Four months ago I admitted something to my endocrinologist that I hadn’t shared with anyone: I was hungry.
Stomach-growlingly hungry. Almost all the time.
Nothing had changed with my diet or my exercise. My basic regimen had been the same for over four years: lots of protein and low starch vegetables and a daily exercise routine of an hour of biking or weights.
Under this blueprint, my A1C’s were hard to beat – 5.7 on that visit – but I was famished.
And I suspected I knew the solution: carbs, glorious carbs.
“I want steel cut oatmeal,” I told my endo. “And multigrain toast. I want to eat a baked potato.”
I expected him to object. After all, I had been doing so well on my current plan. My weight stayed steady, my blood pressure was perfect and my glucose readings predictably low.
But he surprised me. He didn’t object. Instead he said, “So go for it.”
“Sure,” he said. “If you’re hungry you need to eat.”
And like that, I decided I would.
A little history here: I’ve been a big proponent of treating my type 2 diabetes by ingesting the fewest carbs possible. Over the last years, I’ve weaned myself off all breads, grains, rice, pastas, even carrots, corn and peas. This super-low-carb diet ensured my blood sugar readings were always steady, but it was boring – and worse yet, it always left me feeling hungry.
Surprisingly, re-introducing the carbs that I had craved for so long, wasn’t easy at first. At the start, guilt trailed every carbohydrate bite. Eating even small amounts of ‘forbidden’ foods after years of ‘clean eating’ was difficult – I felt I was doing something ‘wrong’.
But gradually, I’ve gotten used to it. I started slowly, with a low-carb English muffin around four o’clock with tea. The first bite was heavenly – it felt so good to chew something new. From there I added steel cut oatmeal and blueberries for breakfast.
While the extra carbs did cause my sugars to rise for a few days, I tried not to panic and retreat. Instead, I tinkered with what and when I ate, and gradually, my readings dropped back to normal.
To be clear, I’m not downing plates of white pasta or pints of ice cream. My “now allowed” list is, for the most part, limited to a daily multigrain English muffin, a quarter cup serving of steel cut oatmeal, an occasional baked potato, a three-quarter cup of Greek yogurt with blueberries, hummus and carrots and a glass (or two) of wine.
I did have a piece of cheesecake recently, and though I was worried, my sugar read 111 in the morning, well within my range.
Three weeks ago, I again visited my endocrinologist. My A1C had ticked up to 5.9, but other than that, all other indicators had had remained the same. With the extra boost of carbs, I find I have more energy for exercise, and that my constant craving for ‘something else’ has disappeared. I’ve discovered cooking with beans and learning to say yes to small servings of other foods I once might have banned.
Eating this way has given me more freedom with food and more variety on the plate. It also reminds me that diabetes is more than a condition – it’s a process that requires constant adjustments and tweaking. But most importantly I find I’m more satisfied after a meal, something my endocrinologist — and I — can both get behind.