Tag Archives: diabetes

Why the food-health connection is so personal for me

my family - why food + health is personal to me

The connection between real food and health is a very personal topic for me.

It began when I was 15, sitting in a pastor’s office with my parents. (I was about that age in the photo above. I’m on the left.) My poor mom and dad were at their wits’ end: they couldn’t figure out why their daughter had turned into Dr. Jekyll and Miss Hyde. I was prone to such angry, violent outbursts that I sometimes frightened my own mom and dad. I could see it in their eyes.

After listening to our story for a bit, the pastor asked my parents a surprising, pivotal question: “Have you had her tested for hypoglycemia?” (low blood sugar).

So began my journey into understanding the connection between food and mental/emotional well-being.

My mom dove into understanding the medical issue and then explaining it to me so I could get it. I learned that eating sugar sent my biochemistry on a rollercoaster that had the power to make me anything from foggy-headed to hopeless to furious. After some adjustments to our family’s diet, I learned how to eat mostly sugar-free, most of the time. I adhered to that way of eating to varying degrees over the next few decades.

Fast-forward about 20 years, and the health challenge was no longer mine: it was my parents’. They were in their late 60’s and, based on the common medical advice, began following a “heart-healthy diet.” Lots of fruit, salads with low-fat dressing, whole grains, and limited, very lean meat. Butter and eggs were replaced with chemical doppelgangers. Lots of packaged and processed foods, too. Anything was fine, as long as it was labeled “low fat,” “low calorie,” or “diet.”

If it's low fat, it must be healthy!

I remember being confused in the eighties when I began to hear about red meat and eggs and dairy fat being bad for you. Everyone in my family grew up on farm fare: homegrown vegetables, of course, but also eggs every day, bacon or sausage for breakfast, and home-raised or local beef and chicken — with all the fat! Nobody dieted or counted calories.

And they were the healthiest people I knew.

Mom + Dad when they were young
Mom and Dad in younger years

A few years into following their low-fat diet, my mom was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, so she got even more serious about following the diet to the letter.

Grandma reading to grandkids - before dementia set in

Around 2004, she began showing signs of dementia. Soon, she received the diagnosis of “probable Alzheimer’s.”

This time, I was the one digging into the medical info. And what I found stunned me.

Yes, there’s a genetic component to dementia. (My mom’s mom also had it.) But back then, science was just beginning to suspect that it’s not the fat that’s driving heart disease and diabetes: it’s the sugar and carbs. Now, 10 years later, the case looks more certain.

There is a strong correlation between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. One study found that having diabetes almost doubles one’s odds of having Alzheimer’s. Many experts are now calling it Type 3 Diabetes. (Including the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology and the Mayo Clinic.)


But dementia isn’t the only disease linked with diet. My dad had been diagnosed with Lupus while I was still in high school. Until he started the strong meds to keep the debilitating symptoms at bay, this I-can-fix-anything guy could barely hold a screwdriver, because his hands were so swollen and painful. I remember his trying to talk my mom and me through an electrical repair — an exercise in frustration for everyone involved!

helping Grandpa fix a motor

In 2007, my dad was diagnosed with a second disease: pulmonary fibrosis. His lungs were being consumed by scar tissue. This was likely the result, said his doctor, of either the lupus, or the medication he’d been taking for it the last 25 years.

Recent evidence is also beginning to recognize a connection between diet and autoimmune diseases, or at least the symptoms. (one source)

Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.

I tried desperately to re-educate my parents, but it was too late. The old “low fat, diet everything” mantra was too strongly ingrained in them. As they continued to follow the mainstream advice, they spiraled down into worse and worse health.

My dad died in 2010. His mind was sharp to the end, but his body betrayed him, and his last few days were harrowing. A week before he died, a nurse told me she could hear dripping water in his chest.

My mom’s Alzheimer’s took 10 long, dark years to steal her away.

Her grandchildren — my son and daughter — had been her greatest delight. She missed their high school and college graduations, because even travelling a short distance would have been too overwhelming for her.

granddaughter's wedding

She missed her granddaughter’s wedding. At that point, she longer recognized any of us, even for a second.

She joined my dad in heaven in 2015.

my parents in happier days

Could a different diet have prevented or reversed their disease? I don’t know. No one can say for sure. And let me be clear: I’m not saying diet is a cure. (Except, possibly, for Type 2 Diabetes.) There are certainly other factors at play, but after reading story after story of people reversing the effects of diabetes and autoimmune diseases with diet, I firmly believe that a real-food diet with the necessary healthy fats could have slowed and lessened the cruel impact these illnesses had on our family.

But it’s not too late for me. I have fully committed to an almost completely sugar-free lifestyle, with minimal proccessed and maximum whole foods.

And now it’s my passion to reach others before it’s too late for them. I want to save other moms, dads, and grandparents from missing out on life while they’re still living.

And it’s not just disease that robs us of life while we’re still living: it’s achy joints, and lack of energy, and foggy brain. It’s discouragement and guilt about how helpless we feel to make permanent, meaningful changes.

So now this is my passion:


Inspiring people to rescue their own health,

by equipping them to change

what they eat and why they eat.



It’s not too late for you, either. How can I help you?

Learn more:

Can I help?

2 things you gotta change for permanent weight loss

2 things you gotta change for permanent weight loss

For years, I had only temporary success at weight loss. I’d exercise for a while, lose some fat, then stop exercising and gain it back. Or I’d cut out some foods, lose a few pounds, then gain them back. Usually the cycle ran less than a year.

I’m not alone. Nearly 65 percent of dieters return to their pre-dieting weight within three years, according to Gary Foster, Ph.D., clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania. (source)

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Is fat healthy? Experts now saying fat as evil “has no basis in science.”

fat is healthy again - enjoy that bacon!

Until recently, asking “Is fat healthy?” would get you a look of disbelief from most people.

But the tide is turning.

Consider these excerpts from a June 24, 2015 article on Forbes.com:

The latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – the government-sanctioned recommendations about what we should and shouldn’t eat – will include a game-changing edit: There’s no longer going to be a recommended upper limit on total fat intake.

Here’s why fats are coming back into style. The fats restriction largely stemmed from the fact that saturated fat was once thought to be a major culprit in heart disease – and this somehow extended to all fats. But in recent years, it seems that saturated fat may not be so bad, and may even be good in some ways (as in its effects on HDL or “good” cholesterol)…. This is especially true when compared to a diet high in refined carbs…. In fact, refined carbs and added sugars, which have typically been the alternative to fats, are linked to a laundry list of health ailments.

Placing limits on total fat intake has no basis in science and leads to all sorts of wrong industry and consumer decisions,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, one of the authors of the new paper. “Modern evidence clearly shows that eating more foods rich in healthful fats like nuts, vegetable oils, and fish have protective effects, particularly for cardiovascular disease. Other fat-rich foods, like whole milk and cheese, appear pretty neutral; while many low-fat foods, like low-fat deli meats, fat-free salad dressing, and baked potato chips, are no better and often even worse than full-fat alternatives….”

Research has shown that high-carb diets, which have typically been the fallout of the low-fat movement, increase the risk of metabolic dysfunction, obesity, and even heart disease….

This echoes what the Harvard School of Public Health has been saying for some time:

Findings from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study show no link between the overall percentage of calories from fat and any important health outcome, including cancer, heart disease, and weight gain. (source)

Need another big name to convince you? I just ran across a stunning article from the Wall Street Journal. It’s kind of a long read, but if you want to learn how we got off on such a wrong track for so long, what role Big Food had in the early success of the American Heart Association, and why high total cholesterol may actually be good for women over 50 — yeah, you read that right…

If anything, high total cholesterol levels in women over 50 were found early on to be associated with longer life.

— then this read is well worth your time: The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease

Now, go enjoy some real food!


Is fat healthy? Yes -- filet for dinner!
I believe the science: had filet for dinner!

Fed Up: the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see

I’ve already mentioned sugar addiction here.

I just learned of this film; haven’t vetted it. Sounds pretty one-sided, but still, there’s truth…

Update, May 2015: I have now seen it. And it is polemic. Very “let’s make more laws to control peoples lives!” But the info about how the crazy increase in sugar consumption, what that does to our bodies, why not all calories are equal, and how much misinformation we’ve been fed is all spot-on. And I’m inclined to agree that marketing junk food to young kids should curtailed, somehow.

Your diet soda may be making you fat.

Studies from multiple sources are discovering that diet soft drinks may not be the healthy choice that most people think they are.

Source of weight gain?

For one study, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio followed 474 diet soda drinkers for almost 10 years. They found that diet soda drinkers’ waists grew 70 percent more than non-drinkers. Even more shocking was their discovery that drinking two or more diet sodas a day increased waist sizes 500 percent more as compared to people who avoided the stuff entirely.
A few other reasons why diet pop may not be as good a friend as you think it is.

Greater risk for diabetes:

Drinking one diet soda a day was associated with a 36 percent increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes in a University of Minnesota study. Metabolic syndrome is a condition that includes increased waist size, and puts people at high risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

And it may not just be making you fatter, but sadder, too…

Possible link with depression:

A study presented at a the American Academy of Neurology meeting found that over the course of 10 years, people who drank more than four cups or cans of soda a day were 30 percent more likely to develop depression than those who steered clear of sugary drinks. The correlation held true for both regular and diet drinks, but researchers noted that the risk appeared to be greater for those who primarily drank diet sodas.

Possible factor in strokes and heart attacks:

Just one diet soft drink a day could boost your risk of having a vascular event such as stroke, heart attack or vascular death, according to researchers from the University of Miami and Columbia University. Their study found that diet soda devotees were 43 percent more likely to have experienced a vascular event than those who drank none. 

But how?

Other studies suggest a clue: “Artificial sweeteners could have the effect of triggering appetite but, unlike regular sugars, they don’t deliver something that will squelch the appetite,” says Sharon Fowler, obesity researcher at UT Health Science Center at San Diego.

Wikipedia weighs in:

(pun intended!)

The effectiveness of diet soda as a weight loss tool has been called into question. 

Changing the food energy intake from one food will not necessarily change a person’s overall food energy intake or cause a person to lose weight. One study at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, reported by Sharon Fowler at the ADA annual meeting, actually suggested the opposite, where consumption of diet soda correlated with weight gain. While Fowler did suggest that the undelivered expected calories from diet soda may stimulate the appetite, the correlation does not prove that consumption of diet soda caused the weight gain. The ADA has yet to issue an updated policy concerning diet soda. 

In an independent study by researchers with the Framingham Heart Study in Massachusetts, soda consumption correlated with increased incidence of metabolic syndrome. Of the 9,000 males and females studied, soda drinkers were at 48% higher risk for metabolic syndrome, which involves weight gain and elevated blood sugar. No significant difference in these findings was observed between sugary sodas and diet drinks. The researchers noted that diet soda drinkers were less likely to consume healthy foods, and that drinking diet soda flavored with artificial sweeteners more than likely increases cravings for sugar-flavored sweets.

Learn more…

The best low carb salads at Panera


I love Panera! Even though I rarely get bagels or sweets there any more, I love their salads and appreciate the fact that they provide some nutrition info right up front. The calories are listed right on the menu. Pretty bold!

However, I don’t believe that counting calories is all that useful. (Here’s why, at least partially.) So I went to Panera’s website and downloaded the nutrition info and did a little spreadsheet work. If you’re focusing on controlling diabetes and/or eating low carb (South Beach, etc.), a useful thing to consider is the protein to carb ratio. That is, are there more protein than carbs, and in what proportion?

Based on my personal study into food’s effect on insulin and blood sugar, my approach to healthy eating is to try to keep an approximate balance between carbs and protein. More protein than carbs is okay; more carbs than protein is not. So in my protein-to-carbs (P-to-C) approach, I’m looking for a ration that 1 or higher.

Here’s an example: If your “protein bar” has 10 grams of protein, but 30 grams of carbs, it has a  P-to-C  ratio of 0.33 — not good! However, a spoonful of sugar-free peanut butter has 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbs; a ratio of 1.25 — much better!

I looked at all of Panera’s whole salads, including the dressing. Here are their four lowest-carb salads, with their respective ratios.

ALL of the other salads on their menu are below 1.0.

Of course, there’s more to healthy eating than carbs and protein, but as I said, if you’re looking to control your blood sugar (glucose) or trying to lose weight by watching carbs, these are some important numbers to know.

I am not employed by or affiliated with Panera Bread, and this is not a sponsored post. I am not a medical or nutrition expert; just someone who cares about my health enough to dig for the facts.

When “Sugar Free” isn’t

I don’t normally buy Cool Whip. It’s not that I’m a food snob (okay, I kinda am), but mostly that A) whipped cream is not that hard to make, B) I trust whole food over manufactured food, and C) whipped cream tastes better!
But today I was making some lemon cheesecake desserts (the lemon version of my lime cheesecake shooters) to take to a shower tomorrow, but because of scheduling issues, they have to be done tonight. Whipped cream won’t last that long. So I decided to go with Cool Whip for the topping, since it’s very stable.
I grabbed a tub of the fluffy stuff — the “Sugar Free” version — and headed home. Then I read the label.
First ingredient: water. Second ingredient: corn syrup.
Are you kidding me?! It has corn syrup, and you’re calling it sugar free? Is this even legal?
(The Harvard School of Public Health includes corn syrups on its list of added sugars in disguise. Corn syrup has been proven to raise triglycerides even more than and faster than sugar.)
Lesson learned: Always read the label — before you leave the store!