‘Cook­ing our way to bet­ter health’

Diabetic Living - - Contents -

When Stephanie’s hus­band didn’t worry about his di­ag­no­sis, she didn’t ei­ther. Then they learned bet­ter

When my hus­band Si­las was di­ag­nosed with type 2 di­a­betes, it was a com­plete shock to both of us. He’d al­ways been pretty healthy, worked as a hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist so was strong and fit and, although he car­ried a few ex­tra ki­los, who doesn’t?

He went to the doc­tor when he was about 45 for some­thing un­re­lated but, as it had been a while since his last med­i­cal ap­point­ment, the GP jumped at the chance to run some gen­eral tests. The urine anal­y­sis showed high glu­cose and he was told

with­out alarm to ‘watch that’ and ‘maybe lose a few ki­los’.

A year later, the fol­low-up test re­sults were just as wor­ry­ing.

Fast­ing blood tests led to the in­evitable con­clu­sion he had joined the ranks of the 100,000 or so peo­ple who de­velop type 2 yearly.

When I think back on it, there’d been a pe­riod of a cou­ple of years be­fore his di­ag­no­sis when he’d been eat­ing a lot of re­fined carbs and sug­ars – white bread and honey, Crunchy Nut Corn­flakes, that kind of thing – and didn’t seem to have an off switch. He rarely felt com­pletely sat­is­fied by a meal and could eat as many as eight pieces of toast for break­fast and still hap­pily con­sider an­other.

But, de­spite this time be­ing read the riot act by his GP and leav­ing the surgery with a fist­ful of pre­scrip­tions, the news hadn’t re­ally hit home. He took the first course of his di­a­betes med­i­ca­tion, per­haps a few choles­terol and blood pres­sure pills but, be­cause he had no symp­toms, it was hard to ac­cept he had a prob­lem. It felt as though this could have been a clin­i­cal er­ror and no fur­ther scripts were filled. Nei­ther of us knew much about the dis­ease and if he wasn’t go­ing to worry about it, nei­ther was I.

It took turn­ing 50 and a dawn­ing sense of mor­tal­ity for him to take the di­ag­no­sis se­ri­ously. Con­trol and med­i­ca­tion were taken and the sit­u­a­tion im­proved for a while.

Af­ter a cou­ple of years, and long be­fore it was trendy, he gave up sugar, honey and maple syrup. Just stopped them dead, be­liev­ing ab­sti­nence is eas­ier than mod­er­a­tion. That move didn’t much change his HbA1c, but it did her­ald an acute sense of ap­petite and sati­ety. Fi­nally, he had an off switch, and with that came a grad­ual loss of about 5kg. He also joined the gym, hav­ing been told of the ben­e­fits of weight-lift­ing and re­sis­tance train­ing, but loathed it as much as all other ex­er­cise. A stroll with the dog and the in­ci­den­tal move­ments and lift­ing of his job are as much as he’s pre­pared to do.

So, de­spite stop­ping sugar, his HbA1c con­tin­ued to creep up, un­til three years ago, when he cut all the ma­jor high-GI carbs – bread, pota­toes, pasta, noo­dles and rice. It meant we had to find new ways of cook­ing, but it was worth it be­cause the move trig­gered a dra­matic drop in his blood glu­cose and triglyc­erides.

Luck­ily I adore pulses and, with their low GI, Si­las was pre­pared to keep eat­ing them (re­fusal may have led to divorce). So, in­stead of mak­ing fish cakes bound with mashed potato, we’d use mashed white beans, and they tasted even bet­ter. Slow-cooked stews I would serve with pureed chick­peas in­stead of rice or mash, which was an­other im­prove­ment. And cau­li­flower rice be­came a fairly reg­u­lar in­clu­sion to our meals as well.

We were both re­ally an­noyed re­mem­ber­ing the Healthy Food Pyra­mid which, from the 1980s to 2007, had carbs dom­i­nat­ing the ‘eat most’ cat­e­gory. All through the 1990s our reg­u­lar mid­week meals were pasta, noo­dles or rice based and it was the decade we were prob­a­bly at our fat­test. Lit­tle won­der there’s a di­a­betes epi­demic.

Nowa­days, Si­las eats hardly any fruit, and he’d never eat as much as a whole ap­ple or pear. He favours low-GI fruits such as cher­ries and berries and steers clear of high-GI trop­i­cal fruits and grapes. He feels good start­ing the day with homemade muesli and yo­ghurt, oats be­ing an ac­cept­able carb and, as a rare treat, he’ll eat savoury pas­try in say an onion tart or yum cha dumplings.

Alas, his most re­cent tests have shown the HbA1c is on the up again, which his GP says may be an aber­ra­tion and is recheck­ing. Un­til the next test comes back, the ad­vice is to stick with his diet prin­ci­ples but limit por­tions, lose weight, boost ex­er­cise and book in to see an en­docri­nol­o­gist. Looks like there’s only so much you can do with nutri­tion alone, and it’s prob­a­bly time for a meds re­view.

De­spite be­ing read the riot act by his GP, the news hadn’t re­ally

hit home


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