By Richard Bleil
Just a few years from the end of the twentieth century, I was working my first “teaching gig” at a medical arts college. Many of the students were “legacy” students, meaning their parents are in the medical professions. I’ll admit; I had gained a bit of weight, pushing two hundred pounds, but not quite there yet. I had gone to a doctor for a routine appointment, but I didn’t realize that the doctor was an idiot.
Now, not all doctors are idiots. Heck, I’m a doctor (albeit not a medical doctor), and I’m an idiot, but hey…that’s just the luck of the draw. No, he was an idiot for different reasons. First of all, he did the wrong blood test for diagnosing diabetes. See, he performed a standard blood-sugar test, which is fine for screening purposes, but not suitable for diagnosis. See, too much can affect blood sugar; mood, stress, the previous meal, all kinds of things. If the test is high, the correct follow-up test is the Hemoglobin A1C test, which provides a kind of “snapshot” of the blood sugar levels for the previous three months.
But the main reason I say that he is an idiot is the way he told me that there were health problems. He called me up, and on the phone, said I was diabetic. “Diabetes” is a scary word when you hear is applied to you, and frankly, not only should the doctor have ordered the Hemoglobin A1C test, but also should have scheduled a consultation with me, rather than simply blurting it out on the phone.
He didn’t exactly “blurt it out”. What he told me is that I’m diabetic, and I shouldn’t eat anything with sugar. Then he told me that I had high cholesterol, but my liver enzymes were high, so my liver was had already been destroyed and they cannot give me medicine, so don’t eat anything with fats or oils. But, my blood pressure was fine, but, unfortunately, most restaurants don’t offer “salt licks” on the menu.
So, I cut out fats, oils and sugars as best I could. The idiot doctor had provided no training for me, so I kind of guessed. I stopped eating candy, but started eating fruit. The funny thing is that fruit is the candy of nature. It may not have table sugar added, but it has fructose, which is sugar, and a sugar is a sugar to the body. I avoided meats, ate vegetables, stopped drinking regular pop and switched to diet pop and in general just avoided anything generally considered to be bad. In a strange way, I had accomplished my goals; I started trembling and feeling weak, which I assumed meant that my blood sugar was down, and I was correct. Of course, what i was not told is that this is due to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which is just as bad as high blood sugar.
And I started losing weight.
Fortunately for me, many of my students were “legacy” medical students, the mother of one being a Physician Assistant who more or less specialized in diabetes as it ran in the family. So, I made an appointment, and she did two things the RIGHT way. First, she ran the Hemoglobin A1C test and discovered that I was actually pre-diabetic.
Pre-diabetes means you are not diabetic yet, but you’re on the verge and heading towards you own DOOM AND OBLIVION. Okay, it’s not really that bad, but usually it is a matter of time until you are actually diabetic. However, at this stage, proper diet and exercise (basically with the diabetic diet), you can usually slow the slide into diabetes and keep it off at least a little bit longer.
She also got me proper training on the diabetic diet. The diabetic diet is actually just a well-balanced and healthy diet. You don’t really have to cut anything in particular out, but you need to be aware of the “exchanges”. You can have, for example, a candy bar, but you’ll have to cut out a certain amount of, say, fruit. Anybody looking for a healthy diet, they could do worse than to look up these diets and follow them. For the most part, it’s not just training yourself what to eat and in what proportion, but it also trains you to be aware of what you are eating so you can make better choices.
Today, much to the chagrin of those who love me, I don’t really take care of myself as I should. I do believe that in our society, we worry too much about health issues like weight, and gluten, and trans fats, and on and on and on. The stress caused by these concerns cannot be good for us. Now, I’ll admit that the health gains that I get from my lack of concern is probably not enough to offset the damage I do with cheeseburgers, but, the way I figure it, we all have to die at some point anyway. It’s part of the contract we signed to be alive in the first place, and frankly, death by cheeseburger is not a bad way to go.