Earlier today I came across a blog entry by my friend Kim about the connection she felt with her grandfather, the only other type 1 in her family, despite her never having had the opportunity to meet him.
I have another type 2 in my family - my dad. And as I thought about Kim's post, I thought about my connection with my dad through our shared diabetes. And, as I thought, I suddenly felt a wave of emotional pain and shame wash over me, as if some sort of cyst had been punctured by a blunt lancet.
My dad was diagnosed somewhere around twenty years ago. I remember he invited me over, talked to me about diabetes, and explained how my being overweight dramatically increased the risk of my getting it.
Kim touched on how things were much different for diabetics when her grandfather was diagnosed. Although certainly not as much so, things were different for type 2s when Dad contracted it. In particular, the "front line" type 2 medicines used then were much more likely to produce low blood sugars than Metformin is, and Dad had some nasty episodes.
I didn't understand much about T2 when I was eventually diagnosed a couple of decades after my father was. In particular, I didn't understand that overweight is only one of several factors that can bring about my disease, and I reacted to my diagnosis with a tremendous amount of guilt: I felt that I'd been given two decades of warning, and I still couldn't avoid diabetes. I understand better now, but then I felt so much shame that it was several days before I could even share my news with my family.
Even when my father was diagnosed, it was understood that weight loss, where needed, was an important step towards control. My dad was able to do it. My stepmother learned about how he should be eating, and made appropriate meals. My dad became the chief dogwalker of the house, and thus got out for a several block walk several times a day. I don't know the numbers, but I'm guessing he lost forty to sixty pounds over the following year or so. And, it seems to have paid off big for him: other than a small infection in his hand that required a bit of surgery, to the best of my knowledge he's had none of the complications commonly understood to be associated with diabetes.
And this is where my pain today came from. My dad was able to respond to his diagnosis with simple lifestyle changes that produced very significant weight loss. I wasn't. In fact, I actually gained weight in the months following diagnosis. And, I learned today, I feel a very strong sense of shame that I wasn't able to follow Dad's example.
Of course, that's not being fair to myself. My dad had some advantages I don't, particularly in having someone else to manage his meals. There were probably other things as well, perhaps some having to do with the ways our bodies may work differently or the differences in our medications.
I'm grateful to have had that experience today, because now I can deal with it. Unfortunately, Dad's physical condition doesn't allow me to talk it over with him. But, his experience does allow me to hope that perhaps I will be as fortunate as he has been, and I too will be able to live many complication-free years.
Years ago, long before I was diagnosed, I ate a vegetarian diet for about six months. (I was open to milk, cheese, and eggs, but didn't eat much of those.) I didn't lose weight - a vegetarian with limited cooking skills is likely to end up eating a lot of simple carbs - but I did feel better eating that way.
One of my secret, stealthy reasons for working so hard on my cooking skills is to lay the proper foundation for a possible return to a vegetarian diet. And an important aspect of that is to know a lot more about cooking with whole grains (or, sometimes, less-refined grains) than I have in the past.
So, I've decided to begin what I'm calling my "Grains Three Ways" project. Working with one grain variety at a time, I'll find and prepare three dishes that use significantly different cooking methods for that variety. To the extent possible, I'd like to vary the methods across varieties as well (so that I'm not making a faux-risotto all the time, for example), but a preparation in my rice cooker will probably appear about every time, because it's a very handy tool for cooking grains.
I'll be starting with barley. I'm using pearled barley, which has been partially refined: I may visit whole grain barley down the road some time. I'll be doing quinoa for sure, and bulgur wheat, and farro since I happen to have some. Beyond that, I'll see what the stores seem to want to sell me. (I use brown rice tolerably often, so may not do that one.)
I'll report back!