Friday 21 March 2014

Hello diabetes, and how I have had to adjust my cooking style

In January this year I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. I was dismayed and shocked, but mostly childishly infuriated. After all, AFTER ALL, I whinged to myself, I've never had a sweet tooth, and haven't eaten a slice of cake, a bun, a biccie or a pudding for at least five years. What's more: I was maddened with my own mulishness in ignoring signals from my body that something was very wrong.

In October 2013, a spectacularly stressful time career-wise, I embarked on a punishing low-carb regime, after a slow transition over the course of two years to an eating plan that cut out most processed carbs.  The weight peeled off, and after a few weeks my appetite had all but disappeared. Excellent, I thought!

A month later, I had the confidence to hoist myself onto a scale, and I was extremely pleased to find I'd lost 8 kilograms.  By that time, I was on a diet so low in calories that it bordered it on starvation, and I was exhausted and demotivated.  By December 2013, I'd shed 15 kg, and I was mildly interested to note that I'd lost a fair amount of muscle mass on my thighs and arms.  But, hey ho! Who's complaining?

It was only in January 2014, after a dramatic weight-loss of another 5 kg, that I finally went to see my doctor, and then only because I noticed my hair was thinning. When I mentioned to her  that my vision was a bit blurry, my tongue was crisscrossed by deep cracks, and my toes, feet and shins were feeling tingly and numb, she insisted on a fasting glucose test, and that came back with very bad news.  A few weeks later I was hospitalised for a few days, on the advice of a thorough and caring endocrinologist, and I came home with a panoply of drugs, including slow-release insulin that I have to inject into tummy rolls every night.

I have to admit that I'm feeling downhearted about this.  But there is also much to be grateful for - my blood sugar has stabilised thanks to medication, a stringent diet and a brutal fitness regime. I'm 22 kg lighter than I was five months ago, I've lost four dress sizes and I'm as fit as a fiddle thanks to daily workouts. I've had great support from a nutritionist, a specialist diabetic nurse and kind friends who are also diabetics.

The biggest challenge of all has been working out what to eat. You can't cut out all carbs when you're a diabetic. It's tempting to do so, when in a panic, but then you run the risk of depriving your body and brain of essential fuel.  So you have to figure out just how many carbs your body can tolerate.

Another big shock - perhaps the biggest fright of all - has been learning to read labels on food packaging, and discovering that almost everything is packed with sugar.  I didn't realise how pervasive sugar was before I came down with diabetes, but I have to tell you that my jaw is on the floor. You will find gazillions of low-fat foods out there, but virtually no sugar-free options.

So how does this pertain to my blog?  From now on, I'll be featuring many more low-carb and diabetic-friendly recipes, and I hope you will enjoy my suggestions. But, because my family needs puddings and sweet things occasionally, I won't deprive you of these treats.

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Robyn said...

Gosh JA! Sounds like you've been through the wars... Stress is so terribly corrosive. I really hope you find your balance soon. We can all benefit from eating fewer carbs, so I look forward to your recipes. Xxxx
(I noticed you mention nothing about the 'Noakes' diet, supposedly a cure for diabetes, which I think is wise.)

Steve said...

Sterkte JA! A tough time, but sounds like you're dealing with it head-on and have a great team who're keeping you on track and giving you the best advice.

I've also had to deal with metabolic problems recently that left me with diabetic symptoms. Dealing with those constraints, and coming up with healthy and varied meals for a family, has been the most challenging and enjoyable cooking experience yet.

You've made a great start, in our household anyway, with the oven-roasted rattatoolie and the green bean/prosciutto salad. Lots more please!

Mariette said...

Hi Jane, I am so sorry to hear about the diabetes! I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you since food is your passion! Although I am really sad to hear about your health difficulties I am extremely excited to see healthier recipes on your blog. I absolutely love your cooking style/blog and look forward to healthy diabetic recipes!

I have stopped following other well known South African bloggers since I felt that the majority of recipes posted were recipes I could not include regularly but only make as a treat. Although myself nor my husband or pre-schooler has no medical reason to follow a diabetic inspired diet, we do so because I simply don't believe having regular highly refined foods, unhealthy fatty foods and sugar is a viable long term option. I have numerous family members with diabetes or who died of cancer and I am certain a lot of this might have been prevented if a healthier lifestyle has been followed.

Unfortunately a lot of great bloggers that I follow don't care much for a balanced sustainable diet and for that reason I am extremely excited about what I will be able to learn from your blog in the future. Thank you for sharing all your cooking experience through the years on your blog, it really is greatly appreciated. Kind regards, Mariette

Gaby866 said...

JA congrats that you seem to have packed the bull by the horns... I am trying to do the same thing for a while now and have to admit its a long slow haul !! I have been following your blog for 5 years and am thrilled with all the new ways of doing "things" :)... and am totally convinced now after recently watch the Cereal Killers doccie at the Sports Science .....
So keep on with the good work

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you very much for your kind and supportive comments, my friends.

@Robyn You are right about stress being corrosive. As for Tim Noakes, I have mentioned his diet (which I began following in earnest late last year)several times on this blog - you can find these posts by entering the keyword 'Noakes' in the search box on the top right of my blog's home page.

@Steve Thanks as always for your ongoing enthusiasm about my blog! I'm sorry to hear about your health issues. It sucks getting older, doesn't it? I had forgotten about the oven-roasted ratatoolie, and will revisit that recipe this week! Here's a round-up of my low-carb recipes:

@Mariette Thank you very much for your detailed and interesting comment. I will double my efforts to feature healthy recipes :-)

@Gaby Thank you! I will go and have a look at that Cereal Killers doccie. Sounds interesting.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear you've been through such a hectic time with your health. But glad to hear that you have got things under control now and that things are getting better. I would be desperate losing all the carbs from my diet, as they are all my big comfort foods, so I look forward to seeing what you come up with here to wean me away from my carb-reliance! Good luck and lots of love.

Kit said...

That was me, didn't mean to be anonymous! xx

Robyn said...

Right! I'll have a look. I interviewed him for the new Banting mag Lose It! so have been following him closely since then... So much of controversy! It's more entertaining than Bold & Beautiful.
I also tried the diet for a while and had positive results. Picked up some much healthier habits.
So happy you're feeling better though. xxxx

Anonymous said...

Argh, Isn't it terrifying how our bodies can 'turn against us', after years of potentially putting the wrong things into them. I was lucky and got a scare with the diagnosis of impaired glucose tolerance a few years ago, so am mindful of my carbohydrates ever since. I have also recently started exploring the raw food world, and it seems a great way of incorporating healthy carbohydrates and fats into one's diet.