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Archive for July, 2012

A few times I’ve mentioned reversing diabetes in my blog postings and I want to address what that means for those of you who don’t know a lot about the disease.

First of all, a reversal is NOT a cure. It is very far from it. It is also not something a Type 1 diabetic can do because their pancreas doesn’t function at all. As a Type 2 diabetic it is possible to achieve a reversal when it comes to needing medication for the disease. However, not every Type 2 diabetic can do it because there are so many factors involved, one of which is sheer determination. And even with a great deal of determination one’s pancreas may not cooperate and it really depends on how far the disease has progressed. I was fortunate that it was something I could do.

When my endocrinologist, Dr. B. said I had reversed diabetes he actually meant that my HbA1C, a test that measures the average glucose present in the blood stream for a two to three month period, doesn’t present like the levels of a diabetic who doesn’t take medication for the disease. I am still diabetic but I am able to keep control with an active lifestyle and clean eating rather than pills or injections. I still suffer from what it has done to my eyes and I will never have full feeling in my feet. I will always have to check my blood and be aware of where my numbers are at. For now though, I’m doing better than I could have hoped for.

To put the HbA1C levels in perspective I’ll break it down. Generally a result of 6.5% or greater means the person has diabetes. Numbers below 6.0 are normal for a non-diabetic and between 6.0% and 6.5% can indicate a very high risk of becoming diabetic or what some call pre-diabetes. Everyone, even non-diabetics have some glucose in their blood. Insulin is released so that the cells can unlock and take up the glucose but in a diabetic there isn’t enough insulin produced or the body is insulin resistant and more glucose gets dumped into the blood stream than is healthy.

My last three HbA1C readings which span a period of about 16 months have been between 4.2% and 5.0%. The very last one was 4.7%. Dr. B. mentioned that it was a little low and recommended that I increase my carbohydrate intake a wee bit if I felt the need when I am being so active.

I will always be diabetic. When I was diagnosed my HbA1C was over 17%. In three years I’ve done the gamut. I started out in early 2009 on both basal insulin (this lasts in the body for 24 hours) and bolus insulin (this is taken with meals). Then in a mere three months I migrated to the basal insulin in conjunction with glucophage. Then it was just the oral medication. Next was the use of bolus insulin during pregnancy. After I stopped breastfeeding I went back on oral medication again. Finally, in May 2011, I was taken off all medications and I am still managing being diabetic without being medicated.

So how did I manage to reverse the need for diabetes medications? I did lose some weight which has helped tremendously. I’ve probably dropped 38 pounds or so since I was first diagnosed. Because I’ve increased muscle mass the fat loss is probably greater than that. I try to eat fairly clean. I count carbohydrates, fibre, protein and fat and keep the carbohydrate intake somewhat low. I pay attention to the glycemic index of the foods I eat. I eat three smaller meals and three snacks a day.  I eat foods like chia and quinoa and lentils and lots of veggies. I check my blood glucose often. Most importantly, I’m active.

There is no magic solution. It is simple hard work, perseverance, and tenacity. It’s not easy. I have to constantly think about when and what I eat, when and how long I will exercise for, the intensity of the workout, and how well hydrated I am. It’s not without challenges, that is for sure. For me, it is totally worth every bit of effort.

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a big difference

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A friend passed on a wise quote to me this morning… “Don’t judge ME unless you are PERFECT!”

That sums up what has happened in the last 24 hours. You see, I have an acquaintance who is currently morbidly obese. He’s in a dangerous situation with his weight and has a family and five children to consider. He can barely walk because of the pressure on his knees. It feels simply awful to be limited physically and emotionally by your own body. We’ve had many a discussion about how far I’ve come with weight loss. He always seemed supportive and my hope was to be mutually inspiring, after all I have been class III morbidly obese and I turned it around on my own. This fellow was once an athlete and he has remarked on many an occasion about how he misses that status. As a younger man he was a black belt in both aikido and karate as well as being an award-winning body builder. My acquaintance started seeing a personal trainer recently and I think that is absolutely wonderful and I said so.  Then it went all wrong, to the point that I’d love to tell him to kiss my…

Here’s what happened between Paul and I.

Paul started spouting off that “without a trainer you just don’t get that 110% we all need” and was sure to point out that I am not doing what it takes publicly. He wouldn’t let up. Finally, fed up, I respectfully responded with why I think that a blanket statement like that isn’t necessarily true for everyone. It isn’t! There are many, many people who push themselves as hard as a trainer would. Me for instance, I’ve lost almost half my body weight and I’ve done it on my own, without a gym, without a trainer, but with a whole heap of determination. There are some people who desperately need the motivation and support a trainer can provide. I get that and I applaud people who take the step forward and use the resources out there. Sure, I’ve considered a trainer but I felt that I’ve been doing a very consistent job on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I think having a personal trainer is a great idea especially when it comes to proper form and preventing injury. I have the benefit of not needing one. I may, one day, consider a coach when I get into longer distance running because I see the value in that too. There will be times where I will likely need guidance to build my endurance and increase my distances and a coach would be a fabulous resource. I do plan on having help at some point for the long distance running. Right now the numbers on the scale, the look of my body, and the vast improvements in my fitness level paint a clear picture that I am pushing hard and that’s all I need.

During our conversation I mentioned to Paul that I am seriously considering running my first half marathon in May 2013, provided I am given the go-ahead by my cardiologist and endocrinologist. This was his response…

“Laurie, I don’t care if you come in first in May. You and everyone would do better with a little help from a trainer. To think you know more then everyone is crazy. You have only been working out for a very short time of your life maybe you should stop and think that other people may know something more then you. I hope you keep it up I know people that do it for, maybe 2 years some 5 some. I’ve been 25 years. Let’s talk after you have done it as long as I have. Then maybe we will see it you feel the same way about a trainer. I lost 100 lbs at 13 and then went on to get 4 black belts and 3 bodybuilding shows. Something 1% of people do. It’s not a stupid little run that lots of people do. So when you talk about pushing yourself 110% well, I’m sorry but it’s funny. After all that I would still say a trainer is a great thing to help even me, after all my years working out. My wife and I made a change to get back into it. We didn’t come to it from nothing like you are. She would run like crazy when she was in school 10 years ago. Yes I’m big, my back sucks, but I’m still the same guy with over 25 years of living the life. You are not. You never will be. Remember that.”

Excuse me? Did I say I knew it all? Did I say that I felt I knew more than everyone? Of course, I know a lot about diabetes. I live with this disease every day and I’ve proven, by reversing it, that I really have my head wrapped around how my body works. Sure I’ve only been at this fit way of living a short while but I’m working very hard at it. Before the running I backpacked and hiked and paddled. Oh, and since when is a half marathon (21.1 km) “a stupid little run” and even if it is to some people, why be demeaning about my athletic aspirations?  I don’t deserve to be treated like that.  I am doing something and embracing my inner athlete. Sure I haven’t had the experience that this man has had and I don’t deny that back in the day he was probably a force to be reckoned with. I don’t argue that he is probably quite knowledgeable. I never was. I was obese from early childhood. That’s my past and my present is much different. I think it’s unfortunate that Paul went from being an athlete to a person harboring negativity towards me as he struggles with obesity issues. I’ve been obese and it’s not an easy life. Paul goes on about “over 25 years of living the life”.  He stopped having an athletic life a long time ago. I’m not judging, because things happen in our lives, but I don’t think Paul has the right to tell me that I am not “living the life” as he so pompously put it when his lifestyle has been so dramatically unhealthy.

I live as clean as I can every day. I watch what I eat, I balance my blood sugars to the point of not needing medications for this disease, I exercise, and I push myself to do better and go further with every workout. I may not be a black belt or winning awards but I am doing something that keeps me fit and that I enjoy doing. I don’t think awards won well over a decade ago, spending money on fad diets or a personal trainer have anything to do with whether or not one is giving 110%. What matters is the here and now—what I am doing today. I’ve worked very hard to reach the point where I am merely overweight rather than obese and I am proud of that and what I continue to do. It wasn’t easy going from having a BMI of over 50 to having one below 29 and being so very close to what is medically considered “normal” weighted. I am very happy with my progress, motivated, determined, and I love doing all of this with my family. It’s fun—it’s our family lifestyle and not about awards or black belts or other accolades. I’m not out to have my ego stroked—this is about being healthy so I can live a longer life. Anyway, my biggest award is how I feel and how active I’ve become. It’s about the personal best and not about competition with others. It’s about having fun and enjoying life while being fit.

I work out several times a week. I trained for a 5K race and I ran it.  I trained for a hill relay and I did twice as much as I expected to be able to do (8.4K). It wasn’t easy nor were those harrowing hills “a stupid little run”.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done to date. I exceeded my own tough standards at both events and now I’m working towards a 10K and eventually a half marathon. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll run a full marathon or an ultra. I’ve toned my body and continue to do so. I’ve pushed myself and increased my intensity and distance. I did it safely to avoid injury or damage to my health. I’ve cross-trained. Three weeks ago I bought a new bike. I already have well over 200 km on it. We hike and canoe, although not nearly as much as I would like. We are also starting to plan bike-packing trips for when baby girl is old enough. My running pace is improving, as are my strength and endurance.  Some day I may even attempt a triathlon or an adventure race. I am more fit, especially from a cardiovascular standpoint, than I’ve been in my entire life. Most of all, I live a very healthy lifestyle with my friends and family.

So what gives Paul  the right to judge me just because I don’t feel that I would benefit from a personal trainer at this point in the game? I certainly don’t need one for motivation. I have plenty of motivation right here. It comes from my children. It comes from a very supportive husband and friends who do many of these activities with me. It comes from being diabetic and not wanting to end up back on injections or worse, blind. It comes from knowing that my brother died at age 56 because he didn’t take care of his body. It comes from knowing that heart disease has hit many in my family prematurely. It comes from the want to be as vibrant and alive as I can be and not just a spectator in life. I sure didn’t reverse diabetes by eating junk. I eat healthy and clean for the most part. I rarely drink alcohol. I don’t drink juice or soft drinks. And with all of that I’ve done what some said was impossible. A good lifestyle starts in the kitchen and if you aren’t doing what’s right there, it will show whether you have a trainer or not.

The bottom line is… I’m doing what works for me. I’m motivated. I’m active. I’m losing weight in a healthy way. My physicians are pleased ecstatic. I love my body. I feel really good. I’m proud. I’m ready to tackle my next milestone and conquer new challenges.

As for this man’s condescension—it is what it is. Does it change our friendship? Yes, it most certainly does and it is pretty cut and dry for me.  I don’t keep negative people in my life, after all, I am not the jerk whisperer.

To the person who sent me the quote, thank you. It speaks volumes.

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So, I bought a bike. A real bike. Let me elaborate.

A few years ago I bought a really pretty bike from Walmart made by a company called Huffy. I looked at consumer reports and reviews on line and it seemed like a good value. I hadn’t been on a bike in 23 years and back then you had two choices; a touring bike or a 10-speed. There was no such thing as a mountain bike, well, at least not in the mainstream. This time around I wanted a mountain bike style even though I wasn’t going to be doing any hardcore off-road riding. With that in mind I made a purchase. The Walmart offering seemed tall enough, it was cute with a sparkly purple and silver paint job and it was cheap. I’d normally use the word “inexpensive” but in this case “cheap” fits the bill. After 169 kilometers I realized that Huffy Canada makes the biggest piece-of-crap-sorry-excuse-for-a-bicycle on the continent and maybe even the entire planet.

First of all, it wasn’t assembled properly from the get-go. Secondly, the components are so cheaply made that it is laughable. The brake levers were partially plastic which I didn’t notice until the lever was fully engaged. The frame wasn’t the right size for me; in fact, I can’t see the configuration being right for anyone. I spent much of my time hunched over and I was starting to have pain in my left knee after each ride.

Last week, when I went out with Bryan and the kids, it felt like I was pedaling lead. Bryan checked the bike over for me and the back brakes were not aligned properly. By the wear on the brake pad it had been like that for more than one outing. The brake wasn’t rubbing enough to cause a noise but enough to slow the wheel and wear the pad in an L shape. Lovely. The crank wasn’t made properly, the brake holders were low-grade metal, the welds underneath the frame looked like someone had chewed up bubblegum and stuck it there. There is no pride in workmanship at all. I was beginning to realize that this wasn’t just junk made by some low-grade manufacturer from Canada who gets things done for the lowest price in some off-shore locale, but also that this bike could be dangerous. What appalls me most is that they sell many of their bikes for children.

This wasn’t my first negative experience with Huffy either. The same day I bought my bike, I also bought one for my son. He was 8 at the time. The very first week his gears failed completely. They were integrated in the handlebar and the interior “teeth” were plastic and weak plastic at that. I called Huffy and they refused to fix it under warranty. Walmart wouldn’t take it back. So I ordered a new shifter for him. The price was under $30 which surprised me. I was guaranteed it would be there in 2-3 weeks. Almost 8-months after they billed my credit card, I was still waiting for a part which I was finally told was on back order. A month later I called back and was told that the part was discontinued. Two days later we bought him a Haro from a reputable dealer.

Bryan, darling husband that he is, spent part of the weekend McGyver-ing this shoddily made hunk of junk enough so I could safely go out on a 20 K ride with kids and him. After this latest adventure, I vowed that I would never ride this so-called bicycle again. Ever! I didn’t even want to lay eyes on another product made by Huffy Canada ever again.

My favorite bike shop isn’t open on Sundays (for the staff to have family time) and Monday was a holiday here in Canada so practically everything was closed. The moment Brantford Cyclepath opened on Tuesday morning I was through the doors and getting advice from my friend and bike sales guru, Julian. Just over an hour later I had chosen a really nice bike—a Louis Garneau Helix 20°. Even better, it was on sale! I paid for it and a CO2 pump, then arranged to have Bryan pick it up when he got home from work.

I was akin to a child at Christmas time. In fact, I’ve been smiling since he brought the bike home on Tuesday evening. I have a REAL bike! It fits me perfectly. It has a seat that doesn’t make me feel bruised. It has metal pedals which incidentally hurt when you accidentally bang them against your shin. Said bike has disc brakes. Holy stopping power, Batman!! It has decent gears. It even has front shocks. The brake levers are well made. The entire bike is well-engineered.

Of course, wouldn’t you know that second that he brings my new toy home, the skies open up and we are treated to a thunderstorm. I did end up getting out for a little bit and rode about 8 km on backstreets. Yesterday evening we cycled a 20 KM loop that I had only ever done on the bike from hell. The difference between having a decent bicycle and something that belongs in a dumpster was 15 minutes. You are wondering what I mean by that? Well, I was that much quicker which is amazing given that we had record breaking heat and humidity yesterday. The difference I attribute to the Helix 20° being considerably easier to ride… it is lighter, the gears change smoothly, the brakes are wonderful, and my position on the bike is so much more comfortable. It didn’t feel like I was working as hard as I usually have to. Even better, I didn’t experience any knee pain last night or this morning.

The moral of this story… Never buy a department store bike especially something made by a manufacturer like Huffy Canada. Go to a proper bike shop and get fitted for a bike that suits your intended use. You’d be surprised at how inexpensive a good bike can be and you’ll save yourself a lot of the headaches that I had. Per kilometer a better quality bike works out to be much more economical. As my darling husband says, “sometimes you can’t afford the cheap stuff”.

With that, I’m off to go wash my new ride. She’s a little dirty and dusty from yesterday’s fun.

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