I’ve decided to take control of my health in my retirement. Not surprising for most people maybe but a definite first for me. It’s positively perverse how life unfolds sometimes. This decision came about from the very annoying health review a few weeks ago. I wrote about it and that made me feel a bit better about the whole business of having diabetes. If I don’t like the help they, the professionals, are offering me then I’d better sort something out for myself. This kind of big talk might have remained just that – talk. Then a couple of other things happened. My neighbour at the Derbyshire cottage insisted on giving me a book (see right) about ‘getting rid of’ diabetes and perhaps most important I gave it to Mrs Summerhouse to read (I refuse to pander to modern trends by reading the latest whizzo, sure-fire, cure for x, y or z) and she did and decided it was time I took action…
The book was written by a guy on TV, Dr Michael Moseley, so it must be right, was about an eight week diet to ‘cure’ diabetes. Incidentally, on my phone a couple of weeks ago, the diet then described took 16 weeks, so the time period is coming down. I think I’ll wait until the one week version arrives. I suppose 8 weeks sounds OK? All a diabetic person had to do was to eat 800 calories a day for those eight week. Lose weight, lower sugar levels, bingo, job done. As I say Mrs SH read it and reckoned there was a kinder more sensible (that we liked) version, of this diet, that we could both buy into. The calorie-based approach made more sense to me than the obsession with carbohydrates and yes, I understand, kind of, that they’re much the same thing. It was the incident of the medium-sized baked potato, about which I wrote a while ago, that did it for me and carbs. Call me old-fashioned but calories made more sense. I could get my head around this and hopefully the tape-measure around my waist.
So we have developed our own calories-controlled version of the diet, based around, where possible, an average of 1500 calories a day. I had read somewhere that a person ‘should’ (those weasel words) eat 2000 cals to maintain their weight and 1500 a day to lose weight. I’m sure the science behind these figures is no more solid than the 10,000 steps a day. I’ll come back to this figure in a moment, but 1500 cals is what we’ve been aiming for. It’s been a pain to some extent because it’s meant a careful consideration of how many cals there are in every bit of food we put into our mouths, but that gets easier after a couple of weeks.
Anyway, and here’s where the data comes in. Data can be very reinforcing for a change in behaviour if the data is available and reliable and if, of course, it supports what you’re doing, three big provisos I think you’ll agree. The first bit of data was my blood sugar levels (one way in which I have taken more control in these last three weeks is by taking my blood sugar levels much more often). The impact was surprising and in some ways a bit frightening. My sugar levels came down immediately and have, so far at least, stayed down, even to the point of going too low (called having a hypo) usually in the middle of the night which can be annoying.
After a bit of a chat with my own diabetic nurse (not the other lot, the experts) I’ve started to reduce my insulin intake. What seems to be happening is that, as I reduce my insulin without any apparent effect on sugar levels, I’m losing weight. This might just possibly be a virtuous (as opposed to vicious) cycle. Since starting on insulin one of my big annoyances was that my weight went up (oh, yes that happens they say casually) and so did my sugar levels. That’s not good. Now what seems to be happening is my weight is going down and so are my sugar levels, hence the virtuous cycle. I’ve lost about 4 kilos in three weeks. I think I have although reading the bloody scales is hard when you’re about six foot tall but that’s how it seems. Of course I’m a bit worried that this is just beginner’s luck but it’s enough to keep me going through those meals that do not excite or fill.
I’m lucky in having Mrs SH on my team, she’s committed to helping me and a good cook. Instead of the mid-day sandwich she’s been making low-cal, but delicious (they always say that but it’s true) home-made soup with only about 40 cals (no bread). Our evening meals are, so far at least, lighter and, God or whoever help me, we’re drinking a bit less alcohol. So not too bad and seemingly effective.
There’s more data, I can see how people become obsessive about their health, and health and fitness is everywhere in the media. The 10K steps is a falsity, invented apparently by a Japanese advertising man trying to persuade Japanese people to get fitter and a figure plucked from the air, now replaced by 3 lots of 10 minutes very vigorous exercise, only a matter of time of course before this is superseded by some other fad. Ironic about the steps because I was heading out the door to buy a ‘fit-bit’ to record my steps until my son-in-law said you don’t need to spend £100 on one of those when you can get a free app on your phone. Which is what I’ve got and I am counting my steps. At the moment I’m doing about 6,000 a day which seems OK to me and supports the 1500 cals a day figure or so I believe. But, as I say, steps are out, quick bursts are in. Keep up now.
More media figures – strokes increasing among the 45 to 69 age group, something to do with alcohol I think. That was close but then I don’t need to worry about that because I’m only going to be 69 for another 6 months. Prostate cancer overtakes breast cancer on the ,cancer’s that kill you’ list. I think lung and bowel still most popular so not quite out of the woods yet. You certainly cannot get away from health matters, it must sell papers or be good for ratings in the media generally.
So there we are, retirement, health and data-collecting. I didn’t know there was so much data to be collected (and I haven’t even mentioned my blood pressure which figured recently because I changed my tablets although not through any choice of mine). It’s not the hobby I’d anticipated for my retirement enjoyment but it will do until something else comes along.