On the last day of August 2008 I nearly collapsed on the sidewalk after a meeting with my boss. The incident followed a month of rapidly feeling more and more worn out — and it triggered a memory from twenty years earlier. When I was an undergraduate I had a period of extreme fatigue — and other symptoms — that indicated to some older friends that I might be diabetic. After consultation with a physician, it was suggested that I was hypoglycemic. It was also mentioned that my condition would likely become diabetes as I got older. After taking the doctor's advice about how to adjust my diet the symptoms soon went away and I assumed I'd "outgrown" the problem.
After composing myself on the sidewalk, I got into my truck and drove straight to the Urgent Care Center in my neighborhood and asked for a blood sugar test. Straight away I was told that I was, in fact, diabetic. Subsequent doctor's visits, research, and experience with the health industry would provide me with vague and sometimes contradictory language and advice. I quickly figured out that I had to navigate on my own — blazing a path that worked for me and didn't fall trap to US FDA or DOH guidelines, conventional wisdom, or the increasing moralism associated with Diabetes. In short, I found myself wading in comments as diverse as "You can't be diabetic, you're not obese" and "You can eat anything as long as you control portion size." Even more troubling are the books and web sites that claim they can cure Diabetes.
Even today, with blood sugar levels now below the "pre-diabetic" level, I'm casually told by people that I'm cured. It's a seductive thought. What I am is a person with a radically different relationship to food. It's a relationship that's come from research on nutrition, critical thinking about who produces food and how we think about it, research into the history of "wholesome food," and a fair amount of intuition.
In the weeks after my initial diagnosis, I decided to take a radical approach to attending to my health. On 10 September I quit smoking, white sugar, white flour and alcohol. While I'll now occasionally have a social drink, I've not faltered on the elimination of the other three substances. In fact, by the end of 2009 I went even further and became gluten-free.
While the health benefits of these changes have been enormously positive in my life — for example I've dropped from about 200 to 162 lbs, have energy and stamina again, my glucose levels are balanced, and been told that my skin looks great — they've also significantly inhibited my social life. Eating out is nearly impossible — at least in any conventional way — and, coupled with my twenty-years of being pescetarian (a neologism of the Italian word for fish — "pesce" — and "vegetarian" meaning that I don't eat meat, but I do eat fish), I've become, in the minds of some, the impossible dinner guest.
On the other hand, many of my friends quietly ask me how I balance these changes and how I've managed to lose weight — especially at the same time as I quit smoking. I'm well aware that there is a small and quiet food revolution occurring today, but my experience has led me to also understand the ways in which the benefits of that revolution are obscured from our daily lives. This blog is intended to share what I've learned, share the foods I've developed in my daily life, and to be an on-going site for discourse and research about food and nutrition. It's not intended to offer answers, a cure, or any other false promises about Diabetes or any other health matter. It may provide an example of what's possible in a person's life, but your answers will come from your inquiry and your experience.
Let me know what you think.