I Did It.
Can You Do it?

First steps with the new program

Part 2: Baby Steps

By Bobbie Jo Lieberman

The Tuesday after I enrolled in the E4 A.L.I.V.E Diabetes Solutions program, I found myself in downtown San Antonio, sitting in a windowless waiting room at Quest Laboratories having blood work to launch my entry into the program. On tap were a glucose tolerance test (which meant chugging a horribly sweet glucose drink to set my markers in motion) and multiple tests for cortisol, c-reactive protein and other inflammatory markers. All fasting, of course.

The day of testing would involve multiple blood draws over a four-hour period. I became a human pin cushion. But it would set the stage for the four-month program and provide a baseline with which to assess progress. I had been jarred to attention with a 6.5 A1C last December—indicating I was on the verge of being back in diabetes territory along with its attendant side effects.
The Quest testing pegged me at 6.3—my numbers were already heading in the right direction.

 

Although this was a good beginning, my insulin response to the glucose-tolerance test showed considerable weakness. My work was cut out for me!

When I enrolled in the program, I would soon discover a level of support I can only describe as total immersion. A team of experts led by John Vargas Eddy and Dr. Wes Youngberg, DrPH, hosted intensive live webinars biweekly, and additional group sessions would soon be added to the curriculum on topics such as emotional eating, dealing with travel and social situations, fine-
tuning recipes, improving sleep and supplements. The course book included a 245-page document of recipes for each phase of healing.

 

In addition, we’d receive almost daily “tickler” texts to be sure we were staying on track with our goals, journals and challenges. There was no place to hide!
In my case, learning to stop snacking between meals proved to be my greatest challenge.

 

Snacking, and specifically snacking on nuts, was my downfall.

 

I never considered myself as having an addictive personality. I could eat one chocolate-chip cookie and stop right there. I could eat small amounts of chocolate or drink a half glass of wine and be satisfied. I didn’t especially care for candy.

But nuts were like crack to me.
Walnuts. Brazil nuts. Almonds. Cashews. Hazelnuts. Macadamias.

My husband Kenny and I bought them in the bulk bins and could easily spend over $100 just on nuts whenever we went shopping. They sat in quart bags in a small cooler on a chair in the kitchen, where we’d walk right by them 25 times a day. It was so easy to flip the lid and grab a handful any time we walked by.

 

Nuts, although heart-healthy in moderation, are high in fat and calories. A steady stream of nuts wasn’t good for diabetes. The daily allowance was actually very small, I learned, and they are best consumed as part of a meal—made into nut milk in a breakfast smoothie, for example, or chopped and added to a salad. Never alone!

 

Turns out that four to five hours is the ideal gap to maintain between meals. I also learned that it’s much better to eat two or three satisfying meals a day rather than several smaller meals.

 

This gives the digestive system, including the pancreas, a chance to rest and heal. My pancreas was showing signs of wear and tear, as evidenced by my lab results, which indicated fairly advanced insulin resistance.

 

Folks from across the US were signed up for the course. At the beginning of each webinar, we’d do a quick “check-in” during which each of us shared our celebrations and challenges of the week. We could also ask questions throughout via interactive texting. It’s the next best thing to a live conference!

 

During the first weeks of the program, I became much more aware of my automatic tendency to snack on nuts, especially while traveling or under any kind of stress. I also realized that eating our main meal of the day so late in the evening was setting me up for higher fasting glucose levels in the morning as well as compromised sleep patterns. Making these shifts would prove to be challenging, as my husband Kenny and I live on a ranch with a dozen horses, six cows, five cats and a cattle dog. The animals come first, and we often don’t get back into the house before dark. The upside of that is that we are always moving.

 

Still, the net effect, group support and sharpened focus on plant-based eating was extremely positive. I gave up the remnants of all dairy, eggs and the occasional wild salmon. I recorded much more frequent blood-glucose readings and kept a journal. About a month later, I rechecked my Aic, which reveals the average reading over the past three months. This critical
value had plunged from 6.3 to 5.3! I was now in the “diabetes-free” zone. If I could stay there or even improve the numbers even a bit more, the likelihood of complications would be erased.

But could I stay there?
In our first group webinar, our leader John Vargas Eddy discussed three major myths of diabetes:

Myth #1: Genetics is the root cause of diabetes.

So you’ll either get it or you won’t. Although genetics can increase your susceptibility to certain health conditions, genes are not your destiny. John Vargas Eddy shared that his grandmother had diabetes and was on insulin. He wondered why. But he also noticed that she loved sweets and cream.

 

When he began to experience energy crashes and “my own health took a dive,” he began a lifelong journey into the connection between plant-based nutrition and vibrant health.

Myth #2: Exercise will keep you healthy so you can eat whatever you want.

You can’t exercise away bad food choices. If you consume one tablespoon of olive oil, you’d have to walk 1.5 miles to work it off. A Big Mac? Fifteen miles! Even a seemingly healthy choice at PF Chang, Walnut Shrimp with Melon, would require 14 miles. How about veggie lettuce wraps with stir-fried eggplant? Sounds healthy! Sixteen miles.

 

Whoops—exercise is not enough.

 

Yes, movement is good, and it’s crucial after meals, but extreme exercise is not
necessary or even desirable. Just getting up and moving around for 15 to 20 minutes can help lower your post-meal glucose spikes. So get off your duff and do the dishes!

Myth #3: Weight loss is the key to controlling type 2 diabetes.

His doctors frequently told iThrive founder Jon McMahon that “you’ve got to get the weight off” to control his obesity and diabetes. Sadly, weight loss alone won’t do the trick. Although a 44-day water fast propelled Jon into major weight loss, it was his nutrient-dense, plant-based, lower fat diet that really turned his life around and lowered his aic from 7.8 to 4.9 in less than three months.

 

Skinny, active people with no family history of diabetes also get diabetes (I’m a poster child for that.) For years I thought I was immune to diabetes due to my slender physique. Then, when I was in the acute state of diabetes, I actually lost nearly 20 pounds. I struggle to gain back the muscle mass I lost today.

Steps on the Journey from Participants

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