Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Retrospective #109: “Prisoner for Life”


Sounds like a Merle Haggard song, doesn’t it? But this is not about music; it’s about the life-long travails of a Type 2 diabetic. But before you get all mewlish, or repulsed in shock and denial, let me explain: I think this is a good thing.
In 2012 an online friend commented: “It seems to me that you are still walking a very fine line between successful weight loss and keeping the weight off. If you stray even a little bit from your protocols, you gain weight. To me, that seems like you are also dealing with a broken metabolism, and you will be a prisoner of lower calorie and diet (carbohydrate restriction) the rest of your life.” He was right on both points, and I am still here to testify to it.
I was diagnosed a Type 2 in 1986. Using the standards then in use, I had probably been a diabetic for a decade or more by that time. Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t think I would live to see the new century. Then, seventeen years ago something inadvertent, but good, happened. Today, I am much healthier and looking forward to a long life.
That good thing was that in 2002, my doctor, who was treating me for high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, in his relentless efforts to get me to lose weight (he’d tried everything!), suggested I try Very Low Carb (20 grams of carbs a day). I did, and in 9 months following this strictly, I lost 60 pounds. But in the first week, to avoid hypos, I had to come off one of the anti-diabetic oral meds I was on and cut the dose of the other two orals in half twice.
So, I have known and accepted the carbohydrate restriction reality for a long time. It does call for a big adjustment, and the medical establishment has decided that you can’t do it. They have concluded that it is too difficult to make dietary changes of that magnitude, even if it means saving your life. And they’re right. Most people can’t do it. Or won’t. Some diet programs are so sure you can’t that they have cheat meals or cheat days built into their program. In general, there is an attitude that to do this, you have to “give up” a lot. Well, YOU DO, if you want to be healthy!
The medical establishment (Big Pharma?) complicates matters by insisting that “heart healthy” means avoiding saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol are not the problem with the Western diet. The problem is refined/processed carbohydrates and sugars, (including excessive amounts of fructose), grains, particularly wheat (even the “whole grain” forms), and manufactured vegetable oils. They are making us sick. Type 2 diabetes will continue to be a “progressive disease,” with the “inevitable complications,” and progressively more medications, so long as we continue to follow the establishment’s prescription of a “balanced diet and exercise.”
Not incidentally, other medical benefits of this Way of Eating soon emerged: my blood lipids improved, very dramatically. My HDL doubled and triglycerides came down by two-thirds. And as I lost lots of weight my blood pressure went from 130/90 to 110/70 on the same meds. And my chronic systemic inflammation (hsCRP) dropped to the lowest level. I also learned a lot by asking questions on a low-carb forum for people like me. Great support!
In 2012 I was also reminded by Franziska Spritzler, a Certified Diabetes Educator, that “attitude is all important.” Diet, exercise, medication, she said – they’re all important too; but without the right frame of mind, you won’t stick with it. And you have to like the foods you will be eating for the rest of your life. I do. I cook more now than I ever did before. There are so many good, whole foods, real foods, from which to choose. And great cook books, and fabulous web sites with daily recipes. The varieties of meats, fowl, fish, vegetables, and healthy fats are endless.
So, as to being a “Prisoner for Life,” I think just the opposite is true. I have been freed from a progressive worsening of my disease as it was being managed by the medical “Standards of Practice” and government dictates. While I will always have a “broken metabolism,” by radically changing my diet I have been liberated from the inevitable complications that would have inexorably overtaken me if I had continued my “balanced” diet and the medical course of treatment that the mainstream medical establishment prescribes for Type 2s – 1 size fits all. I have been paroled from my “life sentence.” And as long as I am on good behavior, I expect to live a long and healthy life.

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