I used to be a long distance runner and a vegetarian. I was the epitome of health, or so I thought. I even hired a nutritionist to help me with eating during marathon training. She had me eating mostly “good carbs” which was whole wheat everything with some vegetables and protein thrown in for good measure. My protein intake at the time was less than 50 grams a day. Fat, you ask? No way. My fat intake was negligible. That coupled with Gu, Gatorade, Cytomax, and carbo loading for energy and recovery was a sure way to go into sugar overload- which is exactly what I did. I had no clue about the dangers of low protein and fat for endurance events. I was following the advice given to me by my educated running peers, my nutritionist, and my doctor.
I made it through training by the skin of my teeth and toed the starting line with a wicked upper respiratory infection. This was the single worst idea I’ve ever had in my life. This would be the pivotal decision that would change my life forever. I finished that marathon in 6 hours and 37 minutes with bathroom breaks every few miles because I had diarrhea from the powerful antibiotics I was taking. It was only force of will, stubbornness, and sheer stupidity that kept me going. Well, it wrecked me.
My health spiraled out of control over the next two years. I continued to eat the way I had been taught, not understanding why this was happening to me – an extremely healthy and fit person. I ended up contracting some sort of ear virus that caused severe migraines and vertigo. My hearing declined and I thought I was going to go deaf. It was a labor to get through each day. Then when I thought things were going to even out a little, I got mono. Mono is not good to get when you are 38 years old. It kicked my ass and I had to take medical leave from work for 3 months. I could not get out of bed, I had to crawl to the bathroom, and my heart rate was consistently over 110 beats per minute at rest. The worst part about the whole thing was that people did not understand. Friends, family, and work colleagues thought I was exaggerating or faking it because mono is not that bad. I’m here to tell you, it’s bad. Mono is way more insidious than anyone gives it credit for. It wreaks havoc like you wouldn’t believe especially if you are a worn out vegetarian who runs alot.
I started having more complications. My tonsils were abscessed and I was in severe pain. My stupid doctor could not figure out what my problem was and I suffered for 3 months before they finally decided it would be good to take the tonsils out. Duh! I ended up having a tonsillectomy, adenoid removal, sinus surgery, and had tubes put in my ears for chronic inflammation. Maybe you are thinking this is the end of the story because surely things started getting better after this, right? Wrong!
In the midst of having mono, my blood sugar started running high. It’s a fluke, I thought. I can’t have diabetes because I’m not overweight – I was 135 at 5’6″. As the months ticked by and my blood sugar steadily increased, my doctor kept telling me I needed to go on medication. I kept refusing. I repeatedly asked my doctor how I could change it without medication – should I eat differently? The response was to just eat whole grains, lean protein, and vegetables. Exercise, of course I knew that. I couldn’t do much but take short walks because of the energy level mono and multiple surgeries had left me.
After 6 months of refusing medication, my blood sugar topped out at 250 and I accepted the fact that I had diabetes. I reluctantly started taking Metformin, 500 mg, twice a day. I started researching on my own how a diabetic is supposed to eat since my doctor was not helpful. Everything I read smacked of low carb, higher protein, and higher fat. It was blowing my mind. I figured what do I have to lose? I’ll just start experimenting with different eating styles and see what happens. I started to eat with the South Beach diet principles, restricting starches and fruits to 2 each per day. My blood sugar improved drastically. I mean I was the shining example at my doctor’s office of someone who had taken control and was turning this thing around. But it wasn’t good enough. My fasting sugars were always still in the 120’s and 130’s and the goal was to be truly in the normal range which is below 100. What else could I do? I had been slowly increasing the exercise and I was running again, although very short distances. My blood sugar stayed in this range for quite some time and I really felt like crap.
After a year back to running, I didn’t feel it was giving me the benefits I was looking for so I purchased P90X and started the program 9 weeks ago. But I still couldn’t get away from this nagging feeling in the back of my mind about grains and bread. I wondered what would happen if I cut out grains and starches altogether? Would bad things happen? I started researching higher protein again and came across Protein Power by Dr. Eades through a recommendation of a colleague at work. This took me a step further and completely changed how I thought about carbs.
Additional research and a plug by someone over on www.runnersworld.com, brought me to Mark’s Daily Apple and finally it clicked. I spent hours on Mark’s blog, pouring over all the information regarding the Primal Blueprint and finally decided I needed to give it a go. The people I have met on the forum have provided invaluable advice as I attempt to increase my protein and fat while cutting out grains and starches. The responses have been so thoughtful and respectful – I have never come across such a helpful group of people online. I’m just a couple of weeks into eating Primal and can tell you that my fasting blood sugar has been below 100 every single day. How’s that for proof that this works?! Not only has the blood sugar improved (before carb restriction I started at a 7 A1C (diabetic) and now am at 5.7 (normal person range)), but I am rid of the insulin roller coaster. No more massive hunger attacks, no more sugar or carb cravings, no more mid-afternoon crashing, no over-eating at night, no more feeling like I’m a slave to meal times. I feel like I have been freed at last! I still have “fat fear” and am still a little scared of red meat but it’s a process that I’m dedicated to because it is working when nothing else has. I am beyond excited at the possibility of getting off diabetes medication and owe a debt of gratitude to Mark and the MDA.