Culture

Thirteen Weeks: Times Three

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How time flies when you’re having fun.

I’d actually expected to be at WorldCon in San Antonio this weekend, neatly bracketing this thirteen week experiment — you may recall I was in San Antonio at a wedding on the first of June — but the universe apparently was having other plans. I was laid off my day job on Tuesday, and it really didn’t seem practical to go for various reasons, including having several companies wanting to talk to me on Thursday and Friday. (I haven’t got a new day job yet, so if any of my readers are looking for senior geeks, you can find me on LinkedIn.)

It wasn’t a terrific surprise, as I’d been fighting with the management above me for a good while; in fact, it was a bit of a relief. It’s an interesting coincidence that it comes in the last week of 13, though, because — as you probably deduced if you read my last couple of weeks’ columns — I’ve been unsatisfied with this experiment. So, now we’re at the end of the experiment, and the question is: pivot or persevere?

My answer? Both.

Changing the diet and cutting the metformin in June has improved the low end of my blood sugar; unfortunately, it has done so by moving the band up. I don’t have a new A1c value yet, but my morning fasting blood sugar has averaged 121, up a bit fron the last experiment.

The “slow carb with vacation days” diet has probably contributed to that; what’s more, for me, it was harder to maintain that diet than the low-carb diet. Something that undoubtedly contributed to that was that I stopped keeping a detailed meal diary.

I did discover a way of fitting exercise into life that continues to work pretty well — slipping Tabata intervals into my Pomodoro routine.

So, part one of the pivot: I’m changing the diet again. I continue to think that carbs along with whatever physiological differences go with metabolic syndrome to type-2 diabetes are a major contributor to weight gains and higher blood sugar. At the same time, the really low carb diet stopped working for me for weight loss, and was associated with the episodes of really low blood sugar.

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So, there’s another approach to looking at carbs in the diet and their impact, one which I used with some success back around 2006. That approach is looking at the glycemic index (GI) of foods. Glycemic index is just an estimate of how much impact a particular food has on blood sugar, compared to the effect of pure glucose. By definition, glucose has a glycemic index of 100; a low glycemic index is below 55. (Next week’s column will describe this in greater detail.)

The glycemic load is the glycemic index of a food times the number of grams of carbs in the food eaten, divided by 100 (which just makes the numbers comparable in since to the GI.)

Keeping a low glycemic index, and a low glycemic load, in a diet is associated with good glucose control, and as I said a low GI diet was successful for me a few years ago.

So here’s our diet hypothesis: maintaining a diet of foods with a low glycemic index, and a low total glycemic load, will result in blood sugar control and weight loss. So, for this 13 weeks I’ll only eat foods with a GI ≤ 55, and limit myself to no more than 50g of carbs a day; in other words, I’ll maintain a glycemic load per day of less than 28. This means in general that I’ll be avoiding most all grains again; since I think the previous experiments have shown I really am wheat sensitive, I’ll continue to avoid wheat entirely, and in general most all grains because their glycemic load is high. I’ll go back to keeping a daily food diary, and I’ll go back to reporting daily updates for weight and morning fasting blood sugar on the 13 Weeks Facebook page.

I’ll also continue the “writer’s workout” for the next 13 weeks.

The interval will be thirteen weeks, running from 1 September 2013 to 1 December 2013.

So the pivot is a diet change. But I promised I would both pivot and persevere. Here’s the persevere part. I think, after what is now more than 9 months of this, that I am seeing good effects. I want to change some details experimentally, but I have demonstrated to myself now that I can change something significant in my diet, and see a real result of losing weight and improving my blood sugar. I’m changing things a little, but I’m persevering on the overall question of how to improve my health.

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images courtesy shutterstock / Valentyn Volkov / kazoka