Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Transformation Tuesday: Passing the test

Recently, I got some results back from blood testing I had done as part of a yearly check up. I wasn't optimistic. I don't follow a recommended diet, I barely have an active lifestyle much less exercise, I don't have a regular sleep cycle, I could be better about taking my pills on the reg, or even drinking water. The list pretty much goes on and on full of the don'ts I do and the do's I don't.

However, my lab results were better than they have been in years. My CBC was almost perfectly average. My metabolic panel was fine. My lipid panel was decent. And most importantly, to me, my A1C was in the normal range. On top of that, I've recently lost 10 pounds for no apparent reason. My mom asked me "What have you been doing?" a few days ago and I, naturally, have been thinking of an answer ever since.

Like everything else in life, getting to this point has been a journey. I've been with my current doctor since 2015, but I think this journey started the year before, and I've made gradual changes as well as dramatic changes along the way.

2 plates is balanced eating, right?

Why did I take so many pictures like this?
One of the first changes I made is the amount of nachos and beer I consume. I don't know what happened in 2014 but I swear for like the first three months I primarily ate chips, cheese, and a beer or three every night for dinner. Not surprisingly I was tired all of the time and felt awful all the time. So, I went on a health kick.

I started exercising, I made diet changes, and I stopped drinking. I started feeling significantly better. I had more energy for a short period of time. Unfortunately, this is also the period of time when my uterus started going haywire and nothing I did affected my energy level because my red blood count and iron levels dropped like crazy.

Jump forward to last year. I had my hysterectomy and a blood transfusion and I felt even better. I asked my doctor how much weight she wanted me to lose by our next follow up, which I had planned to be in six months because I thought that energy alone was what stood in my way of finally being healthier and losing weight. She said she didn't care about weight so much if I increased my activity and my labs and blood pressure were fine. I always pinned those results to weight loss and decided on a pound a week would be good.

Unfortunately, my life got a little crazy after that: I lived in a hotel for three months, NaNoWriMo and the disastrous election followed making me an emotional and stressed wreck, then I was overseas for three months. In all that time my diet was not good. I ate a lot of processed, convenience food because it was easiest. I drank a lot of beer. I didn't go back for a follow-up. 

Sometime during this period, I switched from Splenda to a minimally processed, organic sugar in my coffee. I did not feel comfortable with this choice but I learned that consuming something sweet had the same effect in your body as consuming sugar. That it was the taste of sweetness that sent the signals to your body to store fat. If that was the case, then I would rather have sugar, which tasted better than other sweeteners, in my coffee. I worried about the effects on my blood sugar but I made the switch anyway.

However, when I was in England, my skin, which is plagued with sensitivity and patches of dry flakiness that defy treatment, cleared up. I had fewer cravings for sugar and felt fuller on less.

When I got back, I started thinking about the differences between English and American food. How could I feel better on diet full of sausage rolls and beer than I did on kale, whole grains, and low fat? More importantly, why was my skin better?

While I didn't have studies or research to inform a decision, I used my experience. Food spoiled quicker over there, even milk seemed to last only a few days. Almost everything came from nearby farms or in England, which were small farms and companies, versus industrial agriculture. I think the furthest my food came were the pears I bought which were from Belguim. Much of my food was freshly made in the store rather than pre-made in a factory. Not every single thing had sugar added to it. From these types of observations, I decided to try two things first: avoid preservatives and switch fully to grass milk/pasture raised dairy. 

Apart from the time from living in the hotel, or anytime I traveled really, I didn't feel like I ate a lot of processed foods. Even now I can't say exactly what I cut out besides bread and Tricuits. Oh, and chips. On a recent trip, I spent what felt like a fortune on organic/ healthy snacks with my main goal to avoid sugar laden, preservative filled, over salted gas station food.

Weirdest shopping trip ever.
I tried a lot of new foods. They didn't all work out but this is the first trip I've returned from without feeling like a bloated, over full, constipated wreck. 

I also started replacing my side of fries with a salad or a bowl of fruit.

At home, I switched to Ryvita, for my crackers, I fry my own tortilla chips when I want some, and I no longer by loaves of bread. As a side product, I eat way fewer chips and much less butter, without making an effort or meaning too. 

Another dent in my grocery bill goes to my grass milk dairy products. I've been trying them off and on for the past year, only really committing for the last five months. Previously, aside from the cream I put in my coffee, I used low-fat milk products in an effort to reduce my saturated fats and cholesterol. Now, I'm full-fat everything as long as the cow eats mostly grass.

I also eat a lot more dairy. Once upon a time, it was assumed that I was lactose intolerant. There have been whole years that I avoided dairy because I connected skin flare-ups to milk. Now I eat milk, cheese and yogurt like my life depends on it. It's probably the base of my food pyramid, right next nuts, and coffee.

Despite my full fat dairy choices, my cholesterol stats continue to drop.

Also, since coming back from over seas, I don't eat as much meat as I use to, and what I do eat is mostly pork or some type of sausage. This was not as intentional as anything else but mainly because pork is the cheapest meat available and I love sausage, although it is not cheap.

EDIT: I forgot that another change I made was switching from conventional table salt to coarse salt from the Celtic Sea. I don't grind it, I just sparingly sprinkle full chrystals into my food. It's like salty rock candy or pop rocks! Fun, lol.

Overall, I do not know exactly which choice has made the difference. I still drink beer. I had a piece of cake last week and fries twice over the weekend. I still have wheat at least twice a week but I'm not paleo or low carb as I eat other grains a few times a week too. I barely eat vegetables and when I do it's mostly lettuce, onions, garlic, and celery, some of the most useless veg on the planet. I put six teaspoons of sugar in my several giant cups of coffee that also have so much fat in them I can usually see it floating on top. Most of my daily diet is dependent on cheese, sausage, and numerous handfuls of nuts. I often skip breakfast.

But still my total cholesterol and my LDLs have dropped by 10 points last year and my A1C has fallen from 6.2%, in the danger zone of prediabetes, to 5.4% , within the normal range, in the past two years. 

I've lost weight too but like my only other #transformationTuesday post, it's not much and not really what I'm about. I know weighing over 300 lbs is unhealthy, I know I will have so many more benefits in my health and beyond if I got up and went for a walk but, at the same time, my health is so much more than my weight alone. For a long time, my blood sugar and cholesterol have been health concerns, even when I was 100 lbs lighter and I feel like this is the most under control either have been. As long as my other numbers and indicators keep going down, my weight seems irrelevant, like what my doctor said.

My mental health is the best it's ever been, my blood is too now. I finally feel like I have a diet regime that is right for me and I would be happy to live with for the rest of my life. Now, I can really focus on my activity and make it work for me too.

Despite my past trials and tribulations and the work still ahead, I can see the edge of the forest, I'm almost out of the woods.

Until next time...