A Different Kind of Progress (f.k.a The Madness

OK, so, Madness is a tad heavy handed. Although, anyone who has been on “this side of the table”, so to speak, will admit that reigning in bad habits just plain sucks; especially when it comes to eating. After all, we’re designed to ingest calories for fuel and whatever we don’t burn our bodies store (oversimplification, yes, but the science of this is beyond the scope of this writing). This is a good thing; your body is planning ahead for those times when you might not have access to food. However, for most American’s at least, we rarely go more than 6 hours without eating something unless we’re sleeping. In fact, most of us have so much extra stored energy we have to engage in activities specifically designed to burn off all of that excess storage. Think about that for a minute. When you consider systems and resources you start to realize how wasteful all that activity is. But it gets worse; way worse.

I don’t need to tell you how prevalent type 2 diabetes is today or heart disease or hypertension  or accelerated atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries) etc…. The list of obesity related diseases is staggering and pretty scary. For me personally this hit close to home. Over the last 6 years or so (really 30+ years in the making) I haven’t been what one would consider a “model” patient. I had a yearly physical exam and every year I got the same feedback; “everything looks ok except your triglycerides are high, you have pre-hypertension, your good cholesterol is low and your bad cholesterol is high. You need to lose weight, see a nutritionist and start eating better.” My response was almost always the same; “Yeah, I know, I can get more exercise and maybe stop eating late at night, yadda, yadda.” I never really took it seriously. After all, I had plenty of time to reverse the damage, I thought. Until one day while getting the results of some blood work from my doctor she said, “Your blood work is now consistent with someone who has Type 2 Diabetes…”.

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My mind could really only muster one word that I repeated over and over; “F@&*”. At this point I was already on medication for hypertension, a daily Potassium pill to replace the depleted Potassium caused by the hypertension pill and a daily OTC Omeprazole for heartburn, without which my esophagus would be shredded. That’s no exaggeration either; at one time for me heartburn was a daily occurrence to the point of almost vomiting.

“Alright already, get to the part where it all turns around because you did this and that…”

Yeah, yeah…I’m getting there, relax. First a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, I’m not a dietitian, I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not a personal trainer I’m not even a practicing catholic anymore. The advice you get here is how went about getting healthier, dropping almost 50 lbs, bringing my blood sugar and cholesterol to within healthy levels and getting off the aforementioned medications. Use this as a guide, use your common sense and speak to your doctor before doing anything you might consider drastic or contrary to your doctor’s advice. One thing that I cannot stress enough, and if you take nothing from this writing but this I’ll be happy; you cannot outsource willpower. You just cannot. Jenny Craig, diet pills, Atkins, “insert new diet fad here”, may all work for a time; some might not work at all. At the end of the day you need to be invested in your health and well being. All those miracle diet plans are just businesses designed to first and foremost make money. You’ll find that getting yourself healthy with your own research is far cheaper and you won’t need to consult a guide to see if you can eat Cashews or drink OJ; you’ll just know.

“Hey, can you write down your diet for me?“

This is by far the number one request I get from people whom I haven’t seen in some time. I get the ask; I have dropped a noticeable amount of weight and even for those people looking to lose 15-20 lbs it’s a fair ask. Unfortunately, I can’t do it. To be honest, I wouldn’t be doing them any favors anyway (give a man a fish, feed him for a day… there is, however, a cheat-sheet at the end). What I did to get back where I belong isn’t “a diet” it’s a carefully calculated, researched…food…plan…ok, ok it’s a diet. But it’s not “the grapefruit diet” or the “apple cider vinegar” diet. It’s a conscious effort to educate myself on how to make healthy choices while at the same time diminishing the possibility of relapse. It’s literally something everyone and anyone can do. All you really need is will power, time and one of the most powerful tools known to man; Google. Well, all that and the ability to think analytically and use common sense. There’s a wealth of information out there but there’s just as much misinformation. If you Google, “are peanuts nutritious” and decide to click on Planters.com for the answer, they might be a tad biased so to take the info with a grain of salt and cross check the information you find there with another website who couldn’t care less if you buy peanuts or not. By the way, peanuts are a healthy snack unless you eat half a tin. Just take a small handful if you’re hungry. If you have hands like a lumberjack a small handful is less than 12 nuts. Which brings me to one very important staple of eating responsibly; portion control.

I know, it’s like I just reminded you there would be homework for the weekend due on Monday. In all seriousness this was probably the most difficult part of changing my eating habits.Historically for me when it came time to eat it was normally just fill the plate so I don’t have to get up to get more and the only limit on the height of the food was, “will this spill on my way to the living room?”. We learn how to hollow out piles of mashed potato’s for a “gravy reservoir” or place the crab rangoons on top of the general gao’s so it sticks in place. It got to the point where I had one plate for my steak and another plate for all the sides. That’s not portion control. What’s worse is that I couldn’t eat fast enough. The perfect recipe for overeating; tons of food with a race to the finish. In any event, it was high time I found that “sweet spot”.

The reason this is so difficult is because it takes practice. You need to find that point where you’re satisfied but not stuffed. It’s not a feeling many to which many of us are accustomed. We’re used to being to the point where, “yeah, I can eat one more piece of pizza but man, that’s it. Then I’m tapping out” as though it’s a right of passage to eat more than three people combined in one sitting. A little tip; if you’re having an internal conversation about whether or not you can fit more food you’ve already eaten too much. If after a meal you need to take a break before you walk to the bathroom, you’ve eaten too much. You should be able to say, “if pressed I could eat more but I don’t need to.” That’s your sweet spot. Don’t worry, you’re not going to die if you’re hungry again in 2 hours. You have access to food! Just have a piece of fruit or a handful of walnuts or almonds. As I stated earlier finding this sweet spot isn’t easy. It took me the better part of two weeks and I still from time to time eat too much but I’m able to recognize when I do and it happens now with less food than it ever did before. Also, when I do overeat it’s with more nutritious food. I’d much rather be stuffed on zucchini than pork fried rice.

“You said something about google…?“

Ah, yes, right. If you recall my, “oh s&*%” moment from earlier when my doctor informed me Wilfred Brimley and I had the same blood type, diabetic, it occurred to me shortly thereafter I really didn’t understand what type 2 diabetes was. So, like every other person with access to a computer and an internet connection, I Googled it. The in’s and out’s of Diabetes are also beyond the scope of this writing so I’ll leave that research to you. What I did stumble upon, however, was information related to why people with type 2 diabetes need to control their blood sugar and, just as important, how to do it. The top 3 methods to control one’s blood sugar…Exercise, Diet and Weight loss. Pretty simple equation, considering Exercise + Diet = Weight loss. Now this is a good time to remind you of the theme once again: You cannot outsource will power. I obviously can’t exercise for you, neither can anyone else. That is something you must do yourself. I can tell you what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat but that will only last for so long. What you really need to do is learn how to educate yourself about what you should be eating and just as important what you should not be eating. I think it’s pretty obvious that, if you’ve come this far, you shouldn’t be eating Doritos, Pastries, cookies, hot dogs, deli meats, etc…. These are all pretty obvious. However, there are a whole host of other foods that type 2 diabetics should avoid or at least limit that might surprise you. Take a look here.

Now, all of this research on how to eat like a type 2 diabetic turned up some interesting recipes. However, if you recall, I also had bad cholesterol. So now I had to sort of “double down”, if you will, and cross reference all of these recipes for type 2 diabetics with foods that someone with bad cholesterol levels should not be eating. What a bitch that was. After all, I wasn’t about to eat myself out of type two diabetes and into a stroke; what’s the point of that? So, when I had down time I did what I had to do; I googled “recipes for type 2 diabetes”, found some recipes that sounded interesting, read the ingredients and googled any ingredients that I thought might be bad for my cholesterol. After a while a pattern began to emerge.

In order to control my blood sugar and prevent spikes I needed to eat foods low on the glycemic index. In order to lower my LDL and raise my HDL I needed to lower my saturated fat and boost Omega-3′s. Do you see where this is going? You guessed it. PLANT BASED DIET. Ok, ok settle down for a minute. Before you google, “how to make beef wellington”, take a breath and read a bit further. I am not saying you cannot eat meat, I am not saying you have to be vegan, I’m not even saying you have to be a vegetarian. I am neither vegan nor vegetarian but I pilfer their recipes almost daily. Vegetables can taste good. Vegan’s and vegetarians have figured out some damn good recipes. Take advantage of that. I personally stay away from “vegan meatballs” or “vegetarian sloppy joes”. Those types of recipes for me just trigger an expectation of what it should taste like and of course it never does. Don’t set yourself up to be disappointed. Your best bet is to try and make something you’ve never had before with ingredients you like already. Have you ever had a healthy vegetable stir-fry? It’s a thing and it’s really good. The internet is crawling with recipes that are nutritious and filling. All you have to do is look.

After about 6 weeks I requested my blood be retested. Below are the results.

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This was literally progress in less than 2 months. All I did was eat healthy, exercise and my body did the rest. If you put forth the effort and make a sincere effort to get healthy you will succeed.

A Worthwhile Investment

One tool I found particularly useful during all of this was my Yunmai digital Scale. I liked this scale for a few reasons. First and foremost it’s accurate. I tested it with some weights I had at home. I also tested it at different locations to see if I’d get the same reading and it was always accurate within fractions of a pound. It also provides more readings than just your weight. It includes other Biometrics like BMI, Body Fat Percentage, Water, Protein, Bone Mass and Calculates your Body Age which I thought was really cool. It also syncs all of tis information to your phone via BlueTooth and makes it all available via an easy to use app. My favorite part of the app is the tracking graph. It gave me more motivation to keep going being able to see the results over time.




as promised, here is my list of foods that I stopped eating and my list of foods that I began eating either altogether or more regularly. Be warned, this is not my list on day-1. This evolved over 2 months. For example, I didn’t stop eating red meat on the first day. It took a few weeks before I was able to let go.

Stopped eating/drinking:

Processed foods, processed/refined flour, white rice, Potato Chips of all kinds, Soda, starchy vegetables, candy, fruit juices, white pasta, red meat, Beer, pizza, deli meats All Dairy (eggs, Milk, cheese, yogurt, cream…all of it. think about all of the foods that are either dairy directly or contain dairy. any recipe that calls for milk I replace with almond Milk. I’m almost certain this was the root of my excessive heartburn because for three months, no dairy = no heartburn), white bread, pastries, hot dogs, canned beans.

Started eating and drinking/ ate more frequently:

Water (this was key. I wasn’t drinking nearly enough water), fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, frozen berries for smoothies,  Solid white Tuna in water, Salmon, white meat skinless chicken, Chia seeds, Green Tea (loose leaf), Matcha (added to smoothies. super good for you, doesn’t taste that great), Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Almond milk, Almonds, walnuts, 100% whole wheat bread, Natural, Unsalted Peanut Butter.