It all started when I was 10 and my family moved to Sherman Oaks. I immediately discovered the 7-11 around the corner and found out just how much candy my pockets would hold. I was known as the “candy store” at school. Sugar sugar sugar.
Then I found out about the big ol’ square sweet rolls that they sold at the snack bar at school. Mmm mmm. Sugar sugar sugar.
During my college years, my friend Neal and I would get stoned together and he would watch and laugh as I powered through cookies by the box. Sugar sugar sugar.
[Sugar– uh uh uhhh uhhh uhhh— You are my candy girl…]
And so it goes… (10 points if you know where that comes from). And so it goes…
Some time in my late 30’s or early 40’s, I made some sort of decision that it really didn’t matter anyway, and I found myself weighing 235 lbs. Maybe more. It snuck up on me- I still thought I was 180-190. I blinked and I missed it. When I discovered that I had gotten so huge, it was enough of a shock that I started cleaning up my act, and I’ve been dropping off pounds since then. I’m down to 185 now. It took some years, but a combination of integrity in my diet combined with ever increasing exercise is yielding slow and steady results.
Please note: All of the articles and books that I link to below to are intended to be starting points for you to investigate further if you are interested. I don’t endorse these references in particular, although they seem to me to be comprehensive and well-researched.
I did not go on “a diet”. There are a million diets. Here’s an article about the best 35. Which is the right one? How long do I have to stick to it?
I want to be clear about this. That’s not what I did. I did not pick the best “diet” to go on to accomplish the goal of losing x-number of pounds. I began to create a lifestyle that works. There is a huge difference. “A diet” that you “go on” is a repair job. Or at best, a means to an end. We stop the diet when the belly is gone. Or almost gone. Or when we feel like it. A lifestyle is a way of being, a set of habits and practices, including the combination of foods that I intentionally seek out for their positive impact on my heath and well-being- my “diet”. It becomes a lens through which I see the world. So, I rarely eat anything that’s processed, contains unnatural ingredients (or genes), and/or comes from abused animals.
Except for the aforementioned drug (sugar) addiction that I created for myself, my diet (lifestyle) was pretty good. Good enough to drop 55 lbs. Even with the sugar.
[‘Cause you know that sugar is one of the most addictive drugs that there is. A quote from an acquaintance- in response to the idea that I cured an abscessed tooth merely by stopping all sugar intake for a period of time. (And some other, very minor adjustments to my diet and herbs.) “I could never do that!” he said. Not even to avoid a root canal and possible loss of the tooth or recurrence of the excruciating pain? “Never.”]
I did that. I had a broken tooth (rear molar) that went bad. It hurt so much that I couldn’t even talk normally because my teeth would touch and send waves of incredible pain through my jaw. The dentist wanted to do a root canal and prescribed antibiotics. Instead, I went on “a diet”, not eating any sugar, not even fruit and high carb vegetables, just for a month or so, to cure the abscess. It worked. I now have a broken molar that is completely pain-free and with no infection.
Problem is, it was a diet- and when the problem was solved, I reverted to indulging my addiction.
You gotta understand (I’m sure you do!)… Every donut shop had pretty girls in bikinis beckoning to me (“Come hither and eat a donut with us!”) The spread of cookies and cakes that my friends would put out a party was always for me, “just this one last time”.
So, there I was with an essentially pure diet. And at the same time, I’m mainlining sugar.
Some time over the years, I began to lose feeling in my feet. Maybe about 10- 15 years ago. It’s been gradual- it kind of snuck up on me. But that’s ok, cause it doesn’t get in my way. I can walk and hike and all that. So I’ll just ignore it, I said. It will go away like everything else has.
Fast forward (or maybe it’s sideways- depends on where you’re standing, I suppose.) until July 2015. I started noticing my #2 toe in my right foot had, almost overnight, swelled up a lot. And gotten quite red. This too shall pass, of course.
But then, my whole foot and ankle swelled up. OK, maybe something’s going on that I should take care of.
Ah- but I hadn’t been able to afford even the meagre payments that I owed to Heath Net (Covered California was subsidizing almost all of my insurance). I called CoveredCa and told them of my plight- that my income had taken a significant hit, and could I qualify for MediCal? Yup! They converted me right over and I went the next day to an Emergency Room. It wasn’t very good there- kind of skanky and inefficient. But they did do the normal testing and got me started in the process of getting myself back to good health.
My blood pressure was way high. Something around 180 / 120.
They told me I was most likely diabetic (surprise?). I’d need lab tests to determine this. And my toe was severely infected. It had grown a callous, under which the infection started. You need to see a “real” doctor, they said. (Not just the rotating doctor for the E.R.)
I found my way to Olive View in Sylmar. I went into their E.R. on a Friday and they did all of the tests. Great place. Everything was clean, professional, informative, friendly and competent. Yes, I have diabetes. My blood glucose was well above 200. But my blood pressure was very close to normal and has stayed that way since. approximately 125 /85. False positive.
I went back in the next day into the hospital and stayed through to Monday. While I was there, I had a lot of time to research everything they told me. Good ol’ smart phone and tablet (and wifi). After a while, the doctor would come in and say, “hey- look this up”.
I learned a lot about the art and science of ‘disappearing’ diabetes. With diet and exercise and attitude. I’ve discovered a wealth of resources about the impact of all sorts of foods and herbs that are directly related to a diabetes-free body. It’s mostly a matter of avoiding those things that we all know we should avoid. And then specializing a little- the addition or increase of certain foods and the reduction of otherwise very good foods. Sort of leaning towards a certain set of foods rather than others. For now, it’s butternut squash-yes and yams-no.
Then there’s the exercise. Everyone knows exactly how much exercise would be best for them, or if not, it’s easy to find out.
Fairly simple. There is concurrence across the board- the Internet, direct experience with people I know, and even, reluctantly, some of the doctors at Olive View. So I have no reason to doubt the possibility. Type II diabetes is reversible.
I could conceivably doubt my own ability to pull it off.
But I don’t doubt it. While I was sitting in the hospital, I took on several things. One was that taking care of me and serving me at the hospital would be a complete pleasure for the staff. The second was to begin, as best as I could in the hospital, the process of restoring my health. And thirdly, I took on rebuilding from the inside too. Who am I and what am I up to?
Success on all three fronts. Of course, things 2 and 3 are always on-going and progressive.
Everyone always left my room laughing and smiling at my good cheer, even the nurse who woke me up at 4am every morning to take my blood and poke me with things.
Even with that, I “gave ’em hell” (nicely) for the food they were feeding me. The culture of a hospital is typically one of maintenance. The general operation is just to keep things under control. It was kind of cute- they said that they could go ahead and amputate my toe, just to save me any possible complications. Totally serious. But I didn’t take it seriously and I said that I’d rather keep my toe for now.
Anyway, the food they brought wasn’t high glycemic, but it wasn’t low either. Fortunately I had brought some almonds and fresh veggies with me and was able to hold out for the few meals it took for them to come up with things that were appropriate. By the middle of the second day, they got into the swing of things and I got a much better combination of foods.
And, for thing #3, what occurred to me right off the bat, is that:
What I’m up to in life is way too interesting for me to allow myself to get taken down by this.
No more bullshit. I’ve got people to meet and places to go, you know!
Six weeks later, I’m done with the intravenous antibiotics (yes, I killed off most of my inner bugs. It was a trade-off, and I’ve been piling on the pre- and probiotics, which helps a lot. I think my inner ecosystem has normalized now.).
Oh- yeah. The I.V. antibiotics…. they installed a jack in my arm, called a PICC line. I would plug in a tube attached to an IV bag and sit there while it dripped into me for 1/2 an hour. I don’t know- the idea of an input into my body (other than the standard set) seemed, well, kind of surreal. They wouldn’t install a USB port in me when I asked for it though.
I get to keep the IV pole. It’s PERFECT for hanging my headphones and other wires on in my studio.
EVERYTHING is covered by MediCal. I haven’t had to pay a penny for anything- the supplies, the glucose meter, the prescription, the hospital stuff, follow up appointments. I’ve been looking for loopholes, asking every time I do any transaction regarding this, and nope- no cost. No deductible, no co-pay. Thank You President Obama!!
Six weeks later… My toe is almost entirely healed over. I still have to wear this funky hospital shoe that protects the toes. And it’s still swollen- they said that would be the last thing to go. I can’t exercise much yet, so I’m getting by with the little bits of yoga and tai chi that I remember. But I can shower! And it really is almost healed up.
I got the blood sugar meter and… I’m down to between 125 and 175, depending on when I do the test. Sometimes I’m in the normal range. And don’t tell anyone, but I’m only taking 1/2 the dosage of my Metformin. I feel a little funny when I take it- unsettled like I’m a bit hungry, but I’m not.
By the way, those bikini-clad girls on the roofs of the donut shops seem to have gone. I no longer am tempted by sweets. I haven’t had anything with refined sugar in it since the first day at the E.R., I am only eating foods that come in under a Glycemic Load (not index) of 10, and mostly under 5.
So what’s so all important that I should disrupt my comfortable, somewhat sedentary, two donuts a day, lifestyle?
There are a lot of things that aren’t pertinent to this topic- support of candidates and get-out-the-vote stuff, as well as my own personal projects. However…
Just the fact of accomplishing this particular project- disappearing my own diabetes- can be an inspiration to others. Provided I don’t keep it a secret. I’ll certainly be writing about this, putting myself out as an example. An example of what’s possible, and also an example of what there is to confront in taking on one’s health in a profound and thorough way. This is where we start.
And then it occurred to me…
I saw a guy there who’s entire legs and feet looked like the infected tip of my toe. He was huge, and being pushed around in a wheel chair. On the way out, I saw him in the hallway drinking a sugared energy drink. I know the staff gave him a hand-out with the proper diet and habits. I’m sure he’s been told many times. But I know how difficult it can be to even want to change things, let alone do it. Some follow-up and support would help people like that. If they want. It would be great if the hospital, or the insurance, provided in-home coaching, like they do physical therapy for disabled people.
A little inspiration would go a long way as well. The knowledge that there is some possibility of getting back to optimum is a lot more inspiring than knowing at best, it won’t get any worse.
What if Olive View would give a course that focused on the healing and prevention of diabetes, not just management … What could I do to have that come true?
To Be Continued…
Here are some books that I found on the topic. References, recipes, charts. Remember that I’m not endorsing these books in particular, but they are great starting points for your own research.