With having recently being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (see this post for full details), one of the many things in my life that had to change was what I eat. Because of my previous bad experiences with diets I had avoided going to the doctor even though I knew I had crossed the line into diabetes. I was scared that I could not sustain a diabetic diet and that I would fail as I had with every other diet I had been on. I eat a fairly healthy and varied diet and as a cook and a foodie I thoroughly believe in trying to eat as much fresh food as possible and cooking from scratch wherever I can, but this diagnosis meant that I had to be more vigilant, stricter with the ingredients that I chose to cook with. Quite honestly, I had no idea where to start. I have preconceived ideas about what a diabetic diet looks like:
- No Fat
- No Sugar
- No Salt
Basically bland and unappetising. These three ingredients are what give food flavour and mouth-feel and isn’t that the reason we enjoy food? This seemed devastating to me. I am a foodie. I love food, I love cooking and experimenting with food and I work in the food industry. I couldn’t imagine having to forgo delicious food for the rest of my life. I know this seems shallow and irresponsible, but the majority of my life revolves around food. I work with it every day, I blog about it, I pin it and obviously, I eat it. Yes, I’ve dieted before, in fact I’ve tried them all and having to restrict certain foods has always been the hardest thing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat much fast food/junk food, but it is the other types of food that are restricted. I love fresh fruit, but some diets tell you to restrict fruit, some even say to cut it out altogether. I also like red meat, rare and juicy, a lot of diets tell you to avoid red meat. There are diets that tell you to only drink powdered shakes and low card bars and cookies but these always contain chemical ingredients that go against my belief in lots of fresh food and leave a bad taste in my mouth.
My doctor didn’t give me any guidelines as to what I was to eat, just a phone number to ring to sign up for some education classes. I am a bit of a nerd so the first thing I did was go to my friend the internet. Now the internet is the type of friend that pretty much tells you what you want to hear, whether it is the truth or not. I’m sure there is some sort of study that shows that the answers we get on our search engines has a lot to do with our previous searches, our interests and our social media accounts. I can’t prove that of course, but I do believe that to get to the real answers we want, beyond our biases, we need to ask questions a whole lot of different ways and go beyond the first page of search results. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet and I am an advocate of not believing everything you read. Every so called “fact” and “claim” needs to be backed up by two, three or more supporting facts and claims. I also don’t put much stock in personal testimonies of products because I know how easy it is to fake them. It would be therefore hypocritical of me to let you read this blog and think of it as gospel truth. I am not a scientist, doctor or other medical professional. All I have is my own experience and my own research. I encourage you to do your own research and see what answers you find that work for you.
The more research I do the more I am finding that different things work for different people and this is not wholly unreasonable. Our world is small now but not that very long ago it was quite a bit bigger. People groups had widely varying diets depending on where they lived. Before we were able to transport food products across country and across the sea, people had to eat seasonally and regionally. Now our cultures are merged and food is a lot more readily available in and out of season and we think that there must be a single solution to the health problems we face. I don’t agree. I believe, from my own experience and from the experiences of others, that our bodies are so intricately complex and diverse that it only makes sense that we need multiple solutions. When I was younger I thought that if I ate exactly what my skinny friends ate then I would be skinny. It didn’t work. Their metabolic rates, hormone levels and other complex inner workings were different to mine. Why are some children naturally slim or even super skinny, and others are more robust and fatter? It is a question which has plagued me my entire life and the only logical solution I can come up with is that we are not all cut from the same cloth. The extension of that answer is that different bodies respond differently to the food they ingest. But as I said earlier, I am no doctor and the real answers to these questions are beyond my limited understanding.
So armed with nothing more than my wits and my cynical scepticism, I entered the fray of the Google search. I have long since held to the belief that the “Food Pyramid” that we were taught as children is baloney. Unfortunately too many hands were in the pie that created that particular piece of nutritional information and what was originally meant to be a good thing was basically hijacked by special interest groups who had billions of dollars invested in the food industry (wow, that did sound cynical). If you are interested in finding out more about how the Food Pyramid came about here are some links:
http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/09/invented-food-pyramid/ – This is a clear explanation of how the food pyramid came about
http://www.liftbigeatbig.com/2012/11/a-history-of-food-pyramid-corporate.html – I don’t completely agree with everything written in this post, but it has some very valid points. I especially like the sentences relating to farming cows on pastured land and feeding them grass instead of grain. I have issues with the way we farm our meat sources, but that is a topic for another post.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_guide_pyramid – From Wikipedia
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/pyramid-full-story/ – This is the Harvard version of the food pyramid and a bit of explanation about how it came about.
You may notice that I didn’t include any positive links about the food pyramid. That is because they all come from sources that have significant resources invested in it. When you put money on the line, of course you are going to back it up. (Again the cynic in me). If you are interested in that information (and you should be to get an unbiased view), a simple Google search on the food pyramid will give you ample results.
So with my aversion to the food pyramid idea, I cautiously began my research in the most obvious place – Diabetes Australia. I have to say I was disappointed. I was looking for a simple eating plan, something to get me started so I knew what foods to eat, when to eat them and approximate kilojoule intakes. None of that was available on the website (well none that I could find anyway). There were a few recipes, but not nearly enough for me to create a lifestyle from. They have information regarding the food groups and how that relates to diabetics, but that didn’t actually help me determine what I should eat, how much I should eat and when I should eat. I suppose that is what the education appointment is for, but I had a whole week and a half before I could attend a session, so what was I supposed to eat in the meantime?
I knew I had to cut out refined sugar so that is where I started. Apart from the obvious sugary foods, there is also hidden sugar in a lot of packaged foods, so they all had to go. I made the decision to only cook with fresh/frozen ingredients – no more bottled sauces/marinades/salad dressings, no more recipe bases or packet mixes. I also knew I would have to avoid refined carbohydrates and other high glycaemic index foods. Bread is my weakness. I love bread – fresh bread, thick bread, toasted bread, bread rolls. I have avoided bread for a lot of my life because a. I know I have a weakness for it and b. I always feel clogged up when I eat too much. My compromise is to only eat good quality bread that is full of whole grains and rye. The reason I mention bread is because I also realised that I would need to start eating breakfast before I went to work so that I could take my medication. For most people this is not a big deal, but for me it meant having to get up at 3:45am instead of 4:00am and finding something that I would feel like eating at that time of the morning…toast and vegemite was the answer. Yoghurt and muesli are also good breakfast foods. I make my own toasted muesli using coconut oil, honey & maple syrup so I know the fat and sugar content and I only use Greek yoghurt.
So this brings me to a whole other issue…the times that I eat. As I mentioned, I start work early, so usually I don’t eat until 9:00am or 10:00am, and then I would struggle to eat lunch but by 3:00pm I would be ravenous and then at dinner time I wouldn’t feel like eating and then I am in bed by 8:30pm. Now I had to eat before 4:00am so I could take my tablets, which meant lunch that I was hungry again by 10:00am or 11:00am. Not wanting to eat lunch this early, I have been making myself a superfood smoothie. Smoothies can be a bit of a trap for the uninitiated. If you are purchasing them from a café or shop, they can be full of hidden sugars and fat. A lot of places use packet mixes for their smoothies, but we never have. I have experimented with a lot of smoothie recipes and have come up with one that I find delicious and also healthy. Based on Coconut water, I add Acai, blueberries, banana, yoghurt and rolled oats. I also add some supplements – Supergreens powder (a mix of spirulina, wheatgrass, chlorella and barley grass) and Macca Powder. This smoothie lets me get through until about 1:00pm when I then have lunch.
Lunch has always been a tough one for me, I never know what to eat. If I was working from home I would normally eat a frozen meal, but with my decision to not eat pre-packaged food I had to go to the trouble of making something. Chicken and salad sandwiches and tuna and salad sandwiches have become my go to, but it also means I am now eating more bread. It’s a quandary! For now, I am doing it, sometimes swapping the bread for a wrap, and I am monitoring the effects on my body. I am making sure there are plenty of salad ingredients on my sandwich so that my body is getting more vegetables than bread, so hopefully this will be successful (so far so good).
I still have the 3:00pm blues. I don’t know what it is, but everyday around the same time I get the urge to graze. I have curbed this to some degree by having herbal tea – Lemongrass and Ginger. Surprisingly this has been very satisfying both physically and mentally. I also find a banana helps.
This brings me to dinner. There have been both positives and negatives with my new eating resolves. The positives are I get to experiment with fun ingredients and have produced some really delicious meals. The down side is that it means I have to cook every night. No more lazy night dinner, no more take away and, thus far, my husband has been too intimidated by the rules to attempt to cook.
So this is a start. More fresh fruits and vegetables, more fish, less carbohydrates, no refined sugar. I think the biggest change for me has been to eat intentionally…to pay attention to what I am putting in my body, not to eat automatically, but to enjoy my food, savour it and to listen to the cues my body is giving me – paying attention to how my body reacts to the foods I eat. To date I have found the transition fairly easy, a few headaches to start with as my body adjusted, but generally I have felt pretty good and I have lost weight (nearly 6 kilograms in four weeks), can’t complain about that.