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It was a year ago that Evelyn Narad found herself practically immobilized by a broken shoulder. A 74-year-old woman with type 2 diabetes, she was very overweight, dependent on daily insulin, and miserable.
The onetime gym teacher had been a 106-lb. bride 48 years before. After her wedding, she was diagnosed with diabetes. Since, her body had been ravaged by weight gain and the daily toll of diabetes. While dealing with her injury, Evelyn picked up the book that would change her life, Dr. Richard Bernstein's Diabetes Type 2.
The book flies in the face of the current dietary trend of high carbohydrate intake, stressing instead a diet very low in carbs. Armed with this new knowledge, Evelyn began slowly breaking habits learned over a lifetime. Instead of basing her food choices on breads, beans, pasta and the like, she moved toward lowfat proteins: tuna fish, chicken, nonfat dairy products, and egg substitutes like Egg Beaters. Before long, she was marveling at the changes she saw, the results of mostly painless adjustments. Her blood sugar levels began to drop steadily, and when she visited her doctor he was amazed at her weight loss and the overall improvement in her condition.
Evelyn has lost 51 pounds and hopes to shed another 40. She's more than halfway there and feels fantastic, both in mind and in body.
"I've learned to figure out what I'm going to eat," she says. "Then I just fill my plate and eat. That's it. People should be given a choice about what they put into their bodies."
A lot of people approach diet change as a chore, a thing that will turn them into antisocial fanatics obsessively counting fat grams and calories. Evelyn scoffs at that.
"You've got to live and you've got to live healthy. There's a whole new world out there."
She describes her typical breakfast in mouth-watering detail. A big omelet prepared in a pan with nonstick cooking spray, whatever veggies she has on hand, 3/4 cup egg substitute, and 2 tablespoons of oatbran. This is more than enough to satisfy her until lunchtime. She no longer eats bread, and frankly doesn't miss it. She likes a nonfat cheese called Lifeline- before long, she says, it becomes just as satisfying as fat-laden cheeses less health-conscious people might select.
What's the bottom line for Evelyn? Today she only takes insulin when her blood sugar is over 200 mg/dl, and that doesn't happen all that often. She is almost off of her oral medications, though she still tests her blood four times a day. She suffered for years from severe knee pain, which forced her to use crutches. One day not long ago, she realized she had forgotten her crutches and was getting along fine without them. She is enjoying her new, slimmer body and the water exercises she does at the local YMCA. There hasn't been a more enthusiastic proponent of exercise since Susan Powter!
"People have got to get off of their rumps and MOVE!"
Evelyn believes in knowledge and support. She recommends that people with diabetes learn everything they can about their bodies, and take nothing at face value.
"Don't follow fads, like the high-carbohydrate routine so many people are stuck on."
She also says that we have to be positively aggressive about our right to individuality in a pre-fabricated, preservative-packed world. She reminds us that no one has to "stick to the menu" in restaurants. Ask how foods are prepared, and if something isn't good for you, tell them to keep it off of your plate.
"We are in control. You are in charge. We as a nation get stupid when it comes to food. "
"This is not a diet, it's a philosophy. You really have to learn what you've been eating. Then you learn to cook the way it won't hurt you." She uses her Russian mother's potato pancakes as an example. Instead of frying them, Evelyn bakes them, and her sons never turn them down.
These days, Evelyn finds that her highs and lows are no longer as extreme as they once were. Dr. Bernstein recommends blood sugar levels should be around 80 to 90 mg/dl. Evelyn used to experience extreme fluctuations in her levels; she now stays within acceptable numbers. Diet and exercise, combined with her support group, The Sweet Peas (in Santa Rosa), make all the difference.
Anyone interested in joining Evelyn's diabetes support group should call the Diabetes Society of Sonoma County at (707) 578-0887 for information. They offer womens', mens', and general support groups. There's nothing like having people to talk to, hang out and eat with in great restaurants that treat their diabetic customers with respect!
According to Evelyn, Dr. Bernstein's book is out of print. However, audio tapes of Dr. Bernstein outlining his program are available from Prana Press in Van Nuys, Calif. Bernstein Type I Plan and Bernstein Type 2 Plan are $22.95 each plus $3.25 shipping and handling. To order, or to request the free Prana Press catalog, call (800) 735-7726.
A waiter recently asked Evelyn and her support group what they were celebrating. Without missing a beat, Evelyn told him:
"We're celebrating life."
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.