Hello! My name is Brenda Nolen and I am a serial information sharer. I can be grumpy and have a tendency to post comments before I proofread, so if you see any mistakes (grammatical or otherwise), we can blame my impatience for that and not my intellectual capacities, okay?
I also compartmentalize my interests, so I have two blogs:
- my main blog/website (http://www.brendanolen.com),
- and this one.
As you can see by looking at any of those (including this one), I am sporadically active. I am most active on Facebook, directly sharing on the pages I set up for each blog. Fair warning: if you really want to be my “friend” on Facebook, I love foul language and inappropriate humor. Here are the links to my Facebook pages:
Now onto why I created this blog. I really needed somewhere I could keep all my thoughts, ideas, and stats (that wasn’t just some random piece of paper that I could lose). I like being able to come here, no matter where I am, and see it all without having to log onto Facebook and try to figure out how to search for something. I could also access all my information from anywhere. I do not always remember dates/numbers accurately, so WordPress has been a godsend!
Some time in January of 2010, my husband rushed me to the E.R. I was having a difficult time breathing and he thought I was having an allergic reaction to something. It turns out the dinner my husband made (no, I’m not blaming him) was the culprit: the best bacon-wrapped scallops I had ever eaten! All my life I had loved all things seafood, then BAM! At the age of 42, I became allergic to all fish/seafood (I couldn’t even be near aquariums) and that was just the beginning of my medical issues. As time went by, I became allergic to synthetic and natural latex, I could not be around any strong perfumes and most chemicals, I had to stop wearing all cosmetics and forget about hair styling products, and this list of restrictions just kept growing. As you could imagine, I was a joy to be around!
I can’t believe it took me that long but over a year later, in February of 2011, I went to the doctor for my first complete physical exam. It turned out I had Type 2 Diabetes (blood sugar reading was 403) and extremely low levels of Vitamin D (that first test showed my Vitamin D was 6). He prescribed 15,000 IU of Vitamin D/week, 1000 mg Metformin twice daily, and Glipizide ER 10 mg once/day.
When I look back, I am pretty sure I had undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes since 1992 (I had gestational diabetes with my last pregnancy and no doctor before, during, or afterward checked my blood sugar). My symptoms, in totality, were obvious but they never occurred at the same time so I attributed them to other factors. I suffered from massive yeast infections, had strange rashes appear out of nowhere, my legs would randomly swell up (edema), I could not go anywhere without having something to drink in my hand (severe thirst), had to urinate much more than anyone else I was around, and if I physically exerted myself too much I would get extremely shaky and weak (but feel immediately better after eating).
At the time of my official diagnosis, my diet was awful! I lived off sugar all day long (either coffee, sweet tea, or soda). We ate a lot of pasta (our favorite was cheese tortellini with alfredo sauce), crackers (especially Cheez Itz), cereal (Crunch Berry and pretty much anything else that was nothing but pure sugar), and a lot of chips. Our treats were pizza, Taco Bell, real Mexican food (with extra beans and rice), Mc Donald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (then Popeye’s, when they opened here), Jack In The Box, and Chinese food. OH! I forgot to mention the candy I always had on hand. Sheesh. It’s no wonder my body just flipped me the bird and said, “I’m outta here.”
I had heard of the Atkins way of eating but I just never embraced it (despite my varying size, I had never been a “dieter”). With my Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, I took another look. The first thing I did was switch all beverages to diet. I replaced all added sugar with Splenda. I eliminated all sweets which felt like it was going to kill me. The withdrawals were awful. Then, I started the Atkins nutritional approach that was being taught in 2011. I read the book, ate the bars, drank the shakes, and followed the program to the letter. In two months, I was able to stop taking the Metformin AND the Glipizide! My blood sugars were consistently within normal ranges and I lost inches all over my body (6 inches total from my waist alone).
Then, I began hearing the powers that be who run Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. were marketing their bars and shakes as complete meal replacements. Meal replacements? Dr. Atkins embraced whole, real food! So, I began looking, searching, and reading. I found a copy of Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution published in 1992. I wanted to read what Dr. Atkins actually wrote. Aside from the new push for meal replacement bars and shakes, his teachings were pretty consistent with those running Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. You would have never known that then (or now, for that matter) because of the conflicting information being shared about Dr. Atkins and his nutritional approach!
Then, thanks to Jimmy Moore’s (http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/) blood sugar tests of numerous “low carb” replacement foods (like pasta and bread), I began questioning the “net carb” notion. A “net carb” is math: you take the total carbohydrates of a food, subtract the amount of fiber, and that is the only number of carbohydrates you count toward your total carbohydrates you eat each day. It sounds great, especially when you look at the wide array of food items available that may have a total of 30 carbohydrates per serving but the net carbs are 5. Then I heard that originally, Dr. Atkins did not use “net carbs”. a carbohydrate was a carbohydrate … period.
Dr. Atkins also did not limit the amount of artificial sweeteners a person could use each day (current teaching is 3 packets of artificial sweeteners are the limit per day, with each of those counting as one carbohydrate). I had also heard conflicting information regarding caffeine consumption. It’s widely taught (among a good majority of Atkins forums and websites) that caffeine is forbidden. Then, some say it is allowed, but only in limited quantities. I hate that, especially from “experts”! I needed to know exactly what was and wasn’t allowed and what exactly were the differences between the original Atkins plan and all the “new and improved” versions.
So, I was on a mission! I went to 6 local thrift stores and, finally, there it was! I saw Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution (written in 1972) and it felt like the clouds parted! FINALLY! So, I rushed home and tore into the book (and not just that one. Finding that first book opened a door to me finding many more of his books). What a huge difference between his original and the book written in 1992! Why the changes? Dr. Atkins stated, in the 1992 book, that many of the changes he made were due to scientific studies conducted within the 30 years since he originally conceived of this way of eating. Well, after reading the 1972 Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, I was not convinced. Why, after 30 years of success, would he dramatically change the basic concepts of this way of eating? While it did bring a fresher look and feel to this way of eating, it changed the basic premise that this way of eating relied on:
The key to success is starting with little to no carbohydrates so your body immediately becomes a fat burning machine!
In September of 2011, after 8 months on strict Atkins, my husband began having major intestinal issues. We were told he had everything from an ulcer to Irritable Bowel Syndrome. My blood sugars were stable, so I began adding carbohydrates back to our diets. I tried everything to find out what was causing his issues, thinking they were strictly related to food (we did not find out until 2015 that he had cancer, which, thankfully, only required surgery). His health issues continued to get worse, so I dropped my low carb way of eating altogether.
By July of 2013, at my yearly physical, my blood sugars were almost 300, thanks to me completely throwing caution to the wind and eating whatever the heck I wanted. So, I ran right back to Dr. Atkins. This time, my blood sugars didn’t react the way they did the first time. They swung wildly, without more than 30 grams of carbohydrates per day (until I started using MyFitnessPal, I had no idea just how many carbs I was eating without realizing it. So, there is another reason to love the internet).
I thought that maybe I should start a real exercise program. Looking around the internet for a program I stumble onto the Ketogenic diet (https://atkinsjourney.wordpress.com/about-keto/). It was mentioned in a weight lifting video description, so I Googled it (just so I could figure out what the heck they were talking about). I began pouring through research and discovered that on a low carbohydrate diet over half the excess protein you eat is converted to glucose! So, even though I had managed to get down to around 20 grams of total carbs per day, I was eating too much protein! That was why my blood sugar readings resembled a roller coaster!
It took me about two months of playing around with the numbers (amounts of fats vs proteins) to finally get “normal” (you know, normal people, not diabetic) blood glucose readings on a consistent basis. It was frustrating and infuriating (especially when something like red bell peppers would spike my blood sugar) but such an eye opener and proof positive of how every body is unique.
2013 was the last time I saw that doctor. I had never told him about my low carbohydrate tendencies, since the diet he gave me when I was first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes listed oatmeal for breakfast and full-sugar frozen yogurt for dessert. My last visit with him was after having my A1C measured for the 4th time in 2 months. He did not think it was dropping fast enough, so he handed me a sample box of Januvia (keep in mind, I had not been prescribed any other diabetes medications since 2011). That was when I told him about my eating habits and told him that, since my numbers were dropping, I wanted to wait before I took any medications. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Well, if you want to kill yourself, then don’t take the pills.” I left the office sobbing and never went back.
Fast forward to 2017. We decided this was the year for me to get as much done, medically, as I could (since 2017 marked 2 years cancer-free for my husband). So, around June, I made my first visit to a new doctor. I had him give me a referral to an allergist (for the first time in my life) and got the ball rolling on determining whether I had tried to kill myself over the past 5 years of pretty loose eating. My weight was up to 207 pounds but my blood sugars were stable (not really low like before but still close to normal ranges). After my test results came back, it turned out I was doing much better than I had thought! Not are most of my allergies gone (there is no food that will kill me now) but my A1C was 6.9 (6.5 and under is considered normal)! So, the plan was for me to lose a bit of weight and see what I could to food-wise to get that number even lower. Would you like to know the best part about my new doctor? When I told him that I had been controlling the diabetes with a low carb diet but had been eating a lot of bread lately, he said, “Bread is the same as sugar!” Can you believe it? He understands!