My determined quest to improve my health

The news was unexpected and came as a considerable shock. Four months ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and it has had a dramatic effect on my lifestyle ever since I learned of my condition.

Even before the ailment was identified, I already knew I was overweight, ate too many carbohydrates and sugar, and wasn’t getting enough exercise.

The life of a reporter is spent sitting at a computer screen and typing much of the day, albeit with some fieldwork attending the occasional board meeting or special school event.

I knew I was pushing the line just a few pounds below obese, based on my Body Mass Index. Oh, whatever happened to my lean physique from my college years! Long gone, I’m afraid.

After finding out I was diabetic, it was admittedly an uphill battle, but once I managed to cut out (most) snacks, I lost 15 lbs. (with another 15-20 to go) and tried as best I could to change my food choices. Not an easy task when you have both a serious sugar tooth combined with a deep love for all things pasta.

My care provider recommended I do some online research for additional information on my condition. It was a real eye opener, to say the least.

Experts warn that the prevalence of obesity in the United States, a common and costly health issue that affects more than one-third of adults and 17 percent of youth, is a growing problem, with data showing that approximately 78 million adults and 12 million children are obese — figures many regard as an epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Adults are considered obese when they are about 35 pounds overweight.

Based on a recent report released by the CDC, more than 100 million U.S. adults are currently living with diabetes (or pre-diabetes), the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2018.

One of the biggest issues is that so many other severe health complications are connected to obesity — including diabetes, along with an increase in the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, sleep apnea, arthritis and cancer.

The savings in health care would be tremendous if we could solve the problem of obesity and all the diseases associated with it.

The ramifications of being overweight and the difficult task of losing pounds in a society where a wide selection of processed foods is readily available make it all that much more difficult to reach your ideal weight — and reduce the complications of diabetes, a fact that this burger-loving, French fry-devouring, bread and butter-ingesting individual is well aware of, combined with a morsel of regret.

Furthermore, much of the food we eat today is over-processed and often lacks the nutrients it once had in prior years.

In fact, I’ve learned that many ailments stem from overeating hi-carb and processed foods that raise your blood sugar and insulin levels and promote inflammation, which may increase the risk of diseases like diabetes.

According to nutritionists the other offender to our health is the convenience of microwaving a frozen TV dinner purchased from the aisle of your local supermarket, where men and women that are presumably unencumbered by cooking skills, look to save time and money in a busy life.

Another problem is inadequate sleep, which can add additional pounds since the body’s metabolism doesn’t work as efficiently when it’s exhausted. Metabolism also slows as we age; both issues I confess are factors in my determined quest to improve my health and well-being.

These same experts say hands down the main culprit in weight gain is uncontrolled carbohydrate intake, and without a resolve to reduce carbs in our diet little progress can be made.

This has been a real challenge for me personally; as I previously mentioned, I love a variety of breads slathered in butter, baked potatoes with melted cheese, as well as all species of pasta dishes — and I have paid the price over the years.

So now, every morning when I awake around 6 a.m., I use a blood glucose monitoring system where I employ a spring-triggered needle to draw blood from my pinky finger, that I then apply to a small test strip that’s inserted into the monitor to read my glucose level and write the results down in a journal. As long as the reading remains within a specified range, I’m apparently doing OK.

To be clear, my research indicates that nutritionists don’t advocate eliminating carbohydrates altogether; for one thing it’s really hard to count the exact carbohydrates that you’re eating because a lot of times there are a lot of hidden carbs in our foods that we’re unaware of.

While type 2 diabetes cannot technically be cured, it can go into remission with proper diet and exercise.

The challenge is convincing Americans — a challenge that certainly extends to myself — to eat differently, by cutting down on carbohydrates, reducing or eliminating snacks altogether, skipping most desserts and excluding processed foods, while substituting more servings of fresh vegetables, moderate quantities of fruit, as well as lean meats like poultry and fish.

My care provider is adamant that keeping one’s weight within a normal range helps maintain a healthy lifestyle, particularly in later years. So I‘m trying my best to take her diagnosis seriously.

It’s really no secret: The correct way to approach food is to find a balance by eating healthier foods while decreasing your caloric intake with portion control, eliminating salt and participating in adequate physical activity. Easier said than done, perhaps. But that’s it!

One more thing: you’ll see me riding my bike through the streets of Westwood and Chester too, once the snows are gone!