What happens when we say “Yes”: Fruit for kids while mom’s shopping and awakening the brain in dementia patients

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I saw this on my twitter feed from Andreas Eenfeldt who calls himself diet doctor. I usually read what he tweets as he is a fellow low-carber. He’d posted the photo above.

I love that this grocery is looking for solutions rather than moaning about the problem: kids eat too much junk.

I posted it on my Facebook page and one comment that came back was, “When that banana peeling drops on the floor, and someone steps on it…watch out! Messy floor, messy buggy, messy child’s clothing. Not a good idea, in my opinion.”

Well, that’s perfectly legitimate. And truthfully I hadn’t thought of it. But once again we’re looking at the potential problem. How much better to think – okay, if the kid is left with a banana peel, then we’ll put lots of trash cans around the store. Or some such idea.

We have such a penchant, and I don’t know how much is cultural and how much nature or nurture, to look at the problem and stop right there.

My father is now in a nursing home and has dementia. So I recently watched a documentary called “Alive Inside.” It’s the story of a social worker who brought personalized music to dementia patients living in nursing homes.

He had an idea – music awakens the brain and he wanted to see if it could also do so with people suffering with dementia.

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He began finding out what music was meaningful to a number of patients in the home. He ripped those tunes onto an iPod for each patient. They got “their personal music” and headphones. People who’d barely spoken in years began to chatter. One woman who’d been in a wheelchair for two years got up and danced.

Seeing the beauty of what happened, and having a doctor agree that reaching the human soul through something like music can do more than drugs, he began to call nursing homes around the country to invite them to start such a project.

What did he initially get? “Well, we’d need an iPod for every patient. We can’t afford it.” And, “We’re not sure this will work.” He got resistance. He got small thinking. He got the company line. Luckily, he continued promoting the idea and in time many nursing homes began such a program. Of course, not enough, but it’s rolling.

If we dare, let’s think “yes” before we think “no” and then figure out how to make it possible. Yes, let’s go outside the norm to where amazing things happen by virtue of passion, dedication, commitment and being willing to buck the status quo.

The Fat Summit’s findings

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Those who follow me on Facebook saw me litter my page this week with a bunch of screen shots from Dr. Mark Hyman’s “The Fat Summit.” I also talk about it in the post below.

Dr. Hyman, best-selling author of health and nutrition books, particularly around carbs, fat and blood sugar, and Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, interviewed more than 30 nutrition xperts on whether it’s healthy for us to be eating fat, including sat fat from meat.

His expert panel included top people in the medical, scientific and lifestyle sciences. Just to name a few: Deepak Chopra, MD, Chris Kressler, MS, Aseem Malotra, MD, Gary Taubes, David Ludwig, MD, PhD, Walter Willett, MD, Christiane Northrup, MD, Michael Roizen, MD, Neal Barnard, MD.

Hyman, and most of his experts, advocate a diet high in healthy fat – nuts, seeds, olive and coconut oil, avocado, eggs, full fat dairy and some meat. And no refined carbohydrates. I should say right now that’s my own personal bias, as well and how I eat.

Most of his experts validate it’s not a matter of calories in, calories out we we’ve always heard or eat less, move more. It is the quality of those calories and how your body uses them.

Interestingly, the very friendly and charismatic Hyman, talked frequently about how contradictory the information is coming at Americans about nutrition and how difficult it is for the average person to know what’s right and what’s wrong. No doubt. So I found it funny that even among his guests, not all agreed with each other.

Very briefly: all agree healthy fat is better than bad fat. Healthy fat is better than refined carbohydrates. The disagreement is whether we should really eat a lot of healthy fat, like neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, who pours olive oil on his morning eggs. Or should we severely limit healthy fat too like Dr.s Dean Ornish and Joel Fuhrman do who think the benefit doesn’t outweigh the calories consumed. Yes, pun.

For me, having diabetes, eating a diet plentiful with healthy fat and low in refined carbs is a no-brainer. Carbs raise blood sugar. Refined carbs spike blood sugar. Higher blood sugar requires more insulin. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. The more of it circulating in your blood stream, the more it’s causing calories to be stored – in the liver as fat. Voila, you gain weight, mostly putting it around your belly, and you end up with fatty liver disease to boot. By the way, most people with Type 2 diabetes also have fatty liver disease and don’t know it.

Dr. Hyman is also popularizing the notion that goes a step beyond “food is medicine” to “food is information.” Food tells your body how to act, respond, behave; it guides your metabolic response, tells your body what hormones to stimulate and influences what genes get turned on. That’s why a more nutritious diet decreases the risk of all dis-eases.

Here were some of the take-aways from the conference mid-way. It continues another three days:

  • The typical American diet: 55% of calories come from processed food (white flour, sugar, cola, cookies…), 30% of calories come from animal products, 5-7% from unrefined plant foods (vegetables)
  • Food is more powerful at lowering blood pressure than mediation
  • Low fat vegans don’t live as long as those who eat more nuts and seeds
  • If you want to lower your A1C, eat more fat and less carbs
  • A1C levels of 5.6% and higher show brain shrinkage on MRIs
  • When the brain burns fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates it does so more efficiently and without creating as many free radicals
  • Insulin keeps fat locked in our fat cells preventing it from getting burned or used. Eating fat does the opposite.
  • Obesity kills more people than smoking and alcoholism and being sedentary combined.
  • Soda consumption is the number one contribution to obesity in America
  • The process of getting fat makes us overeat
  • Most of our cows today eat corn, which they aren’t designed to eat but corn fattens them quickly inflaming their fat cells.  Eating them fattens us and contributes to our body’s inflammation.
  • In a statin study, 96% of people who already had a heart attack saw no benefit, 1 in 83 had their lifespan extended, 1 in 39 were helped to prevent a repeat heart attack, 10% suffered muscle damage
  • The food industry is giving at least 50 million dollars a year to politicians
  • Since 1948 Procter & Gamble has been a major funder of the American Heart Association. You do the math.
  • Media no longer has time to do investigative research on food plus their news outlets are usually owned by corporations that have an agenda

One thing not to forget as has become a catch phrase in diabetes, “Your diabetes may vary.” As Hyman stressed, we are all individuals. Different things may work better for different individuals. So whether you should eat a lot of healthy fat, moderate amounts or very little, may differ for you. The best way to know is to try the variations on yourself.

For me eating a liberal amount of healthy fat – nuts, seeds, tahini, avocado, coconut and olive oil, eggs and some cheese and Greek yogurt, and grilled chicken and fish with occasional red meat, tons of vegetables and little to no refined carb – works extremely well in keeping my weight down and my blood sugar from spiking. I haven’t counted a calorie for a decade. And I feel good.

Of course we also don’t live in a food vacuum. I walk an hour most days, drink wine with dinner most nights, drink a lot of water and no sugary beverages and have the genes I was born with.

I don’t think there’s any easy answer to this nutritional debate. But I do think we’re lucky more information is coming out that we can all access.

So take the daily contradictory news headlines about food and what the government says and ads say, even I hate to say it but must, what the behind-the-curve organizations like the Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association say, with a grain – or a plantation full – of salt.

As I mentioned in the list, the American Heart Association gets an enormous amount of funding from Procter & Gamble. See a hidden agenda?

People can always make studies and statistics say what they want them to say and food lobbyists are a powerful force.

How can we dismiss that 40 plus years or so ago, when we were all pushed to stop eating fat and eat more carbs, Americans got fatter than ever?

Dr. Mark Hyman’s Fat Summit

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It’s occurring right now online. It’s not clear to me if you can still register but if you email info@fatsummit.com you may be able to find out. Thirty plus experts in nutrition science debunking the myth that fat, including sat fat and dairy fat, is bad and the cause of heart disease, obesity and other ills like diabetes.

Junk science has vilified fat and led Americans for the past three decades to replace it with carbohydrates. Take a look around. How could anyone not put two and two together? We’re ingesting more carbs and fatter than ever. Specifically high glycemic index carbs, refined and processed carbs like cookies, cake, pie, candy, muffins, scones, white potatoes, rice and pasta and sugary drinks. The stuff you love that keeps you craving more.

If you’ve followed this blog you know I’m a proponent of a modified version of the paleo diet – high quality fat – nuts, seeds, olive and coconut oil, avocados – vegetables, some fruit, protein, including some red meat (of course grass fed is always better), and some full fat dairy. I lost 8 pounds in a matter of weeks without trying by switching the way I eat to this diet from the typical American diet. And if you didn’t know, I was heavy as a young adult always trying unsuccessfully to lose weight by counting calories and starving.

Forget “calories in, calories out.” That’s not how it works. The body processes nutritious foods differently than junk and chemicals. Think instead, “What is nutritious to put in my body?” Forget losing weight. Think, “I want to eat healthy food, the weight will come off.” And here’s the simplest explanation why refined carbs make you fat. First, they spike your blood sugar. This causes your body to pump out more insulin to bring your blood sugar down. Or if you make no insulin or your body doesn’t use what it makes well, you may be injecting insulin. Eat refined carbs and you have to inject more.

Now you’ve got rivers of insulin floating in your blood stream. Guess what? Insulin is a fat storage hormone. It takes that blood sugar now floating in your body and stores it in your liver as fat. It’s the reason why most people with type 2 diabetes also, unknown to them, have fatty liver disease.

These summits give me hope. Hope we are making progress sharing new science about how food affects our health and obesity. Here are the names of the first two days presenters if you want to go to their web sites and look up their articles: Deepak Chopra, Chris Kressler, Aseem Malhotra (he was great), Gary Taubes (one of the people who started it all), David Ludwig, Nick Ortner and of course Dr. Mark Hyman.

You may also want to consider making a small investment in my third book, “Diabetes Do’s & How-To’s” and a large investment in you. It has 20 food do’s – actions you can take and how to take them – based on this way of eating. It also contains action steps on fitness, medicine and attitude regarding living with diabetes well. Make it a gift to yourself and change your diabetes health and your life. It’s available to you at any moment.

 

 

Fictional type 1 character for tweens

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If you’re not familiar with the very popular Baby-Sitters Club series of books, neither was I! But they’ve been around a very long time; I wonder what I was doing as a youth but I don’t recall reading.

I heard about this close knit group of twelve year old girlfriends featured in the book ages ago. And as soon as I heard about it, I put the book that’s most about our type 1 friend, Stacey, (featured above) on hold at my library. It’s probably been on my hold list for almost a year. I don’t think there’s a rash of reading going on about type 1 diabetes in youth. At least not among the tween set. But, whatever, three days ago it was released into my care.

It’s a charming read for tweens and a fairly good representation of T1D: the fear, confusion, yearning for a cure – that of course is from the parents ;-)

If you have diabetes and haven’t reached the eighth grade yet, or you have a child with diabetes, put aside a day and a big pot of tea, sit down and enjoy. Lovely winter reading.

The new super-Vitamin K2. True?

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I’ll be the first to agree dietary and nutrition advice changes like the wind. What you thought was healthy a year ago probably isn’t anymore and vice versa. Need a few examples? Eggs – good or bad? Today, good. Coffee – good or bad – Today, good. Saturated fat – good or bad. Basically good, but don’t overdo. How about those rice cakes and snack well fat-free cookies we were all gobbling a few years ago as healthy snacks? Not so much. Loads of refined carbohydrates. Which are bad by the way.

I don’t know enough about vitamins and supplements, but I’m pretty sure it’s a similar good/bad scenario depending on the year. What I do know is that I’m on a regimen of calcium and Vitamin D supplements, like many women, and now I’ve just read a book devoted to the fact that they may cause more harm than help because I’m not getting Vitamin K2. The book,  featured above, was a very interesting and fairly easy read by Dr. Kate Rheum-Bleue, a Naturopathic Doctor in Canada.

In brief, calcium, with the help of Vitamin D and Vitamin A, does help strengthen bones and teeth. But, it may not be going into your bones and teeth. It is Vitamin K that directs it there rather than where it also likes to go – into the arteries leading to your heart. And that, my friend, is a place we definitely don’t want calcium deposits. They become blockages in your coronary arteries.

I prefer getting my nutrients from food not capsules, but Vitamin K2 is very hard to get from food. It’s most plentiful in grass fed animals, think cows and chickens, and what they produce, butter, milk and eggs. Fermented foods like the nasty natto, a Japanese breakfast item, are also a good source, but few of us in the Western world eat natto. It’s basically a brew of fermented soybeans. It’s gumminess is extremely off-putting if you can even get close to it given it smells like moldy shoes. Trust me, I know, I lived in Japan for six years.

Thus, with K2 absent from our diet the hypothesis is most of us are deficient in this Vitamin. Just as an aside, there is a K1. We seem to get ample amounts from leafy greens. K1 is not responsible for bone health, it is responsible for blood clotting.

So, I’m giving a K2 supplement a try. I just got my Pure Encapsulations Calcium K/D from Amazon. I’m not pushing any products. This was what my friend and Naturopathic Doctor Jody Stanislaw recommended. So, I’m passing it on to you.

Now, let’s just wait and see if we learn next year that we need something else to activate the K2 and that coffee has returned to the ‘Do Not Drink’ list.

New Dietary Guidelines Just Out

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But don’t get excited, I didn’t find much of anything new here. Except maybe eggs are okay again as well as coffee – up to 5 cups a day to get your mojo back.

For a review from the Los Angeles Times click here.

But these new guidelines make me think. Do people in the Blue Zones, areas of the world where people live the longest, like Southern Italy and Greece for instance, follow government-issued dietary guidelines? Are there even government guidelines issued to people in Okinawa, Japan, another Blue Zone? Or do they just do what they’ve been doing for centuries? Eat as their ancestors have, native and local produce, fish out of the sea, and drink wine produced in the hood.

With US food lobbyists in bed with big food manufacturers and our government, I think you have to take this all with a grain of salt. Do your own research, look further than our guidelines, see what works for you and use some common sense to eat for your best health.

See How Americans Got So Fat

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We all know obesity has risen over the past several decades in America. Today two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight or obese. Most of us also know we eat too much refined, processed foods, or food-like items, as Michael Pollan calls them, and get too little activity.

You also likely know what we should be eating to be healthy and lose some weight – vegetables, fruit, lean meats, whole grains (although I rarely do on my low carb diet) some dairy (I believe full fat is better than low fat as it’s more nutritious) and healthy fats like nuts, seeds, olive and coconut oil and avocados. In moderate portions.

If you know a bit more, you may know big business began over processing foods in the 1970’s to give them a longer shelf life, transport them more easily and make more money on less substance. Government gave, and still does give, food subsidies to farmers to over produce corn. That corn is now in most of our food like items, over processed as non-nutritious starch and turned into inflammatory high fructose corn syrup.

Still, I found it interesting to see our eating patterns in pictures – how our food consumption has changed over the last several decades. The picture above came from the article, “How Americans Got So Fat, in Charts.” You may want to have a look too.

 

Loving yourself with diabetes, the book

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In 2007 I published my first book, “The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes.” The picture above is in the book. This 64 page book contains my illustrations and inspirational, resilience-building essays/exercises on how to live happier, healthier, and with more regard for yourself and your diabetes. Below I’ve reprinted the Forward from the book and plan to post some more pages here throughout the month.

The book is dedicated to my father. He was pretty much emotionally absent during my childhood. He came back into my life when in my late twenties I spurred my parents to do a series of self-growth trainings I had just completed. As a result of the trainings, I quit my advertising job and began drawing and writing inspirational cards. He couldn’t do enough to pack them into the trunk of our old car and drive around Long Island selling them to every greeting card store he walked into. Which were many by the way. By this time in his life, he was getting treatment for his depression that we never knew he had.

My father is now 93. My mother put him in the nursing home a month ago. After two years of being his sole caretaker she could no longer physically do it. I love my father, I wrote about it here in July. This new years weekend I began looking back over my book. These whimsical, colorful drawings were something my father loved, and we bonded over.

Life is so fleeting; of course you only learn this when you’re older. And while a day still takes its stubborn time to pass, years go by as quickly as water being poured out of a glass.

Priorities change. Things you appreciate become closer to home and more personal. And proving yourself to others is something you remember you used to be concerned about. But very little these days. My work now is  bringing to health providers a different way of looking at, and working with, people who have diabetes – a treatment approach that helps us flourish with diabetes, to go beyond coping. And my life is about being appreciative and being kind.

So I hope these essays will help you on the journey to loving yourself. A journey I believe we’re all on. And that the pictures offer you a smile along the way.

Happy new year and happy new day, each and every one.

FOREWARD

At 18, I developed type 1 diabetes. Looking back, it was an odd time. I was not quite an adult, no longer a child. I have now lived with diabetes for more than 35 years (today 43), in the beginning not so well, over the years better and better, and now perhaps brilliantly–or fairly close, aware that this chronic condition requires both my medical and emotional attention.

Like so many, I have been through the typical stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. On some days I go back ’round again. I’ve enjoyed additional stages like outright disgust, “You don’t understand!” and a perfectionist’s frustration. However, as I learned more I reached out more, and shifted my focus from hefting the burden of diabetes to seeking ways to ensure my best health. As a result, my A1cs, my attitude and my responsibility all improved.

Getting married for the first time at 48 was also a driving force to do my best. With added motivation and support, I got behind the wheel of my health and haven’t looked back–except to make sure my husband isn’t covered in my dust.

I believe all of us with diabetes, and our loved ones, can benefit from the emotional nurturing, spiritual principles, understanding and support you’ll find here. It is my hope that this little book will put a tiny “I love me” patch on the hearts of all who read it.

Personally, I view diabetes as a blessing, for I am quite certain without it I would not stick to my daily walking program (particularly on cold, windy days). Nor would I have learned to like vegetables so much, or mastered waving bye-bye to my beloved muffins and scones. Diabetes has also given me my work, wonderful friends who share membership in this club, and the opportunity to contribute to the world and those who live with this disease.

I hope in your journey with diabetes you will arrive at that place, if you haven’t already, where diabetes is a “comma” in your life, as in…”I love my life, and I have diabetes.” Someone once said this to me and I don’t expect to ever forget it.

Learn everything you can, put the pedal to the metal–with your personal mettle on each pedal–and make life as full, rich and exuberant as you deserve. And should some dark clouds pass overhead, give a shout or have a cry, reread a few pages here, and then get on with it.

 

 

 

What we can learn from those who thrive with diabetes

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Diabetes Health Monitor just ran this article featuring 13 great and grounded tips for living well with diabetes from four seasoned people who do it – all of whom are my friends.

Jessica Apple and Mike Aviad who manage the superb diabetes magazine, A Sweet Life. Scott Johnson who has been a wonderful advocate in the Diabetes Online Community DOC since it all began, and moi.

Do you understand the power of choosing healthy eating over weigh loss? That you can’t compare your diabetes to anyone else’s? And that “perfect” does not belong in the diabetes dictionary?

Sometimes we learn more and better when we learn from each other.

The power of words on our diabetes experience

 

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I just listened to a wonderful podcast produced by tudiabetes. Click the link, go down to the video and hit the play button. If you aren’t a tudiabetes member, you may need to sign up. But it’s one of the richest social media sites in diabetes.

The podcast features CDE/PWD, Associate Professor at Columbia University Jane Dickinson. She comes into the video around 10:35.

First, I have to say how small the world is. I met Jane only three weeks ago at DiabetesMine’s Innovation Summit. Immediately, we knew we were kindred spirits. In our respect for people with diabetes, making the experience of diabetes more positive as well as the language.

In the podcast, Jane shares what she learned from people with diabetes regarding how we feel about words like “compliant” and “control.” Control happens to be one of my hot buttons – it doesn’t exist! Stop saying it! Yet getting most HCPs to undo that hard wired language they hear everyday is a Herculean task. This may just be a time when WE have to teach THEM.

Jane also shares the really intriguing background of how “control” and “test” as in “testing blood sugar” came into our diabetes language.

Host Emily Coles says why don’t we talk about “pride” with diabetes for all we do? Why indeed. I will now use a great line Jane threw out when she was at her dermatologist’s office and she told her she should do something. Jane said, “Don’t should on me!” It went over her provider’s head, but not mine and probably not yours.

It’s time to change the conversation. Jane plans next to study if we change our diabetes language to rid it of the judgment and replace judgement with praise, can we affect clinical outcomes. Truthfully, I expect so.