Earlier this winter I spent 6 weeks in Medellin, Colombia, studying Spanish and eating to my heart’s content. Actually, that’s not an apt expression…eating with abandonment would be more accurate. It was not doing my heart or my type 2 diabetes any good to eat “comida tipica,” but in the spirit of cultural discovery, I ate lots of “arepas” (corn cakes) and, just once, “ron con pasas” (rum raisin) supermarket ice cream. No excuses offered.
The container felt light when I took it from the freezer compartment, so my first thought was that it was loaded with air, like whipped butter. But when I got home I discovered it was really loaded with raisins and tasted quite good. It wasn’t until I had finished the container (naturally) that I looked at the ingredients. The first one listed was whole milk, then sugar of course, then “grasa vegetal,” or vegetable oil! “Incredible!”
Needless to say, I didn’t eat any more supermarket ice cream. Notice: I didn’t say that I didn’t eat any more ice cream. On a few occasions, in a fine dining restaurant, I had dessert with my coffee and once in a while it included ice cream – homemade, I assumed – with a wonderful dense chocolate cake (see photo). The supermarket I patronized also sold Haagen Dazs, but for a king’s ransom…by Colombian standards.
This is the second time that I have travelled to Colombia to study Spanish. Travel and study are things I can do in retirement, and I actually have an undergraduate degree in Spanish, so my studies are somewhat advanced and are made easier by having somewhere in the back of my brain all the irregular verbs conjugated in a dozen or so tenses. The hard part is not reading or writing or even speaking – but understanding the spoken word. I’m afraid it’s going to take more than a few weeks a year to improve that…so more travel and study.
Acquiring or re-acquiring a skill does take a lot of practice, and immersion is a well known way to do it. That’s how I came to eat Very Low Carb. I jumped in head first. The story has been told here many times but bears repeating. My doctor – who had been trying to get me to lose weight the conventional way – eat less on a balanced diet and exercise more – was desperate when he suggested I eat just 20 grams of carbs a day.
For my part I was motivated because, being unable to weigh in on his office scale (which only went to 350 lbs), I had gone to the Fulton Fish Market in NYC for a commercial scale and learned I weighed 375. Meanwhile, my doctor had read Gary Taubes’s seminal piece, “What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie,” in the NYT and tried the diet himself. He lost 17 pounds in a month, so he suggested that I try it too, to lose weight.
Well, I did. I lost sixty pounds in 9 months, and a few years later, on 30 carb grams a day, I lost a lot more. I then maintained a 170 pound weight loss until years later, fasting 2 or 3 days a week, I increased my total to 186 pounds. All of this without exercise and without hunger. But the really incredible part is that, from the first day, to avoid hypos, my cocktail of oral antidiabetic medication had to be greatly reduced, eliminating one altogether and cutting the other two in half, TWICE. And later I eliminated the sulfonyluria (glyburide) too.
My doctor was just as surprised as I was by this outcome. Not the weight loss, mind you, but the fact that my type 2 diabetes, from the first week, was thrown into remission. I still take Metformin (actually, with my doctor’s approval, I upped it to 750mg twice a day), and my latest A1c was 5.1%. Recently, several doctors that I have mentioned this to have told me that, clinically speaking, I am no longer a type 2 diabetic.All of these outcomes – weight loss, A1c and blood sugar control, plus big lipid, blood pressure and inflammation improvements – were made possible only by what I don’t eat. But establishment medicine still refuses to accept that type 2 diabetes is a dietary disease and can be effectively treated this way. Maybe your doctor – or you – will have to be desperate to come to a similarly logical conclusion. I was, and my doctor was too, but it shouldn’t be that way. But they don’t burn heretics at the stake anymore; they just fade away…