Whatever will I eat? / by Emily Holmes

It was a long week for me. I had a lot of appointments and work scheduled. In a strange and still perplexing twist of fate, I was also handed a new challenge. After a series of tests with elevated sugar levels in my blood stream, I took the A1C screening and learned that I'm pre-diabetic.

Flukey? I mean, I eat pretty well. I work out several times a week. I'm in shape, weight is lower than average and steady. I have a sweet tooth as well as being a moderate drinker, but nothing in the usual tell tale signs of the disease. I do have it in my family, but all those members were bad eaters, didn't really exercise and were grossly overweight. So, strange, right?!?

Well, I took 3 different tests over the last 2 weeks and guess what? Science is not on my skeptical side. So, this week I was faced with the challenge of radically altering my diet in hopes that when I re-test in 3 months, that I'll have lower, more normal sugar levels.

My first two decisions were cut out drinking but for 1 or 2 on the weekend only and cut out all baked goods. I've also worked extra hard to eliminate processed foods with added sugars, extra carbohydrates, or sweet fruits. I also concentrated on bulking up on vegetables, nuts and healthy alternatives to bread.

Some of this stuff I already knew about like, I probably shouldn't have a sweet every day at some point in my running around. And the drinking level, I'd been considering for other reasons as well. But the two things that make this transition difficult are the following: my sweet tooth and my confusion/shame around the disease.

Man, I love cupcakes. I love croissants. I love pasta. I love salted homemade bread. Scones. Kouign Ammans. Just writing the list gives me a huge buzz. And they're not joking when they say that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. I also love the culture of sweets, like dropping by cute bakeries or lingering in cafes over coffee and a treat. It's something I treasure in my free time, a moment to indulge. Part of me is pissed off that I can't have that. It's like I've been getting away with something for a long time and now the piper's come to call for his pay.

The second item is a bit more nebulous. I can't understand why I'm testing positive for it. Surely not just a sweet tooth or a penchant for drinking wine could be the factors that outweigh all the usual symptoms. I associate diabetes with people who eat the wrong foods, don't exercise and generally disregard a better quality of life. I eat veggie or vegan a lot. I'm aware of good BMI and health care. I eat small meals throughout the day and try to pick foods that are not packed with processed ingredients like sugar, high salt or unnatural preservatives. I eat organic. What gives?!?

I also am afraid when I hear the diagnosis. I think it's an early death sentence. One more ticker that brings me closer to the end. I've literally thought about each piece of food that has gone into my mouth this week and worried "Will it be the one that takes me down?" I realize this is irrational fear and that I just need to do the work, not overthink the disease status.

So now, I'm doing the research. I'm talking to experts. I'm reconsidering the grocery shopping list. I have to pack more snacks for myself because I can't just pop into a store and grab a quick fix for hunger on the go. I have to ask if the almond or soy milk they have at the cafe (because I am also mainly dairy free) is sweetened, because so many of them use the sugary/vanilla flavored ones (which I hate, btw). I have to ask - even at vegan spots - how they make the sauce for a quinoa bowl just so I don't get a spike from agave in it. 

I'm exploring Paleo as well as vegan directions for eating and while they're not completely foreign to my previous eating plans, they are definitely a bit more work intensive and not exactly cheap. I'll survive. I'll also have to make more of my own foods or spend a lot at the Cafe Gratitudes of Los Angeles to fill in the gaps. I'm eagerly awaiting the opening of Sprouts in Eagle Rock for some of the bulk and organic options on the ingredient side of things.

In the end, it's my choice to be healthy. I'm trying to do this naturally because I also have a great aversion to drugs. I don't want to be ruled by a pharmaceutical company instead of changing some bad/indulgent behaviors. It doesn't have to be quite as extreme as I'm making it, and over time I'll figure out where I can adjust my diet to include some of the things I enjoy about eating and drinking. Wish me luck, friends. I'm on a mission!