I am diabetic. Type 2, to be exact. Diabetes Mellitus.
I am in disturbingly good company. An estimated 17 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, but only about half of us know it. The rest of us are blissfully gobbling down Big Macs and candy bars and sitting on our duffs watching reruns of “Dancing with the Stars.”
My blood sugar has been on the high side for several years. A recent reading indicating that I was on the borderline prompted my doctor’s decision for me to undergo a two-hour glucose tolerance test at Tallassee Community Hospital. A reading over 140 indicates diabetes; mine was 215. Nothing borderline about that.
I am now taking the most widely used drug for diabetes, Metformin (generic – 90 day supply costs me $11.34 with insurance). I am monitoring my blood sugar levels twice a day. I am to look for a glucose reading first thing in the morning between 80 and 125 and a reading later in the day (either just before a meal or at least two hours after a meal) of less than 140. Glucose monitoring is absurdly expensive, even with insurance. Anyone who thinks socialized medicine is a horrible thing needs to spend a couple of weeks as a diabetic. The monitor itself is a loss leader and usually priced very low. It’s on the test strips that they gouge you, and my Blue Cross health insurance is worthless for test strips. Coverage for test strips at 80% but only after a $350 annual deductible, and no coverage for the less expensive pricing available by mail order. I’ve decided to bypass my health insurance and just buy as cheaply as I can on Ebay.
So far my readings have been in compliance except for the morning after I fell off the wagon and ate a big lunch of Nachos and cheese dip at Acupulco Grill. Interesting to reflect on how many times in the recent past my blood sugar levels must have skyrocketed without my knowing it.
I am 6’0″ and weigh 215 pounds, so I have about 40 pounds to give. There’s a chance – a CHANCE, mind you – that if I lose significant weight the diabetes may abate. What I know with confidence is that it won’t hurt for me to get my weight down to a more healthy level. It’s been easy to become overweight, living as I do in the most overweight state in the union, Alabama. Whenever any group of family or friends gathers, we eat. And I’m not talking about fresh veggies and celery sticks; I’m talking gooey muffins, cheesy casseroles, red meat and fried chicken, and chocolate chip cookies. We love all that sugar, fat, and salt, and we reward with glowing compliments and effusive praise those who stuff us with it. In the abstract, we talk engagingly and earnestly about the importance of eating in a more healthy way, but something goes deeply wrong between the aspiration of our hearts and the mastication of our jaws.
In my 50-year struggle with my gluttony, I’ve experienced countless diets and weight-loss regimes. Some actually produced results, but they were temporary. My weight kept bouncing back up. Now I have a new incentive, in the form of this sneaky, dangerous killer that constantly probes for points of weakness and takes advantage of them. When I let my discipline lapse for even one meal, diabetes goes to work, destroying my eyesight, damaging my nerves, attacking my kidneys, and increasing the chance that I will suffer from dementia later in life. One would surely think that this would be enough incentive actually to make me live differently. So far (that is, for the last week), it has been. But two inescapable facts give me pause: (1) millions of humans the world over know they have diabetes, understand what they need to be doing to stay healthy, and don’t do it; and (b) I’ve had plenty of incentive before to live in a healthy way, and it hasn’t been enough.
There is one tool I have at my disposal that I haven’t had in the past. Our new lifestyle as subsistence farmers keeps me much more active than I have been while living in the city, and it also means that my diet is inherently healthier, based as it is on fresh fruits and vegetables that we harvest ourselves. I suspect that if we never left the farm and ate only what Amanda and I grow and prepare, I would be able to stay healthy fairly easily. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. We’re social people, so we’re hanging out with friends, going to Master Gardener functions, enjoying refreshments at church, and eating at the country club with Amanda’s Mom. All those wonderful social engagements have one thing in common: lots and lots of sweet, salty, fatty food. Somehow I must learn to enjoy social time with those we love and maintain my discipline at the same time.
Will I be able to do it? I don’t know. I just don’t know . . .