August 27 2001, Florida – My third child came into our lives in May 2000. The pregnancy had been hard and by the following October, I had almost become accustomed to feeling crappy. I kept telling myself, “hey, mothers of three kids, including a nursling, with a full-time outside-the-home job just feel this way.”
Well, one day, I became disoriented at the grocery, had a compulsion to eat, and after eating felt ok. I realized that it had to be a blood sugar thing. So I bought a test kit and began tracking blood sugar numbers throughout the day, and wrote down everything that went in my mouth and what time.
This did two things: it established the fact that I did have a blood sugar problem (too high), but equally, it made me think about those foods and realize what I was eating.
Every single Hershey Kiss and all those things that I would scarf down without thought was suddenly in front of me in black and white. I went to the doctor who confirmed what the test had shown me about my high blood sugar. She then told me directly that if I didn’t change I’d likely wind up on medication for diabetes, which she said is one of her areas of specialty.
She also recommended Dr. Dean Ornish’s book, “Eat More, Weigh Less.” As a vegetarian already, I was familiar with veganism and had even eaten a vegan diet for about 4 months prior to my pregnancy (and had lost 30 pounds and was on my way to feeling very good back then — when the little pregnancy dipstick turned blue and I just spiraled back down).
I also bought Dr. McDougall’s “The McDougall Plan,” having been familiar with his work from the McDougall discussion board.
On Nov. 17, 2000, I weighed 178 (had been over 200 when I had the baby) and had borderline diabetic blood sugar and wore a size 18. I also felt like crap, which really was the most important thing to me. I wanted to have the energy to play with my kids and at that time, I simply didn’t. I was existing and hardly recognized the person in the mirror. My husband always accepted me at whatever weight I was, but in some ways, though, I think we were enabling each other’s bad habits with our continual acceptance.
I immediately cut out sugars in order to get a grip on my blood sugar problem, and also fats and most oils and the vast majority of prepared foods, since that’s the message both McDougall and Ornish sent. I ate all I wanted till-full-not-stuffed of grains and legumes and veggies and fruits and just tons of things that I loved. I began logging in the Vegsource bulletin boards daily to receive information and support. I read Evelyn Johnson’s story on VegSource and was amazed, inspired and challenged by this incredible woman. I found people willing to take time to share and encourage on a daily basis. There are too many to list.
Now, I basically eat somewhere between McDougall and Ornish. I still eat a few things off the McDougall plan from time to time (such as no-sugar jam or some fat-free salad dressings that may contain some oil), which I feel I must do in order to be myself and do this for a lifetime.
I also began running again. My first day out, I barely finished a mile and thought I would die. I had run a lot in college and on-and-off through the years, but had not exercised in a long time. I knew I loved running if I could get past the early humps of just getting out the door consistently.
Four and 1/2 months later…
Four and 1/2 months later. I am a size 8. I weigh 137 (I’m 5-foot-3) and I run 5 days a week between 2-8 miles each time!
I am addicted to running, I must confess. I feel fantastic and have so much energy. My weight seems to still be going down, although I really am not working on that per se. I just run and eat what I know to eat and don’t ever let myself go hungry. I eat about every 2 hours, which I think helps my blood sugar stay on an even keel. I will still have a problem with it soaring if I eat certain foods and can tell in how I feel. I can confirm that with my test kit, but rarely check my sugars anymore unless I feel a need.
I also started swimming 30 minutes, 2-3 times per week on my lunch breaks, which has helped with giving me more upper-body strength.
I eat things I love and I love what I eat. I only miss chocolate and do give myself an occasional Edy’s fat-free, no sugar added chocolate ice cream or a Tofutti bar to curb that desire.
I finally feel so empowered. I feel like I have control of myself back and am becoming a person I recognize again.
I also feel empowered to know that I am being as healthy of a mother as I can for a lifetime and am so grateful to be able to do the things I can. I am really blessed and I hope I never forget that.
Update at 8 months
Here it is August of 2001 and I’m down to 120 pounds and body fat that is somewhere between 13-21 (reading ranged that much recently, so it’s probably in the middle). I wear a size 5-6 P. I still have great blood sugar, blood pressure and resting pulse. My running mileage is up to 42 miles a week and my long runs are now 14 miles and growing.
I have discovered an amazing thing about the affect of exercise on bone health. I have a benign fibrous growth that was discovered back this spring in my fibula bone. It had caused the bone to get very thin by my ankle, putting it in real jeopardy of breaking. This was discovered after I began having some pain while running.
I was offered immediate surgery to fix it, which would then involve bone grafting, etc. The doctor and I decided to put faith in my running, in the hope that it would sufficiently stress the bone to create new bone, which is sort of how bones work. (That’s why it’s good for those at risk for osteoporosis or reducing bone density to do weight training or other weight-bearing exercise.)
There were lots of naysayers to this advice. Even the second opinion orthopedic oncologist, while not barring me from running, was not thrilled. He kept pointing to the x-ray saying, “See this?? Do you see that there’s hardly any bone there? Do you understand what I’m saying? It’s thin, it’s so thin…!”
Well, my sports ortho doc thought that of all patients who had hope of making it through that without surgery, the ones with the best chance were runners. He warned me many times of the risk of breakage, but also said breaking a leg isn’t that huge: “Hey, the worst that happens is you break your leg…but the possibility remains that if you’re running, the bone may lay down new bone, and it won’t break.” It was surely a risk I wanted to take.
Anyway, its been three months and I just had that follow-up doctor visit and there IS MORE BONE NOW!
I’m not foolish enough to think the growth is gone or anything, and it could still break (so if it does, nobody tell me ‘told you so”), but I am seeing improvement from running in my bone health. That should be good news to people who feel they are at the mercy of their genes. Also, I am eating about 98 percent vegan with only very small dairy items accounting for the two percent. I rarely ever need the sugar fix from ice cream anymore and am practically sick if I decide to eat cheese. The fact that I have measureable bone growth without loading up on dairy, I think is very encouraging considering the messages we’ve been sent about its necessity in our diet.
I’m still McDougalling and think still if I lost 5-6 more pounds that it would be best for my running, but am just keeping on with what I’m doing. I’ll never be a really great runner, but would like to be the best I can.
How to do it
I’ve been asked a bunch of times by people how I’ve done this. While it sounds like a whirlwind weight loss, the reality is is that good health starts far away from the scales.
We need to look in the mirror and see a person who is strong enough to make good choices. A person who when they make mistakes says that tomorrow’s another day. A person who is mature enough to have patience with ourselves. A person wise enough to recognize the tricky ways of self-sabotage that can creep in and finally, a person self-aware enough to know what THEY need to do to make it.
My quest toward better health started years ago: Switching to vegetarianism…. then quitting smoking (used Zyban)…. getting my spiritual life revived….. taking up yoga, which helped me immensely….. coming to a peaceful place in my heart about being a work-outside-the-home mom and letting go of guilt and depression…. getting back into a career that I have passion for…. and then finally getting completely fed up with the physical state I was living in…… IN other words, I did a lot of work on the inside first. I saw myself where I wanted to be and I still do. I’m not there yet.
The bottom line to this is really discovering or re-discovering the person we are. And knowing that the only thing that stops us is us.
October 2001 Update
The Great Floridian Triathlon isn’t the race most people would pick as their first marathon. For a couple of reasons.
It’s only one leg of an Ironman-distance triathlon event (2.4-mile swim; 112-mile bike and 26.2 mile run) and required two other committed people on my relay team. The course has hills in the beginning of the run and the run starts late in the afternoon, on a pretty hot Florida day. You don’t have the mass-start and adrenaline rush of that gun going off, but instead, you wait and wait and wait for your relay cyclist to come in and hope he/she doesn’t have a flat or otherwise flake out.
But I wouldn’t trade that day for anything or the chance to compete alongside such incredible athletes, who I am in awe of. I finished the 26.2-mile run in 4 hours, 27 minutes and our team finished in 12 hours, 26 minutes. We were 13th overall out of more than 30 co-ed relay teams, which felt very good. I also was able to pick up the pace slightly for the last six miles, which was a victory for me in and of itself. My fibula held up fine, with no pain at all.
I’m looking forward to another marathon this season and many to come, God willing. What a difference eating well can make in your life! Mine will never be the same.
You can write to Kelly G. at firstname.lastname@example.org