Back in the 70s when I was in high school, it was discovered that teenage girls were starving themselves with crazy diets, hours of nonstop exercise, and obsessive weighing in to see how many ounces they’d lost, or gained. Long before there was ever a name for this addiction to not eat, a friend and I “caught” the bug and dropped excessive amounts of weight “just like that!” My friend, however, took it one step further. She made it a lifelong obsession to avoid food and exercise all the time, whereas I rediscovered food the year after we graduated. I had slipped down to 98 lbs from 120, whereas she, who shall remain nameless, slipped down to 70 lbs at her worst, in a 5’10” frame. Anorexia nervosa is the name for this psychological disease, and there are real institutions where young girls (and boys) can get treatment.
I distinctly remember my mother being alarmed at my sudden aversion to eating. So alarmed that she took me to see her GYN. I hated him. He strapped me down on an examining table and threatened to put a feeding tube down my throat to force feed me. Archaic, you think? Yes, and all that. When we left his office, I told my mother I’d never go to him again, that I would eat when I was hungry, and not to worry about me. Mothers always worry. It’s inherent for mothers to worry. But, in the long run, I ate in her presence, gained weight, and eventually, during a pregnancy, gained so much weight that I became diabetic. My friend, however, to this day, is still painfully thin, to the degree that she resembles a walking skeleton. The person that caused her so much ire in her life that she literally starved herself to avenge is now decesased, yet her body will never be the same again.
Where I’m going with this is that ever since that high school eating disorder, I’ve held a love/hate relationship with food. And, recently, in the past 4 years, it has all come glaringly back to memory, so that every bite I take, I analyze before swallowing. Is it a dangerous carb? How many grams of fat in that snack? Unsweetened iced teas are safe. I drink them nonstop. Coke Zero tastes too good to be sugarless. Surely, it’s a trick. Marshmallows in my sugar free hot cocoa, like all my friends get to drink, or none? Popcorn, when drunk with a sugarless soda, becomes nearly starchless, aka carbless, but eaten dry, makes your blood sugar soar. If I’m at a restaurant sans insulin, how long will it take me to drive home and take a shot without a significant rise in glucose? Ups and downs of glucose are hard on the kidneys, don’t test your luck. Oh, there are only 15 grams of fat in a Peppermint Pattie, which equals 1 unit of insulin. You can eat that, sure! Who in the world made mother’s natural milk high in carbs? What a nasty trick to have a Starbucks on every corner. What from there can you drink? A sugarfree mocha is loaded with fat. More fat than a regular mocha, in fact. You might as well drink the normal version, and take more insulin. Besides, a lot of products on shelves that say sugar-free either are made with the same ingredients in Ex-Lax, or are full of sugar alcohol, which is worse than sugar. Don’t kid yourself that brown sugar isn’t sugar. It is. So is sucrose, and fructose, which can be found in syrup and a lot of fruit drinks.
My stomach is dotted with circular bruises from insulin shots, proof that Starbucks is my enemy. So is Five Guys, where 10 of their french fries, cooked in peanut oil, constitute an entire day’s worth of carbs. I used to love cake donuts, especially sugar coated ones. A no no now. Panera’s sells delicious short bread cookies. I like the texture more than the taste but one a month is my limit. An egg McMuffin from McDonald’s has to be eaten with only the top going down my gut, minus the cheese. Skip rolls at dinner – pure carb, unnecessary. Carrots contain a lot of sugar, which is why they taste so good. Sandwich wraps are healthier, and less filling, anyway. Blueberries are better for diabetics than strawberries. Less natural sugar. More antioxidants. One lousy cup of ice cream, any brand, equals 10 units of insulin. TEN! Oh, I could go on and on.
I’m a Type II diabetic, insulin dependent. In the beginning of my diagnosis, I was in quiet denial. I ate what I wanted. I didn’t think I was too fat. After all, through my 20s, I’d weighed 98-102 lbs. But then I started taking birth control, which meant an extra 10 lb gain per year into my late 20s. By the time I got married and then pregnant, I’d gained 60 extra unwanted lbs. Post partum, I still had 10 lbs. to lose to return to my “normal” weight of 120, but with the newly diagnosed diabetes and medicine, and being a new mother with no time of her own, it seemed insurmountable to lose any more. By the time I turned 35, I was a full blown diabetic requiring mandatory daily exercise, and insulin. How was a sweetaholic to survive?
Non diabetics, I’m sure, think that if they had to stick themselves in the stomach twice a day, then they’d sit up and take notice of protocol that diabetics find annoying. Like testing blood sugar up to 6 times a day (pricking one’s finger), combining insulin with pills or vice versa. And the bane of my existence – regular exercise. Not exercise such as walking around the block, or vaccuming, but, rather, exercise that makes you sweat. Hard core exercise like running, aerobics, Zumba, cycling or boxing, all sports I embraced over time.
Enter 4 of the best years of my life concerning food. Enter Victoza, a miracle “non-insulin” insulin. Back in high school, while I wasted away for a year by avoiding food, now I have safely lost and kept off 30 lbs in the past 4 years by taking this drug. Not available for Type I diabetics, Victoza forces the liver and kidneys to work harder by jiggling beta cells, thereby reducing the amount of insulin that their body creates. Whereas, Type I diabetics already have no assistance from their livers and kidneys, meaning no natural insulin, so they need another kind of assistance in an insulin mix. But Victoza also does another amazing thing. It triggers receptors in the brain to tell the body that it’s too full for food. When I go to the dinner table now, I am not hungry. Just looking at pork makes me ill. Not only am I not hungry, but all the cravings I used to have for candy, cookies and cake have faded away. I no longer get cravings, or hunger pangs, and I can’t even go grocery shopping and find anything delicious enough to buy. Not that my brain is completely turned off to food. My husband, who also has a terrible sweet tooth, brings home lots of delicious treats, and I am tempted. Sometimes I join in, but mostly I don’t. Mostly, I can get up, start my day, and not think about hunger until 2 in the afternoon. Breakfast, often, is a 3 ounce bag of peanuts, almonds and pistachios. Full of protein.
The only trick I now face is constant exercise. This winter I gave up a membership to a gym in favor of tennis. Playing 3-4 times a week isn’t enough, and I know it, and hope to remedy it soon. But at least, I am at my goal weight, my goal A1C (walking around glucose), and happier for it. I’ve dropped a pants size, and hope that perhaps when it’s my time to “go”, I’ll be a thinner cadaver than not, and not have starved myself to get there.