… or how I got rid of fat by managing type 2 diabetes (which is a misleading title, I’m not talking about exercise at all here because I’m that lazy, and also I still haven’t managed to cure myself completely). Take what I say with a grain of salt, I’m not a doctor and will never be (I bloody hate needles). Use those neurons you supposedly have and find out for yourself.
I might not be a good role-model as to what I’m doing or what I’m saying these days, but that’s not how I was for a long time. Truth be told, I was a considerably less inquisitive individual. Do what you’re told, eat all your food, drink all your milk, don’t question your elders, stuff like that was baseline for me. Until recently, for instance, I thought the common way of fighting fat was to diet. If you’ve been there, you’d know every possible newspaper, doctor or google result has a different way of doing that. Hoo boy! This is going to hit you where it hurts. This is what I’m talking about when I say “doubt, think for yourself, research, and if you’re still having doubts, continue research”. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I’ve been called way worse than fatty fat fat. I’ve been on the fun edge of exercise. I’ve taken miracle cures (sometimes prescribed by my friend, the doctor I’ve mentioned before), I’ve tried starvation. By now you’d have figured it out – it all ended up with me going up, up, up on the scale. For that matter I just love the Garfield comics, that was me (and sometimes still is). Just looking at a pizza made me put on a pound. You know something? I thought it was the way some people just happen to be like. I got more tired by the minute, got sleepy mid-day every day and welcomed my kid’s noon naps with open arms – I happened to “help” him at it. Even him falling out of bed once or twice was a reason to get in there and … guard him in his naps. And this went on for years.
After a while (read 20 years), one gets used to being called fat. Hell, I joked about it. All those “I gotta be me” and “there’s no shame in being fat” slogans, those were all for me. People have to love me for my personality, not my looks. Dude, I was soooo wrong.
If I had a disease that was making me fat it would have made it understandable, but I was healthy as an ox (apart from high blood pressure, which apparently didn’t make me fat). I got complacent, and sure as hell didn’t think it could be better. But there’s the shocker – an illness didn’t make me fat, being fat made me ill. So the first time I’ve seen my fasting blood sugar at 200+ I really got spooked. The second time, it made me angry. After that, I’d be taking diabetes for granted for the rest of my life, just like my forefathers. And my doctors were like, eat less, cut out fat, eat more “healthy” grains. Ever try that and fail at it? Oy vey, for this I went to school?
After a while, I got really angry since nothing seemed to work. So I started learning all I could about weight gain and blood sugar. Here’s the synopsis:
For basically healthy dudes like myself fat had two basic causes, one being I was eating more calories than I was burning (and sitting on my arse watching satellite telemetry on the telly wasn’t burning many of them) and the second one was eating a lot of crap.
You see, if you got problems with fat, it’s the fat deposited around your inner organs that’s the most dangerous. All that around your liver, pancreas and the like really disrupts insulin production. What does insulin do? Well, for one thing, if your blood sugar is high, the pancreas makes insulin which tells your cells to start taking out the glucose from the blood to lower your blood sugar. If you know physics, you’d know by now nothing ever disappears at that size – the cells simply store the glucose either as body fat or abdominal fat (glycogen). By disrupting insulin production your blood sugar will stay higher but also you’ll deposit less glucose as fat – but in other news you’ll get more glucose generation from fat (which increases blood sugar even more), less potassium absorption, less blood flow (contracts muscles), less amino acid absorption, and so on. Basically it’s like a snowball gathering more snow as it’s rolling down a hill – you disrupt insulin a little, you get toxic blood. That’s the reason diabetics lose weight.
For those loving diagrams the progress is like this:
Bad food -> insulin -> fat deposits -> repeat until insulin production is disrupted -> blood sugar slowly rises -> after a few years insulin production drops even more -> permanent damage to pancreas beta cells -> even less insulin production -> permanent damage to heart and other organs, toxic blood -> ketoacidosis -> great fire hydrant in the sky.
Well, to avoid that, we got the medication. Apart from insulin shots, the normal meds help by doing one of the following:
- Increase insulin production – so more insulin for you;
- Increase cell sensitivity – so more response to the same amount of insulin;
- Decrease absorption of glucose.
Assuming you don’t change your eating habits, see anything odd here? If you get more insulin (or make cells overreact to it), you stimulate fat deposits – ergo you get fat, which in time gets you even less insulin and you have to increase the dosage. Here you’re treating the symptoms and leaving the illness progress. The logical thing, I think, would be to use meds that decrease absorption of glucose, which would be a good thing if that wouldn’t end up in your colon – where bacteria would make you sorry for your choices. There’s another bad indirect side-effect to it too, if (and believe me, it happens) you get your blood sugar too low you won’t be able to quickly pop a glucose tablet into your mouth to make it easy, you’ll have to go to a hospital. And let’s not talk about side-effects. So no new meds for me, I got a bag of meds to take every day already (which is kind of annoying).
At this point, I started looking at the main causes of it – I mean, what’s wrong with this picture? What goes bad? Well, insulin production gets disrupted. How do I stop that? By making sure I don’t get fat. What makes me fat? Food, I guess, like it wasn’t so obvious. So basically I have to eat food that even if insulin production goes up (which it does, after meals, because protein and shit) won’t get transformed into fat, or to say the least, into liver or pancreas stored glycogen. So what gets transformed into fat?
Well, carbs, dummy! Glucose. Sugar. So, how does that translate into an action plan? Eat less of those. But I’ve already disrupted my insulin production, what the hell can I do? Is there a way to reverse it? I’ve been reading of ways to get better, and one of them is surgery. It’s generally accepted that surgery of your stomach will reverse your diabetes (but you get other problems, duh!). How is that even possible? Well for one thing, they don’t know. But it’ll make you lose a lot of weight. So is it possible that by losing weight (fat) you make your insulin generating cells better? Could be, you’ll be eating a hell of a lot less than you were before surgery, your stomach will be smaller. So, like a drowning man grasping at a straw, I decided to research it – apparently your abdominal fat (the one around your liver, pancreas and such, I’ve warned you it’s the most dangerous one) is to blame for disrupting beta cells production of insulin and by getting rid of it your pancreas functions will improve. Here’s the thing – it’s still debated – but it makes sense to me, I think.
So by cutting off carbs, I’d be reducing the glucose available for processing and depositing as fat. Eating less carbs than are needed for my body’s energy consumption would make my body use stored fat to convert to glucose (it’s called glycogenolysis, look it up) – which would mean me losing weight. But which fat is used first, the very bad one or the bad (adipose) one? The good news is that apparently the very bad one goes first. Hurrah, there’s the break we need.
So, what do we do? Remove carbs (though not all of them, there’s a good medical reason for it). But here’s the thing – we are addicted to them. If we remove bread, potatoes, sugar, and so on, what do we eat? For one thing, I’m a bad man therefore I like bad things –like eating and also hate hunger with righteous hatred. For me, the way to do it was to get a few carbs from vegetables and eat more proteins – preferably lean meat. That is, no sweets, bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, milk (lactose), very fat meat and replace them with fish, chicken, lean sheep, those things that go moo and combine them with cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprout, salad, sometimes carrots, those things. I’m not saying I’ve declared anathema on pizza, but eating one every month or two just got me close to declare it holy. Also no beer or sweet wine – which is why my wine’s so dry it’s basically dehydrated. You thought I got the title of the blog at random, didn’t you? Whiskey’s rather debatable too, but as long as I’m not drinking more than a bottle every three months I’d say it’s in the scriptures. Yea, I know, I’m weak.
In other news, in my own not-so-humble opinion, any diet is going to fail, eventually – that’s even in the title. If you want to get better, you ain’t dieting, you’re changing your life style. Dieting for me means I’ll go off it after a while and resume my previous way of eating so what I’m saying is – this is it, mon. I’m not dieting, this is how I eat now and forever. It’s not a diet if I keep it until I’m pushing daisies. I’m that weird.
The general way of doing things (as recommended by the doctors) like dieting, is to remove bad fat, increase good(!) carbs, something like 50% good carbs and fiber, 20% protein, 30% good fat (fish fat, oily stuff, so on). What I’m using (when I’m using it) is something like 50% protein, 30% good fat and 10% carbs and fiber from vegetables. My theoretical target is about 50-80 grams of carbs per day. So far in less than six months I’ve managed to lose about 20 pounds (10ish kilograms) and reduce my blood sugar from 200+ to 150ish, even with the occasional hard fall off the wagon. I’ve seen blood sugar below 120 too, on occasion. I’m still not over it, but hell – I keep at it and I’m not exercising either (if almost keeping the pace with my kid counts, then I am). Took me long to get me started on it too, the research alone kept me busy for about a year. The bad side? Sometimes when I’m low on sugar I’m rather hard to live with. You may or may not have noticed that already.
Also, a word of warning – carbohydrates have the biggest impact on blood sugar while fat has the lowest impact. Fat does not rise your blood sugar, but if you overdo it, it will hit you right in the arteries. So eat fat fish, olive oil, butter or an aged fermented cheese, like I do. Learn to read the labels off things, play find the carb content on stuff. I used to, until I took an arrow to the knee. Now I also learn to cook.