Pre-diabetes education an information flood


That's not be the official motto of the American Diabetes Association, but someone might want to think about adopting it.

Here what happens when you start on the journey of learning about diabetes -- the information vault is vast.

While attending Walla Walla General Hospital's diabetes education classes, I gathered up nearly more printed materials than I could carry. Even more data flowed at us from video presentations. Then there were the websites we were encouraged to peruse and the books suggested we read.

It's all welcome, don't get me wrong. Much is well done and easily understood. But nothing beats the tips and ideas shared by people sitting together in a classroom.

At the beginning of the educational process, it feels like you will never, ever again figure out how to eat. Nope, not the banana that's been touted as heart healthy. It's got as much natural sugar as you get in a whole meal. Not, at least, the entire 31-grams-of-carbs banana at one time. With so much emphasis in America on low fat or fat free, it's easy to believe fruit consumption can be unlimited.

But even fruit sugar sludge will do as much or more damage to the blood vessels of the diabetic or prediabetic body than butter and bacon, according to diabetes nurse Maria Lizotte. And remember our previous lesson? The "prediabetic" label includes a whole lotta us.

By the way? "Natural sugar" purists come up against it in carbohydrate counting. While there are health arguments to be made for honey versus sugar, they all look the same to your pancreas. Honey, with its lovely minerals, still has nine grams of fast-acting, high-glycemic carbohydrates in each teaspoon.

And your tired pancreas can't handle big bursts of glucose like that, once you've stepped into the Diabetes Zone (cue Rod Serling's voice, please). The blood sugar spikes because your poor, crazy, mixed-up system can't remember what to do with that glucose.

Think of your blood vessels as unwitting victims in this little scenario. Innocent but condemned.

Yet stuff you've never been allowed to eat on any sort of diet routine? Yes! Approved!

Bacon, butter, sour cream, peanut butter (which is such a nice surprise I can't even tell you). Hearing this, I could barely keep my head on, things were spinning so fast.

A recent article at quoted delicious data from the University of Alabama. Researchers discovered through studies with mice (which, for once, got a break) revealed that mice fed a meal higher in fat after waking had normal metabolisms.

Mice eating more carbs at breakfast, on the other hand, and a high-fat meal at the end of the day saw increased weight gain, fat layers, glucose intolerance and other markers of diabetes.

I can hear it now, there in Mouseland. "Honey, does this scientific food pellet make my butt look bigger?"

The piece has the best title ever -- "Bacon at Breakfast Healthier than a Bagel." See? I told you.

Not only did Maria and fellow diabetes educator Lynda Bren have food labels to share in class but there were a few experienced students who knew their way around a grocery store. It was very encouraging to all of us to hear food existed that we could eat.

And that's what I want to do today, talk about what is working for me 10 weeks into this experiment. Please remember, I'm no doctor, but I am becoming an expert on myself.

When I started, really started, after the second WWGH class, I was terrified of being hungry. Every eating plan I've ever done (I'm not saying I've dieted a lot or anything ...) has meant restriction and deprivation. Who hasn't eaten far too much the night before starting the Big D, knowing you'll never feel full again?

That's not just me, right?

So I made sure I had plenty of protein on hand. Meat, eggs, cheese and nuts have very few carbs and I wasn't ready to even think about cholesterol, fat or variety.

When I came home from work, I grabbed a chunk of chicken or a boiled egg like it was life raft. I made huge salads for lunch to stave off the anticipated hunger pangs. I served myself platefuls of veggies (after cooking frozen or fresh), knowing those were considered "free" in this new universe. I cooked bacon and ate slice after slice. Off the platter, before the kids could count out their fair share. Just because I could and because bacon seems like the ultimate diet sin.

I toasted nuts for snacks and added a few coconut shavings to my plain but whole fat yogurt, one-half cup. I stirred in blueberries, but only a quarter cup. Which begins looking like a lot after a few days.

I ate walnuts like they were tortilla chips. So yummy, slightly greasy and with amazing mouth feel. Is this getting weird?

I bought a loaf of low-carb bread, convinced I would be Jonesing for toast and sandwiches. I've eaten exactly two slices and it is now living in the freezer. Not because it didn't taste fine, it actually tasted decent.

But here's the dealio -- 10 weeks in, sooner actually, and I'm not very interested in processed grain products. I'm not tempted, even when they put fries with my bunless burger at Red Robin.

I don't feel deprived or martyred. I've missed that unhealthy white rice a little and Coke a lot, but I haven't even sniffed pasta or potatoes.

And, this is important to remember, I could have those things in small servings if I choose to use my daily carb allowance that way. I just don't, not yet.

Yes, I did have flourless chocolate cake (oh, so decadent) at a Valentine's Day dinner with friends, but the other half of it is in my freezer and I haven't needed to even accidentally scrape it with a fork.

I am nearly never hungry, nor am I ever bummed about this eating style. I'm not kidding. Food is less of a demanding and jealous lover and more of a good and supportive friend, to put it in PG terms.

I can leave food on the plate without needing a medal for doing so. I can bake cookies with my kids and not need to sneak one.

It's seriously blowing my mind. I am not a slave to carbohydrates and I don't even want to date them. I do have to count them, however, and I find myself turning to the Internet (my Google history shows queries such as "carbs in salmon") because I'm too cheap to buy a book.

Diabetes once meant no sugar at all, which includes the foods that turn into sugar, Maria told me. Nowadays it means a little sugar, but the admission price is keeping track of the total carbs.

I also started taking more than just a multivitamin, consulting with my nurses on what to buy. I renewed my determination to drink more water and learned that dropping a tea bag or two into a quart jar of water and letting it steep overnight increased my antioxidant intake and ensured I would actually drink enough of the stuff.

I drink one glass of red wine at night, since Maria quoted a cardiologist who said if everyone did so, he'd be out of a job. Who am I to argue with that?

Once again I am out of space when I have so much more to say. If you are interested in getting some questions answered for free, Walla Walla General Hospital has a diabetes awareness session the first Thursday of every month, beginning at 6 p.m. It's a great way to go through a sort of "sampler" class or just refresh your knowledge. You can share and ask questions and meet some of the educators making a difference in the health of the Walla Walla Valley.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.

Reporter Sheila Hagar is writing about prediabetes education and experiences from a personal perspective, in a series of columns, of which today's is No. 5. This series will not contain every fact about diabetes, nor should it replace medical advice from your physician.


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