About 2 months ago, in June, my doctor reluctantly diagnosed me as having Type 2 Diabetes. I was right on the border…my test came back at 7.1 and the official number is 7.0. Since then I’ve been monitoring my own glucose levels and have been keeping track of the triggers and tweaking my diet accordingly.
At first, I was quite lost. She (my doctor) had not referred me to a dietician, and I found it very confusing to know where to start in terms of what to cut and what to keep in my diet. Thankfully my brother had been through this years ago and sent me an email with the changes which had worked for him. So those recommendations became my new regime. Since then, I’ve tweaked it a bit to suit our lifestyle, and for the most part, it’s working very well. So well in terms of losing weight, that I’ve had to slow down because I need to be able to fit into the clothes that I’ve set aside for our trip to China in the fall. I suspect that if I were to stick to this regime full-time, the weight would start to fall off.
For now, I decided to share my new regime here, for anyone who might be interested. A few disclaimers to start off with: I AM NOT AN EXPERT! Please, before you embark on any new diet or health regime, please consult your own doctor. I’ve built and tweaked this regime according to my own glucose requirements…I’ve had to monitor my sugar and weight and tweak my intake accordingly. So results will vary for other people depending on metabolism and various other factors. I make no claims to the “official” healthfulness of this diet or that it would work for anyone else. I’m still tweaking, still experimenting, still prone to being lazy and taking breaks from it now and then to indulge.
This regime is actually super easy. I’ve been amazed at how simple it really is. And if you watch any television or read Internet and/or magazine articles, you’ve probably heard this all before. But I’ll try to put it altogether into one easy-to-digest format.
To put it bluntly, the primary change I made was to CUT ALL CARBS AND ADD MORE PROTEIN AND VEGETABLES.
In my first few days of glucose monitoring, when I would test my blood sugar every two hours, I quickly learned that carbohydrates were my primary trigger. I was stunned to see how high just a few mouthfuls of pasta, white bread or Chinese noodles could spike my sugar. So I cut them out, almost completely and immediately noticed the difference in both my sugar levels and weight loss.
Here’s what I’ve cut or reduced for now:
* all pasta (this includes Chinese noodles and even vermicelli)
* all white bread
* all rice
* all sweetened drinks – pop, juices, etc.
* reduced potatoes (I will often eat one mini white or red potato at supper, but then augment it with sweet potato which is a recommended substitute for diabetics)
* reduced caffeine
* reduced condiments (ketchup, sauces, all mayo-type products, salad dressings)
And here’s what I’ve increased:
* protein and vegetables at every meal
* fruit: I try to eat fruit alone only as a snack, but lately I’ve been eating lots of fruit with yogurt as my dessert and that seems to work okay for me too.
* walking – lots of walking – outside if possible, or at the mall if it’s too hot or rainy to walk outside.
* stairs – we have two flights, so I regularly make myself go all the way from upstairs to basement and back upstairs, 2-3 times through the day.
Cutting the carbs was very difficult to do at the beginning, but I stuck to it. When we were traveling, I didn’t always have a choice as to what was served to me, but in those instances, I just cut my portion of carbs to about 1/4 – 1/3 cup per meal. The bottom line for me, because of how my body is reacting to it, is to cut as much of these primary triggers as possible. I can, and do, “cheat” once in awhile (e.g., today I allowed myself a small ice cream cone as an afternoon snack).
So here’s my particular regime, meal-by-meal:
Breakfast: Protein! I need to start my day off with a protein, so I start every single morning with one egg (two if I know we’re going to be doing a lot of walking with no chance for a snack, for example in Cuba) and lots of vegetables. Typically I saute (in a mixture of about 1 tsp of butter and a drizzle of olive oil) a mixture of veggies, usually onions, mushrooms, celery and red pepper, then scramble in my egg, adding chopped fresh tomatoes and about 2 tbsp of grated cheddar or Jarlsberg cheese (I add the cheese to get some calcium into my diet because I can’t drink milk). So I just cook all of that into a scrambled omelet. I drink a full glass of water, and 1 cup of Earl Grey tea…this is the only caffeine I consume all day…any other tea that I might drink through the day is decaffeinated, including the green tea we regularly have in the evening after supper.
Mid-Morning Snack: I often don’t eat a snack in the morning, because we’re out and about running errands, and the egg usually carries me through til lunch anyway. But if we have a basket of fresh peaches or other yummy summer fruit around, I’ll try to eat a peach mid-morning.
Lunch: I find lunch the hardest…because we’re used to having sandwiches. But now I use that PROTEIN AND VEGGIES formula again. I will typically prepare a large bowl of salad (lettuce, cucumber, tomato, mushroom, pepper, red onions), chop up one or two slices of turkey, leftover chicken or ham into the salad – and sometimes I’ll toss in a bit more cheese (again, about 1-2 tbsp worth) – then drizzle about 1-2 tbsp of salad dressing (my fave is Asian sesame) over top and have that for my lunch. If I’m really hungry and know that that won’t fill me, I’ll microwave another egg and toss that into the salad as well. The key here is to keep it limited as much as possible to protein and veggies, and only use the dressing sparingly.
Then I’ll often eat about 2-3 tbsp of plain yogurt with a colourful medley of fruit – these days my typical serving includes one or two large strawberries, 7-8 blueberries, one peach and 1/2 banana.
Then to finish lunch off, I have one (ONE) small square of dark (72 – 85% cocoa) chocolate. Apparently it’s VERY HEALTHY for us…who am I to argue?!
And I drink only water.
Mid-afternoon Snack: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had the munchies around 2:30 – 3:00. Trying to ignore that hunger is futile. This is the time of day that I used to eat chips, chocolate, or pastry-type stuff. Now this is the time of day that I might allow myself a small (SMALL) serving of carb…perhaps a small ice cream cone (we buy the smallest cones available). I use a teaspoon to dish out the ice cream, usually about 5-6 tsp will do…the ice cream is a sugar food, but does add a wee bit to my calcium intake.
A healthier alternative would be a fruit smoothie (any fruit or mixture of fruit blended with ice, no dairy), or even just plain fruit. The secret is to not totally deprive yourself, but to reduce and make wiser choices – ice cream, in reduced portion, is a better choice than pastry. Fresh fruit, whether alone or in a smoothie (no dairy or sugar added) is an even better choice.
Supper: Protein and veggies again. We often have 2-3 different veggies every night. This is the only meal where I might allow myself a potato, but only one mini white or red. We now keep a good supply of sweet potatoes on hand and usually have some ready for every meal, so I’ll have about 1/3 of a large sweet potato along with the mini. (Hubby just cuts it up into small pieces, adds some onion and basil from the garden and microwaves it – so yummy we never have to add any sweetener [which we used to do]). The protein portion is usually about a fist-sized portion of fish, chicken, sometimes pork or beef, seasoned with salt-reduced spices and herbs from the garden, no sauces! The veggies cover the rest of the plate. No butter (occasionally we do add a wee bit of butter to some olive oil while cooking the meat and/or veggies). Salt-reduced spices. No condiments, except maybe a drizzle of salad dressing when we have salad on the side. It’s hard at first, but it doesn’t take that long for your tongue to get used to going without those sodium-rich sauces and to enjoy the taste of real food again. Research how to use spices, it’s worth it, especially since many spices are super-healthy!
Dessert is usually fruit…sometimes I do allow myself 2 (and only 2) ginger cookies to dunk in my tea….we only drink decaffeinated green tea after supper. If you encounter that fishy taste/smell in green tea, shop around for a brand that you like that doesn’t have as strong a smell/taste. Green tea is also very healthy so it’s worth the search.
Bedtime Snack: Well, this was a tough one, and I’m still tweaking this. The problem is that if I don’t eat before bed, I wake up around 3am so hungry that I can’t sleep. So since my diet didn’t include enough grains and fibre, I decided to use the bedtime snack as the opportunity to add these to my day. So I bought 3 different boxes of cereal and combined them in a zip-lock bag. Some people can eat bran cereals with no problem, but I can’t. They literally gag me. I discovered that if I combine bran with another slightly sweeter cereal, it’s much easier to eat. So by the time I combine these 3 cereals (two are high oat and bran fibre, the other an organic blend of various grains sweetened with real maple syrup, which is actually a healthier choice than white sugar), I end up with over 16 different grains (including psyllium, quinoa, flax, buckwheat, amaranth and oat bran, all supposedly vital anti-inflammatory grains that are good especially for women) and even some cinnamon, which is apparently very beneficial for diabetics. So far, it seems to be working okay, though I must make sure I only eat about 1/3 cup or my glucose reading in the morning will be higher than I want it to be. Adding about 2 tbsp of low-fat milk to my cereal also allows me a wee bit more calcium.
So that’s it. Add a good 20-30 minute walk (minimum) at least once a day (if my intake increases, especially my carb intake, e.g. because of eating out at a restaurant or someone else’s house, I try to add another walk later in the day, or run up and down a few more flights of stairs.)
Since I started this regime two months ago, I’ve lost 12-14 pounds…I did gain some back while in Toronto because we ate wrap sandwiches for almost every meal. I could be losing more if I wanted to on this regime – but right now I don’t want to lose too much more until after our trip to China…I can’t afford to buy a whole new wardrobe for that trip right now.
I hope this helps anyone. It’s almost too easy. We’ve all heard it all before. More protein and veggies; no or reduced carbs; reduce fats (use only olive oil and butter – you do need a bit of fat, so don’t cut that out altogether); cut condiments; walk more.
One last trick, when I DO decide to eat some bread (which is rare now), is to buy low-carb multi-grain with only1 gram of sugar per 2 slices – it’s admittedly tasteless, BUT it allows me to add jam (especially homemade peach jam) or peanut butter (see addendum re peanut butter in paragraph below – if possible, switch to almond butter) without any significant increase in the sugar and calorie counts.
(Side comment: While it doesn’t work for me anymore because of how it spikes my sugar, and because bread DOES bloat me and almost immediately causes significant weight gain, there are many many experts “out there” who recommend, as the best bedtime snack, one slice of whole/multi grain toast with peanut butter…Addendum: watch the sugar in peanut butter! Most brands are loaded. I’ve switched to an organic product combining almond and cashew butter – no added sugar! And IMO tastes much better.)
So to recap and summarize, I believe that my amazing weight loss results are due primarily to the cutting of carbs, focusing on protein and veggies, and adding more walking to my regime.
Best Bedtime Snacks: http://www.self.com/fooddiet/blogs/eatlikeme/2011/10/the-best-bedtime-snacks-foods.html; http://weightlossandtraining.com/healthy-bedtime-snacks-top-5; http://www.livestrong.com/article/285577-diabetic-bedtime-snack-ideas/; http://www.livestrong.com/article/307896-the-best-bedtime-foods-for-a-diabetic/
Veggies and Fruits: Health Benefits: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/vegetable-nutrition.html; http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/; http://www.mealsmatter.org/EatingForHealth/FunctionalFoods/Health-Benefits-of-Vegetables/
Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2004 – 2012. All rights reserved.