So you’ve just been told you’re a type 2 diabetic. Now what?

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My first piece of advice:

Breathe.  Don’t panic.  Don’t freak out.   Don’t shut down.

Yes, it’s a scary diagnosis to be given.  Yes, it’s a life-changing moment.  Gone are the days when you could eat whatever you wanted without giving it a second thought.  Now you’re going to begin a system of trial and error.  Finding out what sends your sugar into orbit and what doesn’t.  The bad news is there’s no one size fits all.  A food item that spikes one diabetic’s sugar might not really affect you much.  The only way to find out is to keep testing after every meal.  You need to know the worst foods to avoid.  I can tell you common problem foods are pizza, white bread, potatoes and white rice.  And of course cookies, chocolate, cakes, pasta…and the list goes on.

Depending on the severity of your diabetes, there are a range of treatment options your doctor may choose.  You may be put on an oral drug, like Metformin.  That’s the one I was prescribed. There are a range of other pills your doctor may choose.  Or you may be put on insulin.

This is important.  Your doctor is going to give you a ton of advice.  Listen to it.  The absolute worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand and just ignore your diabetes.  It’s a serious problem and it isn’t going to just go away.  With the right attitude it can be managed, and in some cases it can even be reversed,  I know this because I reversed mine.

There are two main causes of type 2 diabetes.  Genetic and lifestyle.  If your diabetes is genetic then there are fewer options, but it can still be managed.  My diabetes was caused by my lifestyle.  This is the one that can most likely be reversed.  By changing your lifestyle.

Basically I gained a lot of weight and was very inactive.  I didn’t really bother with any kind of exercise.  I was diagnosed in August 2008.  For several years I battled my disease.  At one point it got out of control and my fasting sugar was averaging 170.  That’s another thing.  The best way to see how you’re doing with your diabetes is to test your sugar in the morning before you eat or drink anything.  This is when you’ll have the most consistency.  Because your sugar is affected by not only WHAT you eat but also by HOW MUCH you eat.  That first thing in the morning test will give you the greatest consistency.

In December 2014 I went for a check up.  My A1C was 7.2.  The A1C measures your blood glucose over a 2 to 3 month period.  Non diabetics should have a number less than 6.0.  The higher the number the worse your diabetes is affecting you.  If you’re managing your diabetes you need to aim to keep that number as low as you can.  Mine was high enough the doctor wanted to put me on a second medication.  When we investigated this drug we found it’s strongly linked with causing liver issues.

No thanks!

This was the kick up the butt I needed.  I resolved to lose weight and get active.  In many cases simply losing weight and getting fit can be all you need to do to reverse your diabetes.  I joined an app called MyFitnessPal.  It’s a calorie counting app that lets you track the calories you’re burning.  It also helps you track the amount of nutrients; carbs, sugar, fiber, protein etc you’re eating.  A lot of people dislike the idea of calorie counting but I found it very effective and so simple to do.  The great thing about it is it makes it incredibly easy to maintain your weight loss.  Much better than the usual method of “going on a diet” by denying yourself certain foods until you lose the weight and then going back to your old eating habits…which is what caused you to gain weight in the first place.

A brief word about carbs.  You’re going to hear a lot about carbs.  Too many carbs will spike your sugar.  But your body needs a certain amount of carbs as they give your body energy.  Complex carbs are best.  There are plenty of sites out there that go into simple and complex carbs as this blog is going to be long enough already!  Switching to wholewheat bread and wholewheat pasta is a better option if you simply can’t give up those foods.

The other thing I did was start walking daily.  Walking led to running.  I followed a system called Couch To 5K.  Google it.  It’s a great way to start running if you think that would be a good way to go.  It’s a great calorie burner and the weight just seemed to fall off me once I started running.  Within a couple of months of this my fasting sugar was dropping into the 60’s!  I halved my daily dose of Metformin and my fasting was still in the 60’s.  I came off Metformin in April 2015 and I have been off it ever since.  I can’t guarantee you will have the same results I have but there is every chance you can get control of your disease and maybe you can also get off medication.  Good luck and I’d love to hear how you’re getting on.

Latest Updates On Our Health Journey

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I’ve just realized I haven’t blogged in quite a while.  Sorry about that!  So here’s my latest update on our health journey.

We went away on a sort of working vacation in May.  Although we managed to eat within calories most of the time, we were eating out every day.  We were also too busy to get in any real exercise until the last day or two.  After we came back I guess I slacked off on my running a little bit.  My weight crept back up around 5 lbs and I noticed my pants were starting to feel a little snug.  Having gone from size 40 to size 32 I am in no mood to undo all the hard work I’ve put in!

So we made a recommitment to get back to the grindstone.   I tightened up on my calories and got back to running.  Our local parks department is hosting a weekly 2 mile fun run.  I’ve been on three of them and each time I have been faster.  Last night the temperature at the start was 85 degrees.  Luckily the run happens at 8pm so the sun is close to the horizon.  At least I don’t have to deal with the full heat of the sun during my run.  This was still my hottest run ever and somehow it was also my fastest ever 2 mile run.  I came in at 17 minutes and 1.9 seconds.  My legs were like rubber as I crossed the finish line!  Last summer I did all my running on the treadmill.  I will still do a lot of my running on the treadmill but I am committed to doing as many of these fun runs as I can no matter how hot it gets.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

Even on the treadmill I am pushing my fitness.  I now run 3 miles on the hill function.  Which involves a lot of hills!

The net result of this is not only did I lose those extra 5 lbs but I am now .2 lbs away from my goal weight of 155!  Now I have to decide if I want to maintain at a range of 150-155lbs or 155-160lbs.  I’m not sure about that just yet.  I love that losing weight through calorie counting has allowed me complete control over my weight.  If I start to gain weight I know exactly what I need to do to get rid of those unwanted extra pounds.  I don’t need to panic or freak out and go back to my old ways.  I am committed to this for the rest of my life.  And my sugar levels are still great.  This morning my fasting sugar was 77.  I’m hopeful I can stay off medication for the rest of my life.

And Chris is doing great, too.  She is a BEAST at the gym!  She loves lifting weights and I am seeing a real change in the way she looks.  I’m proud of her for sticking with this.  She has struggled with her weight for most of her life and knowing I have inspired her to do this makes me feel proud of myself too.  I haven’t been an inspiration to many people in my life.  I love that we are in this together.  We hold each other accountable.  She doesn’t let me off with anything and I keep her going too.  Our relationship is stronger than ever.  We are both in this for life.  And I will post more often to share our journey.

Seeing Is Believing!

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So I just turned 48 a few days ago.  On the 21st to be exact.  The photo on the right was taken that day.  I can’t stop looking at it.  Not because I’m vain or anything.  But because that one photograph sums up everything I have achieved in the past year.  The photo on the left was taken in 2009 when I was at my heaviest.  Just after I had been diagnosed a diabetic.  Looking back at my life then it seems it was almost inevitable that I would become diabetic.  Poor diet.  Lack of exercise.  Serious weight gain.  Becoming diabetic was a serious wake up call.  It took me a while to hear that call.  It was only when the doctor wanted to put me on a second medication that is linked with causing liver problems that I finally woke up and realized I had to do something about it.

So I took up running.  And watched my diet.  I have lost 35 lbs in the past year.  Sometimes when I look in the mirror I can’t see the weight loss.  I know I’ve lost weight.  I know my stomach  is a lot smaller, (I think I just have loose skin issues now which is really annoying because every other part of me is slim.)  But the brain seems to take a while to catch up with the eyes.  Judging from posts I’ve seen on the MyFitnessPal forums this seems to be a common phenomenon.  But in the photo on the right I can SEE how much my face has changed.  For me it sums up everything I’ve achieved in the past 12 months.   It’s a face I haven’t seen in over 20 years.  You see, I wasn’t always overweight.  In fact, all my life up to my mid 20’s I’d actually been pretty skinny.  I guess I slowed down, but didn’t change my eating habits to match.  So the weight gained.  Slowly at first.  But in the past ten years I had a dramatic weight gain.

But now I see my old face looking back at me.  A little older, perhaps.  A few wrinkles starting to show.  A few crows feet around the eyes.  But it’s ME.  The real me.  Not the bloated puffy face I’ve had to look at for a while.  It’s like looking at an old friend.  And I like what I see.  I like how I feel.  I’m so much more confident now when out in public.  This healthy lifestyle is amazing.  I just wish I’d started twenty years ago when the weight started creeping on.  I can’t change the past.  But I can make sure the old me stays the new me for the rest of my life.

Before And After

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Sometimes when you look in the mirror it’s hard to see just how far you have come when you’re looking to lose weight.  The best way to really judge your progress is take photographs.  If you’re starting out on a weight loss journey I’d advise you to take several photos before you start.  It’s always good to have something to compare.  The photo on the left was taken in 2009 when I was at my heaviest.  The photo on the right just a couple of months ago.   Here I can really see the difference.  I’m almost at the weight I want to be.  It’s time to start maintenance.  I have made a vow to never again look like I did in the pic on the left.  I wasted 20 years of my life looking like that.

Never again!

The past year has certainly been eventful.  Getting off diabetes medication.  Losing over 30 lbs.  Getting fit.  Running.  And this is just the beginning.  I intend to start lifting weights more now.  I’ve lost the weight.  Now I want to tone myself up and get myself in better shape.  The weight loss journey may be ending.  But the healthy lifestyle is just beginning!

When Your Need Is Greater Than Your Want?

 

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the health journey I’m on.  About how far I have come in less than a year.  And how much easier it has been than I thought it would be.  As a teenager I was a skinny little thing.  People used to try to fatten me up and just give up!  Then in my mid twenties I started to gain weight.  I didn’t notice at first.  Then when I did notice, I didn’t find the will to do anything about it.  I feel like I wasted two decades, the best two decades in my opinion, being overweight, when apparently I didn’t need to be.  Because when I found the willpower to actually change my health it came easily.  Okay, I shouldn’t exactly say easily.  After all, I’ve put a lot of sweat and effort into my transformation.  No tears, though!  But as I gained the weight I always thought it would be too hard.  I made a few half-hearted attempts to lose the weight.  I’d go on a diet.  It always ended in failure.  I just couldn’t find the motivation to see it through.

Then in December 2014, while sitting in the doctor’s office, I faced a tough choice.  My A1C was 7.2.  The doctor wanted to put me on a second medication.  I’d already been taking Metformin since 2008.  When Christine and I researched this second drug and found it’s strongly linked with causing liver damage I knew I had to make a change.  I vowed to never take this drug.  Up to this point I’d only wanted to lose weight.  Now my want had become a need.  And it turned out to be pretty simple.  Not easy.  Not with all the running miles I put in.  But it was simple.  I started walking, walking led to running.  And I counted calories.  I’m so glad I joined MyFitnessPal.  It’s a great app that lets you track your calories.  It even lets you track your exercise.  It definitely made my efforts easier to log.  Losing weight comes down to one simple equation.  Calories out have to be greater than calories in.  In other words to lose weight you have to be eating less calories than you’re burning.  Exercise is a great way of boosting your calories out.  Running especially burns a lot of calories.

I guess the bottom line in all this is need will always trump want.  Wanting to lose weight through reasons of simple vanity wasn’t enough to motivate me to succeed.  What ever you attempt to do in life will always be much more successful if you NEED it more than you WANT it.  Need is a great motivator.  And when it’s a health need, that’s the greatest motivator of all.  From being on the verge of taking two drugs for diabetes, I’ve been off ALL medication for ten months now.  I stopped taking Metformin in April 2015 when I realized my fasting sugar was actually getting too low.

If that visit to the doctor hadn’t taken place, if he hadn’t decided to put me on a drug that could potentially harm my health even more,  I might still be overweight.  And I might still be on Metformin.  Now I’m fitter than I was even in my twenties.  Now I’ve dropped from size 40 pants to size 32.  My weight is more or less where I want it to be.

I still have a need.  My diabetes is under control.  But I’m still diabetic.  I don’t think that will ever change.  We went out to eat Saturday night.  I ate more than I have been recently.  I also had fries.  My sugar two hours later was 168.  Which isn’t bad.  A year ago it would probably have been 200 or higher.  My fasting sugar was 91.  Which a year ago I would have been thrilled with.  But it’s a sign of how far I’ve come that I wasn’t happy with that number.  These days my fasting is always in the 70’s and low to mid 80’s.  Now, 91 is still just about at the normal range.  But I wasn’t happy.  So yesterday I made conscious efforts to eat less, to eat healthier.  My fasting this morning was 75.  Much better.  But it served as a reminder that I have to be vigilant.  That I still have to be conscious of not over eating and I still have to be active.  It’s easy to imagine that if I spent a week eating like that my sugar would be into the 100’s.  It’s all good, though.  It just reminds me I still have a need.  And as long as that need is there I will have all the motivation to keep on this healthy lifestyle.

Whatever you want to do in life, whatever you want to achieve, make sure your need is as great as your want and you can achieve miracles.  Just like I have.

My Fastest And My Longest Runs

I had a pretty good weekend from a running point of view.  Saturday I went for what has become my standard 4 mile run.  My speed is definitely picking up as I ran the first 2 miles at a 9 minute mile pace.  The last two miles were 10 minute mile pace.  So my total run time was just 38 minutes.  Considering I used to take 48 to 50 minutes to run this same distance, that was pretty fast.

Sunday my wife came with me to the same park.  It was meant to be another 4 mile run.  She dropped me off at the entrance and I ran the two miles to my halfway point.  She parked halfway up and then walked up to where I turn around.  I then planned to run back down to the entrance, then walk back up to meet up with her again.  But as I approached the entrance I knew I still had something left in the tank.  I knew I could keep going.  I took a breath for five minutes then turned round and ran back up the course.  I planned to run just one more mile and meet her where she’d parked.  But as the car came into view I wasn’t ready to stop.  So I ran the full two miles again then turned round and ran back 2015-06-28 12.04.47another half mile.  By now I was feeling twinges in my left knee so decided to leave it at 6.5.  The last thing i want now is an injury.  Especially with the holidays fast approaching.  I need to keep running so I  can burn off the extra calories!  So the day after my fastest run I go on my longest run.  I ran 10.5 miles in total.  My legs were pretty stiff after yesterday’s run, but a long soak in the bath sorted that out.  They feel good today.  I may get to the gym later.  If I do I’ll run another 2 or 3 miles on the treadmill.  Or not.

The other great thing about the weekend is the weather was amazing!  Mid 60’s temp on both days.  I was able to run in shorts and a t-shirt in mid December!  I could get used to that sort of winter weather.  Of course, it won’t last.  I have no doubt the cold and snow will be here before we know it.  But it’s good to know I took full advantage of the good weather while it lasted.

MY Health Journey – One Year And Counting

It’s hard to believe that it was a year ago this month I received the final kick up the butt I needed to make healthy changes to my life.  Last December my A1C was 7.2 and the doctor wanted to put me on a second medication to control my diabetes.  As I had already been on Metformin since August 2008, I did not want to take more drugs.  Especially when research showed that drug was strongly linked with causing liver damage.  That was when I knew I had to change my habits.

Fast forward to March 2015 when the weather finally thawed after the frigid winter from hell.  I started walking every day, then began incorporating running into my new regime.  The running built slowly, but now it’s an integral part of my weekly routine.  I try to run at least 3 times a week.  Last month my A1C was 5.5 and I’ve been off Metformin since April.  I still test my fasting sugar almost every day and it’s averaging in the 70’s and 80’s.

My cataract surgery has slowed up my fitness routine as I’m not allowed to lift anything over 20 lbs for two weeks after surgery.  Next Wednesday will be the two week point after my second surgery so I’m planning to go to the gym and begin to lift weights again.  I can’t wait!  (Play on words fully intended!)

It’s always the way.  When you know you can’t do something you want to do it more!  I hadn’t realized how much I’ve come to enjoy lifting weights, but I really miss it.  It makes me push the cardio more.

I lost another pound today.  I’m now 30 lbs lighter than I was when I started this journey in March.  I just want to lose another 5 lbs and really firm up what’s left.  My fitness lifestyle is so ingrained into who I am now that I really miss it when I can’t do any one part of it.  I just wish I’d started this 20 years ago when I started to gain weight.  I can’t change the past.  All I can change is what I do today.  And how I affect tomorrow.  Fitness and health are part of what defines me today.  I know I will never go back to who I was.

An Update

I haven’t blogged for a while.  I’m sorry about that.  I really need to do better.  I have some cool updates to share.

I still run.  I can run four miles now.  I run in a local park.  The scenery is nice and someone was kind enough to mark out the mileage so I can tell exactly how far I’m running.  The other day the temperature was in the low 60’s with a clear blue sky.  I took advantage.  I can’t believe I was able to run outside in shorts and a t shirt in late November and I didn’t even feel the slightest bit cold.  During the second half of my run I happened to glance down.  The sun was behind me casting a shadow ahead of me.  For a moment I wondered who the shadow belonged to as it was so skinny!  Then it dawned on me.  It was my shadow!  This was a great affirmation of how far I’ve come and how much weight I’ve lost.  When you look in the mirror and you’re looking at yourself it can be hard at times to see just how much progress you’ve made.   I swear there are times I look in the mirror and my stomach looks almost the same as it used to look when I was much heavier.  Then there are times I look and I can really see how much I’ve lost. I still have a bit of a belly.  It’s the one thing that’s holding me back.

Why is it the stomach is the first to grow and the last to go?

Weight loss is a funny thing.  It’s a psychological challenge as well as physical.  But seeing my skinny shadow really brought home how well I’m doing.  My legs looked so thin and my sides are so much narrower.  That was a nice moment.

I’ve already blogged about how in December my A1C was 7.2 and then in June it was down to 5.8, the top end of the normal range.  Well last month it was down to 5.5 so I’m well inside normal now.  I’ve now lost 27 lbs since I started in March.  The weight is coming off slower now.  I’m sitting here typing this in size 32 jeans and they fit perfectly.  Just a few weeks ago they were too tight to wear. In March I was in size 40.  That’s quite a drop.  I want to lose another five to ten pounds, while firming my body up.  We both go to a gym and I run outside 3 to 4 times a week.  The challenge is going to be keeping my running going through the winter.

This is my life now.  I really wish I’d started this twenty  years ago when I started to gain weight.  But I can’t change the past.  All I can do is make the necessary changes to ensure my future is as fit and healthy as possible.

Challenge accepted!

Running As A Stress Buster

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Tomorrow I go for what is now going to become a regular 3 mile fun run.  I want to beat my previous time of 31:04.  Hopefully going on these runs with my running club will push me to improve, to get stronger, faster.  It’s going to be chilly tomorrow so I get to wear a new pair of sweat pants I bought last week.

I also intend to use running to help me deal with a new health concern I have.  I have a cataract in my right eye.  My vision in that eye is seriously impaired.  I can see shapes and colors, but I can’t see a lot of detail.  I have a cataract forming in my left eye, too.  I know cataract surgery is one of the most common and simple surgeries.  But it’s still scary.  I hate the thought of anyone messing with my eyes.  I don’t think anyone likes that.  Since I was diagnosed a diabetic, the idea of going blind is the one thing that scares me the most.  Even more than the idea of dropping dead from a heart attack.  Diabetes is a truly horrible disease and it can cause damage to so many parts of the body.  The frustrating thing is my sugar is under control right now.  My fasting sugar is still averaging in the 70’s and 80’s.  Yet this cataract has been getting steadily worse for over a month.  I get surgery on my right eye on the 11th November.  On the 2nd December I go back to get the same procedure on the left eye.  It has been so frustrating lately.  I have to use reading glasses and a magnifying glass to read a book.  I just can’t wait until it’s all over so I can see clearly again.  The doctor told me that cataracts happen faster with diabetics.  She also said getting outside and exposing my eyes to extra sunlight because I’m out more with my running could have sped up the process.  Unfortunately I’ve never been the type to wear sunglasses.

At least I can still run.  Running will help me deal with the stress of my impending surgeries.  It’s bad enough having to go through it once, but knowing that just a few weeks later I have to do it all again with my other eye just makes it so much worse.

Talking of running, the pics above are of products I’m using that help me with my running.  The first pic shows the Access bar.  This is a delicious bar I eat about fifteen minutes before I start to run, or before I start any kind of exercise.  It helps fuel my workout, giving me energy for whatever workout I’m going to do.  It also helps the body access fat stores.  I wouldn’t want to run without eating one first!  The protein shake is delicious and it’s something I look forward to drinking when I go home after a run.

The second pic shows the products I use for my post workout.  There is nothing better than a long soak in the bath after a good workout at the gym or after a hard run.  The essential oils are especially soothing.  The Pain-A-Trate is great for soothing sore leg muscles after my run.  All these products are available from an amazing online Wellness company we shop with.  Running is so much better with them!

Stepping Up My Fitness

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I really love what running is doing to my body.  Since I started running I’ve lost 25 lbs.  My sugar is much better,  My A1C is in the normal range and I’m off Metformin, a drug for diabetes.

I have joined a local running club.  I went to a track workout last night.  That workout really kicked my butt.  I ran three miles.  But I really picked up my speed.  The first three laps I ran with the leaders of the group.

Which was fun.  But probably a bit of a mistake, too.  I ran an 8 minute mile pace for about six minutes before I felt my pace start to flag.  It was exhilarating to run that fast.  I usually average a 12 minute mile.  It might have been a slight mistake though because my legs felt so heavy for the rest of my run.  It’s a good experience for my first 5K race, which I think will be happening in the next few weeks.

Don’t start too fast.

And run your own pace.

Still, it was a great workout.  I felt it this morning.  But today I’m having a new problem.  I seem to be having a low sugar day.  My fasting sugar this morning was 69.  I tend to average somewhere between mid 70’s and mid 80’s.  So this was a little lower.

Three hours after breakfast my sugar was 72.  I’m used to it being around 120 -130 at this point.

Two hours after lunch it was 85.  That’s definitely on the low side.  Half hour later it had dropped to 78.  I haven’t been active today to cause my sugar to be like this.  It’s worrying because I know over the coming weeks and months I’m going to be running further and probably faster.  I’m going to have to watch I don’t have any sugar crashes while I’m running.  We’re also planning on going to the gym later so I have to worry that my sugar might crash while I’m working out.

I know I pushed myself hard last night, but Sunday I ran 4.5 miles and my sugar was fine the day after that.  This is a new situation for me.  I test every morning anyway, but I’m going to monitor my sugar carefully over the next week or so.  Saturday I’m running a three mile fun run with my new running group.

At least I have GC Control to stabilize my sugar.  I’ve always used it to lower my sugar when it’s high.  Now I’m going to be using it to normalize my sugar when it’s on the low side.  That’s what GC Control is meant to do.  Stabilize your sugar level.  This is a new way to use it.

Does anyone have any advice on how to manage sugar levels and prevent crashes when running or working out?