Clean Alternatives: Diabetes and Food Intervention
Leading a clean life is not just about keeping our house and environment clean. It is also about making clean choices in what we consume – as they say our body is a temple and we are an outcome of what we choose to eat. I got reminded of this when a recent health routine test showed me to be in a pre-diabetic condition. This came as a timely reminder and spurred me into action in terms of making some critical changes in my and my family’s lifestyle and diet. The significant immediate benefits that I am starting to observe made me feel this is something that is worth sharing more widely. Choosing clean alternatives when it comes to our life can be extended to all aspects and when it comes to food, choosing clean alternatives plays a very important role since it is the foundation of a healthy life.
My family has a long history of diabetes and so I have been quite familiar with the term insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, HBA1C since a very young age. Both my grandmother and my father died relatively young due to diabetes related complications. For both of them, it was a cardiac arrest that finally did it. ‘Your heart is a ticking time bomb’ - a doctor had once explained to my father. My father had been a diabetic since mid 30s and though it seemed to be all fine initially, the symptoms started manifesting in the 50s. I still remember pointing to his toenail when he was in his early 60s and asking why it was turning black. And from there on it was all downhill. I knew that me turning diabetic was not a remote but a definite possibility if I didn’t monitor closely. My weight has always been within range. At 5ft. 5”, I have maintained a steady weight below 60kgs for the past decade.
Intermittent fasting for the past two years has helped in a big way and has helped me stabilize my weight to the mid-fifties range mostly. Weight control and exercise does go a long way in staying fit but not all the way when it comes to diabetes! I have been monitoring my sugar levels as well every 6 months and found my HBA1C to be creeping up slowly. It finally hit a 6 recently. My cholesterols levels were also on the higher side which I found odd. My weight was in range and so higher cholesterol didn’t make any sense! Anyways, there were mixed reactions and opinions. Friends and relatives had their own share of experience and advise to offer. Some said 6 is fine, it’s not too much. Just cut down on the rice and you should be good. Others said it is pre-diabetic and that I should take it seriously.
I finally decided to seek professional medical advice. The program that I signed up for is a one-year comprehensive program. I have been put on a CGM patch (Continuous Glucose Monitoring Device) which has been keeping track of my sugar levels every 15 minutes. So that’s a whole 110-120 blood sugar readings collected in one day. A single patch lasts for 14 days at the end of which you discard it and insert a new patch if needed. Along with the patch I was also asked to follow a keto type diet for three months!! Sounded ridiculous! I was border line pre-diabetic, and my weight was well under control. Why would I need to go on a keto diet?? I told them that being a vegetarian that would be difficult to follow. I reasoned with them that I would go off rice and wheat. Move to complex carbs. I enjoyed my Congee – my morning health drink home made with 9 different grains and nuts which was my energy booster of the day. Why should I stop having that – after all it’s a health food, right? Besides dals and lentils are a staple and important part of a vegetarian diet! How will I get all my nutrients?
I felt that a routine voluntary check-up was now going to turn my life upside down and push me into a complicated lifestyle with all the restrictions. I was told that I would need to follow Keto only for 3 months post which they would introduce other carbs back in once my system healed. That my pre-diabetes would be reversed! Still didn’t make any sense. I have a sweet tooth. Indian sweets are my all-time favourite. Especially the Bengali sweets!! Chum Chums are so yum you see!! I didn’t see any harm in occasionally indulging into these once or twice a month. After all what is life without a little mithai, right??
I asked for a detailed explanation on why I was being taken off all carbs? I got down to doing my own research as well and learnt a little more about this disease which was threatening to turn my life upside down. My research took me down a rabbit hole – deep but also opened me to the misconceptions of food and the latest research in this field. I have added a few definitions on the terms related to diabetes to get you started. I shall continue to share my journey and the latest research in the matter of food – Do’s and Don’ts, the latest understanding of the disease – what is Insulin Resistance and when does one develop Type -2 diabetes. I will also share links to interesting podcasts in the next blog.
I will cover what changes I made to my diet, share some interesting things that one can cook within the limitations of a low carb diet and also talk about how the body reacts in the first week when the changes are made.
Suggested Reads : 5 methods to grow your own food at home and small places