000 sample.

      https://www.lookaheadtrial.org/public/LookAHEADProtocol.pdf

      In my opinion the intervention was not intense enough to achieve the kind of total remission results I have had but I will be interested in seeing the detailed data when they are published.

      One of the executive summary statements should appeal to your engineer mind:

      “Data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System indicate that the prevalence of weight loss attempts among United States adults is 44% among women and 29% among men. Unfortunately, only 10% of women and 13% of men report using both the recommended strategies of eating fewer calories and exercising 150 minutes or more weekly.”

      Compare that to the results of the National Weight Control Registry where the average participant has lost 66 pounds and kept it of for 5,5 years. “90% exercise on average about 1 hour a day,” (This is over twice the minimum exercise recommendation that 87% of all men in America don’t meet)

      The Nielsen company released a study that indicates the average American adult spends 8.5 hours in front of a computer or TV screen every day and men between the ages of 45 to 54 spend an additional hour over that. I am no exception. (More computer than TV)

      I love your blog but would rather see fewer postings if it means you are exceeding the National Weight Control Registry averages for exercise.

      Tough Love!

      PS: A year ago my Fasting blood glucose was 174. It was 84 this morning. I spend about 8 hours a week exercising and I eat low carb. It works for me and thousands of others.

      • cosmoscon says:

        The more I read your links and others that people have sent me via twitter the more I think I’m on the right track with increasing my exercise but I need to seriously limit my carbs. I’m a bread-a-holic because that is how I grew up but I need to drop that like yesterday.

        I am amazed at the wonderful advice I’ve received here and it is amazing how people like you were drawn to this blog for the politics/science but who knew you’d be giving me life altering/saving advice on these very same pages. I don’t think that was an accidental pairing.

        And don’t worry, this blog thing is a hobby. It doesn’t pay the bills and I post when all else is taken care of – family, job and now health!

        Here is another helpful link that someone on twitter sent me and it helped me understand the physiological workings of diabetes. As a runner, I fully understood the two fuel sources – glycogen and fat – but never connected the dots to my disease now.

        http://www.marksdailyapple.com/diabetes/#axzz2Q1qDPHmk

        • blaine says:

          Cosmo,

          The things that took me the longest to figure out I am going to share with you now because just like in Mark’s blog, it goes against conventional wisdom.

          After I cut down on carbs in a big way, cut out wheat and my blood sugar was still high, I couldn’t figure out why. Then after carefully measuring my blood sugar one and two hours after eating, I discovered it was all the “sugar free” foods I was eating that contained sugar alcohols.

          Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates and raise blood sugar as well. Maybe only 75% as much but because the biggest offender, “Maltitol” is 75% as sweet as sugar, by the time you use 25% more, you might as well have just used plain sugar. In my case because I thought it was “sugar free,” I was probably using twice as much. I am really careful now with sugar free candy and gum because for me and a lot of people, there is little difference between the real thing and sugar alcohols in the way they effect blood sugar.

          http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/nutrition/a/maltitol.htm

          The only artificial sweeteners that don’t raise blood sugar are stevia and erythritol. You can add Spenda (sucralose) and Equal, (aspartame) as sweeteners that don’t raise blood sugar but they cause food cravings and are not, despite what the labels say, calorie free.

          It took me a long time to discover that if a “Packet” of Splenda has under 4 calories, the FDA allows them to say it has “Zero calories.”

          http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/nutrition/a/maltitol.htm

          Also, you see on PBS, doctors pitching high carb, low fat, mostly vegan diets, like Dr. Joel Furhman, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr, Dean Ornish. They all say oatmeal and black beans are good for you.

          But if you read the low carb blogs, you will find there are many people like me who report they can’t eat these foods because they raise their blood sugar.

          Also, Low carb pasta, low carb wheat bread and other “low carb” diet foods are oxymorons. “Net Carbs” where you take the fiber in a food and subtract it from the total carbs is a marketing gimmick. (Actually started by .Dr. Atkins which is one area that he was dead wrong about)

          The best advise I read anywhere was to believe no one and no advertising claims. Measure your blood glucose one and two hours after eating and see if those “safe” foods are really safe for you because different people respond to the same foods in different ways. In fact, you can eat the same food at the same time on different days and it will effect your blood sugar differently.

          The idea is through scientific testing, determine what foods are “safe” for you to eat and then eat just those foods to start. At some point in the future, you may find you can add more carbs as you loose weight and exercise more.

          If you think the government made you crazy before, wait until you discover that the “official” “healthy” high carb diet promoted by NIH and USDA will make your diabetes worse.if you follow their advise.

          The US is the largest Corn producer in the world. We also grow a lot of wheat. They both have big lobbies along with the Milk industry that are responsible for the food pyramid that can literally kill you. Most of the doctors that are on the “advisory” committees are paid advisers to the food industries and would find their funding gone if the actually made healthful recommendations.

          But if you get too far into it, that could raise your blood pressure and would not be good for you.

          I enjoyed writing this rant.

    • cosmoscon says:

      Thanks for the link and I’ll add that one to my list. As you can imagine, it’s like drinking out of a firehose right now. I’m blessed to have great folks like you take the time and help me out with my education.

      • tannngl says:

        It’s nice to know us old people still have some value. So glad you found some possible help in my posts.
        And I have taken your ‘Mark’s Apple’ and emailed it to my husband. He is prediabetic and is having trouble finding the motivation to take the hard steps. I think this one might help him. At least I pray it will! Thanks.

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