For the last several days I have been watching documentaries and news programs dedicated to remembering the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Everyone agrees: they remember where they were and who they were with when the horrendous events of that day unfolded. I am no different. I remember where and who, and have been struggling with whether I should reach out to let them know I remember. I decided not to make contact, and the reason why may come as a surprise.
I graduated from college the preceding spring, an energetic blonde who believed every problem presented to me was a puzzle I was capable of solving. I loved my job as a nuclear medicine technologist at a regional medical center, and I wanted to “win” every day, be at the top of my game, solving other people’s puzzles. The only thing getting in my way was my body’s terrible glycemic control.
Blood sugar issues plagued me my entire life! I failed a glucose tolerance test at the age of 9, and subsequently was allowed to keep cheese (Kraft singles) and crackers (Triscuits) at my desk (lucky girl). When I was a college student and working (and eating) at McDonald’s, I became ill every day after eating, nausea, headaches, brain fog that bordered on blacking out. Eventually, my doctor asked me to follow a low carbohydrate diet (after many visits where I was only given a pregnancy test, then sent home with no answers). My doctor made Xerox copies of pages in a diabetes diet book from the 1970’s and handed me an issue of Muscle and Fitness magazine. She believed that I was diabetic, but did not want to confirm with blood work because I was uninsured. She explained that I could be denied medical insurance for the rest of my life if I received this diagnoses (this was the late 1990’s). She further explained that the eating plan recommended to body builders was high in protein and low in carbohydrates, similar enough to the “old” diabetic diet that it would be a useful resource for meal and recipe ideas.
I followed doctor’s orders for the next year (with the addition of lots of alcohol consumption - glug, glug, glug). I got myself a subscription to Muscle and Fitness, learned about more than just diet, and began using the college gym. By the end of that first year (August 2000), I was feeling really great, but then it was time for me to start a 40 hour per week for 2 semesters internship at a hospital. I had an hour long commute each way, and a preschooler. The lifting weights was over. The work break room was filled with doughnuts. I worked with a couple of temps who were given large food allowances, and they insisted on using it to buy restaurant lunches for me almost every day. My God, I got fat! And my blood sugar would crash between meals, leaving me angry, sometimes in tears, unable to handle the slightest emotional distress.
Over Christmas break, I was offered a job at the hospital. This was 4 hours on top of my internship hours after break was over, leaving me with 12 hour work days. One of the temps was not using the furnished apartment provided to him, and offered it to me. That cut out the commute, but also insured I would only see my 5 year old son on the weekends. Graduation was coming in April, so I went for it. I got my crap together in that little apartment, got back on my low carbohydrate diet, and started using the hospital gym before work in the mornings. I was able to bounce back pretty quickly, but my routine changed again after graduation. I rented an apartment of my own and moved my son into it with me. I found him daycare, but I really didn’t have time for workouts until he started kindergarten that August. I still could not handle eating any amount of carbohydrates. My co-workers believed that my aversion to sweets was mental, that I was nauseated and my head ached because of the “guilt” I felt from eating junk food. Did you know that healthcare workers are some of the most unhealthy people on the planet? And horrible enablers when it comes to junk and comfort foods? And mean-spirited saboteurs of people who are trying to lose weight and/or improve their health? Yup.
Now, on our timeline, we have come to September 11th of 2001. Dan, the exercise physiologist (and my only co-worker interested in diet and exercise), flagged me down in the hallway, said there was something going on that I needed to see. He brought me into an outpatient waiting room where we sat and watched Matt Lauer talk us through unbelievable video footage from New York City. We were glued there, watching the World Trade Center burn and crumble. Additionally, there were reports of unthinkable tragedy in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. Time slowed to a crawl that morning.
Fast forward 20 years, I am 44 years old, married with two more sons. I will never subject myself to the stress and toxic personalities of working full-time in a hospital environment ever again. And my current doctor will never know I was once a type II diabetic because I do not eat carbs (yeah, mom, I know I had corn-on-the-cob and a little white rice today, but I also walked 7 miles and set 4 PR’s at the gym). I have dabbled with “healthy whole grains” and thought “maybe it is wheat and I can be healthy if I am just gluten-free.” Both of these experiments failed. I cannot have carbohydrates and feel well, no matter how little I weigh, how many miles per day I walk or run, and no matter how heavy the weights I lift are.
On this, the twentieth anniversary of the terror attacks of 9/11, I thought, “ I wonder what Dan is up to these days.” I found him on LinkedIn, he lives in New Hampshire. He went back to school, and then back to school again. He is a doctor now. He had a review article he wrote published in a medical journal. He is still interested in diet, as is apparent by the title of his article “Plant-Based Diet in Standard of Care in Diabetes Type II.” I read the article, and for this reason Dan will not be getting a Patriot Day greeting from me. You see, in his article, he concluded that type II diabetic patients should eliminate meat from their diets as treatment for diabetes. Meat heals, and that is the hill I am willing to die on. Is it petty of me to be so turned off by his highly-educated opinion on meat and DM-II? Probably. I am just fed up with the book-learned continuing to ignore what is working for humans living their lives outside of a laboratory experiment