May 28, 2014
It’s been ten weeks since I received the dreadful news that my blood sugar level was high above normal. I was beyond pre-diabetic and in the diabetic range. My blood sugar level registered a 129 on the Blood Sugar Richter Scale. If you’ve been following along, you know that is not a real thing, the Blood Sugar Richter Scale, it’s just what I call it.
Panicked, I sent a text to my dear, old high school friend, Dr. JKF. She offered to talk on the phone, but I was too scared and was crying. I was in no mood for talking. Instead, we texted back and forth. She explained that in order for me to get better, I had to cut out sugar from my diet completely. I also had to cut out sugar substitutes. She told me that they would just fake my body into thinking there was sugar in it and send it spinning even harder.
Dr. JKF told me that the first weeks off sugar were going to be rough. She didn’t sugar coat it at all. (Can you blame me for the sugar pun? It was just dangling out there begging to be used). She sent me a new food plan, a new way of eating, something called The Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Basically, it said that everything I was eating was going to kill me. Everything.
She suggested I follow the bones of Paleo recipes, but to sub out the foods I could not eat. No more grains. No more pasta. No more dairy milk and cheese. No more diet coke. No more foods with added sugar, which meant no more pizzas, no more Breakfast sandwiches, no more fried foods, no more “good time in meal” party foods. It meant that I was going to have to change and I was going to become even more boring.
That discussion was on a Friday evening, the day the dreaded news came in. If you saw the video from my initial post, then you know how terrified I was. By Sunday, Dr. JKF and I had talked. By Sunday night, I was trying my new way of eating.
The first time I made a smoothie from organic peanut butter that had no sugar, I was a little worried. Sure, it had cocoa powder, but it was bland as hell. I gave some to my wife, J, to try and she gagged on it. We were used to a sweet little concoction: Greek Yogurt smoothies with bananas, milk and frozen fruit. A chia seed peanut butter cocoa smoothie… what the hell is a chia seed?!
My doctor wanted to retest my blood sugar levels in four weeks. I had four weeks to change. Not really, but I was determined to stop the insanity (thank you Susan Powter for the term), not the food plan) and reverse the direction of that Blood Sugar Richter Scale momentum. I wanted to bring it down in four weeks. My doctor, Doc Gordy, did tell me on the phone that I needed to lose weight. It was time. That’s all he said though. We have had many discussions about my losing weight. I was never afraid to talk about it with him. I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. I put a lot of this weight on grieving the loss of my two siblings. I ate to deal with the emotions, but then it was just plain out of control.
Doc Gordy always said it was calories in, calories out. He said I needed to count my calories and that it didn’t matter what I ate, but just to track them. We had that discussion ad infinitum. Weight Watchers wasn’t working for me. My Fitness Pal wasn’t either. See, it wasn’t just about the calories in, calories out, it was that I was eating the wrong foods. With calories in and out, I could potentially eat all my calories in cookies and chips (and some days I did!) and not eat the healthy foods. It is a flawed system friends. Very flawed. That’s why it didn’t work for me.
Dr. JKF was right. The beginning was hard. I felt horrible, like a crack addict detoxing without a methadone program. I had sweats, nausea and headaches (Unrelenting Detox Post). I was light headed, dizzy and tired. It was absolutely awful. Plus, I was eating a lot of new tasteless foods and a ton of salads. It sucked. The sugar detox is rough, no doubt. But I didn’t want Diabetes so I pushed on.
Then one day, a week and a half in, something remarkable happened: the nausea dissipated and I was still awake at 10:30 pm, engaged in discussion. For months, I was falling asleep at 7:30 pm on the couch. That night, however, my wife realized I was still awake and peppy. It was the strangest thing. I had more energy than I had in a very long time and it was a welcome change.
After the first week and a half, I had figured out some cooking tricks and eating this new way became more manageable. Crazier yet, the bland peanut butter became the sweetest thing I had ever tasted. I found myself making smoothies every night and licking the spoon because I couldn’t get enough of that delectable organic peanut butter, once very bland and tasteless, now wonderful. My taste buds were changing. It was remarkable.
After four weeks, Doc Gordy retested my blood sugar and it decreased 10 points on the Blood Sugar Richter Scale. I was down to 119 from 129. I was in awe. This new way of life and eating was proving successful. The only thing I measured my health by in the past was the scale. Dr. JKF warned me not to get too obsessed with the numbers on the scale. She said that my weight loss may not be linear and not to worry about that. It was more important for that Blood Sugar Richter Scale number to come down. I believe she used some important medical term, like levels. I have lost about 15 pounds in 10 weeks so it’s slow and steady, but the level drop is dramatic in my own humble non-medical opinion.
During this next six week period, we moved. I had to pack up my kitchen and figure out what to eat since I could not order a pizza, just get some wings or grab a hoagie. We had become so accustomed to eating this new way, that my wife and I had stopped eating out as frequently. We couldn’t figure out what to order at most places. Moving forced us to make some choices. Either we baled on all this hard work or we figured it out. We figured it out. J and I found some restaurants where we could get them to fix the food the way I needed it to be prepared. Example: Bunless hamburger with mushrooms, bacon, avocado, tomato and spicy mustard on a bed of hearty romaine, with a side of broccoli. It gave me more guts to go out and ask the wait staff to change up the menu. And best of all, even though it would have been much easier to order a pizza, I stayed on track during a very hard time.
Six weeks after my last test, yesterday, Doc Gordy tested my blood sugar again. Today I received the results. I dropped down to 99 from 119 (previously 129). Anything under 100 is considered normal. I just made the cut. Did you read that? Ninety freaking nine! YES. Go on and cheer! It’s a very happy day! Today is brought to you by the number 9.
I have to thank my dear friend Dr. JKF, the naturopathic genius, for helping to save my life. She was always only a text or phone call away, day or night and even on vacation. She gave me the tools, cheered me on, and answered every redundant question about food I had with the greatest of patience. I have to thank my mom for believing that if anyone could commit to this and do it, it was me. I have to thank my wife for joining me in this journey even though her blood sugar was fine. Many spouses aren’t willing to give up foods they know and like but she said I was worth it. In fact, she now attests that she hasn’t felt this well in a long time. It truly is a blessing.
I have a long way to go. I know in my heart that the numbers could climb back up as quickly as they dropped and I am not out of the woods yet. But it feels good to know that I played a direct part in my health and changed around the direction of what could have been a very damaging disease. It’s a precarious time. I am not tooting my own horn and writing this because I am overly cocky. I am just extraordinarily pleased with the results and I can see the fruits of my own choices, hard work and perseverance. My doctor’s partner, Doc D. told me once that if a cancer patient had a choice to do this, they would jump on it, and encouraged me to keep it up. Not all diseases give you a chance to change the course of it. It’s amazing at how fortunate I am.
I am also blown away at how toxic sugar has been for me. From seeing what eating so much of it did to my numbers, to seeing how quickly they dropped when I removed it from my diet, to realizing how terrible I felt when I detoxed off of it, I can see how dangerous it is for me. If not having sugar for one and half weeks made me that horrifically sick, how bad was it for me? Clearly, it was very bad.
I knew I was struggling but I didn’t know how to dig myself out of that hole. Thanks to some great guidance, I am on a healthy journey again. No words can express how blown away at how well this is working.
Thank you friends for your help. Thank you for showing me a new path. Thank you for saving my life.
Now, I’m off to make an organic peanut butter chia seed smoothie. Peace.