A few years ago my PCP began throwing around words like fatty liver and high triglycerides. She would peer hopefully into my face looking for a reaction but I was unfazed. I was cocky from years of coasting on good genes and was on a sugar high that wouldn’t quit. The good doctor tried her best scare tactics but to no avail. I ignored the warning signs and plunged deeper into the danger zone.
Time passed in blissful ignorance (it’s true - ignorance really is bliss) until one day after another routine blood test she finally delivered the coup de grace-prediabetes, chronic disease,Type 2... words that curdled my remaining blood and which for her were undoubtedly a moment of triumphant redemption.
I was also in the early stages of developing binge eating disorder and my diet was basically sugar and fat disguised as food. The most ridiculous component of this cautionary tale is I was actually shocked to learn I was prediabetic. Talk about living in denial! I chose not to hear the warnings and dire predictions of the last few years, but insulin resistance, impaired glucose, needles (she didn’t actually say needles but my brain went straight there,) those I heard, loud and clear. Apparently, I have a back against the wall mentality and only take action when all escape routes have been sealed off.
I finally had to confront the icy cold reality: if I didn’t make big changes to my admittedly slothful lifestyle, I was headed to a place I never had any desire to visit. So I did what I do best- pulled out all the stops and went into full warrior mode. I scoured every article I could find on preventing or reversing the onset of Type 2 diabetes, took a gazillion ultimately undecipherable notes and consulted with nutritionists, personal trainers and drill sergeants. I even began a detailed food diary (accompanied by a final sendoff of rum raisin ice cream.)
“If I didn’t make big changes to my lifestyle, I was headed to a place I never had any desire to visit.”
Beyond my own experience, I am by no means an expert on reversing diabetes but I am an expert on how I got into this pickle in the first place- that I could pontificate on for hours. In a nutshell, I believe I did eat the whole thing. I also held the honorary position of Ms. Sofa Spud (granted by the potato industry which knew the real thing when they saw it,)
After weeks of research that rivaled the planning of the invasion of Normandy, I was confident I knew what had to be done. These are the 3 changes I made that reversed my prediabetes :
1. Careful, mindful eating - I bid a sad but firm farewell to simple carbs (all sugar, white flour, processed foods and gulp, alcohol) and banned saturated and trans fats. I completely restructured my diet to include mainly fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fish. I focused more on healthy food versus counting calories. This felt way more cool and self- righteous than being on a diet- why, of course, I wanted to eat kale chips! Doesn’t everyone? Well...they should. Initially, I went through a crazed period of sugar withdrawal but today I don’t miss it at all.
2. Lost the poundage and exercised my ass off- Literally. I used an exercise bike and walked endless miles. If the weather prohibited walking outdoors, I hoofed it to Target to do an hours worth of laps up and down the aisles and around the perimeter. I got some odd looks but acted as though it was perfectly normal while sweating profusely to maniacally propel a shopping cart past startled shoppers at top speed. I also incorporated exercise throughout the day whenever I could. I did squats in the bathroom at work (undoubtedly sparking some interesting commentary,) walked during my lunch break and got up from my desk and moved around as often as possible. My mantra was and is to keep it moving.
3. I became a subscriber to the “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality and began acting like a healthy person until one day I was one. For example: vividly fantasized about a heaping bowl of fettuccine alfredo but settled for a few lettuce leaves on a plate (hold the dressing, please.) When out walking and I heard an approaching car, I would break into an impressive jog until they passed. I began living in yoga pants and carried a yoga mat with me everywhere. This proved especially useful at Target when after especially strenuous strolls, I had an overwhelming urge to stretch out.
“It came down to perseverance. I needed to give my new habits a chance to elbow out the old.”
I have a long rap sheet of bungled diets. But this time there was no escape clause stipulating exceptions for emergency ice cream runs or for mandatory ingestion of leftovers (who doesn’t hate waste?) And with the addition (er, subtraction?) of that iron-clad caveat, I was stunned, I tell you, stunned, with the realization that all those times I believed I was committed to losing weight and getting healthy, I was fooling no one but myself (my cheerleading section had long since jumped ship.)
So, first the bad news: This did not come easy. My initially unenthusiastic body protested with blood, sweat, and stretch marks every step of the way. Finally, on a day entered in the annals of my family history, I woke up and actually wanted to exercise.This was huge! In a nutshell it came down to perseverance. I needed to give my new habits a chance to elbow out the old. If I fell off the horse, and I fell off a lot with the binge eating, I was back in the saddle again the next day. That was new for me, too. My past performance reviews were always cut short by letting the horse back out to pasture.
And now for the
good great news: I am at a normal weight for the first time in many years! Most importantly, my blood work began improving after the first 3 months and it remains in the normal range. I am no longer prediabetic! I still exercise at least 4-5 days a week with no intention of ever stopping. I actually enjoy those previously scorned lettuce leaves. Along with recovering from binge eating disorder, I am healthier and feel better than I have in many years (although I gotta tell you, the bar wasn’t set that high.)
Elizabeth is a writer and blogger at Midlife Eating Disorder, where she ponders healthy aging, binge eating and life.