My biggest challenge when writing is getting past that hurdle. I will start off like gangbusters, typing like crazy and busting gangs. Then I will hit a wall. The words may not flow as easily. I may not have as much time to sit and type. Whatever the reason for the pause, immediately the doubt seeps in and squelches the project. I worry that my opinions don't matter, my view on life is pointless. People don't care. There is enough garbage flying around in virtual space already to distract the masses and my contribution is only another piece of trash on the heap. So I stop. I have a couple of dozen blog posts sitting there unfinished. In my Dropbox account, I have an outline for an entire series of young adult novels. Sitting. Hoping someday I will return.
I am fighting this and working hard to ignore this debilitating process of fear and doubt. So over the next week or so, I hope to actually finish some of the things that I have started and not seen through to completion. It is important to me to do this; it may be helpful to someone else as well. So I begin with a very personal post.
My physicians did a great job trying to control diabetes in a person who was not compliant. I took my medicines religiously, hoping like my dad that they would fix the problem I wasn't willing to attack. One medicine, two medicines, three medicines. Each one would see a brief drop in my blood sugar numbers, but the number would creep right back up. Increase the dose, increase the other dose. Slight dip in the numbers. Bounce back up. Finally three months ago, my doctor had reached the end of options. My a1c was 10.7. For those of you who are not up to date on the diabetes lingo, 10.7 is awful. A1C is not confused by having a bad breakfast or drinking one soda. It is a measurement of three months worth of behavior and it is incontrovertible. Normal A1C in a person is between 4 and 6. A person with diabetes needs to aim to get below 7. Mine was 10.7. So my doctor said the words that terrified me. "I don't really have any more options, so you need to see an endocrinologist and start insulin." Crap.
To me, insulin was the ultimate disaster. In my family, when my dad was dealing with his diabetes, insulin was always dangled as the outcome that would occur if he didn't get his act together. He thought he could use it and be able to do whatever he wanted. But that wasn't correct. If it ever got that far, then I knew I had failed miserably. I figured once I was on it, I would never get off of it. So that day, as disappointed and frustrated as I was, I made a choice. I decided that before I had to start jabbing ANOTHER needle into my body, I was going to actually make one legitimate attempt at fixing things the right way - the way I should have been all along.
I went home and threw out all the cookies and ice cream; I poured the soda down the drain. Next I went to Costco and bought things that would help me to make a legitimate effort. Then I started actually taking my blood sugar every morning and on some evenings, to see where things were. At first, they were bad. Whooooo. But I started to see numbers drop, and I got excited. I kept it up through Valentine's Day and Easter. Even on my birthday! I had my normal breakfast, wings for lunch, steak for dinner. My big splurge was having a baked potato with dinner and a cupcake sized cheesecake. No leftovers floating around, so no temptations. And I've behaved the entire time - no cheating. For three months straight, I was as disciplined as I ever had been with food in my life.
I went to the doctor and she was asking me the usual questions, but remarked, "You seem much more relaxed today." I told her I was excited to see my numbers. I could tell she was a little hesitant, thinking that maybe I thought I was doing better than I was. And also my morning number was often higher than she wanted, but the rest of the time everything was perfect. She went out and got the results. I heard her say, "WHAT? Really?" out in the hall. Then she came back in with a little smirk and said, "I know you've been excited to see this. It was a 7.0. That's in range!" She was so happy for me (and I was happy for me too). "Just keep doing what you're doing." I asked about the morning numbers being a little high some days. "I would just keep doing what you're doing. It obviously is working." It was the first time that I felt GREAT leaving a doctor's visit where my weight and diet were discussed. Even when I lost a ton of weight back in Tallahassee, it always felt like a prison sentence. And doctors still would say stuff like, "You still need to lose a little to get to your goal." Uh, 100 pounds, dude. Not good enough. The crazy thing about this time is that I've only lost maybe 12 pounds. I know I've lost weight - my clothes fit better, I can wear 3XT shirts, people I work with online have commented about it. It just isn't a huge number. And I'm okay with that. My goal was to lower my sugar and I did that. And I can maintain that. Now I can start adding in more exercise and other things to help myself even more. But I accomplished a goal finally in a way that worked for me.
So, what did I do? I know that somebody out there is struggling with this same issue. And I want to help if I can. I have been in those appointments with doctors and nutritionists where they give you a huge book and guidelines that seem absolutely ridiculous. "Eat a piece of chicken the size of a deck of cards." You're kidding, right? I drop that much for the dogs when I'm cooking. "Eat 7-10 servings of vegetables a day." If I was open to eating that many vegetables, would I even BE HERE!?!? This is what I did. It wasn't approved by a doctor or a food guru. It was my attempt to do something I could handle long term to actually make changes. Here is a list of steps that I took, that could work for you as well.
- Fight one battle at a time. For me, I decided the blood sugar fight was the most important one. So I have not been measuring calories or portion sizes. I have focused strictly on eating in a way that will keep my sugars balanced, which I believe will ultimately help with everything else. You may have a different thing that is pressing for you. Choose one. My last serious attempt at losing weight was very successful for a whole year. But then it completely unraveled because I had done everything at once, very strictly. And when one part started to fray, the whole thing came loose.
- Carb/Protein Balance. This is the easiest food guide ever. 15 carb to 6 protein. Match those up. 15 carbs is 1 carb serving; 6 protein is 1 protein serving. If you are going to eat carbs, you need to eat protein too. Then limit the carb servings you have - I usually won't do more than 3 at a meal. How you generate those carb servings is up to you. But be careful! Unless you are actively looking at labels, you will GROSSLY underestimate how many carbs in are in things. I've seen hamburger buns with 5 or 6 carb SERVINGS in one bun. There are some foods that are life savers, which I will detail in a little bit. By just having those foods WITH your carb serving you help your sugars. This is still EXTREMELY restrictive based on our normal diets and will take some major upkeep. I've gotten used to taking half of a bun off of a burger, dumping the contents of a taco out on the plate, asking for half rice servings places. All of those things will help.
- LifeSaver Food. Greek yogurt is my lifeboat. You may not like yogurt, but I love it and always have. My breakfast every morning is vanilla greek yogurt with peanut butter and banana mixed in. For snacks, I'll grab a yogurt in the afternoon. If I want a dessert, sometimes I'll grab a yogurt. And there are so many kinds and flavors. My new favorite is Tillamook brand. Their coffee flavor (only available at Target, as far as I know) is dynamite. READ those labels, though. Not all Greek yogurts are created equal. Some of them will have more carbs and less protein. I try to pick one that gives me two protein servings in one cup and only one carb serving. They are out there. Other lifesaving foods. Cheese. This is a huge benefit, grabbing a cheese stick or a pack of mozzarella balls. Add cheese to your sandwich or meal. Meat sticks. If you like jerky, knock yourself out. I'm not a big fan, plus they have a surprising amount of sugar. But I have discovered different kinds of dried sausages - Duke's is my favorite. Three sticks have 9 protein and 1 carb. That's my jam. Nuts. Again, read those labels. I like macadamia nuts, and Costco sells some good big containers of those. I also like almonds. And there are lots of new products catering to high protein, low carb diets. I found a thing of Blue Diamond blueberry almonds the other day that is a 1 carb to 1 protein serving pouch. Delicious.
- Don't Skimp on Products. My big discovery on this came with peanut butter. Go ahead and admit it; you've been judging my peanut butter for breakfast comment. I put two big ole spoonfuls in there. Sometimes I will just take a spoonful out and eat it in the middle of the day. Shocked? Disappointed? Go read your peanut butter label. I'll wait. (Hey Katie. How are you little doggie? You're so cute.) Back? Surprised? Yeah, I was too. Peanut butter has a GREAT amount of protein and NOT a lot of carbs. And it doesn't have to be that nasty natural stuff with a layer of grease on top or the low fat one nobody will eat. In fact, there is hardly ANY difference between the different brands and variations. There certainly is not enough for me to switch from Jif to all natural, crushed in the store, tastes gross stuff. When you are picking your items, you may not want to go with the off brand. I'll tell you what, HEB brand yogurt sucks. It is truly awful. Publix brand is amazing, as are all things created by Publix. (Moment of silence for those separated by miles from Publix.) Is it worth it to save 10 cents on a yogurt you won't eat? Find something you like and get it. Same thing if you find a specialty protein product that costs a little bit. Like, take Real Good Food enchiladas. This company is brilliant. They use chicken and parmesan cheese to replicate pizza crusts and tortillas. Their cheese enchiladas are wonderful, but they cost like 4 bucks a box. "Oh my gosh! I don't want to spend 4 bucks on a frozen meal." No, go spend 9 bucks at McDonalds. If it keeps you on track, go with it. Another great option is Stubbs frozen bbq meat. The pulled pork version is soooo low on carbs, but it is probably the best pulled pork I've had in Houston. Yeah, I know. Not saying much, but whatever.
- KICKSTART. Soda was going to be the hardest thing for me to give up. It isn't because of the caffeine because caffeine doesn't even affect me at all. This is one hundred percent true. I can drink an energy drink or coffee right before bed and just go right to sleep. In fact, it seems at times to have an inverse affect on me where I get tired when I have too much. Mountain Dew makes these Kickstart energy drinks and they just introduced a "Original Dew Flavor" version. And it tastes virtually like real Mountain Dew. It is a little over 1 carb serving (80 calories), but I usually have it with a meal, so it cancels out with my usual abundance of protein. (There is a Ultra version of this with Aspartame and 0 calories. But I can't drink Aspartame. So I haven't tried it.) I've also found some coffee drinks that are 1 carb to 1 protein. HEB redeems itself with its 100 calorie mocha iced coffee on this. You can even have Starbucks skinny drinks - again, don't skimp and demand skim milk unless that is how you like it.
- Be Kind to Yourself This may be the hardest of all. We all know how cruel our own heads can be, so don't be surprised when your brain starts berating you all the time about all the things you've done wrong -- or you're afraid you've done wrong. For Easter, I had part of a dark chocolate bunny because it was a special occasion. Then I gave the rest to my kids. For my birthday I had a cupcake. The other day I wanted Reese's Cups, so I got a small two pack and ate them with dinner. None of those things destroyed my efforts. In fact, I will often purchase an ice cream novelty item to have at the house for days when I really need/want something like that. I don't buy a bucket of ice cream because I'm not a total moron. But I will sometimes get Tillamook or Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches or Yasso yogurt pops. I know what the carb to protein ratio is in advance and know that I'm okay taking the hit. Sometimes we just need to do that. I still have pizza once in a while. But it is once in a while, not as a regular menu item. And I have changed even how I order it or what I order to ramp up the protein on it to offset the crust. And I eat fewer slices as well. I still eat burgers (with bun modifications) but don't eat the fries. You still can have stuff you like - just be smart about it.
I am not even beginning to say that I have everything figured out. Nope nope whole lotta nope. But I have had some short term success with very sustainable changes. So, maybe that will be something helpful to someone - well before they get the gut punch at the doctor's office.