Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just want to wish everyone a happy, healthy Thanksgiving! I will post a proper blog entry soon!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Life After -90

Today is a bit of a ramble.
As most of you know, I’ve lost more than 90 pounds from my heaviest weight over the last year-plus. Recently, I've had people who know me walk right by me without recognizing me. That’s kind of a cool thing. But you want to hear something kind of sick? I feel pudgier now than I did when I weighed 260 pounds! I’m a lot more aware of the areas of my body that are the last to show the loss. You know what I’m talking about—those evil grandma wings on the upper arms and right around the middle. And no amount of tricep exercises or ab exercises is going to solve the problem. I just have to keep losing and wait for my skin to (hopefully) catch up. As a matter of fact I’ve actually over-developed my triceps in a desperate attempt to get rid of the wings (it didn’t work). So now, after much whining to my workout partner, I’m working on just enjoying the success I’ve had instead of feeling frustrated about the last 18 pounds or so I have to go.

What does the TMK stand for?
I've had a couple of readers ask me why I use TMK instead of my name? Well, for many years I was part of someone else’s blog. It turned into kind of a running gag because I was always referred to as “K” and my picture was never shown on that blog or anyone else’s (that was part of the gag), just parts of me that wouldn’t be recognized. The first time I left a comment, I signed it “The Mysterious K” as a joke and it just morphed into TMK. (The photo in my profile is the first photo of me that’s been published on a blog anywhere that I’m aware of. I decided to “out” myself a few weeks ago.)

I told you this was a ramble.
I was flipping through some photos over the weekend. Trying to find some “before” photos of myself. There aren’t very many because I’ve pretty much avoided being on the lens-end of a camera for the last 15 years. I did find one of me with a very popular Seattle Mariner who was the subject of a photoshoot I was art directing a few years ago. I didn't realize how fat I was until I saw myself standing next to this very large athlete and I looked bigger than him.

And some diabetic content.
I got my quarterly lab results back and my Ha1c was 5.4% for the second quarter in a row, on 75% LESS medication. I’ve had completely normal blood sugar levels now for 9 months! I’m waiting for my new doctor to get back from her sabbatical so I can discuss getting off the meds altogether. The other thing that was interesting is that while eating a very high protein diet my kidney function has improved. I was told by the doctor I fired last year that I would destroy my kidneys if went down this dietary path. Not!

P.S. A shout-out to Dorothy. I walked right by you on the stairs this morning and didn't realize it was you leaving the studio.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Well. I did it! I'm officially a certified fitness trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Now what?

I've spent the last week arranging to rent studio space, designing forms (lots of forms in this business), and getting mentored by Kristn. I start with my first two clients next week and I'm really excited to get them going.

(Shameless self-promotion starts here.) If anyone in Seattle is interested in early evening training, email me at snappydawg at comcast dot net. If you're interested in training in the morning, I think Kristn has a couple of spots open. We have very similar training styles and philosophy so you'll definitely benefit from working with either one of us. (End of self-promo.)

I ran into a friend at the gym yesterday. She's been interested in my progress towards this goal, so I gave her a mini training session while we were talking. I was also watching various people on machines and such and one of the things I noticed is that people don't seem to go through the whole range of motion when they're using lifting machines. So just a reminder to push/pull all the way up/out and all the down/in when you're using machines so that you use the entire range of your muscles.

Weight Loss Update
I've continued to lose weight and keep my blood sugar at fairly normal levels. I'm down 92 pounds from my heaviest now. I've gone from a size 26 a year ago to a size 12. (I'm still surprised when I pull my jeans out of the dryer and they seem so small. I never expect them to fit, but they do.) The weight loss has definitely slowed down. I'm losing about 2 pounds a month now. And I'm fine with that. It's not like my eating is going to change when I get to the magic weight. I fully expect my body will decide when it's happy and the weight loss will just stop.

I have my next Ha1c in a couple of weeks. This will be the first test since I reduced the metformin by 75%. So it will be interesting to see if my numbers stay below 6%.

Losing the Bread
When people find out how much weight I’ve lost, and the dramatic improvements to my diabetes management, they always want to talk about it. They ask a lot of questions. But the minute they find out I don’t eat bread, I get this stunned “Oh, I could never give up bread.” Every. Time.

I realize that the way I eat is a little extreme for most people. But this is what has worked for me. I have emotional issues with food and I just have to stay away from the things that trigger overeating or binge eating. Unfortunately for me that pretty much includes anything that contains grain, primarily wheat. And since a lot of processed foods contain wheat, plus sugar and high fructose corn syrup, I avoid processed foods.

The amazing thing to me is that the bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc. were not that hard to give up. I saw weight loss and blood sugar improvements within a week. So it was really easy to keep going because I was definitely getting huge rewards.

Even if you can't give up the bread, just reducing the amount of processed foods and sugars in your diet and eating more vegetables can make a huge difference in how you feel. And the better you feel, the easier it is to eat healthier and the more likely you are to start moving more.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is There Any Food In Our Food?

Hi, everyone! I've had my head stuck in a book for the last couple of weeks. I'm getting really close to being able to take the fitness trainer exam through NASM. My head is full of anatomy and human movement science and exercises and most of it would bore you to tears if I were to talk about it here.

So did anyone see Andy Rooney's rant about what's in our food on 60 Minutes tonight?

I have a conversation similar to this with at least one person a week because the minute people find out I've lost so much weight in less than a year the conversation invariably turns to what I eat—and what I don't eat. And then we start talking about the evils of processed foods. And how little actual food is in processed foods.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It’s A Process

As everyone knows, changing bad habits is never easy, or fun. And if you change too much at once your head may explode. The changes I made last October were a byproduct of conversations I had during training sessions last year.

My trainer Kristn and I would talk about nutrition and health studies that were in the news, pros and cons of eating certain foods, etc. And the more we talked about it, the more I started coming home and doing my own research about topics we’d discussed. Which is how I ended up here, writing a blog about beating diabetes, of all things.

So today I was talking to someone who had recently lost 30 pounds on Weight Watchers and was beating herself up for having a bad day last Friday instead of being happy about the weight loss. The bad news is her pantry won for a little while. The good news is she was able to recognize a pattern and stop herself before too much damage was done.

It was at this point, she told me, that she realized she had lost control of her life. She looked around at her house and realized she did not recognize the chaos that had become her home, her body, and it was time to take some control back. We talked for a long time about eating strategies, the mental part of eating a healthy diet and basically just learning to ignore the cravings for crap that your body sends to your brain. You just have to get out of the habit of reaching for the cookies or the ice cream or the potato chips. The more times you're able to win that internal battle, the easier it gets.

She was also a little discouraged because she had gotten out of the habit of going to the gym and had not been for a couple of months. She was thinking there was no point in going back because she'd just have to start over again. It was good to be able to remind her that the better shape you're in, the easier it is for your body to heal and/or get back to where it was before you stopped working out. So the gains she'd made over the last 4 or 5 months wouldn't be for naught. She'll be able to get there a lot faster because her body is stronger and she has muscle memory going for her.

This was also a good reminder for me. I'm struggling with the same thing right now as I have an injury that has kept me from working out for the last week and it's driving me completely crazy not be able to lift anything and to be assigned as the official recordkeeper at workouts, although I am getting in some practice at being the trainer. (That has its own small rewards.) Anyway, I'm finding that the injury I have which would usually take six weeks to heal will probably take just a week or so because of all the resistance training I do. I was able to perform a couple of push-ups this afternoon after not being able to lift my arm to shoulder height or even laugh without a lot of pain a couple of days ago. And while I'll probably be lifting half of my normal load tomorrow morning, I'm guessing that by the end of the week I'll be pretty close to where I was before the injury.

So just a reminder that even if you fall off the workout wagon, your body remembers what it can do for a long time, and it doesn't take nearly the time to get back where you were after a break. And if you have a bad night of eating, don't beat yourself up about it. Figure out what caused it so you can start recognizing patterns and avoid the temptation to eat crap the next time the eating trigger tries to go off in your head. Also, try to come up with an alternate activity for the next time you feel like diving into the junk food. Having a plan beforehand is never a bad idea.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Gym—The Path to the Stuff You Really Like To Do

I got a heck of a workout this weekend, but I never set foot in the gym.

I spent a total of 15 hours out in the garden edging my lawn and catching up on the weeding. Sounds doable until you find out I've got a 1/4-acre lot that I've landscaped over the last 11 years. It does require quite a bit of maintenance. And because of our very strange spring, the weeds were germinating faster than I could pull them and they had pretty much won the battle. I had not cleaned up the edge of the lawn in 3 years so it was really overgrown into the flower beds.

Here's what I learned:
  • Being able to do a full squat is extremely useful for cutting sod with a flat blade.
  • Being in that squat over and over again for 8 hours or more gives your legs a great workout.
  • Having to go out the next morning and finish the last 60 feet of lawn edging, after spending the previous day doing the same thing, is somewhat painful.
  • Having strong shoulders and arms makes slicing under the sod go a lot faster.
  • Being fit makes it possible to do three weekends worth of yard work in one weekend.
I am amazed at the number of hours I worked in the garden. I don't think I've ever been able to dig and weed and haul sod for that many hours without stopping before.

When I started getting really serious about all this exercise and eating right stuff to try and control my diabetes, that was my only goal. But there have been some fabulous benefits from eating well and working out that I hadn't anticipated.

Like losing a ton of weight.

Or being able to run short distances in preparation for playing some soccer this summer.

Or having marathon gardening sessions and still having the energy to go play afterwards.

And feeling strong and healthy and being happy in my skin for the first time in a very long time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Ramble on About Corn

Lab Results
Well, I have to say I'm pretty pleased with my lab results. I got a 5.4% on my Ha1c, which is .2% lower than 12 weeks ago. And last time I was taking 2000 mg of Metformin a day. This time around I was only taking 500 mg. Maybe by the next go around I won't be taking any. That's one of my goals, anyway.

I've talked briefly in the past about the paleo (or primal) diet. We were designed to eat meat, vegetables, berries and nuts. When refined grains and sugar were added to our diets, humans as a species started developing problems, like diabetes and heart disease. Study after study has indicated that when these refined grains and sugars are introduced into native diets, populations who've never shown signs of these diseases start getting them at an alarming rate.

When we eat animals, we eat what they eat. So if you feed a cow grass (which we can't digest)—and which is what cows are supposed to eat—we end up getting the benefits of what's in the grass. For example omega-3s and leaner, tastier beef.

If you feed a cow corn, which is the norm now thanks to those horrendously inhumane feedlots all over the Midwest, along with lots of government subsidies for growing the stuff, the cow will eat the corn. But the cow will not be a happy, healthy cow because its digestive system isn't designed to eat grains. So the cow requires lots of antibiotics to combat all the beasties growing in his tummy caused by his diet and his living conditions. When you eat this cow, or drink milk from this cow, you get a dose of antibiotics with every serving, whether you want it or not. Which is why, in many a parents' opinion, girls are getting their periods as 8-year-olds instead of 12 or 13 and young boys may develop breasts. How sick is that?

Now, yes, botanically speaking, corn, wheat, rye and oats are grasses. But we don't eat the leafy green part of the grass and neither does our livestock. When you eat corn and other grains, you're eating the seeds.

Then there are all the weird things that come out of corn as byproducts made in a laboratory somewhere. The worst of which is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This stuff is amazingly cheap to produce and a lot cheaper to use in processed foods than sugar. Remember back in the eighties when Coca Cola came out with New Coke? Well, the new part was that they stopped using cane sugar and switched to HFCS. Candy bars used to actually have sugar in them, too.

Fast forward 20+ years and a good portion of us are twice our normal size now. So as a culture did our diet really get that bad in 20 years or is maybe HFCS to blame for some of it? Personally, I think the stuff's addictive in some form, if my problems with processed foods were anything to go by.

I warned you this was a ramble. I have no clever way to wrap this up. Just something to think about.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I'm Back…

I do apologize for not keeping the blog updated. I appreciate those of you who, ever optimistic, keep checking back.

While I won't go into any details here because it's not an appropriate place for it, I will say that the last nine months have been exciting because of the changes in my body and health and also difficult because of the problems it caused in my relationship. I have never experienced a break up like this and I had no idea how much it could hurt emotionally and physically. Amazingly, through all of this I've managed to continue to eat healthy, workout 4-5 days a week, try to deal with the situation with as much integrity as I can, and run my business.

I'm Eating Really Well These Days…
Since my last post at the beginning of the month, I've had a chance to eat some of the organic pork and grassfed beef I purchased at the end of May. It's surprised me to discover that I've eaten more of the pork than the beef and I'm now thinking I'll add a half-hog order to my beef order this fall. Regardless of the health benefits I'm getting from eating organic meat, it just tastes better. You can't even imagine how much better unless you try it for yourself.

The farmer's market in my neighborhood started up for the season a couple of weeks ago so I've been able to add pasture-fed chicken eggs directly from the farmer to my diet along with fresh, organic greens, asparagus, etc. The growing season here has been a little strange this year so there's not a lot of variety in the produce yet. I've only been to the grocery store twice since the beginning of June—and I don't miss it.

And Going to the Gym…
On the work out front, I have been working on getting my squats lower. Kristn has let me get away with not getting my butt all the way down where it's supposed to be for a long time, and she challenged me to reduce the weight I was squatting and work instead on flexibility and form. This was a hard one for me because I really like throwing the big numbers on the board where we keep all our stats. But after a few weeks of working on this on my own on our off-training days, with just the 45-lb. barbell, I am seeing the results. I'm getting down further and squatting more weight than I was before. I feel like I have more power to push the weight up when I get a little lower, too. I'm deadlifting more weight, as well. And I'm noticing a difference in the musculature of my upper legs.

And Getting My Bloodwork Done.
Tomorrow I get to have my next Ha1c. It's been 12 weeks since I pulled a 5.6% and since then I've reduced the amount of metformin I take by 75%. My fasting blood sugars are consistently around 80 or so in the morning. It will be interesting to see the results. I'm also getting my vitamin levels tested to make sure I'm getting enough vitamin D3 to offset the lack of sun here in gloomy, gray Seattle.

So that's it for now. I'll be back in a couple of days to share my lab results.

Note: Just a reminder to readers that this blog is about a very specific (and small) part of my life, i.e., learning to beat/live with diabetes, in the hope that it might inspire or help other people.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Eating Healthy Can Be Hard On The Wallet

For those of you who already eat a whole food, organic diet, you know how expensive it can get. It can be a little daunting. Personally, I find it really ironic that it costs more to eat unprocessed natural foods than it does to eat the crap that's been heavily processed. But that's what government agricultural subsidies get you.

I've been a little shocked at my grocery bills over the last six months. For the most part I'm just feeding myself and my food bill went up almost 45% when I started eating healthier. Granted, some of this increase is probably due to inflationary influences we're seeing because of higher fuel prices.

When I made the decision to start eating grass-fed beef it was already fall and too late to order a grass-fed steer from a local farm. I have put in my order for next fall. But in the meantime, I've had to purchase meat at the grocery store for anywhere from $8-$15 a pound…or more. I eat about 4 pounds of beef and pork a week, so it gets expensive pretty fast when you're buying meat one cut at a time.

When a friend asked me if I wanted to go in on an order with them from Thundering Hooves in Walla Walla, I jumped at the chance. Last weekend we picked up our order. They have a pickup point in the neighborhood so we didn't actually have to drive to Walla Walla. It's averaging out to about $5/lb. and means the only items I'll need to buy for the rest of the summer are produce and dairy. Both of which I'll be getting at the local farmer's market starting next week. I'm hoping that, averaged out, I'll be able to reduce my grocery bill by at least 20%.

I've never really been someone who stocks up on food, so I'm kind of getting a kick out of opening the freezer and seeing all that meat just waiting for the barbecue. The only thing I've eaten so far is some bacon and it was fabulous. I'm looking forward to eating really well over the next few months—and not having to go to the store every other day.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


At my heaviest I had completely given up on ever being able to lose weight. And of course, rewards for any success in other parts of my life revolved around food. Going out for dinner, dessert, etc. We all do it. It's important to take pride in the things you're good at and make sure you acknowledge them in some way.

So when I changed my eating habits, I had to change the way I thought about rewarding myself for successes. At one time, many years ago, I had promised myself if I ever lost all the weight I'd get another motorcycle (knowing full well it would probably never happen). With that being said, I present you with my new best friend:

I have over 25,000 miles of riding experience and this is the biggest bike I've ever ridden. It weighs in at 945 lbs. The reason I mention this is that without all the weightlifting I've been doing, along with the eating changes and weight loss, I would not be strong enough or healthy enough to handle this bike. And it's a reward that keeps on giving, because when I get the munchies, or feel overly stressed out, I can go for a ride instead of eating. It's the kind of driving that requires all four limbs and has no built-in cupholders.

Granted, this is on the extreme end of rewards. Most of the time, just feeling good in my own skin is reward enough. But occasionally you have to splurge, right?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I Didn't Mean to be Gone So Long

Sorry about the big gap between posts. Warning: This post is a little more personal than I normally get.

The Personal Stuff
Something I've discovered over the last year or so is that having a good support system for dealing with chronic illness and big dietary and health changes is important. This can come from family, friends, spouse, etc. But you also have to be ready to stick to your guns when you feel like you're not getting the support you need in order to do what you need to do to get and stay healthy.

I've learned a lot about just how important it is to keep eating good food and exercising when the shit hits the fan. I think the reason I've survived the last two weeks is because I take care of my body now. Which controls the depression. Which enables me to get out of bed in the morning and face another day. In the past, emotional trauma would have put me face down in a gallon of ice cream or worse. But eating whole, healthy foods is so part of my life now that it never occurred to me to go there.

I've also discovered how truly lucky I am to have such great friends and family (and I already knew they were pretty cool). I'm so thankful and grateful for the thoughtfulness, caring and time they've shown me over the last couple of weeks.

Eating Out
One of the big challenges in following the new eating plan is eating at restaurants. I like going out for dinner once in a while, but it's a learning process. The first couple of times I went out, I would order a steak, but I was uncomfortable asking for substitutions, so I'd end up leaving all the potatoes, rice, etc. on the plate. I don't like waste and this made me as uncomfortable as asking for substitutions did. But as I've gotten more confident about what I can eat and what I absolutely won't eat, it's gotten a lot easier to ask them to leave the carbs off the plate and double-up on the veggies instead.

I can even find stuff to eat at the local Mexican restaurant where I'm a regular. I got a few funny looks at first, since these guys were used to seeing me eat a lot of food. First thing, push the basket of chips as far away from you as you can. (Eventually, you don't see it anymore.) The trick is to just order the fajita filling, or carne asada, etc. without the tortillas, rice, beans, etc. And frankly, it's plenty of food--just meat and vegetables.

I've only had one incident where my eating plan was a problem. I went to a business function at a small restaurant where the owner was involved in the meeting and had provided free food for everyone. He got very offended when I wouldn't eat anything even after I had explained why. So I've decided that when these meetings are held at the restaurant, I'll decline to participate.

Overall, you can eat out and eat well. Most of the larger chain restaurants post their nutritional information online and it's pretty easy to find. And if you stick to basic fare that doesn't have a lot of sauces and hidden ingredients it's usually pretty easy to gauge what you're eating. Just be aware that the nutritional information that the restaurants provide can be off by quite a bit. There was a just an article about this somewhere this week. I don't remember where I saw it. If I find it, I'll post the link here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Push-ups Are For Girls, Too.

I'm one of the first generation of lucky girls who got to have full, required PE classes and sports programs from elementary school on thanks to Title IX. And I took full advantage of the opportunities, so I've never been afraid of the gym or the weightlifting room or playing sports.

The thing I hear a lot from older friends is that the gym is too intimidating, or they need to lose weight before they start exercising, or that people will look at them funny because a fat (or old, or out-of-shape, etc.) person is in the gym. But how else are you going to start the process if you don't get moving and using your body?

Outfitting For Your Workout
One of the biggest challenges is finding clothes to work out in because clothing manufacturers seem to think fat women don't exercise—and they're wrong! The Title Nine store is just as guilty of this as other clothiers—and they should know better! (Okay, sorry, small rant. It drives me a little nuts that the store that's supposed to embody all women participating in sports doesn't make anything over a size 14—a small 14 to boot. If this has changed, please let me know.)

Unfortunately, I don't have a good solution. When I was at my heaviest I got a lot of my t-shirts and sweats from Landsend or JMS. Now that I'm coming down in size I can shop at Lucy (they go up to about a size 18).

Recently there has been a lot of press about push-ups and their use as a measure of your overall fitness level. (I know some of you have probably just had a bad flashback to the President's Fitness Test we all had to endure every year in junior high and high school.) There are some good, practical things that you can get out of being able to do full push-ups.

There's muscle memory. If you fall, you're instinct is to throw your arms out in front of you. Wouldn't it be nice if you were actually strong enough to stop the fall before your head hit the sidewalk?

And then the ability to get up off the sidewalk once you've broken your fall. The good news is you probably won't be bleeding from anywhere important because you managed to avoid a face plant.

Core strength. Guess what? You don't need to buy an ab coaster or some other ridiculous piece of equipment that eventually becomes a clothes rack. Being able to do 2 or 3 sets of good form push-ups will help tighten up your stomach and back muscles.

Getting started. Kristn started me out with planks, which are basically the "up" position of a full push-up. And she didn't wait until I'd lost weight either. She had me doing these by my 4th training session with her, when I weighed 240 pounds. I could barely hold myself up for 10 seconds at a time. And the planks stayed in the workout—only now it's 90 second holds (and I fear 120 second holds are in my near future). It took a few months before I could do the basic push-up with knees on the ground (instead of toes). Gradually, I added 2 or 3 full push-ups before I dropped to my knees to finish the set. It was really cool the day I did my first full set of 10 "real" push-ups.

You don't have to drop and do 20 on the first day. Start by just training your body to hold you up for 10 seconds at a time. Rest for 30 seconds to a minute. Do it again. Keep your back straight (don't let it sag) and stomach muscles tight. When you feel like you can, lower your body slowly to the floor at the end of your plank. That will start giving you the idea of what a push-up feels like.

Just a reminder that getting your nose to the floor by moving your neck is not a push-up. You need to keep your body in a straight line from your toes to the top of your head and lower your whole body as a unit.

Krista over at stumptuous has a really great step-by-step on how to get to a full push-up.

Goals. I found out a couple weeks ago that Condoleezza can allegedly do 40 push-ups at a time—that lit a fire under me. I tend to lean towards the liberal and it bothers me that this woman can do more push-ups than I can. (I'm not competitive. Nope. Or rational, apparently.) So the goal is to be able to pump out 41 push-ups without stopping by the end of the year. Halfway to goal so far.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Speaking of Quiche…Cholesterol

The sun finally came out, so I spent most of the day Sunday weeding my garden and looking for the plants that I'd actually planted. I did manage to find most of them. I discovered that being able to squat rather than crawling around in the dirt is a very useful (and fairly new) skill. I also discovered that six hours of squatting while weeding makes one very sore the next day. Especially when the next day is deadlift day at the gym.

There was a bit of discussion about cholesterol, and how to treat it, in the comments of the last post. I thought I'd talk a little bit about it. Keep in mind that I'm not a physician and you need to decide for yourself what will work for your situation.

When you read the history of all the studies that have been done regarding heart disease, cholesterol, etc., it becomes obvious that a lot of the stuff that the medical profession and the USDA tell us is the “right” way to eat is based more on politics and who was the “popular” researcher at the time than on good science. It can really piss you off when you start thinking about it. Especially if you have a disease that can’t be controlled as a direct result of these accepted studies. Go read chapter one of Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes for a really thorough discussion about this.

Jenny over at Diabetes Update has some interesting things to say about this today. Cholesterol must be the hot topic this week. She talks about lowering your LDL and the affect, or lack of, that statins have on reducing clogged arteries. It's worth a read. Also, check out what she had to say a few posts ago about the link between statins and how they affect insulin sensitivity.

As I've mentioned, when I started all of this back in October, I had fairly high blood sugar readings and high cholesterol. Past doctors have been very pushy about having me take statins and I've always refused to take them. It just never felt like the right thing for me since I've always had an acceptable ratio of LDL to HDL.

And frankly, I don't put much stock in the whole "cholesterol bad" movement. I never really have. I tend to be a little suspicious of all these studies that come out and end up on the evening news as sensationalistic "preliminary findings." This is not where we should be getting our health advice.

That being said, fast forward to my most recent set of labs compared over the last 7 years:

Basically, what you're looking at is the relationship between exercise and cholesterol numbers from 2002 until the last test in November where my diet had radically changed. The two items that are flagged high are barely high.

Now here's the catch: The only thing I stopped eating between 2006 and 2007 were grains, processed foods and sugar. I still eat butter, I've switched to whole milk from 2%, I eat easily a dozen eggs a week, beef or pork almost every day for lunch and/or dinner—and my numbers are going down. I suspect that my next round of bloodwork will prove this out. (I'm as bad as the evening news with the preliminary findings!) Not only did my numbers go down, but so did my weight.

You can take what you want from this. It's strictly anecdotal. But the more I talk to others that have gone this route, and read studies, etc., the more I'm convinced that we need to go back to eating what we were designed to eat—meat, poultry, vegetables, nuts, fruits.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Prepare to Cook…

When I started eating more whole foods and less carbs and almost no grains, I realized there were things I would have to give up eating. One of the foods I thought I wouldn't be able to eat again was quiche since it's in a pie crust. Then blogger Norma mentioned crustless quiche (this had never occurred to me). She was kind enough to share her trick with me, so there's a crustless quiche in the oven as I'm typing. And just to make it even better, reader Ginger gave me a 1/2 dozen fresh eggs from her backyard chickens. Yum!

Well. The quiche was a success! Recipe below.

1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
(pepper jack might be good, too, for a little more kick)
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled or 1 cup or so of diced ham
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup heavy cream or half-n-half
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dry mustard

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix the cheese, bacon and scallions in a pie plate. Throw everything else in a blender and process until smooth. Pour over the ingredients in the pie plate. Bake for 45 minutes. A knife stuck in the center should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let it sit for another 10 minutes to finish cooking. (If you're vegetarian, you can leave the meat out and put in some veggies that will stand up to the baking—asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, caramelized onions, etc.) You can adjust your favorite quiche recipe to go crustless by adding an extra egg and a little extra cheese. Add a salad full of veggies and you've got a great dinner.

Another challenge I've been having is what to eat for breakfast when the weather turns warm since I don't eat cereal anymore and eating oatmeal in the summer is just not an option. And as much as I like eggs, I can't eat them first thing in the morning. So this weekend I experimented with protein powder, fruit and milk. I came up with something that tastes pretty good and has 24g of protein to offset the carbs in it. You can use any type of frozen fruit and syrup flavor. The sugar-free syrup I used is made by DaVinci. Torani also makes a similar product. I use Designer Whey for the protein powder. I honestly haven't tried any other brands since this one tastes so good and it only has 2g of carbs per serving.

Breakfast Smoothie
1 cup milk
1.5 scoops Designer Whey protein powder, French Vanilla
3/4 cup frozen peaches
Sugar-free Peach Syrup, to taste

Throw it all in a blender and blend until slightly lumpy or smooth—whichever you prefer. Since the fruit is frozen, you don't need ice cubes, so the smoothie doesn't get watery. (Next on the list to try will be strawberries with chocolate protein powder.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Get Moving!

Sorry everyone. I meant to post yesterday, but life and work got in the way. The trip home to see Mom went well. She just kept patting my face and telling me my face looked so thin (in a good way). I did fear that she was going to channel her mother any minute and pinch my cheeks, but she resisted.

Ryan Update: As far as poor Ryan and her discovery about frozen dinner ingredients—she very carefully purchased new meals that showed whole meat shapes on the package face only to discover that the meat (chicken this time) had been treated pretty much like the beef we discussed a few days ago. Now, keep in mind that this girl cannot cook. (And, no, I won't get in trouble for this statement. She'll be the first to tell you she has no culinary skills.) She's convinced now that the only thing she'll be able to eat for lunch is canned soup. (Let's hope she doesn't look at the label. Otherwise, I'll be making lunches for her for the rest of my life.)

Working Out
Today's topic—exercise. (I realize that to some of you this is actually a 4-letter word disguised as an 8-letter word.) Eating changes aside for a minute, the other half of the success I've had over the last seven months is because of the amount of exercise I get every week. The trick is to find something that you like to do that involves moving your body in a way that will make you get warm and maybe a little sweaty. (Okay. That last sentence didn't quite come out right.)

I may be a little weird. I really like working out. The harder it gets the more I smile and crack jokes (although 90 second planks apparently make me start whining halfway through.) This morning a trainer I don't know came up to talk to me. He thought I needed dumbbells to push my arms more. Of course, what he tried to hand me were tiny things that weigh less than my hands. I started laughing and told him that I'd need a lot bigger dumbbells if he wanted me to take him seriously. I'm not sure he believed me. He did note that I seemed to be having an awfully good time for someone who was breathing so hard. Another trainer I know had watched all of this and came up to me laughing and said it was obvious this guy had never seen me train.

The point is I've found the type of exercise that I think is fun and makes me happy. For me it's lifting free weights (the heavier the better) and body weight circuit training with a little cardio on the resting days. For you it might be playing soccer, rowing, riding a bike, or just a brisk walk in your neighborhood. The goal is to just get moving. The more you move, the better you feel, and the more you move. See a pattern here? The bonus: it brings your blood sugar down.

You can turn anything into circuit training. Take 3-5 exercises you like that move you in different directions: up and down (i.e., squats), side to side (i.e., side step on a raised step), forward and backwards (lunges), push and pull (bench press or pushups), add a set of crunches or v-ups; do 8-10 reps of each exercise, string them together without stopping and you've got a circuit. Rest for a minute or two between sets. Then do it again. As it gets easier (and you get smaller and stronger), add some weight.

This is really simplified but there are a lot of good books and blogs out there. I like New Rules of Lifting for Women in the book category. It's a really easy read and it has workouts that you can follow with pictures and descriptions of all the exercises in the book. Both me and my trainer/training partner are seeing improvements in strength and endurance after four months of using the book as a loose guide. It started out as an experiment to see how two women, one who was already very fit and one who was somewhat fit but overweight, could benefit from this type of training. Neither one of us could do a full set of "man" pushups when we started in January, now we're both knocking off 3 sets. And six months ago I couldn't do even one pushup. For workout information online, visit Stumptuous. Krista has a lot of good information on her site—and she's funny to boot.

And don't be intimidated by the meatheads at the gym. You have every right to be there regardless of your size or fitness level.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What the…?

My partner, Ryan, is not completely on board with this whole foods, carb-controlled, exercise-like-a-madwoman sort of lifestyle, so you can imagine that things get a little rocky now and again. But I think I'm making some headway. Last night she was telling me that out of curiosity she looked at the label on the frozen dinner she was eating. I don't think she'll eat this particular dinner again.

The ingredient list started, innocently enough, with potatoes. (Okay. That's real food.) Second ingredient—“seasoned cooked beef product.” Huh? This does not sound like food. It contains “beef, water, dextrose, soybean oil, modified cornstarch, potassium chloride, salt, potassium and sodium phosphates, caramel color [and] natural flavors.” She told me that she got this picture in her head of meat being liquified, then having crap added to it, reshaped, frozen and then she was supposed to eat it after all that. She's told me she's only going to eat frozen dinners which contain distinctly identifiable meat from now on. Either that or stop looking at ingredient labels.

She apparently had a lot of food adventures this weekend while I was gone, because she also found this actual product at a local grocery store—apples that are injected with grape juice so that the apple tastes like a grape. I don't even know where to begin with this one.

What's wrong with just eating an apple that tastes like an apple? Or eating meat that doesn't have corn products and "natural [meat] flavors" added?


Friday, April 25, 2008

Homeward Bound

I'm on my way over to eastern Washington this weekend to see family for the first time in about 7 months. No one has seen me since I started the new eating plan. They're aware I've lost weight, but that's about it. This should be fun!

Eating Grain
Reader Gail left this comment the other day: "I thought complex carbs (whole grain bread etc.) broke down slowly and so don't cause the sudden upswing in blood sugar. I heart my brown rice and whole grain bread, and need some good reasons to say goodbye to them."

This refers to the Glycemic Index (GI) which measures the speed at which different foods containing carbohydrates break down to glucose. The faster the food converts to glucose the bigger the spike in your blood sugar. For a diabetic, the goal is to have a fairly level and optimal amount of glucose in the bloodstream during the course of a 24-hour period. One way of managing diabetes to eat foods that are low on the GI to meet this goal. And yes brown rice and whole grain breads are lower on the GI than white rice and wonderbread.

I stopped eating grains as part of managing my diabetes. It's not for everyone. Bread, cookies, pasta, etc. are all trigger foods for me so I had to remove them completely from my diet.

I loosely follow what's called the Paleolithic diet. "Diet" here means the food that comprises what we eat, not diet as in eating to lose weight so you can go back to eating the things that made you fat in the first place. This is pretty much the way I'm going to eat for the rest of my life.

My friend/trainer Kristn has a great post on her blog about this way of eating. I've stolen a little bit of it to share, with her permission. I recommend going over and reading the rest of what she has to say about the thinking behind eating this way.
  • Every meal or snack should include protein, fat and carbs.
  • Protein sources should be mostly meat, poultry and fish and whole eggs. The less processed the better.
  • Kristn's hierarchy of carb sources:
    • Non-starchy vegetables (most of your carbs should come from these)
    • Brightly colored starchy vegetables (yams, carrots, winter squash, beets)
    • Fruits
    • Whole grains & legumes (if your body can handle them). Be very careful with wheat, it is not tolerated well by many people.
  • Eat an ounce or two of nuts and seeds every day.
  • Dairy (if you can tolerate it):
    • Cheese 1-2 ounces/day
    • Yogurt (unsweetened)
    • Milk
Foods you should absolutely avoid whenever possible:
Sugar (in all forms like honey, maple syrup, etc.)
White flour, pasta, white rice
Processed Foods (anything pre-made or in a package)
Breakfast cereals

Note that she doesn't say not to eat whole grains, just try not to make them the primary source of your daily carb intake.

The bigger challenge for me than giving up bread (and that one was hard), was not eating processed foods any more. It's a hell of a lot easier to heat up a frozen dinner (or, let's be honest, eat cookies) than to prepare a comparable meal from whole foods. And since I'm sort of a workaholic, I tend to eat a lot of my meals while I'm working. It took some serious retraining as well as learning to cook extra portions and eat leftovers (which I've never liked) at subsequent meals.

The processed food industry is a topic unto itself, along with that most-favored-by-food-processors additive, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). For now I'll just say HFCS is bad mojo. I plan on talking about that next week. If you're at the store this weekend, look at how many things contain HFCS. It's in everything. (Okay, okay—MOSTLY everything.)

And on that note…I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend. I've heard rumors that the sun might be out in Seattle tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Meat and Potatoes (or not)

The question I get asked the most lately is "What are you doing that's making such a difference?" (Last night I had someone I know quite well walk by me without saying hello, which was a little odd. She did a doubletake and then told me that she hadn't even recognized me.)

The short answer: I don't eat anything that comes in a box or is found in the middle of the grocery store.

Think about it for a second—all the stuff that's good for you is on the outside walls of the store—dairy, vegetables, fruit, meat, fish. The middle of the store is all the stuff that's been processed, is full of additives and high fructose corn syrup, or has had any nutritional value it might have contained processed out of it. It's just twisted that during processing, natural food can lose most of its nutritional value, so at the end of the processing they have to add back in nutrients. Eating through chemistry.

When I decided it was time to do something about my atrocious eating habits, I turned to my trainer. She'd already been where I was at the time. She lost nearly 100 pounds six or seven years ago and has successfully maintained the loss. She taught me how to eat a more whole food, carb-controlled diet. I stopped eating anything processed. I moved to eating grass-fed beef, pasture-fed chicken eggs (what I call happy cows and happy chickens—eating what they're supposed to eat, outside in the sun). I stopped eating most grains. Cut out bread, pasta, potatoes, etc. I still eat a little bit of brown rice and whole-grain oatmeal. I eat an average of 85 grams of carbs a day. I get the majority of it from vegetables and some fruit.

I eat meat. I eat eggs. I eat butter and cream. All that stuff that’s “bad” for you. I almost never feel hungry. For the most part, I don’t crave sugar or chocolate or junk food. (Although, last night I made dinner for a friend which included this signature chocolate thing I make for dessert. I almost fainted from the smell when I cut open the package of chocolate chips.) Last month I ate a piece of wedding cake at a friend’s wedding. It was the first sugar I’d eaten in six months—I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would. I just don’t seem to have that raging sweet tooth I’ve had most of my adult life.

And, yes, quitting all the carbs cold turkey was hard.* Especially the first 3 or 4 days. I basically sat in my living room at night having a battle with myself and trying to ignore the cravings and the late-night grazing habits. But once I started getting some good food in my body, the cravings went away and I started seeing results pretty fast. I dropped 40 pounds in the first four months. I’ve dropped 74 pounds to date from my heaviest weight. Just by cutting out anything that came in a box or had sugar or grains in it and working out 5 or 6 days a week.

My A1c dropped from 7.2% to 6.2% and three months later to 5.6%. My cholesterol dropped from 318 to 236. I have so much energy I don’t know what to do with myself sometimes. And the depression I’ve suffered from since I was a kid—gone. Completely.

*This does come with a word of warning, though. This is something you have to do cold turkey. It's really not something you can ease into. And it can really mess up a relationship if you don't warn your partner about what you're planning on doing before you do it, as well as leaving your friends scratching their heads when you retreat for a few weeks to battle your food demons. (Ask me how I know.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

You Know How to Make A Girl Feel Welcome!

Wow! I had no idea so many of you would be interested in reading about my adventures in trying to smite the diabetes. Oh, the responsibility. Thank you for all the comments you guys left. And many thanks to Ryan for directing you over here!

Diabetes Sucks, Part 2
I really wanted to call my blog "Diabetes Sucks" but it turns out that someone had beat me to it and when you Google on that phrase it's really obvious I'm not the only one who feels this way about having diabetes—doesn't matter if it's type 1 or type 2.

Diabetes is one of those diseases that really can’t be managed for you by someone else—no matter how good their intentions. My partner Ryan tried for years to get me to eat better, to pay more attention to the diabetes, to gently remind me that I do, in fact, have diabetes—but it usually ended in arguments and pouting because I’ve never liked being told what to do. And I didn't want to be reminded about it while I was eating a piece of cake, or a big bowl of ice cream or seconds on mashed potatoes. I was happy living in my little bubble of denial.

It's a really personal disease because it affects so many parts of your life. It can affect how you socialize—whether friends invite you to food-related things or not, whether you participate in potlucks, how far from home you can get without a snack, whether you can have a glass of wine with dinner or not, staying away from the goodies that people bring to the workplace, food gifts from vendors, trying not to hurt your host's feelings when you don't eat something they've prepared, etc. Your fingers are always sore from the blood testing which makes it hard to do things you may enjoy like playing the guitar, crafts, or doing anything that requires fingertips. If you have squeamish friends, you have to go find someplace to test* and/or give yourself a shot of insulin. So you end up missing out on fun and conversation. You can see why it's a lot easier to just ignore the diabetes—it's just a heck of a lot more fun to pretend you don't have it.

Eating 101
Carbs are the enemy for diabetics. Most people know this. The more carbs you eat, the harder it is for your body to use the glucose, the higher your blood sugar goes, and the more exhausted your pancreas gets. So why the hell do doctors and nutritionists tell a type 2 diabetic to eat 200 grams of carbs a day without the benefit of injected insulin?

I did this for years. Guess what? My blood sugar averages were around 140 mg/dL which does NOT keep you out of the "bad things will happen to you later" level of the game.

My friend and fitness coach Kristn and I had been talking about eating for diabetes and the fact that what I'd been told to do wasn't working, so she sent me a link to Mark's Daily Apple where he pretty much laid out why type 2 happens and why eating all those carbs everyday is probably not a good idea. It’s written in laymen’s terms and talks about how the process works and how the excess carbs we eat contribute to type 2 diabetes. I learned more in this five or six minutes of reading than from my doctor, from the nutritionist, or from the 8 or 9 books I wasted money on about managing diabetes.

This got me thinking—I’d already been weightlifting hard for several months with measurable results (albeit no weight loss), but some definite rearrangement of fat. What if I tried to reduce my carb intake and packed on as much muscle as I could in order to increase my insulin sensitivity?

So that’s what started this sort of crazy journey. My initial goal really wasn’t to lose weight but to increase my insulin sensitivity so that my blood sugars would be more level—and lower—throughout the day and to eventually cut down on the amount of metformin I was taking. I figured if I snuck up on the diabetes from a different direction maybe I could beat it into submission.

And honestly, I'd given up on losing weight years ago.

*Personally, I test my blood sugar in the kitchen because that's where I am when I get ready to eat and I'm more likely to test if the meter's sitting there looking at me while I'm prepping a meal. Some people might think this is really gross but we're talking about a drop of blood slightly larger than the head of a pin.

Friday, April 18, 2008

What's an A1c?

In my last post I included a reference to my A1c test results. I realized that unless you have diabetes you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, so here goes.

A1c is short for glychohemoglobin A1c test. It’s a blood test that can tell you what percentage of red blood cells have glucose bound to them at any given time. The test gives a result for about 12 weeks worth of glucose levels and is a reasonable review of how well- or badly-controlled your diabetes is. Non-diabetics will range between 4% and 6%. You're considered to have good control if it's under 7%. The lower it is, the less likely you are to suffer from the many lovely complications diabetes has to offer.

Generally, it’s not used for diagnosing diabetes, but they take it after you’re diagnosed, as a baseline. Mine was 9.7% when I was diagnosed, which still wasn’t as awful as some people when they’re first diagnosed, but it wasn’t good. For a diagnosis of diabetes, I believe a fasting blood sugar above 126 mg/dL gets you into the club for life.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Little Family History

My father was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes (now referred to as type 1) at age 15, back in 1953. His care was as good as it could be during that era in rural Washington. His mother did her best to make sure he took his insulin, stayed away from sugar, etc. When he left home at age 18 or 19 and was on his own, things kind of went downhill. He drank. He smoked. He ate things that weren’t in his meal plan. At age 23 he met my mom and her parents, who took him in and got him back on track.

It took 15 years for the mismanagement of his diabetes to catch up with him. And then he paid. Fast forward to age 38 when he was told that his kidneys were failing. This was 1976 and it was rare for a diabetic to get a dialysis machine because it was still a relatively new treatment for kidney failure. I don’t know why he was given a machine, but he was. And with my mom’s great care, plus support from the Northwest Kidney Center, he lived for 11 more years—10 years longer than he’d been given without a transplant. During that time, he developed heart disease, severe neuropathy and diabetic retinopathy to go along with the kidney failure. Sadly, he did the majority of the damage to himself in his late teens and early 20s—those years when you feel the most immortal. He died after his third heart attack at age 49, in 1987.

What’s the Point of Talking About Dad?
I lived with a textbook example of what happens when you don’t take care of your diabetes. I was warned as early as age 22 or 23 that if I didn’t change my diet and lose the extra 30 pounds I was packing, I would probably develop diabetes at some point in my life. I didn’t listen. Who does at that age? (Dr. Lardy, if you’re out there, you were right.)

So here I am, at 45. I’ve had diabetes for seven years. For most of those years, I've had reasonable (but not great) control—A1c results ranging from 6.4% to 7.6%. Mostly, I'm sure, because I swam everyday for four years—because it sure hasn't been from eating right.

Lately, through reading and such, I've come to the conclusion that in order to avoid the complications I watched my dad suffer from, I need to keep my A1c under 6%—in other words, "normal" range—regardless of what my physician thinks is a good lab result.

Contrary to my denial over the years about having this damn disease, I really don't want to end up like dad.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Diabetes Sucks

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes on January 2, 2001. A heck of a way to start a new year! I weighed 260 pounds at 5’3”. I was just shy of 38 years old. My worst fear had come true—I had diabetes just like my dad.

This blog is about living (or not) with diabetes. For the first two years after I was diagnosed I did exactly what I was told by doctors and nutritionists. I thought I understood the disease because I’d grown up with a diabetic parent. Turns out I didn’t know shit about the disease I have, and neither did the medical personnel I was trusting to help me.

At the end of 2002, I suffered a back injury that left me unable to walk without assistance. I hobbled around for nine months and was at the mercy of anyone who was kind enough to bring me food or make me a meal. The only good thing that came out of it was daily swimming to keep moving. I gained back all the weight I'd managed to lose after my diabetes diagnosis. I pretty much gave up managing it and decided to ignore it for the next three years.

Then about 1.5 years ago I joined a gym, hired a trainer and worked out for a year. Six months ago I decided that I should look better for the amount of work I put in at the gym, so with help from my trainer, I radically changed the way I eat. I've lost 52 pounds since October 2007. It's made a huge difference in my blood sugar levels.

I thought some of the stuff I've been doing might be of interest to others. Maybe someone will read this and get something from it, maybe not. But here it is.

Thanks for reading.