Food, Fitness & Type 1 Diabetes: Lisa's Story

Food is a very personal thing. There is no one-size fits all in the real world and I'm convinced that what's right for one person may or may not be right for the rest of us. I also believe that if you've found something that might lead to self improvement, you need to give it a fair chance. If you've found something that works for you, you have to stick with it.

Easier said than done, I know.

I am not a nutritionist, a doctor, a fitness guru. I just want to share my story in the hopes that it might help someone out there find their own path. There are so many people looking, searching for answers. I hope to serve as a guide.

The Back Story:

Like most people, my relationship with food has been complicated and flexible (more like dancing and gyrating, but we'll get into that...)

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (I will refer to it as T1D) in late 2002. I had just turned 26. My mom and brother both have T1D, so I grew up around diabetes and didn't think it would affect my life too greatly. I knew it. I thought I understood it. I used insulin injections for a while, then switched to an insulin pump after a year. With the exception of two short stints on injections when I was traveling in recent years, I have used an insulin pump for the great majority of the last 13 years.

I was newly married and gained weight, as many newlyweds do. I remember huge glasses of orange juice, and matching my portions of pizza and Thai take-out with my husband. We were both chubby, but happy. I felt like I could eat anything and as long as I covered it with insulin and I did. My A1C levels were good, but I probably still produced some background insulin (appropriately called the "honeymoon period" after T1D diagnosis).

In order to gain control of our eating habits, we latched onto the South Beach Diet in 2005-ish and both lost weight. Portion control was key, along with the tough initiation period that broke your addiction to simple carbs.  The thing with South Beach is that you gradually re-introduce carbs and herein lies the downfall. 

Like most "diets" we slipped away from those better eating habits as the years passed.

Jump forward several years:

I had two beautiful baby girls, 4.5 years apart and although I lost all my pre-baby weight after my first pregnancy, my second wasn't so easy. I was at the heaviest (non-pregnant) that I had ever been, 175 lbs.

In late 2013, I had heard of Paleo eating and the Whole 30 and was trying to cut down on my carbohydrate intake to lose weight and gain better control of my T1D & blood glucose numbers. October 2013 I completed by first Whole 30 month and it changed my entire outlook on how I could feel. I started at about 173 lbs and lost about 10 lbs in a month. I felt amazing while not eating dairy or grains, but tons of protein, fruits and veggies.

Then came the holidays and a 6 week road-trip around Argentina in Feb 2014 with hours in the car and more restaurant eating than I care to admit (plus the tragic thinking of "Oh, I can have that. We're on vacation!!") The weight was back and what I had learned on the Whole 30 just months before went out the window.

Here's the visual evidence. This is hard to post: 

Feb 2014 - Our Road Trip through Argentina. Lisa at approx. 170 lbs

Feb 2014 - Our Road Trip through Argentina. Lisa at approx. 170 lbs

March 2014 was my second Whole 30 month and much harder than the first. It was also the start of daily exercise, bringing our youngest daughter to preschool everyday. I walked 5 km round trip, half of that pushing a jogging stroller along bumpy suburban sidewalks. I walked fast and felt strong. I felt great. The weight came off again and then some, totaling 23 lbs lost in a year.

March 2015- Lisa at approx 150 lbs 

March 2015- Lisa at approx 150 lbs 

I didn't care so much about the weight, though. I wanted to feel strong, fit and healthy.

Here it's July 2015. My daily walks with our youngest have ended as she started school with her sister, much closer to our home this past March. To make up for less time walking per day, I am taking 2 Pilates classes per week and trying to walk more on the weekends. I've also been looking for a yoga class nearby and have been exploring the concepts/motions of MovNat. Their motto "Be Strong To Be Useful". Who can argue with that??

Dr. Bernstein's Low Carb Diet for Diabetes Management: This past January, I re-discovered Dr. Bernstein's Book, "Diabetes Solution" after I bought it on Kindle last year.

Dr Bernstein is an 81-year-old Engineer (his first career) and Medical Doctor (he went to med school at age 40) that has had Type 1 Diabetes for the last 69 years. Dr. Bernstein has successfully reversed many of his own diabetic complications that came from years of high blood glucose levels following this diet that he advocates and discovered in the 1970s. He is currently practicing medicine in New York and accepting new patients.

I first read Dr. Bernstein's book in early 2014 and thought it was extreme and insane. It's an eating plan that is close to the Ketogenic diet, which has been used to treat Epilepsy since the early 1900's. Dr Bernstein's plan is close to what doctors prescribed to their patients at the discovery of insulin in the 1920's. It advocates very low carbohydrates to control diabetes blood glucose levels but even reverse the complications that high blood glucose levels produce. It is tough plan, with a limit of 30 grams of carbs per day, completely through vegetables, meat and dairy. No fruit. Higher fat than you'd imagine. Target blood glucose of 83 mg/dL. My target range is 70-95 mg/dL. 

So, with Dr. Bernstein's plan: 

  • Healthy fats/oils, eggs, red meat and dairy. YES!!!
  • Non-starchy vegetables. YES!!!
  • Nuts & seeds in limited quantities (depending on the type). YES!!!
  • Sugars (as in breads, crackers, pasta, rice, legumes, fruit, etc. -- because they are all turned into sugars in your body) ABSOLUTELY NO!

The first month was a difficult transition, but my blood glucose levels have been normal. Completely non-diabetic normal, with an  A1c of 4.4%. It had been so dramatic of a change that I don't know how I can give this up. I am not hungry, not feeling deprived and my T1D is completely under control. 

I am within a healthy weight range and BMI using all the recommended charts. (Based on some, my weight is still on the high end of recommended, others I fall right in the middle at 5'-10" and 150 lbs).

I feel great compared to the previous ups and downs of blood glucose levels that make a person feel tired, irritable and at times really foggy.

Do I feel less emotional, more clear headed, more ... ME?

I am happy to say.... YES!!!

March 2015-Lisa at approx. 150 lbs 

March 2015-Lisa at approx. 150 lbs 

** The next Health Post will discuss specific tools that I use and recommend to keep track of food and exercise. I'm not selling anything here, but there are things that work for me and keep me accountable on a daily basis.