diabetes

Of Wellness and WW

Back in 2018 I wound up with multiple compacted nerves on the top of my left foot. The doctor I saw at that time basically told me I could either have surgery or lose weight. I’ve struggled with obesity my entire life…well, since adolescence at least, though I was always teased about being bigger than the other kids. So, losing weight sounded hard. However, as a single parent to a child with special needs, with no source of income of my own at the time, I knew trying to recover from surgery would be beyond challenging and more acutely painful. Losing weight became my goal . . . again.

That was about the time Weight Watchers rebranded to WW and updated their slogan and program to be more focused on overall wellness and not just losing weight: Wellness Wins. I joined and decided I was going to use it like an AA or NA meeting. I knew that with Binge Eating Disorder and my lifelong history of starting a weight loss program, sometimes a fad diet but often just lifestyle changes, I would lose weight but couldn’t sustain the changes on my own. I knew that I eat for way more reasons than simple, physical hunger. I needed support and accountability.

I was working on my mental health and parenting a child with special needs. I was not able to be employed due to those two things. I committed to 90 meetings in 90 days. I did it! I completed the 90 workshops in 90 days. I wound up losing about 30 lbs. Then finances were just too difficult and I hit my traumaversary season. I stopped attending workshops and let my WW membership go. Eventually the weight creeped back up.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving of 2019. My middle child, who was 27 at the time, was pregnant with baby #4. They and their partner, along with three littles, wound up houseless and had nowhere to go. So, they moved in with me. By the time COVID hit, they were on extended maternity leave due to some complications.

I started staying with a friend due to how overcrowded my apartment had become and how the sensory overload affected both me and my youngest child who is on the Autism Spectrum. My youngest grandchild was born in April, four days before I started a job which had me engaging with people who struggled with their mental health and couldn’t consistently follow COVID protocols. Since baby and parent were both so medically fragile, I continued to stay with my friend.

At her house were all the things: chips, cookies, candy, soda, and regular (almost daily) take out. I ballooned up to about 300 lbs. So, from the time I ended my WW journey in February of 2019 until I moved back into my apartment in November 2020, I gained close to 60 lbs.

Fast forward to February of this year. I started with a new Primary Care Provider and got a baseline physical. My diabetes had been left unchecked for so long that I was in danger and had already started experiencing neuropathy in my feet. The information about the diabetes and the status of my health, even though it scared me, it also triggered the Depression and the Binge Eating Disorder and I gained 12 lbs.

At the end of March I began a nutrition program which was very expensive and unsustainable behaviorally because of how rigorous, complex, and rigid it was. On April 1st I rejoined WW, with the knowledge that the other program would only last a month or two and that I would use it as a bridge until I could stabilize medically and use WW to support the ongoing healthy lifestyle and mindset changes I need to make the changes last as a complete remaking of how I live life in healthy and constructive ways.

WW isn’t just about weight loss. As one member I know puts it, “This is about taking care of my health through changing my lifestyle behaviors. The weight loss is a side effect.” Members support and encourage each other. They share successes and struggles. While scale victories are celebrated the NSVs (Non-Scale Victories) are celebrated as well and sometimes more than the weight loss. They focus on four pillars: Food, Activity, Sleep, and Mindset. For me, it’s about mindset.

I’ve participated in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) for mood and symptom management for the cPTSD and the Bipolar. Everything WW teaches and focuses on about mindset and how they approach the lifestyle behavior changes reminds me of DBT. So much so that I call it DBT Lite. Attending virtual workshops daily and going in person to the studio once a week are what is keeping me grounded.

Finances are shifting again. It really looks like I’m not going to be able to continue attending WW if I have to pay for it. They have a Refer a Friend program where if I refer a friend who joins, we both get a free month.

The trouble is, I don’t have that many friends. So, I’m putting this out into the blogosphere. If you or someone you know is struggling with their health and their weight, and they don’t want a fad diet, but want to learn how and why to make long-lasting lifestyle changes, with the encouragement and support of others who know what it’s like, please consider WW.

Just like AA, WW works if you work it and it’s a day by day, moment by moment choice. If you or your loved ones check it and decide to join, please join using the link below. Doing so will help me to continue my journey with the support I need.

https://www.weightwatchers.com/us/checkout/iaf/?iaftoken=3F73F2E300

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Long time, no see

2:11 am on Sunday, July 17, 2022

Insomnia has struck again. So, I decided I need to start blogging again. Not for anyone other than myself or any reason other than I miss writing…even though I don’t really know what to write about anymore. I just looked and realized it’s been more than a year since I wrote anything here. I’ve written posts on FB and IG. Many of those have been essay length. But, nothing like blogging.

I miss the blogging community I used to be part of. I miss that sense of connectedness through language. So, here I am, wanting to rebuild my writing self. Who knows, maybe I’ll build something new inside of me.

For anyone who followed me in the past, I’ll try to give a quick synopsis. For any who are reading me for the first time, I’ll introduce myself.

July 16, 2022

Hi, I’m Lillian.

I’m a 53 year old mother of three and grandmother of four. My youngest child is 13 and experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum. My two oldest children are 35 and 29. The 29 year old and their 29 year old partner have four children: 8, 7, 4, & 2…their family lives with me. So, when my teenager is home, there are eight humans and one canine…in a two bedroom, one bath apartment. Yeah. You read all of that right.

After not being employed since mid-2012, primarily due to mental health reasons and the special needs of my youngest, I was finally able to rejoin the workforce in April of 2020. I started as a Residential Counselor in Supported Housing for adults experiencing mental health challenges. A year later, I transitioned into my current role as an Adult Mental Health Peer Wellness Specialist. Basically I get to use my lived experience of coping with mental health challenges (and navigating all the systems which impact a person living with those challenges) to walk alongside others going through similar challenges.

Who knew my trauma history and mental illness could be a positive force in the world? I certainly didn’t for most of my life. Now, here I am, doing the work my life has equipped me for. I’m turning the excrement of my life into fertilizer in the lives of others. That gives me a sense of purpose…something I lacked for a very long time.

All I could see were my limitations and defects.

It’s Disability Pride Month. There isn’t a fully official flag…yet. I did some research on what the colors represent and put together a flag which represents what I live with on a daily basis.
Black = Sleep issues = Sleep Apnea
Purple = Chronic/Acute Pain = Fibromyalgia & Neuropathy
Red = Heart issues = High Blood Pressure
Blue = Thyroid issues = Hypothyroidism
Yellow = Obesity
Green = Mental Illness = Bipolar 2 Disorder, Depression, cPTSD, & Binge Eating Disorder
Black = Sleep issues = Chronic Insomnia

My Disability Flag

Currently there are two main things I’m struggling with out of this laundry list of ailments: Diabetes, type 2 & Bipolar Disorder, also type 2.

Back in February, I found out that my A1C was 11 and my non-fasting blood glucose level was almost 500. If you don’t know what these numbers mean, that’s actually great for you. It means it’s likely you don’t have diabetes concerns. On the other hand, if you research it and check out the symptoms list, you may discover you need to learn more about it. Anyway, basically, I should have been hospitalized…and my doctor of that time actually requested I go to the ER to get checked out, three days after those tests were done.

In March, I started a rigorous (and expensive!) nutrition program. It worked. I lost seven pounds the first week. By week three I had to reduce my insulin intake by 15 units. On April 1st I rejoined WW (Weight Watchers). I was on a roll and doing really well with my activity, my eating, my thinking, and my creativity. I had more energy. I gained more confidence. I was feeling really proud of myself. Then my bipolar brain started going haywire.

All those feel good things and lifestyle changes, along with seasonal changes, impacted my neurochemistry and sent me into manic mode…but I didn’t recognize it until several weeks had passed and I was completely off the rails with risky, out of control behavior. I couldn’t face the truth until I realized how much I was risking: my health, my mental health recovery, my relationships, and my future. It was very demoralizing once I faced the truth.

I talked to both of my therapists, my prescriber, and my newest doctor. Adjustments were made and it took another few weeks to come down. Then, I spiraled down. I stopped moving. I reverted to old patterns and the binge eating began. I quit the nutrition program…I couldn’t afford it and the “health coach” I had was really aggravating me. Then, I stopped attending the WW virtual workshops and skipped the in person studio workshop, after two weeks of weight gain. Additionally, financial changes out of my control started happening with my employer and a creditor. So, I realized I wouldn’t be able to continue with WW, once my initial membership commitment expires in September.

I very nearly gave up.

Friday night I logged into my first workshop in nearly two weeks. I showed up at the studio yesterday and weighed in. I had gained almost eight and a half pounds in two weeks. My heart plummeted and I felt nauseated. It was very disheartening. At the same time, it was motivating. I went home and decided I was going to something to make me feel good about myself and I did my makeup, which I hardly ever do. I used color, which I never do. I used green to represent the Bipolar I’ve been battling.

I’m still committed to taking the bad and using it to do good.

Confession of a type 2 diabetic sugar addict

My IG confession

Confession: I’m a Type 2 diabetic who is addicted to sugar & carbs, in all forms… especially soda.

I (semi-deliberately, because mental health issues) misplaced my glucometer and haven’t taken my blood sugar levels for months…after having an a1c of over 12.

I just found my meter and poked my finger. The result? 402.

For those not familiar with the meaning and significance of the terms and numbers:
Glucometer is a portable piece of equipment a person uses to measure their blood sugar in the moment. Three times a person might take a measurement is upon waking, after an 8-12 hour “fast.” This is what I did this morning. The goal is under 200. Immediately before a meal, two hours after a meal, and before bed are other common testing times.

A1C is a blood test taken in the doctor’s office that measures the degree of sugar in the blood stream over the previous 90 days. A 5-5.5 indicates pre-diabetes. A 6 is diabetic.

I have a lot of work to do.

Right now, my first goal is to kick the soda. The measurable goal is to get my fasting blood sugar under 200.

I’ve been drinking more water. I’ve been trying sparkling water… it’s a taste I’m not sure I’ll ever acquire. Sugar substitutes are a non-starter and fruit juices are still sugars.

I’m literally addicted to soda as much as anyone can be addicted to drugs and alcohol. I haven’t been able to say, “no,” when offered. I haven’t been able to leave it alone if it’s around.

I think I need a soda sober buddy. No joke.

Trying to care for me

In the five years between these two photos:
I stopped being employed;
I left a two decade toxic relationship;
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, diabetes, bipolar disorder, and cPTSD;
My youngest child was identified as experiencing High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder;
Two grandchildren were born;
Relationships with my two adult children have been restored and improved; and I’m navigating the ongoing process of co-parenting with the ex.

I guess, my adult daughter could be right about vampire DNA 😂
02/24/2021 – In the four years since the above collage photo, I’ve become grandma to two more grandchildren (4 GRANDKIDS! 😲 🤯); Fought time and time again to stabilize from hypomania & depression; worked my @$$ off to get employment ready; completed two vocational programs simultaneously; and became employed during a pandemic…all in the midst of chronic turmoil and drama.

The smile hides depression and self-loathing…a severe lack of self-esteem and sense of futility. The hair and angle of the pic hide the double chin and side padding of obesity. You can’t see the fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, type 2 diabetes, PTSD, Bipolar 2 Disorder, and Binge Eating Disorder. Yet, I look healthier and happier than ever before… according to an FB friend.

I wrote about being functionally depressed and nothing has really changed. I still pretty much only venture forth from my dwelling are occasional grocery shopping trips and to to work. My ADLs (Activities of daily living) are sporadic – personal hygiene is taken care of whenever I have to leave the apartment or I feel too disgusted by myself. Nutrition is not a frequent thing…I may or may not eat 2 Baked Lays single serve bags of chips for breakfast or dinner. One thing has improved – I’m not waking up gasping, choking and feeling like I may have had a heart attack because I’m using my C-pap machine to deal with the sleep apnea again.

Despite the depression, I did a thing and I took a risk. I applied for a Full-time position within the organization I am currently employed with. It’s a Peer Support position, which I completed my training, with flying colors, just as the COVID shutdown started last year. I just emailed the department that manages such things to ensure my application has been received. It has been received and submitted to the hiring manager.

I’m also reaching out or responding to opportunities to connect with people I’m connected to through my faith community. I’m participating in a book study of Rich Villodas, The Deeply Formed Life. I participate in our weekly Zoom service. Right now we’re discussing how it might look when we start meeting again, since some of our faith family isn’t able to engage and participate often unless it’s remotely. I submitted some ideas, which were favorably received.

Partially because of the diabetes, I’ve decided to join a couple of my friends on a menu planning journey next month. I’m in no way prepared. The logistics of my life are chaotic and kind of overwhelming. So, I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to make it a complete success. However, I reminded myself “progress not perfection.” That made my inner perfectionist cringe in horror.

To that end, I decided to focus on breakfast. Simple, quick, easy diabetic friendly breakfasts I can prep primarily in the microwave. The first recipe I found was Breakfast Burrito in a Jar on Diabetic Foodie. Since I don’t have jars, I followed the link to the next breakfast, Mexican Microwave Scramble.

Between the Depression, Hypothyroidism, and fibromyalgia, as well as circumstances in my life, I’m really fatigued & low energy. I’m not sure how I’m still functioning at all. I just know that no matter how close I come, giving up isn’t an option.

How are you doing? For real, sometime sharing helps.

Starting Off Right

I actually started making changes back in November when I got the test results for my cholesterol on November 1st.

Those a pretty scary numbers! They mean I’m at risk for heart disease…on top of the hypothyroidism and diabetes.

I’m a year and a half away from 50. I have three g-babes ages 5 week to three years, and I have a third grader with special needs at home. By my reckoning, I have a minimum of 20 years to go before saying goodbye to my family is an option – as far as it’s within my power to make it happen.

So, after the initial shocked fear dissipated, I exercised one of my superpowers – internet searching.

I decided that nutrition and exercise have to be my solution. I searched for cholesterol reducing foods. There were a lot of them, mostly veggies – which is great. However, I need something other than veggies to eat for breakfast. Especially since I also started going back to water aerobics in the mornings.

Do you know what the ‘Net told me I need to eat for breakfast? Oatmeal.

Yuck.

A) I’ve never been much of a hot cereal kind of gal. To be honest, I’m not big on hot anything. Even in the middle of winter I prefer my coffee cold. Weird, I know.

B) Texture. All the oatmeal I’ve ever had has been rolled, quick, or instant. Mostly instant. Thin and slimy or thick and gooey. No. Thank. You. I never met a bowl of oatmeal that was right.

C) Flavor or lack thereof. Unless it’s the flavored instant, which is overly sweet and usually with extra chunky bits of dehydrated fruit. Then it’s too sweet. Butter & brown sugar are needed just to make it palatable…which kind of defeats the purpose. Yeah? Yeah.

So. Oatmeal. Not what I wanted to discover is one of the number one cholesterol fighting foods. Bonus, it helps regulate blood sugar as well. Ugh.

There was more information the webs gave me, which I found exceedingly helpful. There are other forms besides rolled, quick, and instant. Namely steel cut.

There doesn’t appear to be a significant difference in nutritional values. However, in my opinion, the texture and taste are so much better! I like to crunch and chew when I eat. This gave me something to sink my teeth into. There is a subtle nutty flavor. It’s still pretty bland, especially if it’s cooked with too much water. However, it DOES have some flavor!

Initially, I did the butter and brown sugar bit, but tapered that off and stopped after the first week.

The next problem for me and oatmeal, we’ll, not oatmeal per se, but anything consumed on a repetitive basis, monotony.

I like flavor. I like texture. I like variety.

However, I’ve been in survival mode for so long that creativity and imagination are a bit stagnant, especially when I’m in the kitchen. More about that some other time.

Plain oatmeal, regardless of slightly nutty flavor and chewy texture, gets really old, really fast.

Solution? Facebook crowdsourcing. I wrote a quick post explaining the issue and asking for ideas. Many of them were standard: raisins, apples, cinnamon, and other spices. The two suggestions which stood out for me were peanut butter and bananas.

Two tablespoons of natural (zero additives) crunchy peanut butter and half a banana mixed into a cup of oatmeal is perfect for me!

I can make several servings at once, refrigerate the leftovers, and have breakfast for a week ready to go.

Winning!

What’s your “go to” breakfast? If you eat oatmeal or any other hot cereal, what are your favorite add-ins?

Making Healthy Changes: Why should I care about myself?

Last Monday I had blood work done and on Tuesday I got the news that my A1C blood sugar was back in the diabetic range at 7.3 and that my secondary thyroid hormone was out of balance with the primary thyroid hormone. The doc wanted to start me on Metformin and increase the thyroid medication I’ve been on for about a year and a half that has already been increased once. My weight is also back up to nearly 280 lbs.

Not interested. Why?

Well, first off, I’m pretty sure that the reason for the blood sugar increase, the worsening thyroid imbalance, and the weight gain is because I haven’t really taken care of myself, or felt the desire to take care of myself, for a long time, especially since March of this year, probably earlier, but, I can pinpoint a significant event in March that still brings tears to my eyes.

In my past writings on this blog, I would have gone into excruciating detail about what happened in March and what’s happened since then. However, I don’t want to operate that way anymore, for several reasons:

  • First, I hurt people I care about with my public airing of our relationship issues and interactions. I don’t want to hurt the ones I love.
  • Second, I have learned that the reliving of my traumatic experiences, even in writing, is a symptom of the PTSD and the more I stay focused on what is traumatizing and upsetting, the more I feed the anxiety and depression.
  • Third, I have limited amounts of time and energy. I can use it all up by retelling all that went before (an impossible and impractical task) or I can get forward focused and solution oriented.

This change is not an easy one, since it’s been my modus operandi most of my adult life. However, just as changing my eating and lifestyle habits are necessary for my wellbeing, it is an absolute must.

So, here I am, depressed, overwhelmed, and not really giving a crap about whether I get healthy and live a quality life for as long as possible…at least not because of any positive feelings or hope I have for myself. Instead, the best reason is that my six-year-old, who experiences High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder and has a lot of behavioral issues related to that, needs me healthier and stronger so I can better meet her needs. Secondary motivations are being a positive and interactive grandmother for my two grand babies, who are now almost 20 & 8 months old, and being an example of hope for the future for their momma, my oldest daughter, who is 22, overwhelmed, and struggling with her own self-esteem/self-care issues.

My research indicates that nutrition is the biggest co-factor for just about everything I’m experiencing. More to the point, the way I eat is slowly killing my mind and my body. This means it’s also affecting my relationships and my ability to parent, be a good friend, and member of society. Basically, I feel like my physical & mental health, as well as most of my relationships, are on a negative, cascading, downward spiral.

Now, I’m faced with a decision: Do I commit to necessary changes, no matter what, OR do I allow the apathy, discouragement, depression, anxiety, fear, and tangible obstacles keep me on this slow roll to self-destruction?

Obviously, committing to making changes to improve my health and relationships is the preferred. However, the big question is how do I push through the physiological, biological, neurological, and psychological realities of depression, PTSD, and 46 years of physical, auditory, visual, kinetic, and mental self-destructive habits that feed off of each other?

I have taken a set of first steps. I’ve opened up to a few closed/secret groups on Facebook that have people I trust and people who are on similar journeys of health and significant life change, about what is going on with me and what I’m trying to do. Now, I’m also doing so here. I’ve reached out directly to a couple of people who are farther along in their journeys and asked them for their mentorship and support. I’ve also started working on researching why certain eating plans might help with certain conditions and have a general plan of action in place.

I’m starting with Whole30 as the foundation. I found Whole30 free downloads that cover the basics of the plan and a variety of specifics, including shopping lists for omnivores, vegetarians, egg & nightshade free, low-histamine, and low-FODMAP diets. I’m combining the last three because the multiple health issues I have and their symptoms could indicate Histamine Intolerance, IBS/GI issues exacerbated by FODMAP foods, and (unscientifically reported) symptoms of reactions to nightshade foods (more about nightshades, here). It’s entirely possible that none of these conditions are scientifically provable conditions. However, I need to do something besides let the doctors put me on lots of medications I have trouble remembering to take and that have a host of side effects of their own. So, this is what I’m going to do.

Essentially, I’m going sugar-free, grain free, dairy free, citrus/acidic free, and simple starch free . . . all foods that make up the majority of what my six-year-old and I now eat. I told her about this last week and she cried. I’m trying not to. Eat to live, not live to eat, right? If this way of eating will reduce the brain fog, fatigue, chronic pain, insomnia, depression and host of other issues I’m struggling with, surely it will be worth it?

Next post, I’ll provide a list of foods which remain open to me and see what recipes I can find that will make them palatable.