When I was first diagnosed with Type II diabetes, I was simply overwhelmed with information about which diet might be most helpful for someone with this chronic illness. The medical staff at my local diabetes center were of little help. My sessions with them, sadly to say, seemed to be designed to scare me into submission. They focused more on foods they said I could never eat again, like pasta, and emphasized portion sizes that reminded me of my thumbprint. All the books I tried to read gave conflicting information, and the websites I visited all seemed to be selling “the cure.”
Over the span of months, I settled into the rather extreme vegan diet, recommended by one of the top diabetes doctors. I liked his approach because he didn’t emphasize portion control, but rather focused on eating certain kinds of food until you were full. Those certain kinds food, as you can guess, consisted of lots of veggies, some fruit, some pasta, grains, etc., but no meat or dairy. With my exercise routine developing and making a difference, this was the next big step I had to take. I want to say right off the bat that this diet, extreme as it was, helped me lose 65 pounds in the span of about 40 weeks, which was the length of time it took me to go through St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises.
To be honest, after many months, the vegan diet became difficult, especially as the holiday season approached. It was really hard not to be able to share the same foods (which I love) with those who were around the table with me. Eventually, I gave up, although this did not affect my exercise and prayer routines, which by then had become integral to my daily life.
Fast forward ten years, and my spring doctor’s appointment this past May. So, it might be helpful to give you a little background on this doctor visit. Two years ago, I felt like my local doctor (morbidly obese himself), was not especially concerned that my glucose levels, along with my weight, were both on a gradual upward trajectory. I felt like I needed a doctor with some expertise in working with diabetes patients over the long haul. I began searching and was grateful that my insurance covered visits to the Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center, not too far from where I live. When I called, I was amazed that it would take a year before I could get an appointment. Imagine that. Anyway, when I did meet a doctor there, I have to say it was probably one of the best doctor appointments I ever had. He spent nearly two hours with me and gave me such sound advice and confidence that I left there feeling like I had a new lease on life.
That being said, changes needed to be made. I needed to refocus my efforts on changing my diet and exercise routines once again. Because I had some family friends who had been on the keto diet for years and had great success and seemed to have a sincere love of life, I decided to give it a try. Although very different from the vegan diet I began my health improvement journey with years ago, I was equally surprised to see the positive effects this diet had on my physical health. But it too was a hard diet to follow and after some success, old habits came back, along with the weight I had lost. I’m sure most of you reading these words have had similar experiences.
The doctor at Hopkins recommended I meet with a nutritionist, since there were some other things my test results showed which could benefit from the input of an expert in this area. I made the appointment and had to wait several weeks before I could be seen. While I was waiting, I came across an article in the newspaper about one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital, William Osler. As a student at Hopkins, I remembered seeing a huge portrait of him, along with the other three “founders,” but didn’t really know anything about him. The article mentioned that he was the person who began what we now know as “ground rounds.” He also wrote a medical school classic entitled “The Principles and Practice of Medicine,” which was, from what I read in the article, a primary medical school textbook for generations of future doctors. I found the article interesting and, maybe out of boredom that day, decided to do a google search on the good doctor Osler. I quickly found that a PDF version of his book was online. I saw in the table of contents that there was a chapter on “Diabetes Mellitus,” which Dr. Osler defined as a “disorder of nutrition…” Imagine that. Well over a century ago, a preemninat medical school/hospital founder made it clear that what we eat is directly tied to diabetes. Now, I know that this may seem so basic for some, and its true I already knew this from years of daily glocuse testing myself, but hearing it once again was a little jolt. What came next in my reading was even more fascinating. Without using the name, Osler went on to propose a treatment plan which was, I think, an early keto/low carb diet. “the carbohydrates in the food shoud be reduced to a minimum.” Wow.
When I did finally meet with the nutriionist, I didn’t mention what I had recently read from Doctor Osler’s book. What amazed me was that, after our discussion about my health, he proposed a “modified low carb diet,” one which had me eat about 30 carbs per meal, no more than 100 carbs in total per day. So, I felt like the low carb diet had been confirmed as my diet of choice. I’m still working on it as I type, but have to say that I feel really good on this diet.
One one of my early retreats, I had a nutritionist come to speak the the group. One of the things she said that day has always stuck with me. “What successfully worked for Paul may not work for you. You have to find what diet best suits you, and then stick with it. Don’t give up!” So the end of the story here is, if you are dealing with a chronic illness or are realizing that you have not been taking proper care of yourself, you have to meet with your doctor and other experts and find out what diet will work best for you. Use this time of isolation to start reading. Make an appointment with your doctor for sometime this summer, when, please God, the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, and get a plan together to get your life back on track, body, mind and spirit. We will get through this. Long Live Christ The King!