Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Warning: Boring health stuff that you might want to skip.

I dropped out of the diabetes mangement class I signed up for last month, even though I had two classes to go. Why? The info I was getting wasn't helping me manage my diabetes.

I'd hoped to learn more about the glycemic index, glycemic load, recipes that don't cause my BGs to soar, some new developments in treatments or research, a list of helpful books, etc. I wanted to know which diabetic diets worked and which didn't—and why. I was really hoping for some research-based techniques to lower my BGs (blood glucose, or blood sugar).

Mainly I wanted to bring down my HbA1C level. Also called the A1C, this blood test shows your average blood glucose levels (EAG) over the last two or three months. Under 6 is normal. I scored 10 on February 1st. Not good. As you can see on the chart below, a 10 means that my average BGs were 240. Not good at all.

Anyhow, the "diabetes management" class was about how we should eat according to the USDA food pyramid. I already knew that the food pyramid was more political than it was helpful and—despite its acceptance by the American Diabetes Association— that its heavy reliance on carbohydrates (the energy source that diabetics can't process!) was downright dangerous. There's a history of the food pyramid at

I think this part is interesting (bolding mine): ". . . the American Heart Association . . . was proposing that fat and cholesterol consumption should be lowered for better heart health, even though the link between the two had never been proven in any scientific study. With this focus, the creation of today's USDA Food Pyramid began."

If you lower fat intake, you have to increase the other two sources of energy—carbs and protein. The instructors of the diabetes management class didn't seem to get that diabetics can't process carbs very well.  They kept stressing lowering dietary fat. On the third session about eating according to the food pyramid, I asked when we'd be looking at other ways of eating. Answer: We're sticking to the food pyramid. (The special allegedly diabetic-friendly snack we were served that day—one ingredient was low-fat cream cheese—shot my BGs up to 178.)

No way can a diabetic process that many grains!

The last class session I attended was devoted to reading food lables. Not a discussion of what those strange ingredients were in some processed foods and how they affected people, but how to compare carbs to fat to help us eat low-fat. Aaarrrggg! That's why I didn't return for the last two sessions. I'd wasted enough time. Doing more of what doesn't work won't make it work any better.

My health history (you might want to skip this): In 1994, I was diagnosed with "fibromyalgia," most likely to explain why I was still achey and fatigued after my 22 months of chronic mono had abated. I was a mostly-vegetarian then: For nearly two decades, I'd eaten lots of pasta, rice, whole grains, potatoes, etc., and not much fat or protein. I was pretty much eating according to the food pyramid's recommendations—and in those two decades I gained about eighty pounds. 

During those decades, I lived in a neighborhood where "lawn care" companies spewed toxic stuff over many of the lawns around me—albeit not mine. In a one-block area, two women died of breast cancer, one man contracted lymphoma and eventually died from it, and there were a couple of heart attacks.  I had a series of strep infections, a bout with chronic mono, and "fibroymalgia." In the early 90s, I lost two dogs to diabetes and a cat to cancer. Looking back, I think my fatigue, brain fog, and aches were diabetes symptoms, but I wasn't declared diabetic until 1999 when my gynocologist thought I was diabetic. He was right. My other doctors hadn't bothered to test. After all, "fibromyalgia" covered anything that was wrong with me.

After being diagnosed diabetic in early 1999,  I read Dr. Bernstein's Diabetic Solutions and started low-carbing, I noticed that not only did my blood glucose levels drop substantially, but my fibromalgia symptoms nearly vanished. I dropped over forty pounds in six months. However, the aches, brain fog, and fatigue would return with a vengeance if I ate too many carbs—particularly bread.

Through the years, however, I fell off the low-carb train a couple of times because my blood glucose levels were so far down that I surely figured I could eat like a regular person again. But I couldn't. If I ate what non-diabetics ate, my blood glucose and weight soared again. When I went out to dinner or attended a party and partook of forbidden foods, I'd spend the next two days recovering from the aches and fatigue of my carb hangover.

For the last seven weeks—since cutting my carb intake way back (less than fifty grams a day) and giving up wheat, my fibromalgia-type aches are gone again. I don't limp or have bad leg cramps. My blood glucose levels are coming down (now they average 160, which is a little below an A1C of 7.5). I've lost 13 pounds. My acid reflux is gone. I think more clearly. I have considerably more stamina. None of this would have happened if I'd followed the "diabetes management"class directions and eaten the food pyramid way.

I know from re-reading Bernstein's book, reading Wheat Belly by Wm. Davis, MD, and reading Good Calories, Bad Calories and  Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, that the food pyramid way of eating—which promotes low fat and high carbs—is dangerous for diabetics. If you're diabetic, I recommend reading those books. Too bad the folks who designed the diabetes management class hadn't read those books. I'd have loved to discuss them in a class.

If you're hooked on the ASDA food pyramid and low-fat, you might want to read Gary Taubes'  22-page New York Times article, "What If It's All Been a Big, Fat Lie." If you didn't watch Wm. Davis's videos that I posted on my February 29 "Wheat Belly" post, you might like to watch them. And if you read one of the many articles that declares low-fat is the way to eat, look to see if the article references a clinical study.

The Atkins pyramid is one example of the kind of food pyramid that diabetics should use:

It's kind of like flipping the ADA pyramid upside down and putting diabetic-friendly foods at the bottom..

Some more interesting reading about low-fat diets:

I wish the folks who designed the diabetes management class had read the above articles. Meanwhile, I'll manage on my own.


Blogger Just A Girl said...

Thank you for the encouragement as my dear husband is trying to manage a pre-diabetic condition and I feel like you about the guidelines he's taught.

9:34 AM  
Blogger M.F. Atkins said...

Thank goodness you have educated yourself. I am finding this to be vitally important in managing one's health.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Doesn't surprise me that you knew more than the instructors.

I found that interesting. Not boring.

10:23 AM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

I have found this to be true with any low fat diet. They make you gain weight. A modified Atkins is a better way to go.

11:38 AM  
Blogger R.M. said...

You were smart to get out of there with your life! What a waste of time that was, you know better anyway. Finding lots of tips and recipes on-line.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Carole said...

Nice post. For a bit of light relief you might enjoy this cartoon about the food pyramid.

7:20 PM  

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