Back in February I went to the doctor for a check up. I wasn't sick as such, but I wasn't feeling particularly well either.
I had put on a lot of weight. I was retaining fluid. I was tired, lethargic and unable to stop eating all the wrong foods. I craved sweet sugary starchy foods and fresh white bread with lashings of butter. Plus my exercise regime consisted of 30 minutes per week with a personal trainer and a walk with a friend.
She sent me off for some blood tests and I figured it would be the same as usual ... everything would be okay but my thyroid medication would probably need adjusting, explaining the tiredness and lethargy.
A few days letter I received a call from my doctor's surgery requesting I come in to discuss my results and not to panic it wasn't urgent. I ate more chocolate and white bread to ease my worry.
Two days later I was sitting opposite my doctor hearing the words "pre diabetes", overweight, life expectancy". Okay, now you have my attention ... "life expectancy, what do you mean? It's not like I have cancer or anything?"
She told me that diabetes would take 10 years off my life expectancy and if I changed nothing about my lifestyle I could expect to be a diabetic within two years. Ouch! She also measured my waist, with one of those special health tape measures and I was at the high end of the red area ... red meaning "danger".
Her advice was to change my lifestyle by eating a more balanced diet, exercising more and losing 10 kilograms. She also referred me to a weight loss clinic.
I left feeling a bit overwhelmed, okay I'm lying ... I was a lot overwhelmed and all I really wanted was a hot chocolate and a piece of banana bread. Instead I went to work and pushed it to the back of my mind, that is, until I was driving home later that evening.
Ten years off my life expectancy ... is that a big deal? Should I be worried? I started to work it out in my head. So, if diabetes would reduce my life expectancy by ten years that means living a reasonably healthy and active life until 80 would now become 70. She also mentioned that the last 10 years of my life would be spent dealing with the myriad of diabetes related illnesses that I would now have. That takes me back to 60 ... I would be relatively healthy until I was 60. Given I'm currently 50 ... THAT IS ONLY TEN MORE GOOD YEARS!!!!!!!!!!
Yep. That. Changed my life. Changed my outlook. Changed my eating habits. Changed everything. Ten more years is not good enough. I've too many things I want/need to do and ten years will go by in a blink.
That was the last week in February and from that night everything changed. I had been toying with the idea of quitting sugar for the few weeks before that and had even inquired about joining the "I Quit Sugar" program, but I'd just missed the close off. Never mind, I ate some more chocolate while I thought about it some more. However, the game has changed and the time for thinking about it has been and gone. It was now time for action.
So, here we are two months on and I can say I've successfully changed my lifestyle and am definitely feeling better. On 27th February I gave up sugar (fructose) and find I'm no longer craving anything sweet, including my beloved chocolate. I'm not missing out on any food, I'm not hungry and most importantly, I'm not dieting. I've also just given up gluten, which has never really been any good for me, and I've found that harder than giving up sugar. I do feel better for it, but I miss bread ... even though I'd progressed from white bread to grain bread!
I've lost 5 kilograms over the two months and have stopped retaining fluid. I am fitting into clothes I haven't worn in ages and I'm baking more brownies and treats than I've ever done!! I'm growing my own salad and smoothie greens and I'm exercising 4-5 time per week.
I hardly know who I am anymore. I haven't found this change as difficult as I have in the past and I believe there are two reasons for this. One, I want more than ten years of good quality life and two, I've made one change at a time and done it slowly until I no longer have to think about it. Not eating sugar and going to the gym or the park to exercise is now just part of my day, like cleaning my teeth or having a shower. It's true what they say about taking 21 days to make a habit. I've just never exercised or followed a sustainable eating plan longer than 21 days in a row to let it become a habit.
Whenever I've dieted in the past it has been on a program that is not sustainable in the long term. I have an under active thyroid and this can be problematic when trying to lose weight and also when exercising. If I go for a hard core exercise program like that advocated by 12WBT I end up crashing half way through because I come down with a virus and I can't recover. Also, when I reduce my calories to 1200, I start to lose weight but then nothing. A very slow metabolism caused by my under active thyroid is exceptionally good at holding onto fat.
I've been seeing a trainer since June last year and she is training me in a way that keeps my thyroid happy and I have not been sick at all. I've recently upped my exercise regime by adopting High Intensity Training (HIT) or Tabata Training and this has made a significant difference to my strength and fitness, again without the stress a hard core exercise program puts on my body. By hard core I mean training for in excess of 30 minutes six days per week. I currently train 4 days each week and it looks like this:
Monday: HIT hill runs 4 x 30 secs & 4 minutes of tricep dips & pushups & bicep curls (not 4 minutes each - a total of 4 minutes) and a ten minute walk. I also combine this with walking the dog so will generally get a much longer walk.
Tuesday: PT session - 30 minutes
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: 1 hour walk with a girlfriend
Friday: Gym session - 30 minutes - cardio and strength Tabata Training or training in the park after walking the dog.
Sunday: Rest - or sometimes a Gym session
When I go out or go to a friend's home to eat I don't go with a list what I can't eat ... I eat whatever is available or cooked for me in moderation. I don't want to be "that" person who doesn't eat stuff and makes it hard for my friends to prepare me a meal. I find the next day I'm not very hungry and I eat light foods all day. I'm no longer obsessing about food and I'm only eating 3 meals a day. No snacks at all ... not because I'm dieting ... but because my body doesn't want them.
I don't proclaim to have the answers to a healthy lifestyle. But what I do know is I've made a conscious effort to find what works for me and I've done it. I'm someone who needs a big incentive or a deadline to get things done ... seems like losing ten years was my incentive this time.
It has been a total lifestyle change. I still have 5 kilograms to lose and I'm sure over time it will go ... I'm not pushing it because I don't want a short term fix. This is the rest of my life I'm talking about here and I want that rest to be MUCH longer than ten years.
I want to be that crazy 85 year old lady you see on the news jumping out of a plane ... I'll be sure to wave to you!