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13 Weeks Redux: A Fat Nerd Does Diabetes

Almost six years ago (my God!) I started my 13 Weeks columns with A Fat Nerd Does Diet. All in all it worked pretty well -- I dropped 37 pounds and kept my blood sugar down -- but frustratingly I couldn't get my weight down much more than that in more than a year. I eventually stopped writing about it because you can only write a column about "this isn't working" so many times before you bore everyone and that in particular included myself.

In the ensuing almost six years, a lot happened, as it tends to do in six years: I had a major life crisis which my readers generously helped me out of, I worked myself to collapse and a severe depression episode with panic attacks as icing, I moved (literally from the house I was in to the house next door), and I had eye surgery, replacing my cataracts with bionic lenses.

At the time of the eye surgery, though, the anesthesiologist did my blood sugar -- which was in the neighborhood of 330 mg/dL. That was my morning fasting glucose with a 12 hour fast. The anesthesiologist said if I were there for general anesthesia he'd reject me, and it took some convincing to get him to go ahead at all. And I started thinking about my blood sugar and type 2 diabetes again.

Now, I hadn't been unsuccessful -- I was on my metformin and I had gained back only about 11 pounds; on the other hand, I'd had several major life stressors, which do tend to exacerbate blood sugar issues. I also hadn't been paying as much attention to it -- it had been under control, I wasn't really doing anything much different, just allowing myself some bread and some ice cream sandwiches, but never more than two a day. Well, almost never. And I wasn't having any more hypoglycemic episodes, which were what had caused me the most trouble before.

But 330 as a morning fasting is a whole 'nother kettle of French fries. That corresponded to an A1c (a measure of estimated average blood glucose) of more than 12 percent, and sure enough, when tested my A1c was 12.3 percent. (For reference, the desirable normal range goes up to 5.6 percent, and anything over 6.5 percent indicated actual active diabetes.) Not enough to cause diabetic coma -- quite -- but let's list some of the other consequences:

  • foggy thinking
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • neuropathy (pain or numbness) in extremities.
  • stomach troubles
  • eye damage
  • kidney damage (and I'm a bit of an Advil junky, so my kidneys didn't need any extra)

Followed by dying blind, impotent, and with pieces dropping off from gangrene.