Of late I write a lot about my exercise, fitness, and better health pursuits. What I wrote on Sunday (find it here) was upbeat, happy, genuine. The turnaround in my health status has been pretty dramatic, and while I do not completely understand my body’s chemistry and reaction to the changes from the different foods I am feeding it and the increased daily activity I am putting it through, the changes are so positive and encouraging it is impossible for me not to talk about it.
Once Sunday’s post was published, almost immediately friends and acquaintances near and far texted, emailed, even phoned after reading it. While many congratulated me on how far I have come in turning my health around, there was also a lot of dismayed feedback expressing concern about how far the diabetes had gotten. In one memorable case, a long-time friend completely lit into me for not coming clean about how much medication I was taking for so-so control of my blood sugar. For the purposes of absolute candor, no one really had any idea what volume of drug cocktails I was consuming, and the 2 different types of insulin raised enormous red flags of panic and concern, which got worse when I explained it had been going on for more than a year (likely closer to 2 years).
I feel a little terrible about that.
But as I explained (or tried to … a couple of my friends were simply too upset with me to speak calmly about it), I did not talk about it detail partly because (1) I was cripplingly embarrassed to have sunk to that level of low, (2) I did not want a pep talk, a lecture, or an intervention to try and get me to get off my ass, and (3) I was not prepared to cope with well-meaning advice and suggestions to invade my life with regard to my lifestyle choices. My very dear friends who are/were upset with me for my lack of candor may find my reasoning faulty, and I get that. In my defense, until I was ready, nothing was going to propel me to make changes. I did then and do not now want my bad habits to impair relationships I value. Maybe it was wrong to not give the benefit of the doubt, but in this situation I can only ask for understanding and forgiveness. It was never about friendships or trust; it is/was all about me, because I could only be helped when I was ready to seek it out and accept it.
Yep, I am selfish that way. I did not want friends to try and help me until I was completely sure I was ready to help myself.
I also kind of expected that level and wave of upset concern. But whether it is cigarets, alcohol, even recreational drugs, I firmly believe lasting, sustainable changes come only when one is truly ready to take that step. Up until someone reaches that point, every effort, suggestion, helpful idea becomes another brick in a wall of resentment. I did not want that to happen to me, so I simply did not talk about it. There was no noticeable hardship, obviously. But now my life and taking better care of myself habits are moving in a different direction, and I appreciate the encouragement and kind, supportive words. And I really appreciate your forgiving me for not being more open about what I was enduring.
But I am still not dieting, and I still have vivid scale-destruction thoughts lingering in my brain. Weight loss, if and when it should happen for me, will be an organic effect of my improving my lifestyle habits, aka diet and exercise. To be clear, I’m not tracking my weight. Weight loss is not a primary goal, because for me, disappointment and despair is going to accompany any such pursuits and really, who wants or needs to feel like that?
It has surprised me the amount of push-back I have received over the exercise and eating changes. Maybe it’s the blogging and talking about my activities and excitement at my incremental progress and improving attitudes. Maybe it’s concern that clumsy me is inviting trouble with even super-er supersize accidents waiting to happen with weights in my hands. Maybe it’s worry that I am trying to change too many things all at once and am courting the discouragement that comes with dropping all the lifestyle balls I am trying to juggle.
Or maybe it’s fear. Of change. Of me and change. Of relinquishing the status quo. I am speculating, because there has been no clear answers despite my best efforts to talk about it.
And I wonder if other people get the same sort of push-back reactions when they experience their first successes. Having never successfully altered my habits this way previously for even a brief period of time, my experience is limited.
Just before we rejoined the gym, I had an appointment with my then endocrinologist. I knew we were going to return to gym membership and I would be employing a personal trainer for at least a few sessions. I had hopes that it would be a positive enough of an experience to spur me to learn what I could do to make regular exercise part of my routine. Increasing my physical activity would have an impact on my diabetes, and I really wanted to know what, if anything, I might be able to expect with regard to medication if and when that came about. Doctors tend to be cautious and conservative, and mine gave me the canned speech that exercise would have a positive effect on my overall health and mood (he was concerned about the depression that many diabetics acquire). Regular amounts of exercise could cause a reduction in the amount of medication I had to take. Exercise alone was not going to do it for me, though; I would need to make some adjustments to my diet as well. However, from prior experiences with the lows resulting from long, all-day hikes, I suspected and felt I knew my body and blood sugar would respond positively to the increased activity levels. Before we even signed up for gym membership I had begun my lobbying campaign for consideration of reducing the insulin if I succeeded in becoming more active. I did not have a lot of hope, and figured it would take years to work, but I let him know I was on a quest to stabilize the amount of daily meds I had to consume.
Looking back, I do not know if my doctor actually took me seriously. Heck, for the first couple of months I am not sure I took me seriously. But once I started working with J on a weekly basis, even if I was barely practicing on my own between appointments, I began to have random blood sugar lows. It was not long before I began connecting the dots and experimenting without the doctor’s approval reducing the amounts of insulin I was injecting before meals and before bed. For a rule-following person like me, this was a huge rebellion.
Whatever addict-like tendencies seem to be involved with my exercise and practice schedule, as vices go there are a lot worse things. For me, I know that there comes a tipping point where the understanding just clicks into place and I get it … what “it” happens to be vexing me in the moment. With the training, I have slaved; I have practiced; I have done everything short of banging my head against the TRX stanchions trying to learn certain movements. I have been in tears – TEARS! – in my frustration because I just could not seem to understand and just do it. Then I review with J; we adjust; we go through the cues again; and somehow, someway, something alters in my brain chemistry and the lightbulb comes on and I get it. This is just how learning works, and I can clearly recall doing and feeling the same way in high school and college where math or other logical, unwavering concepts that should just be accepted and learned yet made absolutely no sense to me. Until one day, something altered and boom! Now and forever, I own it.
My present level of engagement with exercise has had a direct, undeniably positive impact on my overall health. That includes food choices, as I allow my attention to turn that direction. Focus has been slowly arcing toward diet, and it’s become a lot easier for me to forego certain foods in light of my new independence from the volume of diabetic drugs.
For a while now I have been methodically cutting the amount of junk I eat from my diet. The level of junk food consumption has been a lot for a non-diabetic, much less a type 2 diabetic on insulin. My eating is still so very imperfect, but it is improving along side my attitude toward exercise and fitness. The process goes hand-in-hand if I want to stay off the insulin needle and diabetes drug regime merry-go-round.
I am in my first week of the new, lowest dosage in year of diabetes medication. I am monitoring still as if I am injecting insulin, because I want to ensure I stay on the healthy side of this equation. It seems like I eat more food than I did 7 months ago, yet my readings are consistently >110 before meals, and the normal standard reading before meals is >140. So I am within the normal range. I am making better snack food choices when I must eat between meals to get through to dinner. No big mystery to how I have to be deliberate to control my diabetes. It can be done, and I can do better and kick that last pill to the curb.
M and others have expressed concern that the doc was over medicating me, and I suppose it appears that way. There is an addictive quality to my personality, and while I do not drink alcohol because of it (my dad’s vice of choice), junk food and sugar are just as bad as any beer he would consume. I freely admit to overeating crap and not caring much for too long if I needed more insulin and pills to bring my sugar back down and into control. The medication was a crutch, an enabler of bad choices and likely shortened lifespan. It was bad on so many levels, and I’m embarrassed just talking about it. But presently that part of my life and lifestyle is now water under the bridge, and I want it to stay that way. I have no intention of ever going back and have to work really hard and focus on developing and implementing new habits.
Looking forward I now cannot imagine my life without some form of daily exercise and being more careful about my eating habits. This does not mean I am completely giving up chocolate, cookies, or really great soft serve on vacation. I will not be foregoing cake occasions now or into the future. Discipline until I learn moderation and then moderation will rule and govern my dietary choices. It’s possible my simplified, stripped-down meal planning with significantly less junk will let me skate for periods of lighter exercise, but my head is only now really starting to really get into it, so I am a little focused and obsessed on the blog.
My only goal is better health and that means staying in good control of my diabetes without the need for all that medication. Possibly, probably the next natural outcome is that some of the excess weight on my frame will fall away. But it’s not something I am pursuing with intent or as a goal. It’s a byproduct of pursuing better overall health.
These seem like innocent and worthy objectives, yet it continually surprises me how much push-back I got this weekend and continue to receive from unexpected sources. I can kind of understand where the anxiety and anger come from, yet not really. In real life, in phone and text and in-person conversations eating and exercise does not come up that much, unless you’re a fitness-minded friend who wants more precise and specific details about that part of my life. I talk about it in general terms because it’s a Very Big Deal for me right now.
But I am not proselytizing diet and exercise to anyone; everyone has the right to choose their own life and lifestyle.
I am also not a born-again healthy food eating person, and my march to quit the regular consumption of junk food and gratuitous sugar is the right choice for me and me alone. I have spent far too many years feeling guilty and ashamed of not being in better control of my habits to judge anyone for their choices. As it has always been, I am not evolving into the lifestyle police. Please give me a little credit.
I am not starving myself or developing some sort of eating or exercise disorder. The thought makes me laugh. M can run 60 to 100 miles per week and the only question about him is if he is taking up racing again. I work with a trainer and go to the gym to practice and some of you in my world begin to ponder addiction, intervention, and 12 step programs.
The steps I am taking to improve my inward view and self image are healthy steps to increase my confidence and ability to feel good about myself, my activities, and my accomplishments. In my mind, a happier, mentally and physically healthier me is a better version of me, and in this regard it is all about me. In no dimension or universe am I taking these steps to diminish or minimize anyone.
Change is frightening, I suppose. But for once I feel as if I am making positive strides toward improving my confidence only to be met with worry and concern. Please, I am fine, better than fine these days, and I truly do appreciate your concern.