Tuesday, November 10, 2009
In previous posts, I’ve alluded to something called “Unprocessed”. I’m finally going to tell you what that means. In many ways, 2009 was the most remarkable year of my marriage. My husband and I took a giant risk by quitting our jobs, moving to South America, returning to make the trip from one coast to the other, and settling in this great city by the bay. In other ways, this past year wasn’t so hot. Just before we left for our trip, my cousin, then 16, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (also referred to as juvenile diabetes). This fall, I learned that my father-in-law developed type 2 diabetes (adult onset) along with other serious complications. Only a few weeks later, I lost my grandmother, who had been struggling with diabetes for many years. That same week, a young cousin, who had type 1 diabetes since early childhood, passed away. When I think back, these aren’t the only examples – a cousin with gestational diabetes, a grandfather-in-law with type 2, my dad’s cousin who suffered an amputation and passed away from heart problems associated with diabetes – sometimes it seems as if it is easier to count relatives who have not been affected. With almost 24 million American diabetics, this is no surprise.
While I am not technically a diabetic, my doctors have labeled me as “pre-diabetic” – a condition indicating elevated blood glucose levels which means that I am also slightly insulin resistant. How did I get this way? Just before college graduation, I began to notice that my hair was thinning, and I was gaining a lot of weight – even more than the standard freshmen 15. My doctors discovered that my thyroid was relatively inactive, a condition known as hypothyroidism. The thyroid is a gland found in the neck/throat which regulates many of the body’s metabolic activities. I began taking synthetic thyroid hormone and my symptoms stabilized. However, a few years later, things worsened. I continued to battle weight issues and without hormonal regulation, my menstrual periods were absent. This time, it was my gynecologist who informed me that I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) – a hormonal imbalance whose symptoms manifest as infertility, insulin resistance, acne, hair loss, abdominal fat, facial hair, fatigue, and depression. People with PCOS often have thyroid disorders as well. Awesome. All this is not to say that I should run out and audition for the role of Dom DeLuise in the made for t.v. movie about his life. The birth control pill provides necessary estrogen, and metformin, a commonly prescribed diabetes drug, helps stabilize blood glucose levels and assists with maintaining a healthy weight. Yet, the most important “treatment” is the old standby of diet and exercise. Many patients have found that an active lifestyle combined with a diet that is low in saturated fat, sugar, and sodium actually eliminates most of their symptoms.
This blog is my attempt to better care for my own health needs and to provide a resource for friends and family who want to eat for their health. I am not a doctor, nor am I a nutritionist, but what I can share are my own experiences and recipes. Beginning in 2010, my husband, Ben, and I will embark on a quest to remove as many processed foods as possible from our diet. The idea is to eat healthier, cook for ourselves, and eliminate many of the foods that are thought to contribute to our nation’s health crisis. We are calling this project “Unprocessed.” As we start to solidify our ideas, I will continue to post about the details, including parameters for the year.
Pictured above with my grandmother -- back when fat and bald was absolutely adorable!