Saturday, June 09, 2007

Jennifer's Story

Five years ago when I started searching the net for advice on type 2, after I realised that the standard Diabetes Australia advice wasn't working for me, I discovered misc.health.diabetes on usenet. A guy from the UK calling himself Flying Rat sent me to his web-page to read "Jennifer's Advice". Since then I've found that advice in several other places.

It was the single most important thing I read after diagnosis. Jennifer's advice changed my life and I will always be grateful. I now repeat it to every newby I meet who stands still long enough:-)

Today, on a different forum, Jennifer posted the story of her first eight years after diagnosis. Here it is.

From Jennifer.

Eight years ago today I was diagnosed with T2 diabetes. I was very afraid...but fortunately for me I turned to this list and others for a shoulder and advice. And I found all of that and more. I utterly appreciate the patience and help I got in those first months/years, and can't fathom where I would have been without the internet, this list and you people. Truly.

So on my 8th diabetic anniversary I thought I'd look back. Here's my story... long but hopefully interesting. (Some of you may already know most of this, I ask your indulgence).

First a disclaimer. These are just my experiences. I believe with all my heart that each of us will respond to different things. Some folks do just perfectly on an ADA food plan... others find that low carb is the only thing that keeps their BG stable. The only way to know what works for you is to test, try, test, try. The idea of one size fits all NEVER works... in pantyhose or in health. ;-)

Now you should know, I am a decorated veteran of the diet wars... until age 36 when I decided never to diet again. I worked very hard at accepting my body and my life and I was finally able to let go of all that wasted mental energy I spent worrying and obsessing about diets and fat. It was wonderful.

So at 40, when I was dx'd with DM. I was petrified... I just knew I would walk into the doctors office and they'd take one look and say, "Well, just lose weight". And I would try and I would fail. As I had on every diet known to man since the beginning of time. But this time failure would mean blindness, amputation and other horrible complications, not just a bigger dress.

I immediately dove into the internet searching for any shred of hope. Everything I read said that carbohydrates raised your glucose levels. Atkins was not yet the total fad (that would happen a year or two later)... but there were a few books out and I read them all.

I started out with a very low carb approach. I didn't use any one plan, but read a number of books and took something from each of them. Including Protein Power, Dr. Bernstein and Atkins. At first I just (just! as though it was a snap... it wasn't!) cut out all "classic" carbs... bread, rice, pasta, cereal, sugar, beans, corn, potato, fruit etc. My BG dropped dramatically and quickly.

My A1c at dx 6/99 was 15.3
By 7/99 it was 8.5
By 9/99 it was 6.6
By 12/99 it was 4.9

I hovered in the 4's for awhile, but then chose to add back in some high fiber - non-white carbs and I've been in the 5's ever since. (with a small detour upward due to some urological problems)

Interestingly, I found something else occurred as well. I found an amazing correlation for me with regards to low carb and cravings and binges. I've spent my whole life fighting cravings and bingeing. I could eat a pound of pasta (with the "regulation" fat free sauce) and an hour later be standing in the kitchen in front of the fridge, starving. Needing to eat something, anything. Unable to stop thinking about food.

I grew up believing it was me. Something was wrong with me. I must have low self esteem or I was eating to fill up an "emotional hole". However, none of the rest of my life supported those theories. I was happy... except with my eating and my size. The low carb approach worked very well controlling my diabetes, But more amazing to me was that those almost daily crave attacks disappeared completely. Entirely. And so far they have never returned.

I must believe that for me, has to be some sort of metabolic disorder. Some kind of carbohydrate malfunction within me. It was the first time in my 40 years that I had not had these cravings. It's been wonderful. If they discovered a "cure" tomorrow for diabetes I would still eat this way.

After six months or so of very low carb, I used my meter to help add in other carbs at specific meals. I found, through testing, that I could eat a piece of whole wheat toast at breakfast with no appreciable rise in BG... I could eat some corn with a meal... On the downside: Pasta doesn't work for me at anytime... (until I found Dreamfields) Neither does rice.

I don't count carbs... I don't count calories... I don't count fat or protein grams. I eat whenever I'm hungry, I just restrict my carbs. I think the reason I've been able to maintain good BG numbers is because I didn't go on any one eating plan. I read many many books and took information from each. I was not going to sit down and write out a food plan for the week. That was too diet-like. I was not going to count anything, not portions, not calories, not anything. That was too diet-like. I wasn't going to weigh anything, not me or my food. That was too diet-like. I knew if I headed down those paths I would never survive. I had to find a way that fit my current life and yet would keep my BG in line. My personal history with dieting necessitated this for me.

I used my meter like a mad fool. Testing testing testing. I learned how my body used food. I learned which foods I could eat in great abandon, and which I had to limit. My meter is still a constant companion. When I stop testing I find my control slips. Using my meter keeps me aware and connected to my diabetes. The number I see isn't there to judge me, but to give me valuable information. Information is power.

Now I can walk into any restaurant, party, or other food situation and know what foods will raise my BG and what won't. It's enabled me to travel to Italy for a friends wedding which included three big dinners and many many other "eating" events and survive. It's enabled me to continue eating out many many times a week. And because it's not a DIET, I don't feel like I'm on something, therefore when I do eat a food that may spike my BG, I haven't gone "off"
something, so no guilt.

Giving myself permission to eat when I feel hungry, is a big difference from every diet I've ever been on. Where I netted out is that if I had to add them up I'd say I eat between 80g - 150g of carbs a day. Spaced out over 3 meals and 2 - 3 snacks. I have found that I can handle about 30g of carbs at any one "eating moment".

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned exercise. I am a firm believer that exercise is vital to all bodies. Thin, fat, diabetic, not... I am a believer, but I have a hard time putting into practice what I believe ; ) It is my achilles heel. I feel so much better when I get regular movement, but can always find a "reason" to put it off. Since this is a journey that will last a lifetime (a long lifetime I hope)...exercise is something I will continue to work on.

All of this works for me! The answers all lie in an individuals blood glucose testing. Use any method that works. Keep hunting until you find one that does. Between food, exercise, oral meds and insulin, you can strike a balance to acheive numbers you can live with.

And I'm off to start my next 8 years.

Jennifer

Thanks Jennifer, for being there. Alan

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting that. I have just be diagnosed with t2 and have spent the better part of the weekend searching the net for information. Last night I was panicked because I found on place that said you shouldn't eat more than 30g carbs a DAY. And I was seeing other stuff that said the only way is my way. Reading Jennifer's story was just what I needed. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

30g a day? That's crazy talk. I was diagnosed a month ago and met with a nutritionist who advised me to aim for 15-20g per meal. Obviously I need to start BG testing to see what I really can and cannot eat but will start that project in the fall. Right now I'm focused on just ramping down my carb intake and ramping up my exercise.

Alan said...

I agree that I wouldn't recommend only 30gm CHO daily either.

However, to me "crazy talk" is to change carb intake and exercise levels without testing to see the effects. Why wait until fall? Right now is when you need to know.

Adding an extra test an hour after each main meal is not going to cost much and will tell you a great deal.

sadaf said...

i was dx,d t2 6 months ago, had been through lot of emotional adjustment and felt it as a war o be fought alone until i read through Alan's. thx Alan for giving me hope of a normal life. i am now trying to figure out carbs per meal to avoid one hour ppg glucose spikes ( 150-200) mg/dl. ny fastin generally is 100-130 mg/dl. i would like to further lower it. i take 1,2 bran bread slices three times a day along with meat, lentil or veggie curries. uess i need to reduce carbs intake further.

Marc said...

I finally posted the translation: http://zuvielzucker.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/jennifers-geschichte/

Many thanks to you and Jennifer for the permission.