In December of last year,2012,I had a doctor’s report that was alarming. For years I had been overweight and had chronic blood tests of elevated cholesterol for which the doctor wanted to put me on statins both to reduce the total cholesterol levels and even more significantly,to raise the “good”HDL cholesterol level. I have known several individuals that reacted badly to statins so was highly reluctant to do so. In recent years I had used several alternatives with varying degrees of success.
Since the previous blood tests back in June I knew I had not been watching my diet like I should,but it was so much fun to have those extra slices of cake along with a slurpy,shake,or other gooey treat. How could I resist? And when we ate with family and friends it would be an insult to refuse the baked love symbols they offered. Well,anyway that was my excuse.
In this Dec report my total cholesterol was the highest it had ever been measured (241) and the “good”HDL was only 39. A somewhat disturbing number for someone intent on avoiding statin medications. However,there was a much more alarming warning in the tests. My Triglyceride count was up to 247 where it had been only 133 just six months earlier,and my blood glucose had gone up from 110 to 126,a level I had never seen in my adult life. Also my weight had gone up to a bit over 250 lbs which even with my 6’2″frame puts me well into the “obese”category. Even my heart rate and blood pressure were somewhat elevated. In recent years I had buried three friends/family members who died of diabetes. I had seen the progression that included removal of toes,loss of mobility,lack of energy and inability to enjoy life as I knew it. With the blood glucose rising,the triglycerides substantially elevated as well as the cholesterol being out of control I became concerned about the very real probability of diabetes in my near future unless I did something NOW! I decided that the alternative was simply not acceptable!
Immediately I cut out all sugars,all flour and all products made with those ingredients. I eliminated things like sodas,ice cream,and chocolate cream pie,sodas,and shakes which I dearly love. I checked an old Dr Atkins “New Diet Revolution” book and went immediately into his “Induction”phase of diet in which your daily diet is limited to a total of 20 grams of carbohydrates. Pretty stiff considering that is about the carb content of one small apple. A single medium baked potato rings up about 33 grams of carbs,nearly two day’s quota! However,things like celery,eggs,many green vegetables,and meats are so low in carbs that you can eat them almost with no restrictions at all.
Strangely I discovered that after a few days I was no longer ravishingly hungry. When I have attempted to diet by reducing calorie count I always felt so hungry I could,“eat the south end off a northbound skunk.” On this regimen,that feeling went away about the second or third day. I did experience a bit of the “Atkins Flu”symptoms. Felt just dragging until someone on line told me to add salt to my diet and recommended a cup of bullion soup regularly. I have never been much of a salt user. Don’t use it on eggs or add to prepared foods,and was following old habits. Adding just a bit of salt worked great and by the end of the first week I felt better and hunger was easily under control. Made me come to the conclusion,“Heh,I can Do This!”
A few weeks later I saw a John Stossel show on TV in which Gary Taubes was the guest and he talked about his book,“Why We Get Fat –and what to do about it”. I ordered one of the books and read it cover to cover. It was an enlightening experience in which he discussed at length how the body metabolizes foods. It explained from a biochemical standpoint just what happens when we eat and how that ultimately affects our weight,as well as our blood chemistry. He explained why overweight people are not necessarily the lazy gluttonous slobs that stereotypes us,but folks that are instead conditioned into bad lifestyle choices and even government decrees to follow a “food pyramid”in making diet choices that just doesn’t work. Finally I understood why my constant efforts at diets over the years had failed. The reduced calorie regimen was causing my body to signal that I was starving to death and demanded that I immediately attack a Twinkie!
I was hooked. I adopted as my own the “No Sugar,no Starch” diet from the Duke University’s Lifestyle Medical Clinic which Taubes had reprinted in his book. It was simple to understand and follow. I sort of summarized it as the “No White Stuff Diet”. It is really not so much a “diet”in the conventional sense as a new lifestyle. If I lose the weight and go back to my old way of eating,I will be right back where I was last December,and I know that very well. After all I read the book,remember?
By April I was down over 20# even though my wife and I had spent over 10 days on vacation and a cruise where delightful temptations were paraded around us 24 hours a day. In early September,after several weeks traveling in Branson and other tempting locations I had another blood test and the results were very encouraging. Weight was down 35#,Total cholesterol was down a bit over 10 points,but more encouraging,the “good”HDL cholesterol was up over 25% to 49! Blood glucose was down into the “normal”range of 109. Most spectacularly,my triglycerides had dropped from 247 to 68,a drop of 179 points! My energy is substantially increased and I can now walk down to my pond and back up the hill without being winded! Quite an accomplishment for a 70+ old dude like myself.
I have now removed myself from the medical classifications of “pre-diabetic”and “obese”. I am now merely “overweight”and am slowly,oh so slowly inching my way out of that classification as well. Have about 20 lbs to go and each pound brings with it new enjoyment of life and freedom. I am still maintaining my medication free lifestyle and finding new ways to enjoy myself without resorting to the oral gratification that was previously ruining my health. I still have an occasional slice of chocolate cream pie,but when I do it is limited to one serving. I no longer have two or three pieces along with a slice of cake topped with ice cream as before. And it is “occasional”,not weekly or daily as it once was. Considering my old eating patterns it is amazing that I was not diabetic 25 years ago!
In our society today,diabetes and obesity are epidemic. Just look around you at your local WalMart or during a stroll through the mall. We are killing ourselves with the consumption of sugary soft drinks,burgers,fries and sweet treats. It is not so much how much you eat,as it is what you eat. Typical diets today include lots of sugary treats found on the center aisles of your favorite grocery store. Sodas,breakfast cereals,jams and jelly,ice cream,breads and pastries,pasta and noodles,etc fill the average grocery cart. Each of these pound our system with sugar and carbohydrates creating problems that become more and more damaging as we get older.
As I have progressed through this journey to better health,I have learned to shop around the periphery of the grocery store. There you will find fresh vegetables,meats,dairy,and the low carb dieter’s ultimate friend,eggs! These are the things we should be concentrating on. In the center aisles you will find the prepared boxed foods,sweets,breads and other things you should be avoiding or at least restricting.
When I graduated from high school in 1959 the overweight kids were vastly in the minority,less than 10% of our class were significantly overweight and only a few in our class of 150+ were actually obese. Today that has flipped and kids are becoming grossly overweight at a very early age. As a kid we didn’t have a choice of three dozen brands of sugar coated breakfast cereals. Plain Cheerios,Wheaties,Corn Flakes,Bran Flakes,and oatmeal were the choices and if you wanted sugar you had to add it yourself. “Sugar frosted”,and “honey dipped”were not parts of the lexicon of the day. Today kids are taught to eat sugar on everything until they feel that nothing is good unless it is sweet. The advertisements on TV invite you,yea even compel you,to pick this or that brand of sugar coated stuff and it plays 24/7 on children’s channels.
We have to break the pattern or we most certainly will experience the consequences of our choices. The good news is that it can be an enjoyable lifestyle that promises freedom from the enslavement of the carb monster. It offers control,and according to a number of recent studies,even the cure of both type II diabetes and obesity. Doctors don’t like to recommend such an “extreme”solution as I found because;1) it doesn’t match the standard message of the AMA and 2) just passing out pills is much easier to get patients to comply with than trying to tell them to quit stuffing Little Debbie’s snack cakes into their face. If you are experiencing a problem such as I did I do hope you will take the time to seriously contemplate if that slice of chocolate cake a la mode is really worth lying around feeling miserable tomorrow.
Many folks have told me,“I just couldn’t do that”,but it is simply not true. I am a food-a-holic,a choc-a-holic,and a coke-a-holic and have as much love for pasta,potatoes,pastries and the other sweet stuff as anybody I know. If I can do it you can too.
Support and encouragement are available just about everywhere from local church and community associated support organizations such as “Celebrate Recovery”or here on the internet at http://forum.lowcarber.org and http://www.lowcarbfriends.com/bbs/