Desperate Times Call for Critical Transformations…

After a series of (mostly) positive transitions in the past few months, my body was left feeling spent and terrible. Sugars were at an all-time high, my energy bottomed out, my carpal tunnel syndrome raging in both hands, joint aching, and my moods more variable than the Oregon spring weather. Even good change is hard.

But then I got some terrible news about my Dad.

Dad has been in heart failure for the past couple of years – he’s 58. Heart failure is a fatal condition in which the heart simply doesn’t have the capacity to keep up with the rigors of running a body. Also a type-1 diabetic, Dad spent years neglecting his self-care and that neglect had serious consequences: heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease, you name it. He is now biologically much older than his actual age and his quality of life sucks.

There was some (though not much) hope that his quality of life and longevity could be spared through either a heart transplant or a less-invasive procedure, a heart pump. However, a few weeks ago, Dad got rejected for both procedures. His weakened state and history of high blood sugars made it unlikely that he could withstand the anti-rejection drug regimen that follows a heart transplant. His high risk of infection made him a bad candidate for the pump because there are components of the pump that exist outside of the body (think open wound). Without either of these procedures, Dad is destined for few remaining years, which will be of poor quality.

What does this have to do with my diet? 

It is now more important than ever that I get my diabetes and general health in order for two reasons: First, Dad wants to see me healthy and happy before he goes. He has been an amazing (ah-mazing!) source of emotional and logistical support in both my move to Oregon and my transition into private practice (yeah, still working on that – anyone need a lawyer?). He needs to know I’ll be alright, and it’s my responsibility to get there. And although I absolutely want this for my own reasons, be it performance, aesthetics, and quality of life, Dad’s circumstances have slapped me back into the reality of doing the hard work. Ladies and gentlemen, we have exigency. 

Second, Dad’s poor prognosis has shined a spotlight on my own health and the potential consequences of continued diabetes mismanagement. For those of you who don’t know, diabetes effects everything. From your eyesight to your hydration to your circulation. Everything. Dad serves as an unfortunate bad example of how I may end up if I don’t get my act together and figure out this diabetes thing. So yeah – the bad family news and my own poor health resulting from crippling stress served as a pretty legit wake-up call. And getting my act together starts with the food I eat.

It Starts With Food

Let thy food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be thy food.  

~ Hippocrates, 460-377 BC

It is no mystery that our quality of life is deeply associated with the quality of our food. When I am stressed, I go straight for low-nutrition convenience foods. Needless to say, I’ve been feeling terrible – my 14-day BG averages have been hovering between 185-200. Yikes.

I conducted a little experiment: I switched over to an almost exclusively plant-based lifestyle with an emphasis on whole foods for two weeks. I have been flirting with the idea of going vegan for a little while now and it wasn’t a hard thing to do, given that I have been an on-and-off-again vegetarian for the past decade.

Why Plant-based?

There is a litany of reasons why I am choosing a plant-based diet. In short: proven health benefits, nutrient efficiency, respect for my animal neighbors, and to protect the environment. It also limits my food choices – when you’re vegan, you’re not burdened with a sort of decision overload with food.

The Results

I have gone from a 14-day average of 200 down to 160 in two weeks. I have more energy. I feel lighter. My moods are evening out. My sleep has improved. Can I attribute all of this to a plant-based lifestyle? Not quite sure yet because a lot has been going on lately and I’m only just starting to carve out my new routine.

Of course, I’m wondering as much as you are,“can I even pull this off?” There are scores of diabetic athletes, including members of Team Novo Nordisk, diabetic vegans such as Adrian Kiger and Melissa from Type1Vegan, and vegan athletes such as Rich Roll and Matt Frazier, the No Meat Athlete, but where are the diabetic vegan athletes? Those sound like unicorns.

Can I be that unicorn? Let’s find out.

Activism: Clint Smith and The Danger of Silence

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.   ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968

Clint Smith has provided one of the best TED talks I’ve seen on the hidden power of everyday advocacy – advocacy is not just found in prolific uprisings and protests of society’s activists, but also in our own simple refusal to keep quiet when we are confronted with the wrongs of the world in our daily lives.  You can be an activist in your smallest of circles and with your smallest of actions.

Smith reflects, “Everyday all around us, we see the consequences of silence manifest themselves in the form of discrimination, violence, genocide, and war.” Systemic atrocities or institutional violence/discrimination are not born overnight – they begin with a trickle of negativity or intolerance that is permitted by our silence to grow into a cascade of dangerous, galvanized action.

In his classroom, he encourages his students to find ways to open up and fill the void left by silence with these four core principles:

Read critically. Write consciously.  Speak clearly.  And tell your truth.

Call to Action 

Listen to this talk.  Enjoy the cadence of this man’s spoken word.  And then, I encourage you all to find your voice and speak up when injustice sneaks its way into the world around you.

“Validation doesn’t need words to endorse its existence.” 

Merry [Pump] Christmas!

merry christmas batman

After eleven stinking months of bitching at strangers on the phone, switching over to Oregon Health Plan (due to losing my job at the shitty, shitty restaurant), and fulfilling all of the compliance requirements in order to be approved for a pump by Kaiser’s weirdo DME committee….

I FINALLY HAVE A NEW PUMP!!!

Allow me to introduce you to Mister Plum, my brand-spanking new Medtronic Revel 523:

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What a handsome little fellow!  

This little monster is CGM-compatible and comes loaded with new, handy features (and complimentary gadgets) that will improve my diabetes management, including:

  • Post-meal BG reminder:  My A1c was recently rose back up to a dreadful 9.0, and my endocrinologist determined that a large part of the problem is my failure to test after meals. I simply forget. This function allows me to set my pump to squawk at me two hours after I eat, so forgetting is out of the question. The sooner I catch highs post-meal, the better I can control my overall sugars until I can determine what I’m doing wrong to get high post-meals in the first place. So stoked.
  • Capture Event function:  This function lets you capture certain moments in time that can be incorporated into your overall trends, such as BGs, exercise, insulin intake, and meals.
  • Missed Meal reminder:  If you have a problem forgetting to bolus with dinner, you can set a span of time to remind yourself to do so.  This is not as helpful for me at the moment because I do not eat at the same time every day.  Also, I generally do not forget to bolus with meals.
  • Bayer Contour Next Link blood glucose meter:  I *love* this thing:
    • The lancet device is less painful and the strips require much less blood than One Touch Ultras.
    • This meter is programmed to automatically ask you to categorize your reading as “Before Meal” and “After Meal” before you even see the reading itself.  This makes it easier to analyze whether you are off on your basal, carb-to-unit ratio, or are possibly in need of a carb-counting refresher.
    • Additionally, this meter has a built-in USB port, and communicates with your pump when plugged into the computer.  And now that CareLink has been upgraded to be more Mac-compatible, I will be able to get a better sense of my overall trends and behaviors.

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BG Reminder!

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The fancy Bayer Contour Next Link BG meter.  My new love. 

Lessons Learned

If you are in pump purgatory as I was, hang in there.  Be patient with the health administrators on the ground who are trying to get this done for you.  I promise you that they want to accommodate you, but because of the administrative hurdles instituted by top-down execs who mercilessly seek to cut costs, it will take time.  Try to humanize yourself to administrators to gain their sympathy (read: cooperation) and remind them why you are an excellent candidate for insulin pump therapy.  As an athlete, I argued that my dynamic and active lifestyle would be jeopardized by the constant eating you have to do while taking long-acting insulin* injections.  You can’t ramp down your insulin intake after you’ve taken a shot, so if you decide on an impromptu bike ride or random mountain climb, you have to eat beforehand or you’ll go low.  This makes weight management difficult, which in turn can affect how much insulin you require in the first place.  It’s a cycle, and remind them of that.  Keep your head up! 

Here’s to great control in the future with my new gadget!

Photo Credit: memecenter.com/keptinkurk

*Nota bene:  I am not full-scale attacking syringe-based insulin therapy.  Many respectable athletes use long-acting insulin.  I just believe that you have to be extremely regimented to make it work.  I am not.

Goal-Setting: My Ideal Body in Pictures and Numbers

In his book “Thinner, Leaner, Stronger,” Michael Matthews recommends setting tangible goals before you even pick up a weight, drop a calorie, or hop on a treadmill. I wholly agree.

I did not do this in the first few weeks because I was extremely motivated to get started and I didn’t want to plan myself out of execution, which is consistent with my rather cerebral tendencies.  But goal-setting is just as important as knowing your baseline, and now that I’ve had a few weeks to really reflect, I’m ready to articulate those goals.

In setting up your goals, Matthews recommends assessing (1) what your ideal body looks like; (2) what your ideal state of health would be like; and (3) why you’re doing this in the first place. Today, I will focus on my ideal body.

A Picture of my Ideal Body

Matthews recommends not just using mere words to describe your ideal body, but pictures. So I found a few. Here is my favorite:
Fit Chick 1What a fox! She embodies a lot of qualities I am looking for: Strong, good lines, lean… but NOT “skinny fat.” I’ve been around this size before, so I’m confident this is an attainable goal (with time and effort). I want a body indicative of a healthy, happy lifestyle, in which I’m not engaging in negativity or self-punishment.

And most importantly, I want my thighs to still touch:

Fit Chick ThighsThe Thigh Gap is not welcome in this house.*

My Ideal Body in Numbers

I finally got my body fat percentage tested at 24-Hour Fitness, by Corey, my new trainer. Sadly, it’s at a whopping 35%. With a body weight of 150 lbs, this translates into 97.5 lbs of muscle, and 52.5 lbs of fat!

I’m carrying a spry tween’s worth of weight on my thighs, hips, ass, arms, and belly. YUCK. No wonder I’ve been feeling like crap.

My ultimate goal is to weigh approximately 135 lbs and have 20% body fat, which means I need to lose 25.5 lbs of fat and gain 10.5 lbs of muscle. I’m not ignorant to the fact that this is a fairly significant “body recomp,” so I set a first milestone to weigh approximately 140 lbs and have 25% body fat. Corey estimated that at a healthy rate of losing 2% of body fat each month, I can reach this goal in five months.

((whimper)) …wish me luck!

*I have A LOT of opinions on this Thigh Gap and Thinspo garbage circulating the internet and infiltrating the minds of young women out there. Stay tuned for more information on this dubious subject, and the all-out war to follow. It’s on, bitches.  

Update on the Stupid Stupid Leg

I suffered a crappy fracture of my distal fibula last July. I was stuck on crutches for a little over a month and in a walking boot for an additional month and a half on top of that. It grounded me, took me away from my bike right as the beautiful Oregon summer started, and made me completely miserable and unable to provide for myself financially. The road to recovery has been a little longer and rougher than I anticipated. It has been quite frustrating, as it has limited my options for transitioning back into peak performance. I can’t jog or do any dynamic exercises, so a lot of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is out (for now, damnit!).

When I got healthcare through Kaiser Permanente, I was referred to a great PT named Rachel. I had my follow-up physical therapy appointment with her today. Mixed feelings.

Bad News: Still no jogging, jump squats, or anything else fairly dynamic.

“DAMN YOU LEGGGGG!!!!” ((throws fists to sky))

Good News: I have gained a significant amount of flexibility and strength back in my ankle and have been graduated up to more functional and aggressive forms of PT. I have a check up in a month to see (1) more progress and (2) to assess if I can start more dynamic activities. She suggested more pool and bike time, so I’ll be doing that.

LESSONS LEARNED
I think back to when I fractured my leg and all I can say is that I am so so so thankful not to be on crutches anymore. However, the fracture taught me a few good life lessons/self-observations:

  1. I learned the generosity and kindness of strangers and my awesome friends, who continuously opened doors, walked out my groceries for me, and entertained my bored ass.
  2. But…. that other kinds of strangers SUCK, like the ones who have the brass balls to hit on me on while crippled. Please, oh please, DON’T tell me to smile or how pretty I look while I’m tooling around on my “fun sticks.” I’m not going to give you the change in my pocket…. or sex.
  3.  I am learning here and there to ask for help. I am a stubborn cow.
  4. My former relationship was not as strong as I thought. This was a tough lesson to learn, but without the outdoors as a buffer/bonding mechanism, my relationship fizzled. Though I’m sure there were more complicated factors than just that. But it surely didn’t help a new relationship in need of nurturing. C’est La Vie.

Anyone else have any valuable life lessons/self-observations from a substantial injury?

Switching Gyms and Leaving my Comfort Zone

“The reason for our suffering is our resistance to the changes in life.”
~ Leo Babauta, Zen Habits

For those of you who know me in real life, you probably know that I don’t necessarily respond well to change – particularly when it comes to routines upon which I have come to rely. However, I am quite aware of how certain types of conflict can be extremely healthy, as conflict has the potential to spur progress. I consider conflict to be a wide range of things, including a disconnect with what you may find comfortable. Change is conflict.

This week, my small mom-and-pop gym closed down. Now, there were a lot of things I did not like about this gym. The staff basically gave up on the place – floors remained unswept and essential items not stocked. Also, this gym had an iterative identity problem, demonstrated by the owner’s constant moving of things around, which was a major source of aggravation for me. On the rare occasion when I did need something, staff members were hard to find because the owner removed the front desk/station. Oh, and the owner kept the kettle bells locked up for the paid group exercise sessions. God, that pissed me off something fierce.

All this being said, I had one area where I worked out, it was low-priced, and I was for the most part content. But I was not seeing results.

When I was told the gym was closing, I felt that same internal panic mode activate – now what?!? Not having a gym was certainly not an option, as I had recently (and publicly) committed to returning to peak fitness and health. But I definitely did not want to get stuck going to a big-box, warehouse-style gym, surely packed with judgmental, hard-bodied gym-rats. With those obsessive-compulsive personality traits. Those Type A’s. The last time I did a trial membership at a large gym, I hated it – I felt like a jelly-legged slob being silently assessed by these people with superior physiques. And it shut me down. Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to gym-shopping.

Irony: I am now a member of a big-box, warehouse gym, 24-Hour Fitness, a national fitness chain. It’s a “Super Sport” facility, which translates into bigger.than.shit. It’s massive, and is apparently one of the busiest gyms company-wide.

Picture of Gym

My visit to this monolith of a gym taught me something crucial: There wasn’t a problem with that large gym long ago, the problem was me. The problem was my projection of self-doubt and insecurity onto others – strangers that I didn’t know and whose minds I certainly couldn’t read (I’m not Sookie Stackhouse). I also learned something awesome about myself: I’m not that insecure person anymore. Throughout this complicated journey of having a chronic illness, I have developed my own sense of self and a unique sense of self-protection that comes with having to prioritize your health over pretty much everything else. No matter what someone has to say or think about me, at the end of the day, I have to take care of myself in a very tangible way. And somehow that crossed over to my perception of self.

Change = Progression

This change, this conflict, is just what I needed. I look forward to discovering what my new gym has to offer me on my journey back to peak fitness. I now see my new community of hard-bodies and I am inspired. I admire the hard work they’ve put into optimizing their health and wellness. And I am prepared to follow suit.

Photo credit: Urban Spoon