My son and I decided to adopt a vegetarian diet for Lent. It’s required a whole new mindset when it comes to meal planning. There are positives though.
We are a week into lent and my son and I had decided that we would give up meat for our Lenten fast. While I am not a religious person, there are certain Christian rituals that I still believe in and look forward to participating in. Lent is one of them. For the record I was baptised into the Anglican faith as a baby and had my son baptised into it as well simply because it is one of those rituals that brings my soul peace.
Anyway, back to my vegetarian challenge! It’s been rough. Other than the odd margherita pizza or a Greek salad, my son and I don’t generally do vegetarian dishes. It was also a spur of the moment decision so we were not prepared. There we were, munching on our flapjacks (we did not have pancake mix and were lazy to make some from scratch) on Shrove Tuesday when we decided that we would change our fast from chips and chocolates to meat. With the cost of living today, both could be considered luxuries.
Thus far, besides vegetarian pizza’s, we have yet to find at least 5-6 dishes that we enjoy and can rotate for the Lenten period. There is still 6 weeks to go after all.😜 My son was partial to the vegetarian version of “chicken nuggets” although I have a feeling they will be wasted if I buy them again. My vegetarian pasta was awfully boring last night so I won’t be trying that particular recipe again. I think tomorrow I will make a vegetable curry to excite the taste buds a little (hopefully). Any tasty vegetarian recipes recommendations will be very welcome by the way.
On the positive side, it has been good to spend the first week of lent strengthening my connection to God through prayer and a bit of mediation. I still battle with reading my bible. For some reason, I just can’t connect to it but I don’t let it get me down as I know that God will get His messages to me in a way that I will hear Him and understand what it is He needs me to know. In the meantime I am reading Marianne Williamson’s book, Return to Love. It’s a good read if you have not read it yet. At the moment I am being reminded to surrender to God’s will. That reminder has come just in time. I can feel that my ego has been over exerting itself of late! 😞
Another positive is that I have noticed that my blood sugar levels are averaging slighter lower this week which is probably due to the increased vegetable intake. The thing I do need to be careful of is allowing too many refined carbs creep into my diet through pizza and pasta. I quite interested to see if my son’s skin will also benefit form the change in diet. I am really hoping it will. He has really had a pretty bad case of acne this past year.
I thought I would give an update on my quest to reversing this diabetes that I happen to have. The short update is that I am not there yet, in fact I am a little further away than I would like to be but I am learning a lot along the way.
Discipline has not been my strength
The reality is that if I just get into the habit of preparing my food over the weekends or at least the day before, I know that I will reach my goal a whole lot faster. Preparation is key and I have just not made the effort. One thing I have changed is that I do cook from scratch almost every day now. Prior to this I ate fast food at least 3 to 4 times a week. This actually created a new problem. My cholestrol levels were starting to rise. Thankfully, eating home cooked meals and lots of avos seems to have done the trick and I have gotten my readings back under control. Phew.
I actually enjoy exercise
I had made a vow that I will achieve my vitality goals every week this year and I did up until last month when I was not well for a few days so I couldn’t exercise. Of course with the rising cost of living, a new gym membership was out of the question and I don’t want to spend on petrol where I can avoid it so I turned to the FitOn app. I love the diverstity of the workout types and intensities. I have my favourite instructors that I follow like Jeanette Jenkins who has such a sense of humour so I have a good laugh here and there while working out. Sadly, I haven’t lost a gram and in fact, I have gained a bit but I tell myself that is muscle mass as I can see some muscle definition peeping through my fat. It gives me hope that I will get there and who knows, maybe I will have a toned body like I did in my 20’s soon. I am clearly getting fitter as well as the workouts that took my heart rate to 80% -89% of my max heart rate a few months ago now only get me to 70-79%. It’s a bit of schlep because now I have to work out more often in order to achieve the same amount of points…lol. I now have to work out 5 times a week instead of 3 in order to achieve the max number of points I need for the week but this is not a bad thing.
Sleep is my friend
Don’t ever underestimate the knock on effect that a break in your sleep has on your blood glucose levels. A good night’s sleep is so important. Those nights where I have a broken sleep for whatever reason, always result in higher blood glucose levels in the morning.
So, while things have not gotten better, they have not gotten much worse but they definitely are not where I wanted them to be by now. The fault does lie with me and, at the end of the dusty day, it lies with my diet. There is no way around it. I have got to change my diet or I will not achieve my goal. I have to cut down on my carbs in order to reduce the amount of insulin I produce and the amount of glucose in blood ant any point in time. I have not stopped Intermittent Fasting (IF) by the way. I just eat way too often during my 8 hr eating window and too many of the wrong things. IF on it’s own is just not enough. It worked well initially because I only ate twice, max three times, in those 8 hours and I actually kept that window at 6 hours and not 8. I let a few bad habits creep in during lockdown that I am battling to shake. I guess I just haven’t committed to leaving them behing yet.
So that’s where I am currently at. I will succeed. In fact, you know what, I commit to succeeding. Snacking stops here and now. I am not a snacker anymore. That is no longer who I am. Watch this space for more updates 🙂 The news will be better next time.
I knew within a month of starting that I would not be going back to the way the things used to be. So here I am, almost 15 months done an dusted and I have no regrets. I am constantly learning about my body and how it reacts to food, stress, sleeping patterns and exercise. I am fascinated! So what have I learnt:
Food and exercise
As a person living with diabetes I definitely have to control my carb consumption. No surprises there. The biggest no-no has been baked goods although I still treat myself from time to time. I only live once after all. What lockdown has taught me is that the 8 hour eating window is to be treated with respect at all times. My home is pretty small. I found myself stuck at my desk in back-to-back Teams meetings every day and the only time I moved away from it was to go to the bathroom or to get something to snack on. Most of those snacks were pretty unhealthy too. My son also used the time at home to teach himself to cook so he kept me supplied with tasty goodies. Naturally, I gained 4 of the 6kgs I had lost in the first 3 months of fasting and I found that the odd trip to the mall left me exhausted. My blood glucose readings were slowly creeping up again as well. I needed to make some changes. I started in October by ensuring that there was at least a 2 hr gap between anything that I ate within the 8 hr window, which helped stop the constant snacking. I began working out with a personal trainer 3 times a week at the beginning of November. By the end of November I could see that a lot of the inflammation that I was seeing in my ankles had disappeared and I just felt more energised! My blood glucose average also started dropping so I knew I was on the right track. The only thing that hasn’t changed is my weight. It has see-sawed within a 1kg range since November and I have no idea why. If you do know please share the reason in the comments. I have lost a few (much needed) centimetres around my tummy and waist thankfully but just a few. One thing I must add about exercise is that walking makes a difference. On the days after I get in 10 000 steps, I see a difference in my blood glucose levels. Walking is definitely something I need to do more of.
The power of sleep and the devastating effect of stress
My exercise sessions are done at home via Zoom as my personal trainer is in Johannesburg and I live in Durban. I chose to schedule them during my lunch hour so that I least got the circulation going during the course of the day. My friend had joined me half way through November and in December, she needed earlier sessions as she was travelling and didn’t want to miss out. This is where the lesson kicked in for me. I am an owl. She is a lark and so is my personal trainer. Getting up to exercise at 6am was the worst kind of torture for me. The two of them were positively buzzing at that hour of the morning. Initially I was fine with it as it meant I got it out of the way early and I started the day feeling pretty good. I made the mistake of continuing with 6am sessions during my leave in January. Worst mistake ever! I was miserable! My blood sugar levels started rising in the morning and by the time I went back to work, I felt like I hadn’t had any leave at all. We immediately went back to 12pm sessions. To make matters worse, I hit the ground running at the end of my leave. I was exhausted by the end of my 2nd week being back at work. I am not a sickly person. Suddenly I was getting migraines every weekend. (I haven’t had a migraine for years) Then my face became swollen on one side. I had to change my eating patterns for that week so that I could take the medication in the morning and at night. Within about 3 days the head fuzz was back. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. As soon as I started fasting again, the head fuzz disappeared. What a relief! That was not the end though. About a week later, a shingles rash appeared. It has taken 4 weeks for all the scabs to fall off! Fortunately I did not feel the pain that everyone talks about and the itching was only unbearable (at 3am!) in the last week. Needless to say, these days I rest more and I am feeling way better. One of the mornings last week I had my lowest reading ever in the morning. It was below 6. I was so excited! I am making progress! Slowly but surely I will get off my meds. The lesson here though is to work within your natural biorhythms, and set boundaries for yourself. I was so busy trying accommodate everyone’s needs that I forgot to look after myself.
On the plus side, I did end the year lighter than I started it. My HBA1c levels dropped and were in a good place and, my optician was very impressed that my eye health was still very good despite the diabetes. All of this serves as excellent motivation to keep on working on my health.
Let me know how your journey is going. Any tips and tricks to help me on mine are welcome too.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to wear your mask and sanitise your hands (often) when out in public. Stay safe.