I love carbs. I regularly crave potato chips, Oreos, and pizza crust. In fact, I crave just about everything that even hints at the presence of sugar.
In college I survived on a steady diet of Mountain Dew, soft serve ice cream, and rice (preferably with sesame anything).
Enter “the betes.”
That’s right – I have type II diabetes, and it sucks. I give myself two insulin shots each day (before lunch and dinner), and test my blood glucose three times each day. I send my reports to my endocrinologist and diabetes nurse every Friday. It’s a pain.
So, I’ve decided to start weaning myself off carbs and starches. Goodbye Oreos. Goodbye Mountain Dew. You gave me diabetes.
I started off easy – I stopped “treating” myself to cookies and doughnuts. Seems pretty obvious, right? So, I did that for a week. Next, I switched from brown rice to wild rice. Wild rice has half the carbs, and it tastes pretty fantastic. Last week, I attempted to keep my mealtime carb intake to a max of 30g. I say “attempted” because I was only successful with about half my meals. I generally kept my carb intake to 45g per meal, and one meal skyrocketed to about 100g thanks to a low blood glucose reading (high 40s) and the intense hunger that followed. So, we’re back to that goal today. I want to be successful in that goal before I move to more strict goals.
“Who are you? A disciple of Robert Atkins?” Not quite.
A Diabetes Primer
I’m going to do this fast. You ready? Diabetes = insulin resistance. Here’s how it works:
high carb intake –> fat is stored in the liver –> fat is stored in the pancreas –> cells become resistant to insulin –> more sugar is left in the blood stream –> the pancreas is forced to pump out more insulin –> beta cells in the pancreas can’t keep up with insulin production –> “the betes”
Diabetes, then, is not primarily a disease of high blood sugar, but a disease of insulin resistance. Reason dictates, then, reduced/eliminated intake of carbohydrates leads to less fat stored in the liver, pancreas, and beta cells start firing again.
When I was first diagnosed with diabetes I was told I would have it my entire life. “It is a chronic, degenerative disease. It is irreversible.” However, recent studies have shown type II diabetes is, in fact, reversible. The key is how we view the core cause of diabetes.
We like things simple here in the US. We want our potatoes freedom-fried, our candidates with catchy phrases, and our diabetes treatment straightforward. More sugar in your blood? Pop a little insulin in there, and boom, Wilfred Brimley gets his pay check. This keeps us from that pesky behavioral change and allows us to continue eating the food we crave.
The problem is, we’re treating the symptom, not the cause. It’s like using Head-On to treat the flu. You remember those amazing commercials – “Head On, apply directly to the forehead. Head On, apply directly to the fore head. Head On, apply directly to the forehead” (I’m not kidding). But the headache isn’t what’s causing the flu. Your antivaxxer cousin is. Okay, not really (hopefully). But it makes sense, right? A topical cream (or whatever the heck Head On is) isn’t going to cure your flu.
So, to reverse insulin resistance we must reduce our carb intake. For a time, we may even need to eliminate it entirely. Short term pain for long term gain – the antithesis of American values.
Of course, along with the reduction in carbs we have weight loss, increased energy, and an improvement of our overall health.
So, what’s keeping you from making better choices with your carbs? What is your favorite carb? Can you go without it for a day? A week? Let’s do this in community, my friends!