I took five sessions with a nutritionist and wellness professional, once individually and four times as part of a group. I email her questions and she quickly emails answers back.
Based mostly on blood test results, the clinic diagnosed me with Type II diabetes in May and like many, I immediately went into denial.
Listening to the professional — a person with lots of letters following her name on the business card she handed me — I’ve been able to lose 10 percent of body weight, exercise more, and feel better. Monday is a reality check as I have blood drawn for another test and a meeting with my care-giving team the following week.
Whether my diabetes can be controlled through lifestyle changes is an open question, the answer to which is I hope to avoid diabetes’s advancement and physiological deterioration. By finding it early, the diagnosis may be beaten back. Included in this sentiment is a bit of lingering denial that I have it, but I am less worried about that than other things.
When my then septuagenarian grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes I was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Mainz, Germany. One day without warning I received a large box from her with all of the instant pudding and gelatin desserts from her cupboard. She accumulated a trove of these small boxes during her food stamps shopping trips and felt she could no longer eat it and I could. Cookery was not my specialty then. I made and ate some of it, favoring the pudding. I don’t remember how much. I am about ten years younger than she was when she had her diagnosis.
The physician’s assistant made a short list of things I should do. I followed them as best I was able: a diabetes screening from an ophthalmologist, the nutrition classes, more exercise, and regular checkups. I avoided taking regular self-administered blood tests and medication, except for a daily low-dose aspirin. Based on the nutritionist’s recommendation, I started taking vitamin B-12, which seems to have improved my sleep. As a mostly ovo-lacto vegetarian I probably get enough B-12, but the supplement is inexpensive and the downside of taking it minimal. The nutritionist taught us about the USP label for dietary supplements and what it means.
The focus of counseling has been to count carbs and establish a carbohydrate budget for each meal, snacks, and for each day. Enjoy food more, including things culturally favored, but stay within the budget. That means one ear of sweet corn, two ounces of pasta, smaller portions of rice and noodles for meals. Nearly complete avoidance of simple sugars is recommended. When one of the group asked about something else — BMI, protein, weight loss or whatever — she steadfastly returned to the need to control glucose when diagnosed with diabetes. She acknowledged there were other weight and nutrition aspects to life, but we were there to learn about how to eat with our diagnosis. I’m trying to own “my diagnosis” but am not there yet.
I’m modifying my behavior although I could relapse at any moment. It hasn’t been easy. It may continue to be not-easy. As a gardener I have access to fresh vegetables that can fill my plate as in the photo of Friday morning’s breakfast. When I returned to work at the orchard, I told my supervisor I had to refrain from eating almost everything we make with the exception of apples. What will I do when winter comes? Near yesterday’s anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, I’m thinking if it’s a nuclear winter I may not have to worry about it. However, using that as an excuse for denial of my diabetes diagnosis is pretty lame.
I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last impactful lifestyle change I have to make as I age. Big picture? I’m okay with that. It’s better than the alternative.