Intermittent Fasting-14 months and 3 weeks later

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

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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

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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.

Life with Diabetes

It’s World Diabetes Day today. I had the displeasure of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2016. It is what it is though and what choice does one have but to accept it and learn to work around it. I am determined however to get it into remission and I will succeed. For now, I will share what seems to work for me at the moment, however do bear in my mind that this is based on my personal experience and is not an sort of medical or dietary advice.

My Diet

There is no doubt that controlling your blood sugar takes more than just diet but what you eat does play the biggest role. The following has worked for me based on trial and error:

  • Refined carbs are not my friend. I will still enjoy a piece of cake here and there but I don’t make a habit of it
  • Sweeteners, and this includes natural sweeteners like Xylitol, cause a spike in my blood sugar so I just don’t bother with them
  • I stick to drinking water, and unsweetened black coffee. I have started drinking unsweetened black tea as well.
  • Intermittent fasting (IF) really helps as well. I stick to the 16:8 fast but I have learnt that fasting alone is not enough. Discipline is required in that 8 hr eating window. I have worked from home since lockdown started and found myself constantly “grazing”. I slowly gained 4 of the 6 kg’s I had lost in the first 3 months of following IF. Of course it wasn’t just the constant nibbling, it was also the lack of movement every day that caused the weight gain. I have a timer so that I ensure I don’t eat for 2,5hrs at a time for now. I plan on getting myself to two meals a day before year end.
  • My blood sugar readings also appear to be affected by my weight. When I lose weight, I have lower readings. When I gain weight then my average reading rises as well. It seems to take as little as a 2-3kg change in weight to make a difference. Clearly it is in my best interest to keep the number on the scale moving in a downward direction.

The Power of Exercise

I am not exercise’s greatest fan but I have finally accepted it’s importance in maintaining good overall health and in keeping my blood sugar levels within a normal range. Diabetes is known to take a toll on one’s heart so it is important to maintain good heart health and that is where exercise comes in. Since self-discipline is not my strength when it comes to this topic, I have signed up with a personal trainer to make exercise a habit in my life. I have to admit that after 2 weeks, I look forward to our sessions and feel fantastic after them. My circulation has clearly improved and I appear less prone to retaining water. My average blood sugar reading has also lowered over the last 2 weeks so this was clearly a great decision on my part. 😜

Stress Management

I was blown away when I saw the difference stress makes to my readings. I immediately know when I have underlying stress. It’s right there in my blood sugar readings. It is actually quite scary how much stress affects my body. On the flip side, I have also noticed how spending time with certain people in my life results in lower levels regardless of what I eat when I am with them. These people are good for my body, mind and soul. It’s important to never underestimate the damage stress can do so I try to keep my stress levels as low as possible. Some of the techniques I use to de-stress are:

  • Dancing at the end of the day to my favourite music. It as has the added benefit of getting the circulation going burning off excess sugar in my blood.
  • Reading. I can happily spend an entire weekend reading.
  • Focusing on a conversation with my son or cooking/baking with him. It requires me to live in the moment. It is an amazing feeling and I love doing it (When he allows me to)
  • Connecting with friends, although, it is mostly via whatsapp these days
  • Meditating every morning for 10 minutes. I am so thrilled that I have kept this up for over a month now. I am well on my way to making this a habit! (Whoop whoop)
  • Saying my morning mantras in the shower. I say mantras to keep myself aligned with my purpose. It is so calming to say these at the start of the day
  • My morning prayer. I find it so peaceful to start the day giving thanks for what is and what will be and just handing the day over to God.
  • Journal writing. I love writing. I have a normal journal as well as a special gratitude journal. The one thing I have noticed is that when I am consistent about writing in my gratitude journal, I get wonderful surprises ever so often. How cool is that!
  • A candle-lit bubble bath, especially on a exercise day. I also use this as my visualisation time.

I don’t view diabetes as a life long disease. I choose to view it as something that can be overcome and that is what I plan on doing. My first milestone is to start 2021 free of meds.😁 It is to be respected at all times though or it will do some serious damage. If you have been diagnosed with it and don’t take it seriously, then I invite you to reconsider this choice, to start monitoring what causes your spikes and to work around them. You have everything to gain from doing so. If you are prediabetic do what ever you can to turn that diagnosis around.

I wish you all the success in keeping a diabetes diagnosis under control. It can be done. 😉

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