My husband didn’t fare quite as well. Although every other number for him was textbook normal, his fasting blood sugar came back high, earning him the “pre-diabetic” label. His Doctor wants him to work on his diet and check back in three months, so we’re planning on reversing this situation with dietary changes so that he doesn’t have to take an oral medication. He already walks two to three miles about four times a week, which I’m sure is helping the situation a lot. We’ve both been walking that much for over a year, and annoyingly he can still walk faster than I can jog. I’ll always be jealous of his long, gorgeous legs.
As I’ve mentioned previously, my husband has had a medically “normal” body weight his whole life, so he is now a living contradiction to the assumption that fat = diabetic, and thin = healthy. He has an unlucky genetic predisposition toward the disease since his Mom has it, and like Ted my Mom-in-Law has never been overweight a day in her life. That being said, my husband is a healthy eater but has also spent his entire life eating pretty much whatever tasty thing he wants when he wants it. Fortunately he often wants healthy things, but he also adores anything made from meat, fat, flour, and cheese (heck, who doesn’t?) Looking at a food he wants and telling himself that he can’t have it isn’t going to come easily to him. Me, I’ve been practicing that behavior since I was 12. Although a person might always be naturally thin, as time passes they’re still not going to get away with indulgence eating the way they could as a twenty-something.
After discussing the idea of dietary changes with him, I decided to take a look at my own fasting blood sugar number from my recent test. Turns out it came back as 68. The ideal range is 65 – 99, so mine is about as perfect as it can get even though I’m still classified as obese. When I mentioned this to Ted he said I just had, “good genes,” but I know in previous years that score has come back as high as 102, so I believe it’s my current eating patterns that are causing the number. I sat down and thought about what it is about my eating that would contribute to the effect based on my own nutritional research, trial and error. For what it’s worth, here’s what I came up with:
1) I eat about 2-3 cups of raw vegetables at least four times a week. This isn’t really salad since I skip the lettuce and dressing parts and just cut up a bowl of whatever looks fresh and good at the grocery store, focusing on getting a variety of colors and textures: cucumbers, celery, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, etc. I rough chop them into a bowl, sprinkle on some seasoning like 21 Season Salute from Trader Joe’s and a little salt, and I’m good to go. A word of warning: if you choose to do this it will give you gas until your stomach adjusts to that amount of raw fiber. At this point I’m so accustomed to it I could probably digest the front lawn with no gastric distress.
2) Minimal white foods. A friend of mine who is an avid runner once told me that she eats nothing that is white. At first I thought that sounded crazy, but she was pointing out that things like processed cane sugar, bleached white flour, and white potatoes really aren’t the best nutritional choices. I absolutely cannot live a happy life (or permanently stick to any eating plan) that doesn’t include bread, pasta and pizza, so I don’t adhere to this rule as religiously as she does, I just keep it in mind as a guideline. It includes having swapped mashed potatoes with sweet potatoes at dinner time and substituting spinach and steamed broccoli instead of pasta when I’m having pasta with meatballs. Vegetarians will disagree with me on this one, but if I have to choose between pasta or meatballs, I’ll take the meatballs every time. The protein gives me good fuel, is satisfying, tasty, and keeps me full a lot longer. I also eat limited bread. Don’t get me wrong, I adore bread and I’m not an anti-bread, gluten free by choice, no-carbs person by any means – I just acknowledge that floury breads and pasta are high in calories for a low volume of food, and I know that the white flour converts very quickly to glucose in the blood, causing blood sugar spikes, so I stay aware of how much of it I’m eating and keep it limited.
3) This is the really hard one for me: I ditched daily desserts. I have a single serving of white flour, fat and cane sugar-based dessert about once every two or three weeks. This means saying no, on a daily basis, to doughnuts, cake, candies, cookies and pies that appear at work for general consumption. With very few exceptions, I’ve flipped a switch in my brain that says if it’s in the office and I didn’t bring it with me, it’s off limits. Period. I’ve had to, because trying to mitigate the damage done in the office environment by a constant influx of refined sugar was just too difficult. Although I do eat one to two pieces of fruit on most days, I’ve had to let go of the beloved tradition I grew up with that dessert always follows dinner. Fructose (the sugar found in fruit) and sucrose (white cane sugar) act very, very differently in the body. One is perfectly fine for me to consume on a daily basis, and one is unfortunately not. It’s hard at first, but gets easier over time as it becomes a habit. When I do have dessert (and I absolutely DO still have desserts), it’s out in a restaurant, or to celebrate a special occasion, and I make sure ahead of time that it’s always exceptional and always totally worth it.
Since my husband isn’t much of a sweet eater it’s probably number 2 that he’s going to need to work on. He adores soft pretzels, potato gnocchi, mashed potatoes and chewy hoagie rolls like a true Philadelphian. These are all fine, tasty foods that I wouldn’t ask anyone who loves them to live a life without – I incorporate all of them into my own diet after all. It’s just going to be a lowering of volume while simultaneously increasing the things that don’t cause a person’s blood sugar to spike like Old Faithful going off.
This is going to be a challenge.