Disclaimer 1: I am in no way giving medical advice to anyone. Do not use anything here as advice on how to deal with your health. If you have health concerns, please see a doctor.
Disclaimer 2: Affiliate links are included throughout this post.
I don’t consider myself a stupid person. I like to think I’ve learned from the mistakes of those who have come before me. So when I tell you that I had a medical something occur, I really can’t explain why I didn’t take myself to the doctor immediately. With grandparents who died from cancer found too late and an almost sister-in-law who never went to the doctor and thought feeling bad was “normal,” I should know better than to play around with my health.
But I didn’t. Thank God, it wasn’t anything as serious as cancer.
I Felt Bad Every Single Day
Something was wrong though. I was always tired (more than the I’m-a-Mom-I’m-always-tired kind of way). Some days I could barely open my eyes. I nearly fell asleep driving one too many times. At night, though, I couldn’t fall asleep if you paid me. Or if I did, I never stayed asleep.
At the same time, my headaches – both tension and migraine – were becoming more frequent. My stomach hurt every day, and I was constantly bloated. (Ask any woman, and she can tell you the difference between bloat and fat. This was bloat.)
And then, the worst happened (which probably isn’t the worst, but it spurred me to action), I gained five pounds in 14 days – with no changes to my diet. The scale had been steadily going up for 18 months. Part of it was my own fault with my love of coffee-flavored chocolate drinks. But something wasn’t adding up.
The only way I could lose weight was to go to extremes:
- Too few calories which only caused more headaches and exhaustion
- Zero sugar, zero carbs, zero grains, nothing but extremes – which is a first world problem, I know – but I don’t like extremes. I like moderation. This was the opposite of that.
I should be ashamed to admit it was the five pound gain that pushed me to do something. I should be, but I’m not. We’ve all got our triggers, and this was mine. I was 30 pounds away from my all-time heaviest. I knew it wasn’t just poor diet choices causing the problem.
At the same time, I was breaking out like I was 12 again and growing lots of hair in weird places, while losing the hair on my head. I planned to ask my doctor about PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – in May at my next visit. I’ve always presented with the classic symptoms (minus the infertility) but never pursued it because I’m done having babies so I don’t really care about not being fertile. I figured I was on birth control, my cycle was now non-existent, so there was nothing to worry about.
I think I was wrong.
Were PCOS and Insulin Resistance the Problem?
On a whim, I decided to look up the symptoms and problems associated with PCOS. I know, I know, rookie mistake. I could have convinced myself I was dying thanks to Doctor Google, but instead, I got very lucky. I found resources that spoke intelligently about PCOS.
That’s where I discovered “insulin resistance.” This isn’t diabetes or pre-diabetes, but you might think of it as pre-pre-diabeties. It’s a common problem with PCOS, and basically, it means your body doesn’t know how to handle sugar in your body, and when it can’t turn it to energy, it turns it to fat.
What the hell?
That lead me on a journey to read more about insulin resistance, in general. Before I decided to self-diagnose myself, I figured I should dive a little deeper.
It’s thought that 25 percent of all adults probably have insulin resistance and don’t even know it. Common symptoms are bloating, weight gain, inability to process certain foods, big crashes after eating sugar, constant fatigue. It can’t always be tested for because you might have okay blood sugar results if you take a fasting glucose test.
I started putting two and two together.
Every OBGYN I’ve ever known since I got pregnant with Aidan has asked if I was diagnosed with PCOS after hearing me talk about my typical cycle.
PCOS and insulin resistance are often (but not always) found together.
Every symptom of insulin resistance was something I experienced on a near daily basis.
When the suggestion to correct the problem was simply to “cut out sugar” and eat whole foods, a massive, gigantic, ultra-bright LED lightbulb went on over my head.
It Was Time to Do Some Reading
The only “diets” that had worked for me since Sean was born (six years ago) had been low/no sugar, all natural diets. Always. I liked the standard way of counting calories and losing weight, but it didn’t work anymore.
I’d considered low/no sugar/carbs/bread thing “extreme” because they forced you to cut out every single convenience on the planet or make them entirely from scratch (I’m looking at you, Paleo), and this Mama don’t have time for all that. Sometimes, I need convenience. And damn, sometimes I need a mocha latte frappy coffee goodness thing.
So here I am with my light bulb moment, but I needed more. And the internet is a bear when you’re trying to verify that your information is real and not something a random person pulled out of their ass.
It was time to turn to my trusted source since before Google was a baby – the library. Now, I know that anyone can write down anything and get it published. I also know that it’s exceedingly hard to find up-to-date information in a library or even in the printed form. Still, books are something I trust.
I found three books to look through, hoping to find something would strike me “right” – meaning it was right on some ephemeral, inexplicable instinctive level.
The GI Diet by Rick Gallop (2002 edition)
The Sugar Solution from Prevention Magazine (2006 edition)
Master Your Metabolism by Jillian Michaels (2009 edition)
They all kind of said the same thing, but in different ways and at different levels. They were also published several years apart from one another, and you can tell information and thinking changed over the years.
The GI Diet is about the Glycemic Index, how foods affect your blood sugar. Some foods are better for you than others, of course. But a lot of foods I consider whole, healthy, and natural were on Don’t Eat list. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. And, because this was 2002, he kept telling me to drink diet sodas. Nope, not going to work. Too outdated.
The Sugar Solution discussed real world, doable (for me) solutions, and also said very clearly that “treats” and “indulgences” were fine in real moderation. Ya know, not the moderation where you tell yourself it’s been 24 whole hours since you ate cake, so you should be able to have cake again. The kind of moderation where you only have one small piece of cake maybe once a week.
Master Your Metabolism was something I could agree with on an intellectual level – the fake foods, chemicals in everything, and environment are killing us. But I couldn’t change my life or my diet as drastically as Jillian was advocating. I love Jillian, and I believe in her message, “If it doesn’t come from the ground or have a mother, don’t eat it.” But we’re back to that need for convenience. Convenience isn’t evil, but too much of a good thing is almost always bad for you.
I’m a moderation girl, through and through. The Sugar Solution was my solution.
Basically, the plan is to eat whole, fresh foods, very little processed foods, and to understand some foods with low glycemic index still aren’t good for you (like potato chips) but foods that have a high GI are okay (yay, I can have potatoes!).
I eat every three hours (6 times a day). Mini meals, y’all. Protein, good carbs, all that. Whatever I’m eating is as whole as I can get it, has no or very little added sugar, and I shoot for 30 to 60 grams of carbs each time I eat. I’m pretty sure I come in much lower most of the time. The idea, according to The Sugar Solution, is to keep my blood sugar at a steady level and eat foods that are low on the glycemic index.
This is very new so I don’t know if I’m going to see any real benefits or not. But in the short time I’ve tried this, I’ve seen a few things.
- No bloating
- No headaches
- More energy – John asked where I’d been hiding, he’d forgotten what a chatty, constantly moving woman I can be.
- And I lost six pounds the first week.
Is this the cure? I don’t know. I’m cautiously optimistic. I have to be – I battled the same five pounds for six months, then gained a few, and battled those five pounds, then gained a few more. You see the pattern?
If this doesn’t help, if it’s not sustainable, I’ll talk to my doctors later this year at my annual. (Okay, okay, if the headaches, bloating, and exhaustion come back, I’ll go sooner.)
But it feels right.
I eat healthy foods 95% of the time, and I feel better. I feel like myself again.
This isn’t about what size my jeans are.
This isn’t about what I look like.
This is about my health and how I want to spend my life. Me? I’d much rather be healthy and able to participate in my life than eat whatever the hell sounds good at the moment but become a sleepy blob on the couch who never does a damn thing.