Coming Out of Denial to Achieve Health

A month into following a low carbohydrate diet I came out of denial with respect to how very unhealthy I was (and had been for a very long time).  I had Type 2 Diabetes for 10 years, was obese and had dangerously high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My fasting blood glucose was close to 12 mmol/l (216 mg/dl), my blood pressure ranged between Stage 1 hypertension about 50% of the time to 1/3 of the time in Stage 2 hypertension (with one hypertensive emergency that was the impetus for me beginning this “journey”), and my LDL cholesterol was higher than it should have been given my family history. The fact was I was an obese Dietitian (BMI > 30) and coming out of denial enabled me to plot my course for what I had to do to get healthy and what that needed to “look like” — how much my blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol needed to come down and how many pounds and inches around my waist I needed to lose. It seemed daunting!

So here I am coming out of denial again — just a different type of denial this time.

The cold, hard truth is that I am out of shape. Sure, I no longer get puffed out walking briskly for a few kilometers as I did at the beginning of my “journey” (as these two really short video clips testify), but my efforts at implementing slow high intensity workouts has failed miserably. While I still have relatively strong arm and leg muscles and can lift and carry heavy objects, my “core” is hit and miss — mostly miss. Our “core” are those muscles in the trunk of our body that are responsible for supporting the heavy lifting work that the muscles in our arms and legs do. When they aren’t sufficiently strong, pain and injuries occur.

Core Muscles

Over the last few months of continuing to do slow high intensity workouts (working large muscle sets until failure), I’ve suffered with sore knees and periodically a sore back, too. Since I’d had both knees operated on a number of years ago (after years of martial arts and dance) my knees bothering me really wasn’t too much of a surprise. Neither was my intermittent lower back pain as I was hit from behind in a car accident a decade ago and was in physiotherapy for many months.

I thought I was engaging my “core muscles” when I was lifting, but I wasn’t —at least not all of them. While I remembered where my ‘transverse abdominals‘ were (having learned in physio) and was engaging them when lifting weights, I had completely forgotten about using my pelvic floor muscles in tandem with them, as well as the other muscles that make up my ‘core’. I wasn’t consciously aware of it, but little by little I was injuring myself; my knees, my shoulder and my back. The ‘last straw’ was me setting up a gazebo for a family BBQ at which point my back made it clear that I could not continue.  I was in terrible pain like I had not been since the car accident a decade ago and had to stop everything. I couldn’t sit for long, walk for long or stand for long so that didn’t leave much. I needed help.

After a few weeks of applying ice, rest and taking anti-inflammatories, I am now in active rehabilitation — doing many of the same exercises that I did a decade ago after my car accident. The harsh reality is there is no “quick fix” to my physical health, just like there wasn’t with my metabolic health when I began changing how I ate 18 months ago. I will need to work on this 3-4 times a week for an hour or more at a time over the next few months. But I will get healthy.

Why am I sharing this?

Because achieving health isn’t something we can always do on our own.

We can all workout on our own and make our muscles stronger, but the fact is if we aren’t working with a kinesiologist who has studied muscle physiology, then we will only be achieving partial results while putting ourselves at risk of injury. We can convince ourselves that a book or a friend or the “trainer” at the local gym can help us (and they can to a point), but they are  not kinesiologists. If we have had previous injuries or for those that have never really exercised regularly before, then we need to work with someone that can teach us how to do it safely and design a program for us to make progress without getting hurt or doing ourselves damage.

Likewise, people can buy a book or find a generic ‘diet’ on the internet to lose weight, lower blood sugar and blood pressure a few points and bring their cholesterol down, but if they have metabolic conditions and especially if they are taking medications for them, they are putting themselves at risk doing it on their own (more about that in this article). Getting nutrition advice from a book, or a friend or the “nutritionist” at the gym is not the same as working with a Registered Dietitian and/or a physician who specializes in it, and who can design a individual diet based on a person’s specific needs and supervise their progress. To put Type 2 Diabetes into remission, reverse the symptoms of high blood pressure and high cholesterol and to get off medications for these conditions takes working with a professional.

I’ve learned my ‘lesson’ the hard way but it need not have been so.

The first step for any of us is coming out of denial — in admitting how unhealthy we are and to seek the help of a healthcare professional that is qualified to help.

Perhaps you’ve never considered getting the support of a Dietitian such as myself and have questions, or maybe you are where I was at 18 months ago and feel overwhelmed with the amount of weight you have to lose and what needs to occur to get metabolically healthy.

I can help.

Please feel free to send me a note using the Contact Me form above and I will reply as soon as possible.

To your good health!

Joy

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Author: BBDN

Joy Y Kiddie MSc., RD - I'm a Registered Dietitian in private practice in British Columbia, Canada that provides services in-person in my Coquitlam office, as well as by Distance Consultation (using Skype / telephone).