By: Sandra L. Churchill
Is it age or wisdom when our New Year’s resolutions looming on the horizon are all about healthy habits? I’m going to be optimistic and hope it’s wisdom. At our house, and among all our family and friends, are health goals that seem to echo the same mantras: cut stress, increase exercise, reduce carbs, drink more water, etc.
A recent challenge for me was facing the dreaded diabetes diagnosis. Both of my parents are diabetes and I had gestational diabetes with my third child. So, at a recent checkup, the doctor didn’t mince words. “You have an 85% chance of getting diabetes,” she said simply. The blood sugar numbers didn’t lie. But the truth was, I didn’t “feel” diabetic. I wasn’t excessively thirsty or tired. But after trying to bring the sugar numbers down and going through endless blood-testing with a hopeful spirit, I was ticked.
Determined to improve “naturally,” I set out to increase my activity, cut even more carbs from my already potato-, pasta-, and bread-free diet, and drink more water. Weekly water aerobics, walking 11 miles a week, and squeezing in exercise videos became part of my new regimen. My creative cousin helped me plan several go-to vegetarian recipes I could rely on a couple nights a week.
I worked in time to journal and meditate early in the mornings and tried to say “no” to the constant over-commitment to activities, favors, and other engagements. Bedtime became an hour earlier and sleep definitely helped in the stress arena.
A reporter by nature, I quizzed everyone I knew. Should I go on medication? Was I doomed? What if I was super-strict about everything—diet, exercise, food-journaling? Could I slay the diabetic dragon?
I tried Metformin for only two days and couldn’t stand the dizziness. How could I exercise if I was too dizzy to stand up? I pursued the natural route for the moment.
After three months of dedication and a lot of frustration, I dropped 13 pounds and decreased my sugar numbers by 30 points. The good news was that my blood pressure dropped 20 points and cholesterol was fine. But my morning sugars were still too high.
Insulin resistance was a fierce, jaggedy-toothed dragon and I felt piteously unarmed. Getting up to walk in near-darkness, in freezing-cold weather was no picnic. Surviving on eggs, beans, and microwaved string cheese while everybody else ate pizza, pasta, and other “comfort foods” was more than a bit discouraging.
I had been improving our healthy eating habits at home for years—injecting whole grains, a variety of vegetables, and omega-3 fish into our meals so that everybody was eating a balanced diet. But even I, in my quest to slay the diabetic dragon, couldn’t banish every cookie, pancake, or chip from the house.
It wasn’t fair. I was working way too hard for the little success that showed up at the doctor’s office. My practical doctor wasn’t swayed by my self-pity and frustration.
“When your house burns down, you don’t stay looking at the ashes and ask ‘Why did this happen’?” she said soberly. “You clean it up and move forward.” Got it. I needed the push to stop asking “why?” and move forward. I needed to stop cursing my genes and instead focus on new jeans—a size smaller.
New terms such as “mung bean,” “quinoa,” and “chia seeds” became familiar. We added flaxseed and other fiber to casseroles, stews, and breakfast shakes. My husband and teenage girls started reading nutrition labels for the carbohydrate, fiber and protein counts. My little guy supported my water aerobics schedule following his swimming lessons and my middle daughter started walking with me. Even my husband, a super fan of all-things-carbohydrate, found a diabetic-friendly bread with only five grams of carbohydrates per slice—down from 20+!
Progress is happening but I still have miles to go. My doctor suggested a time-release version of Metformin, just for now. My hope is that the steady routine of exercise and low-carb eating will change my system over time and will possibly reverse the condition. Many doubt that this is possible, but some research is encouraging.
Nevertheless, 2014 is brimming with healthy possibilities. Friends and family members are sharing recipes, walking routines, and encouragement—on overall health, diabetes, blood pressure, and the like. I truly believe the New Year holds hope for healthier habits and a team atmosphere that sets all of us up for improvement.
This leads to my resolution for the coming year: to live, promote, and encourage one another in healthy living!