A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Diabetes And A Mostly Vegan Diet

I found out last week that I have diabetes.  I picked up three books by a doctor named Joel Fuhrman:  The End Of Diabetes, Eat To Live and the Eat To Live recipe book.  Dr. Fuhrman claims that diabetes can be reduced, even eliminated, through using his diet plan.  It is a diet plan that is mostly vegan, that is, very little animal products.  Not only is he critical of relying on animal products, but he  does not believe that the medications are truly helpful and with extended use could be harmful.  So he is targeting both the animal product industries and the pharmaceutical industries.  Huge companies that affect our daily lives.  He believes that good nutrition and exercise should be the primary treatment for all kinds of illnesses and disorders.  This approach requires a serious commitment to a lifestyle change.

It's been a little over a week that I began eating a mostly vegan diet.  I am not following Dr. Fuhrman's diet exactly, but close enough.  I invested in a high speed blender, a Blendtec, which cost over $250, but which, so far, has been very worth it.  I usually have at least one smoothie a day with fruit and lettuce and flax seeds or chia seeds and soybean milk.  It's a fast way to get fruit and greens into me and it is filling and tasty and simple.  I also made up a few recipes, a broccoli mushroom soup with blended cashews to give it a creamy texture and a vegetable stew with sweet potatoes, onions, chick peas, zucchini, stewed tomatoes.  Taste wise these two recipes were okay and filling, but not great.  I just have to keep trying out the recipes to see which ones I respond to.  I definitely enjoy the vegetable wraps as well as the smoothies.  I think I also need to get adjusted to different flavors, awaken my taste buds, so to speak.

Dr. Fuhrman says that it is possible to lose 20 pounds in the first 6 weeks and then continue to lose weight over the year.  He includes in his books many success stories especially from very obese people trying to combat multiple health issues, losing a great amount of weight more quickly than other diets.  One of the keys to fighting diabetes is to first get down to a healthy weight and to maintain that weight.  Insulin is the means that allows glucose to be released into the cells.  The more fat around the cells, the harder it is for the insulin to be effective.  Removing the fat also removes the stress to the body.

There are quite a few documentaries on Netflix about the incredible value of eating a mostly plant based diet.  One very good documentary I watched was called Plant Pure Nation.  A study group went into several communities in the Southern United States and found volunteers to eat pre-prepared plant based meals for 10 days.  First they did a blood test and at the end of the 10 days they did another blood test.  The results were astonishing.  For many people bad cholesterol plummeted.  I believe that blood pressure was reduced as well as glucose levels and people lost weight in just 10 days.

In my diet before I did not eat red meat or many eggs or a lot of rice, pasta, bread and salt, but I did drink a lot of milk, including chocolate milk and some cheese and ice cream and a fair amount of yogurt.  For years I've used Splenda until I heard negative things about it and stopped using it.  I did not eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and drank a lot of coffee.  Now I'm mostly drinking water and eating mostly fruits and vegetables.  It just seems like common sense to go on this mostly vegan diet and yet I had never considered it before.  When I did eat vegetarian meals, they often had a lot of cheese in them and oils, some salt.  Now no cheese, little oil and no added salt.

I'm monitoring my progress using a calendar and will continue to do so for 5 more weeks and I will weigh myself once a week.  This is not a portion control, calorie counting diet.  Dr. Fuhrman believes that you should stick to a 3 meal plan and not snack, but I'm finding that I prefer to eat four to five moderate meals during a day, but that might change as I find recipes that I like.  It does take work, shopping a couple of times a week and food preparation, but I'm finding that this is a good thing for me, keeps me aware and involved and appreciative of my food.

I walked three times this week and am hoping to work my way up to a daily constitutional.  I also have some exercise equipment to work out with when I'm home.  But getting out and walking has been quite nice, something I would never consider before.  And now in Spring it is a great time for diet and exercise.  I got myself a small backpack with a water bladder and a couple of walking sticks to use in the woods.  I feel pretty committed to this.  I still have to see a doctor and get a baseline blood test done.  Initially I am not going to take any medication.  Truly I am suspicious of medications, though I do faithfully take my anti-pyschotics and anti depressant.

The strange thing is that a diagnosis of diabetes might be a blessing in disguise.  I have been obese, not eating well, not exercising and smoking for many years and now might be my chance to reverse the damage I have done to my body and finally head back towards a healthy weight.  The amazing thing about the body is if you treat it right it responds in health.  A true miracle.
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