I delayed posting this update to “A Dietitian’s Journey” due to the current Covid 19 pandemic, but thought by now we could all use with a little distraction. I hope that this post about my health and weight recovery serves as encouragement as to what is possible simply by eating real, whole food, and sticking with it.
Three years ago, on March 5th, 2017, I was sitting at my desk in my office and I didn’t feel well. I didn’t even know what kind of “unwell” I felt. I decided to take my blood pressure to see if that would give me a clue. I was alarmed with the results and decided to lie down and take it again. That didn’t help. Not only was my blood pressure high, it dangerously high. I was having what is known as a “hypertensive emergency”. While I hadn’t done so in way too long, I also decided to take my blood sugar. The result was 13.2 mmol/L (238 mg/dl) only a half an hour after I ate, which was way too high — even for someone who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes five years earlier. Here I was, an obese Dietitian with a body mass index (BMI) well over 30, dangerously high blood pressure and blood sugar that clearly showed my type 2 diabetes was not well controlled and I knew that all of these factors put me at significant risk of having a stroke or heart attack. I was scared. Actually I was terrified.
As I’ve said on every podcast I’ve been a guest on, and have written about many times, what I should have done at that point was to have gone straight to my doctor’s office; even knowing that he would have sent me directly to the hospital by ambulance or taxi due to my dangerously high blood pressure. I should have gone, let them treat me to get my blood pressure down, including taking the medications they prescribed. Then, with my doctor’s oversight I could have begun a well-designed therapeutic diet to lower all of these significant metabolic markers and in time had my doctor gradually de-prescribed the various medications I would have been given, as my weight, blood pressure and blood sugars normalized.
I didn’t. It was foolish. What I did instead was to immediately change my diet and lifestyle and while I fully acknowledge that this was not a wise choice, that’s what I did.
I was so scared.
In the preceding 6 months, I had two girlfriends die within 3 months of each other; one of a massive heart attack, and the other of a stroke. Both worked in healthcare their entire lives and both had become overweight and had developed some of the same metabolic issues I had. I was terrified because I realized that if I didn’t change, I could be next.
That day, I printed off my last set of blood test results, and took all my body measurements as if I were a client. I then designed a Meal Plan for myself as I do for others and from that day on, implemented it “as if my life depended on it”, because quite literally, it did.
There’s been no looking back! March 5, 2017 was the beginning of my health and weight recovery journey; A Dietitian’s Journey.
In the first year, I lost 32 pounds and 8 inches off my waist, and my glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) no longer met the criteria for Type 2 Diabetes (i.e. was ≤ 6.0 %), and my blood pressure ranged between normal and pre-hypertension. Updated lab work indicated that my triglycerides and cholesterol levels were optimal, however my updated measurements showed that my waist circumference was still not half my height, which is what it needed to be (you can read more about the reason for that here.). In addition, my fasting blood sugar remained higher than it should be. I still had work to do. I was in recovery, but not recovered yet.
After consulting with two physician colleagues, I made the decision to lower my carbohydrate intake, and continued to monitor my blood pressure daily and blood sugar several times per day. I also began doing some resistance training exercises with equipment I had on hand (and that had been collecting dust for years).
After 2 years on my recovery journey, I had lost a total of 55 pounds and 12 inches off my waist but since my blood pressure remained between the pre-hypertensive and hypertensive range, and in discussion with my doctor’s colleague, I decided to go on a “baby dose” of Ramipril to protect my kidney function. Even though my blood sugar was good and my HbA1C was below the cut-off for type 2 diabetes, my endocrinologist started me on Metformin as a result of my father’s recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
I didn’t look at starting on either of those medications as “failure”, as I probably would have been prescribed those at much higher doses from the beginning had I gone to see my doctor March 5, 2017. It was part of my recovery process. My goal however was to make changes so that blood pressure medication would no longer be necessary, but I didn’t know what other changes I could make to have it to come down to a normal level, and for my fasting blood glucose to continue improve as well. After much reading in the scientific literature about circadian rhythms , I realized that to be successful I needed to change when I ate (and didn’t eat) as well as when I was exposed to bright light in order to get my body working according to its natural circadian (24-hour) cycles. I made the changes documented in the literature and began to sleep much better (falling asleep and staying asleep, when I had previously had poor sleep for years). After just a few months, home monitoring indicated my blood pressure was normal or slightly below normal and I was getting fasting blood glucose numbers I hadn’t seen before (4.7mmol/L – 5-2 mmol/L). I hadn’t “arrived” but my recovery phase was definitely approaching the end.
A visit to my doctor’s office just before Covid 19 began indicated I had blood pressure that was just below the normal cutoff of 120/70 for someone who is not diabetic, so my doctor deprescribed the blood pressure medication. Recent lab test results also indicated that I have completely normal fasting blood sugar [5.2 mmol/L (94 mg/dl)]. Over the past year without trying, I lost another 5 pounds and a little less than an inch off my waist and I am guessing this was probably the result of continued loss of fat balanced by increased weight from added muscle I gained as a result of the intermittent resistance training I was doing.
I am now a normal body weight. I have an optimal waist circumference (slightly less than half my height). I am in remission of type two diabetes; both as assessed by fasting blood glucose and HbA1C, and my high blood pressure is in remission. I went from taking 12 different medications three years ago, to leaving my doctor’s office a few weeks ago with one prescription for something non-metabolically related, and a prescription for glucose test strips.
I feel good about myself, about my health and how I look — so much so that in September of this past year I decided to stop straightening my hair and now wear it the way it grows out of my head. I am “comfortable in my own skin” (and hair) for the first time in almost 3 decades. I didn’t lose weight quickly but it took me many years to become THAT metabolically unhealthy that I gave myself the time I needed to get well and am staying well, without any added effort. The process wasn’t at all difficult to accomplish, or difficult to maintain. All it took was eating real, whole food and reducing the amount of carbohydrate-based foods I ate. What is nice is that after 3 years on a therapeutic diet, I am now able to add in small amounts of higher carbohydrate-based whole foods into my diet, and tolerate them very well.
While there are many studies showing many others have accomplished similar clinical results as I have eating the same way, doing it myself enables me to encourage my clients because I have “been” there, and I came back!
If you would like more information about how I can help you lose weight and keep it off or improve blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol please reach out to me. All my services are now provided via Distance Consultation but I already have more than a decade of experience providing virtual nutrition support, so this is nothing new for me. I am licensed as a Dietitian in every province in Canada except PEI and can also provide nutrition education services to those in the US and elsewhere.
You can find more about the details of the different packages I offer by looking under the Services tab or in the Shop. If you have any service-related questions please feel free to send me a note using the Contact Me form above, and I will reply as soon as I can.
To your good health!
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