Last fall when I ditched my goals to focus on building better habits, one of the habits I chose to focus on was eating “real” food. The point was to avoid most processed and packaged foods, while increasing the quality of the food I ate. After four months of focusing on better food choices, we (as a family) have made progress. At least I think we have.
There are fewer boxes in the cupboards and more produce in the fridge. We talk a lot more about meal planning and including fruits and vegetables in our diet. We read labels and avoid foods with long lists of ingredients.
But that’s about all the evidence we have.
I guess we could label our “eating real food” habit as life improving, but we haven’t done anything I’d consider life changing so far. Since we haven’t been measuring anything, we can assume – but we don’t know for sure. Our incremental changes may take a long time to make a big difference – and I’m OK with that for now. Slow and steady wins the race, right?
But today’s story isn’t about us and building our healthy food habits.
It’s about my Mom. And with Mother’s Day coming this weekend, I thought this would be a great tribute to her based on some information she recently received from her doctor.
Mom’s story is about making smarter food decisions and how those decisions have changed her life. She now has specific data or evidence of how her decisions affected her health.
Her story doesn’t involve those “cleanses” or making special green health shakes each morning. She didn’t need to buy a special meal system and she didn’t count points. She didn’t take pills to melt fat or boost her metabolism. And she didn’t count every calorie, use fitness apps, or follow an extreme exercise regimen.
But she still lost 30 pounds in 6 months.
So how did she do it?
She chose healthier food options, ate smaller portions, and increased her activity level by about two hours per week.
Mom also gave up diet soda (and never drank regular soda) and she drinks a lot more water. She still has a cookie, a small piece of cake, or a square or two of dark chocolate on occasion.
But she hasn’t really felt deprived at all.
My mom will be 78 in a few weeks. Last October, she learned after a blood test that her A1C and glucose readings had increased and she was now considered pre-diabetic. Her doctor gave her a prescription for Metformin ER (2x/day) and told her to test her blood each day.
And that didn’t sit well with my Mom.
She was already taking a medication to lower her cholesterol. So, she asked the doctor if there was anything she could do on her own to avoid the diabetes medication and blood tests. The doctor said that if she lost 20 pounds (12% of her body weight), her numbers would probably be back in the normal range.
My grandmother had diabetes and my aunt is diabetic, so my Mom had a good understanding of what she was facing in the future. I sent her some information on pre-diabetes and on the nutritional values of all kinds of foods. And she took it and ran with it.
No slow and steady in this race – because her life depended on it.
Don’t get me wrong. As I said before, there were no crash diets or 5 a.m. morning workouts in her plan. But she didn’t have time to waste. Mom committed to changing what she ate, how much she ate, and increased her activity level immediately after the doctor’s visit.
And the changes she made worked.
She took control of her life. Mom wanted to try to lose weight for a few months before giving in to taking medications and testing her blood for the rest of her life.
In April, she had blood work done and went back to the doctor. She was 30 pounds lighter than she was in October. Her AC1 and glucose levels were in the normal range. And her “bad” cholesterol levels dropped too.
No need to test her blood, no need to take the diabetes medication, and she could even stop her cholesterol medicine too!
She’ll have her blood tested again in 3 months to make sure the levels stay in normal range. And she knows she is going to have to work to maintain her weight
But she did it. She now knows that food choices and serving sizes made the biggest difference in her weight. And she has the data to show that her decision to change worked. And I think that evidence is an incredibly good motivator too!
I also read a really interesting NPR story this week that aligns with my Mom’s food decisions. If you know anyone who struggles with being overweight or who has concerns about Type 2 Diabetes, it is definitely worth the read (or 6-minute listen!)
It’s about a pilot program for people with Type 2 diabetes at a hospital in central Pennsylvania. The Fresh Food Pharmacy serves about 180 patients and the program’s goal is for participants to change their diets and lose weight in a supportive setting.
“The participants meet one-on-one with a registered dietitian. They’re given recipes and hands-on instruction on how to prepare healthy meals. Then, they go home with a very different kind of prescription: five days’ worth of free, fresh food.”
Is a program like this the answer?
Health care costs related to Type 2 diabetes and diabetic complications are staggering. With studies now showing that about half of the adults in the U.S. have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, a focus on prevention and education has to be considered!
As my Mom found out, making smarter food decisions didn’t just change her weight, her blood chemistry and her risk factors. It saved her a lot of money too.
She may spend more money on quality food items, but she buys less food overall. My parents eat our most nights but they always bring part of their meal home – which saves calories and money. My mom doesn’t need to buy the blood testing monitor, or fill the diabetes prescription, and for now – she can stop paying for her cholesterol meds. And co-pays at the doctor’s office will hopefully be for monitoring; not progression of the illness or to address the side effects of medications or diabetes.
My Mom also took on this challenge while being the full-time caretaker of my father who has advancing Alzheimer’s disease. She could have just given in to the stress in her life and to the pre-diabetes diagnosis. But she didn’t. The struggle isn’t over – but momentum is certainly on her side! Congratulations, Mom! You’re an inspiration! (I’ll be printing this out and sending it to her since she doesn’t even have the Internet 😉)
And congratulations also go out to the daughter of some great friends of ours! Making better food decisions and limiting portions also brought her from being pre-diabetic to having normal range readings! It can be done!
Do you know anyone who has taken on pre-diabetes and won? Do you have any tips to offer others who are struggling with their weight? Or ideas for those with pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetics? What do you think about the Fresh Food Pharmacy idea? Have you considered an evidence-based lifestyle? Share away!
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