Diabetes and me. Maybe, help for you?

Everybody has a different diabetes story- and everybody is different. So what worked for me, may or may not work for you. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV. But, within 6 months, I got off Metformin, dropped weight, and had my A1c go from 8.8 to 5.5 (currently at 5.9). I got a ton of conflicting advice- and the worst of it was from health care providers who almost always prefer pharmaceutical solutions to actual solutions.

I’ve been high risk for diabetes from birth. My mothers side has plenty of folks with it, my father developed it around the same age I did- 60. He ended up on insulin and it contributed to his death at 89. He and I have much different lifestyles- I never smoked, I’ve always been active, and I never ate a stick of butter wrapped in a piece of bread in my life.

My A1c had hit 6.0 almost 2 years before, but for some reason, the VA didn’t check it in the year between. This is why it’s important for you to check on what the doctor orders. When I hit 8.8, they delivered Metformin to me before even having a discussion about the diagnosis and what it meant. After a few days of gastro discomfort, I tolerated it. But, at the same time, I radically changed my diet- giving up carbs. I went keto. Meats, fats, veggies, but no potatoes or bread. Out went pasta, pizza, and the granola I ate in the morning. I also started monitoring my blood sugar with a meter- that arrived much after the metformin (go figure). A fellow vet who was a diabetic gave me one of his old meters long before the VA gave me one- and I started sticking myself 3-5x a day. My blood sugar was all over the map- but, data was very helpful.

In fact, the idea of healthy people monitoring their blood sugar isn’t a bad idea either- because having a numerical reading of how your body is feeling/feeding is cathartic- mind blowing. At first, I realized that I could actually feel high blood sugar (170+). When it shoots up, I get a tension in the back of my neck- just behind my ears. Time to walk and drink water was what I learned. When my blood sugar used to drop to 100- I’d feel like crap, and sluggish. Eat a piece of fruit or some protein and things got better. Now, it had to fall to mid-eighties before I feel out of it. I started learning that if I eat enough protein, a little bit of carbs isn’t bad. I also learned, there’s sugar in EVERYTHING- and finding out that the ketchup is as bad as the fries really ruins everything (except I’d given up french fries- and ketchup).

Less the 4 months on Metformin, I’d dropped from 230lbs to around 205/210. And then, the awaking happened. I’d missed my morning dose in the AM, and taken it around 1pm. At 7, I took my evening dose. Next thing you know- I’m sitting in my recliner shivering, shaking and in a mental fog. I couldn’t figure out what to do- or what I needed to do. My friend Pam, who’s a nurse, is also my housemate. Luckily she came in- found me blubbering- and started stuffing carbs in me. It took about 45 minutes to come back to the world. At that point I decided that I’m going off the metformin and doing this without big pharma.

The VA had a fit. First, keto was bad. And my cholesterol was already high- and I don’t do well on statins. Well, a year and half later- while my cholesterol is still high- it’s dropped, thanks to diet, exercise and weight loss. So here’s the rest of what I’ve done- and my suggestions to you.

I started swimming daily. A half mile every day. It takes me 30 minutes in the pool. City of Dayton rec pass for a veteran of my age is $60 a year. They have 2 pools, but are not competent enough to keep both open 6 days a week. I like swimming because it’s low impact- and because I almost find it to be like meditation. I have an Apple watch that tracks my laps and calories burned. I do it first thing, before I eat in the morning. BTW- my morning blood sugar norm is now around 115, down from the 140-160’s when I started.

I use the app MySugr which links to my meter. If you stick yourself 3x a day for a week, it will estimate your A1c. However, the cost of test strips is insane (luckily the VA pays for mine) and sticking yourself that many times a day sucks.

I eat the same breakfast every day. And, if you don’t have a Costco membership, I highly recommend one, they have lots of amazing things that people on Keto or low sugar diets will love.

My breakfast is Greek yogurt (protein) with a half to whole teaspoon of cinnamon mixed in (cinnamon is supposed to help process sugar), on top of that fresh blueberries and fresh strawberries. The finishing touch is a keto friendly granola that is the best granola I’ve ever eaten, NuTrail Blueberry Cinnamon (I’ve included an Amazon affiliate link, but your Costco membership will save you about $4 a bag).

I also usually eat a banana. Now, here’s where I get bad- another product that I found at Costco- made by a company called Catalina Crunch out of Indianapolis is a little treat. I order these by the 16 box case about once every month. They are their Vanilla Creme keto cookies- and with bananas – oh so good.

I can’t get these at Costco- but, I became a Catalina Crunch affiliate, so here’s the link to them. Shop Our Keto Sandwich Cookies! I also get the Chocolate sandwich cookies. They don’t taste like Oreo’s- but if you are eating keto- they are the next closest thing. What I can get at Costco is their version of “Cinnamon Toast Crunch” without the sugar- and again, a Costco membership will save you money, but here’s an affiliate link:

KETO FRIENDLY CEREAL from Catalina Crunch: 0g Sugar, 8g Protein, 5g Net Carbs and 7g Fiber. Gluten & Grain Free I eat this sometimes for a snack dry- or for dinner when I’m too tired to cook. I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk with it. Sometimes I add strawberries or blueberries or both- or some of the NuTrail granola. Pure heaven. I’ve never tried any of the other cereal flavors. I love this stuff.

Usually by 11am I’m starting to get hungry again. This is where I eat a piece of string cheese, sometimes with some beef jerky (I’d like to cut the jerky out- because while it adds protein, it also almost always has too much sodium). There are also some Costco Kirkland protein bars that I probably shouldn’t eat- but they have 10g of protein- and keep me from having a blood sugar drop.

A former girlfriend dropped off a “Legendary” protein Pastry- with 20 G of Protein and 4g net carbs- she gets them at Target, but Amazon has them too. So good- like a poptart- but not sickly sweet. I had the “brown sugar cinnamon” flavor.

I never drank a lot of soda, I don’t drink coffee or tea, I don’t drink alcohol either- so it’s been water for me. I’ve always tried to drink a few quarts a day. and it’s even more important now. So while a lot of you think diet soda may be ok- I’d rather eat protein- even if it includes some dark chocolate (which is keto friendly).

For snacks, another thing that Costco has that’s interesting is chick pea based products. They have pasta and a fake cheese puff made out of them. They also have hummus, but if I have time I make my own. The pasta is from Banza and is passable for pasta (you are talking to someone raised on pasta). The cheese things- are from Hippeas, who have the brilliant tag line “give peas a chance.” They aren’t crunchy- but they are tasty. This is my normal side for my lunches.

Some neighbors who eat low carb turned me on to Aunt Millie’s Live Carb Smart breads. I can eat the white bread, I can say I like the wheat, and I love the hamburger and hot dog buns, but I would marry their Hawaiian rolls. Sometimes I find the Hawaiian rolls at Meijer, sometimes I find the buns at Kroger, but no one ever has them all at once. However, their bagels and English muffins- I wouldn’t feed to my dog- you’ve been warned.

For lunch- I’m usually in a rush- so it’s either an Italian Sausage or a burger on the Breville pannini grill that my dear friend and neighbor Amanda gave me. It makes quick work of heating frozen burgers, and generally drains the fat. The other device I find useful is an air fryer- but, mostly for warming things up.

Dinner is often grilled meat, or homemade chilli, or a cauliflower crust pizza in desperation. Salads, steamed broccoli, etc. One of the things about eating keto for a while- is that I get full faster on less. Smaller portions have been the norm.

Eating keto is expensive, so eating out has decreased considerably. Treats out include sushi, or the occasional Popeye’s chicken sandwich, or salad and kufta at Olive Mediterranean Grill downtown.

For rewards, I’ve come to like the Rebel brand keto ice cream (check out the flavors) I can usually get it at Meijer or Kroger. It’s almost $6 a pint. Pro tip- let it sit out for about 5 minutes after you scoop it into the bowl. For added fun, I sometimes toss some crushed nuts on top.

I’ve also found the Yasso brand frozen treats at Costco. Their “Poppables” which are little frozen pieces of yogurt dipped in dark chocolate are amazing- with restraint. Unfortunately, they don’t always have them- and sometimes I have to settle for the yogurt on a stick.

Costco also carries the Skinny Dipped line of low sugar treats. The Peanut butter/dark chocolate cups are really good, but the lemon bliss yogurt covered almonds are like crack. You’ve been warned.

A few other things that really have made a difference is that I try not to eat after 8pm- and I’ve been working super hard at getting more sleep. My Apple watch has an App called AutoSleep that tracks my sleep length, type and quality and I it does seem to make a difference when I’m not in sleep debt (I aim for 6 hours a night) and I get 100 on the “sleep-o-meter.” Note, the watches Apple sells now do not have the pulse ox sensor – so try to find an older one if you don’t have one that does it now.

I know my body is changing, I feel better, leaner, and stronger. I could still lose some more weight- but, it’s coming off slow- which means it will more likely stay off. When I was down to 205- I wasn’t feeling great, but then again, I was still on Metformin.

The VA diabetes coach fired me in November- she said there was nothing more she could help me with, I was doing great. I do think I need to add in some more exercises- either the rowing, weight lifting (now that my rotator cuff is fully healed) and possibly resubscribe to Supernatural on the Meta Quest headset which I loved before the rotator cuff went south.

I don’t feel like keto is very hard to maintain- I can always eat a salad anywhere. The hardest part has been cutting back on bread and pizza. Est Est Est in the Arcade has one of the best cauliflower crust pizza’s I’ve ever had, and Dayton’s Original Pizza Factory has a cauliflower crust (really good) with their funky toppings, but only in a small pizza.

I know this post is a bit long as it is- but I hope that more than one of you finds it helpful- especially, anyone who has recently been diagnosed with Type II diabetes. If you have any products you love- or suggestions- please leave them in the comments.

Here’s the song for this post. Sweet Freedom Diabetes.

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