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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Health Scare

In late May, on my regular physical, my doctor looked at my family history and decided to do an a1c check.  To my dismay, it came in at 6.1, which meets the clinical definition of pre-diabetes, though just barely. My doctor looked at me and said, "Don't panic. I know I can't tell you to exercise more, but I'm going to have you talk to a nutritionist and we're going to kick this in the butt."

My meeting with the nutritionist needed preparation before hand. For a week or so, I weighed everything I ate and took it down on a spreadsheet. When I met with the nutritionist, she asked for my weight history, and then said that all I really needed to do was to lose about 7 pounds to have a significant effect. (I was 152 pounds) She then gave me a food exchange list and a plan to get my weight down. She also advised what I'd known for years, which was to double up on vegetables and reduce intake of other foods.

I weighed everything I ate for another week to get a feel for what it felt like to get myself at the desired calorie intake level. Once I realized that I should eat until I wasn't feeling hungry any more (as opposed to eating until I was stuffed), ditching the weighing machine was fine. The results were almost immediate, with me losing 2 pounds a week until I started the tour of the alps this year at 145 pounds.

During my tour, my habit of eating less bit me. I didn't realize I wasn't eating enough until the day I rode over the Gavia, when a particularly hearty meal the night before made me climb faster and ride harder and better than I expected, while still feeling hungry by the middle of the day. So I gave up the diet and at everything I saw for the rest of the tour until I reached Zurich at 140 pounds despite all that eating. For the first time, however, I'd lost 5 pounds during a tour and not become weak. I was riding as strong as ever, and my metabolism had sped up.

I expected that I might have trouble coming back into my diet, but it turned out not to be a problem. I kept losing weight until today, when I'm at 135 pounds, which is still 5 pounds more than when I first joined Google way back in 2003. But at 130 pounds back then, I had bone density problems, so I'm not in a hurry to get back to 130 pounds.  Interestingly enough, having lost about 17 pounds has been great for my cycling: I'm climbing faster now than I was in April.

Recently, I did another a1c test and it came back at 5.9, which was low enough that my doctor's office called me and said it was normal. I do intend to keep testing every 3 months to check, but the health scare is in retreat. I'm now optimistic that I can pretty much stay at whatever weight I want, given what I know about nutrition.

You may or may not know this, but Asians get diabetes at much lower weights than Caucasians. As an Asian person, I have to watch my weight far more carefully, and clearly while the average American of my height at 160 pounds is considered "normal", I cannot even approach that weight without health risks. But at least I caught my problem early and know how I can deal with it. For someone with my genetics, forewarned is definitely forearmed.

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