Entry Number Nine: The rocky road to cutting out Rocky Roads (and other such foods).
Ok, let me answer one burning question straight off. At the end of my last post, I hinted that I may have been eaten by a bear whilst trying out low carb. This in fact, did not happen. Maybe I should have saved that revelation until the end. That's why you readers of previous posts came back, right? In case you want more info about my journey with diabetes instead, I shall provide such things below!
So, February 2014. One year ago. we're talking seriously recent history now people. I was sold on trying out a low carbohydrate diet. I came on this forum, asked questions, and got plenty of reasons why it was and was not a good idea. What a lot of people said was 'It's great, but reduce your carbs gradually.' Now, as I mentioned, I'm an all or nothing guy when it comes to doing something. So I disregarded that and dived in head first! This is why this entry is entitled 'the rocky road' (Also, I thought the play on words was clever, bordering on delightful, so there).
To anyone reading this, who is considering trying out low carb, there are some things you should know first. Carbohydrate is addictive. Very addictive. It probably causes more deaths each year than drugs and alcohol combined. So your body isn't going to give them up without withdrawal symptoms. They are temporary, but that doesn't make them fun. On the whole, my blood sugars improved dramatically. For the first time in many, many years, I was avoiding blood sugars in the double figures. Being high started to mean being in the 9s, which in itself was happening less regularly. However, I suffered early on. Perhaps my timing wasn't amazing. At the same time as I started low carbing, I was also in the process of moving flats. There was lots of heaving boxes around, going between the two properties to sort various things out, and generally being even more active than usual. At the same time, I was finding that I was getting carb cravings. Cadbury's Dairy Milk bars and Snickers bars called out to me from shops. I was not a saint, and a couple of times I did cave in. Generally, this was when I was making the millionth trip to the tip, to get rid of all the rubbish I had accumulated from 5 years of not having a proper clear out. I don't drive (not as a precaution to do with diabetes, I just can't afford to. Generally, you don't become a musician to sleep on a bed of gold).
At the same time as I was heaving things around, I was tired. Very, very tired. My body was getting used to the fact that it was going to have to source its energy from protein and fat. To begin with, it thought it was starving. Therefore, my glycogen stores were being released. This led to one of the least fun side effects; dehydration. Apparently, glycogen carries a lot of water with it. Your body loses this when the liver releases its glycogen. Now, if you are aware of that, there is an easy solution. It involves drinking lots more water than usual. Only I didn't think about that. I remember walking along, and realising that I ached. A lot. Particularly my stomach and my groin. I went to use a public toilet. I was horrified to see that my urine was an awful orange colour. It looked like it was water pouring from a rusty vehicle. I panicked, thinking I had murdered my kidneys with my new diet. Then I realised, I had not had anything to drink that morning. I nipped across to boots, and bought a bottle of water. I drank it, and it was like someone had flicked a switch. The pain evaporated, and I felt much better. And my urine returned to its normal colour the next time I went to use the loo.
I also got cramps. Lots and lots of leg cramps. Again, this was easily solved. It is fairly amazing just how much salt there is in a high carbohydrate diet. I was used to eating pizzas and ready meals. Salt has been demonised in the press. The thing is, too little is just as bad as too much. I started adding some salt to my breakfast, and voila! Cramps gone. I also found that for about a month, my sex drive pretty much switched off. I still had the ability, I just didn't have the desire. It seems that a low carbohydrate diet can affect people very differently on this count. Some people have reported a massive rise in libido, but for me it was completely the opposite. However, by mid March to the end of April, everything was very much back to normal.
So, I have covered the problems I faced; Exhaustion, Cramps, Dehydration, loss of libido. Some might ask, how/why did I put myself through that? Simple; the results on my blood sugars were amazing. They just kept getting better with each week. Highs getting lower, and lows getting higher. I was still adjusting, and I still had a fair few hypos to begin with. But now I was noting down my results, and I found that I could explain what caused them when they happened. My insulin requirements went through the floor. And I have found a strange unexpected benefit regarding hypos. Most people that have had a hypo know all about the dreaded brain fog. You can't think straight, and often everything collapses around you. Once I started low carbing, the brain fog went away. My hypo awareness was usually pretty good, but now it was excellent. I could tell when my blood sugars dropped, but now I was in control. And I was spending much, much less on food to stop my hypos too. As previously mentioned, I was getting through a ten pack of fruit pastilles in 2 days. When I started low carbing, I had about 4 packs left. I only used them when I forgot to buy dextrose (which I used small amounts of during exercise as well as for hypo treatment). The Fruit pastilles lasted me about 9 months.
And finally, after a lifetime avoiding the kitchen, I learned to cook. In January 2014, if you asked me to make you a hard boiled egg, I would need to look up how that was achieved. However, once I started low carbing, I found that just buying a ready meal was no longer an option. So I started experimenting. Once again, my wife's help was a godsend in this regard. She is not a bad cook at all. I started small, fried/scrambled eggs, frying bacon etc. Then I moved onto making omelettes. I missed sweet desserts, so I looked up if there were any low carb versions of things. I found out about a carb free sweetener called Stevia. I got some from Holland and Barrett's and started experimenting. Not all of these were successful. I made some truly appalling creations, which were completely inedible. But I had successes as well. I found a recipe for muffins, using Stevia instead of sugar, and ground almonds instead of flour. I learned to make them, and I still eat them today. I became amazed at how much I wasn't missing out. I even learned to make a low carbohydrate bread out of ground linseed. Linseed, also known as flaxseed, is brilliant. I have also found a way to make pizza out of it. The entire thing, toppings and all, has less carbohydrate than a single slice of normal pizza.
I was also discussing everything with my wife. I no longer hid when I was testing my blood sugars. If she asked me to test, I would without hesitation, rather than shutting her down with an annoyed 'I'm fine.' She told me what a relief it was. Finally, she could talk to me again. She said that before, that was what had worried her the most. I would never tell her what was going on, but now, she was happy to be in the middle of it all.
After a few weeks, the carb cravings reduced. Eventually, they all but disappeared. When I walked by a sweet shelf, I was not even tempted. I found that my meals were satisfying me now. I could eat breakfast, and not need to eat again until lunch. All in all, this new way of eating was setting me free. I wished I had come across it much, much sooner.
Next time, discover what happened in appointments with my healthcare team! Find out more about my many successes, and a few failures along the way in 2014. And see how I learned to live life, thus justifying the decision not to get eaten by a bear.
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