Archive for diabetes

“The doctor told him straight out that he was too young to die”

Kaylene and Ted HardyBy: Kaylene Hardy

There is an old saying, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” Several years ago I started looking for a way to lose some weight. My husband Ted also needed to lose weight and just didn’t feel good most of the time. We briefly tried eating a low-carb diet, but that just didn’t feel right to me. Even though I did lose a few pounds, physically, I did not feel healthy, and I kept thinking about the Word of Wisdom which tells us that grains are ordained for our use to be the staff of life. I wanted to find something that would help our family, something that would be sustainable for a lifetime, and something that was in line with gospel teachings. I happened to watch the movie Forks Over Knives, then I read the book Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. The information made an impression on me, and I wanted to give it a try. Compared to other popular weight loss plans, it was the only one that seemed to be in line with the Word of Wisdom.

It was the beginning of an adventure that has a happy ending, but the road there was a little rocky. This story is not about me and just wanting to lose some weight. This is really my husband’s story and how we have been blessed with hope and a brighter future.

My husband Ted grew up in a family where food was an expression of love. He and his six siblings loved to eat. They ate plenty of salad and vegetables, but it was pretty much standard American fare. Three of his siblings later had bariatric surgery as adults and although they lost a lot of weight at first, they have all experienced various health problems as time passed.

Some years after we were married, when Ted was in his mid-thirties, we had a little scare which sent him to the emergency room with a concern for his heart. It turned out that his heart was fine, but it was enough to convince him that he needed to lose weight and take better care of himself. He was very successful and interestingly, he ate a very low-fat diet and this was years before we even heard of Dr. Esselstyn and whole food, plant-based (WFPB) eating. Ultimately, Ted lost a lot of weight and kept it off for quite a few years, but it was all about will power. He was very strict about the times he ate, what he ate, and how much he ate. Over the next twenty years, he gained a lot of the weight back.

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“Changing my eating habits has saved me”

Warren TownsendBy: Warren Townsend

I was diagnosed some years ago with pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a dangerous buildup of plaque in my arteries. If one of these maladies didn’t incapacitate, cripple or kill me another one would.

The doctor prescribed warfarin or Coumadin, which is the main ingredient in rat poison. It thins the blood to the extent veins and arteries can no longer contain the blood and the animal bleeds to death. I was given information on a diet for diabetics and was told it would help stabilize my condition.

Diabetes, heart failure, cancer and obesity have plagued my mother, father, sisters, brother and their mates for many years. Dad died at age 59 of oat cell carcinoma, a type of lung cancer. At the age of 86, Mother died of congestive heart failure, also called myocardial infarction or heart attack. Her life was not easy during my lifetime. When Mother was 37 years old we nearly lost her to uterine cancer, ulcerated colitis, and improper combinations of conflicting medications prescribed by her doctors. She was prescribed Coumadin, refused it, and turned to the natural help of gingko biloba and cayenne pepper capsules, which did indeed thin her blood. As she got older, continually testing her blood sugar she was able to somewhat control her type 2 diabetes through a prescribed diet for diabetics that still allowed meat and dairy products. Mother developed neuropathy in her feet and so got little exercise and was middling obese for many years.

I have put all this down to tell you of my experience.

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“The most horrible, wonderful experiences of our lives”

Randy and Olga CamporaBy: Randy Campora

Dat, dat…, da dat dat dat – dat daa dat dat dat daaaa dat.

That is the opening phrase of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet. As the bass trombonist in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for the past thirty years I have heard those violin notes hundreds of times, and in December 2014, the notes were the same as always. We were playing in the orchestra pit of the Lyric Theater in Baltimore for an entire week of Nutcrackers with the ballet corps of the Baltimore School for the Arts.

But this year, those notes did not sound the same. Or I should say, my mind as it heard those notes was not the same.

This year, I had cancer. My mind struggled to focus, though the familiar music and setting were a nice distraction for me. But as soon as the music stopped the thought came immediately back: I had esophageal cancer, stage yet to be determined.

I was fifty-three years old, at least a hundred pounds overweight, a recent inductee of the Type II Diabetes Club. I was also the possessor of more blessings from God than I knew what to do with: Olga, my wonderful yoga teaching wife; Dominik, our trumpet playing oldest son on a mission in Poland; and Raffi, our math wiz youngest son with the dry sense of humor. I was a member of the best ward in the church. I had a job I liked, with great health insurance. The complete list would assault you with its length.

That September I had choked on a piece of food at dinner. My wife had just completed a CPR course, so she successfully executed the Heimlich two-step and I could breathe. But a few minutes later I realized that something was stuck down near the stomach because I could not drink or eat anything. A trip to the ER took care of the problem: Dr. Solaiman removed the piece of chicken stuck in the valve at the top of the stomach.

He was surprised to find Barrett’s Esophagus—a pre-cancerous condition usually caused by chronic acid reflux that changes the tissue to something more resembling an intestine. He performed biopsies, which came back clear. He wanted to be sure nothing was hiding there, so another round of biopsies was done three months later. This time the cancer cells were found, along with some aggressive markers.

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“Even the least of us can do it!”

Jim and Carol LindseyBy: Carol Lindsey

When I was 12 years old, we went to visit my grandparents. As we were traveling, just before our stop for dinner, I realized it had been days since I’d felt hunger pangs. This was a memorable “ah-ha” moment. It was the first of many times over the next 50 plus years that I noticed I was eating for reasons other than hunger.

I’ve always loved food, and I loved to eat, especially sweets. Weight was never a problem . . . until I had my first baby. After my daughter was born, my son came one year later, and for the next 47 years I carried more than 50 extra pounds on my 5’4″ frame. That’s not to say I didn’t try to lose the weight, and sometimes I was even successful, but it never stayed off. No matter how hard I tried, the weight would always creep back on. You could probably say in my whole adult life I was either dieting or gaining weight. Rarely did I ever maintain my weight, and if I did, it was for a very short period of time. My food choices were anything sweet, salty, fried or on a bun. Chocolate, butter and ice cream were their own food groups in my book, and least I leave out the meat, I loved rare steak, prime rib, and any seafood you could dip in butter.

I was so obsessed with my weight that to this day I can tell you how much I weighed at every important event that ever occurred in my life. Food was a drug to me. I used it to dull emotional pain and feelings of failure. In the first nine months after our son passed away, I tried to deal with the grief by stuffing myself. It didn’t work. Once again I went on a diet. This time I lost 30 pounds and figured that was the best I could do . . . after all a woman in her 60’s can’t expect to be skinny. I managed to maintain that weight loss for about a year, but then, just like all the other times, the weight began to creep on again.

We left home in March of 2014 to serve an 18-month mission for the LDS Church. We spent the first six months at Martin’s Cove, Wyoming. Next we were given a six-month assignment to Rosebud, South Dakota where we lived on the Sioux Indian Reservation and taught an addiction recovery program. In April of 2015 we were transferred from Rosebud back to Martin’s Cove.

I had assumed that because the work we did on our mission was very physical that I would easily lose weight, but instead once again I found myself gaining. We missionaries had a funny saying: “No one has starved at Martin’s Cove since 1856.” We made sure of that with wonderful dinners, desserts, and movie nights with treats and BBQ’s and trough dinners and the list goes on. With all that great food, I decided I was through with deprivation. No more diets for me! I’d eat what I wanted and just be happy. After all there are more important things in life than the size of your body!

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“The Gospel is not weight. It is wings!”

The Gospel is not weight—it is wingsToday I’d like to share the story of one Mormon mother. This person represents many others: good, faithful members of the Church who live with a certain misery and despair over their weight, their health, and the impact it is having on their families. Almost weekly, I hear from such a person seeking for help and wondering if there is still hope.

I’ve received permission from this person to share excerpts from her emails to me last year. I have left out some details to protect her identity and shorten the story. (Note that I responded to every email she sent me, but I do not include my emails to her.)

I hope her amazing story of transformation will inspire everyone who reads this!

August 26, 2015

Dear Jane,

I have been following your comments on Meridian Magazine for some time now. I am writing to you in a bit of desperation. I am over 60 years old, about 5 feet tall, and about 100 pounds overweight. I have always been active in the church, have a strong testimony, love the Gospel with all my heart. I am only saying these things to help you understand my situation a little better. I was usually a little chubby, but since my marriage, I just got bigger and bigger and bigger. I have not been good at serving healthy, nutritious meals, as the cheaper “casseroles with cream of soups” were always my go-to. I love cake, cookies, brownies, candy, homemade ice cream, chips and dip, homemade bread, etc. Sadly, I raised my children the same way, and now some of them struggle with weight issues. One day a while ago, my daughter said to me that she felt that I didn’t understand the atonement, because I tried so hard to live every law perfectly, and repent for the tiniest mistake, yet in some areas (I know she meant weight) I was not following the commandments. Though it was a bit painful, it was truly a needed wake-up call, but still I have not taken the steps to change.

One day a few months ago in my personal prayers, I said that I really wanted to get my life in order, but I just could NOT be obedient to healthy eating. I knew I was sinning because of my refusal to humble myself and control my eating. I have felt badly since admitting to the Lord that I just wouldn’t do that, but I really believed it was true! It makes me disgusted to think that terrible food means more to me than eternal life with God! And in reality, it doesn’t, but I knew I couldn’t lie to Him, when I wasn’t willing to change.

Two years ago, I had been eating more healthy for quite a while and had lost some 66 or so pounds, though I was still at least 50 pounds overweight. But I went on a trip, and we celebrated with foods I hadn’t tasted in a long, long time. Coming back home, I just went wild and eventually gained almost 45 of those pounds back. It has now been two years, and I am still here, almost 45 pounds heavier, and just hopeless. I really am huge, and it’s terribly noticeable being so short. I know through the years it’s been awful for my husband to drag around a gigantic wife, and it has been extremely embarrassing for my children. What is wrong with me!!!! I honestly sometimes wonder if it is just too late for me—kind of the mentality that this is who I am, who I’ve always been, who I always will be, and that there is just no hope for me. I KNOW that is evil thinking, but I honestly feel so overwhelmed at this point in life that I don’t know if I even want to change. How could I really give up the foods I really like—FOREVER?

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“I planted the seed to see what fruits it would yield”

Maria FarleyBy: Maria Farley

My family has a history of high cholesterol. My father passed away in 1990 at age 54 of heart disease, and all six of my brothers are on cholesterol lowering medications. My cholesterol was also high, and I was on cholesterol, pre-diabetic and hypothyroid medications.

I’m a mother of five children and part of a blended family that added three more children to the picture. Though I was a dancer in college, I now work full time outside the home in an office sitting at a desk. In addition to family and work, I’ve always had busy church callings. I was tired and my body ached all the time. I slept poorly and was frequently constipated so I took sleeping aids and extra fiber. I wasn’t very happy and dealt with depression despite my “push through it” attitude. In 2010 I started visiting doctors more frequently to try to address this general “not feeling well” cloud that was hanging over me. I tried eating better, walking for exercise again, and started all those medications.

Despite the things I tried to get healthier, it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference. After four years, I had come to an “I don’t care, it doesn’t seem to make a difference” frame of mind, which included my eating patterns. Then in July 2014 a brother who is four years younger than I had a mild stroke. That really shook me up. I realized I was on the same health path that he was. I was 47 years old at the time, and at 5′ 11″ I weighed 215 pounds.

Shortly after my brother’s stroke, because of my expressed concerns, a son-in-law invited me to watch the DVD Forks Over Knives, and my daughter gave me a copy of the book Discovering the Word of Wisdom by Jane Birch. They were living with us at the time and had wanted to adopt a whole food, plant-based way of eating, but had not successfully converted fully over.

After watching and reading this information and being introduced to additional scientific evidence from Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn, the enlightenment of the truths found in the Word of Wisdom (that I had not paid any attention to previously) came to life for me. This whole food, plant-based diet lined up in my mind so well with the counsel given in the Word of Wisdom that I decided to put my faith to work and give it a try for 30 days. You could say I planted the seed and was testing it out to see what kind of fruits it would yield. I was blessed to have my daughter and son-in-law joining me in this “experiment upon [His] words” (Alma 32:27).

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“Good health can be one of the hidden treasures from God”

Craig and Tussy Norman, 2015By: Tussy Norman

At the age of 36, shortly after moving with my husband’s job transfer from southern California to Houston, Texas, I began experiencing bloody diarrhea and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I was given a drug to take but not any dietary advice other than if a food upset my system, to avoid eating it. Soon all my symptoms disappeared, and I was glad to put that experience in my past and not think about it.

I had grown up in west Texas eating fried chicken, fried potatoes, fried okra, bologna and Miracle Whip sandwiches on white bread, Pop Tarts, and all the other things we kids in the ’60’s and ’70’s ate. Missionaries brought the gospel to my family when I was 10, and my parents immediately stopped smoking, drinking tea, coffee, and beer, and we became devoted members of the Church.

Attending BYU in 1976 was a dream come true for me, and I discovered a whole new cuisine which seemed to consist of casseroles made with cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup, dainty crescent rolls made with an incredible amount of margarine, and of course Jell-O! My husband Craig, from southern California, and I were married in 1980. He had definite likes and dislikes in food choices, and of course I wanted to please him, so most of our dinners were a variation on ground beef: spaghetti, tacos, beef stroganoff over rice, chili, etc. Of course we didn’t know much about nutrition beyond making sure to eat enough protein. We definitely did that.

My husband was transferred a couple of times with work and each time we moved, I experienced a flare of ulcerative colitis, but with treatment I would get well, then go for years without symptoms.

After our four children were grown, Craig and I had the privilege of serving a mission in the same place he had served as a young man: Hong Kong. I had never worked outside our home so serving in the busy office of the Asia Area presidency was a challenge, but it was rewarding, and the time we spent with the other couples in the office was wonderful. However, I began having symptoms of ulcerative colitis again.

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“Dang it, there go the hamburgers”

Paul & Orva Johnson closeupBy: Paul Johnson

My wife and I have always tried to eat with a mind toward health. But I enjoyed a good hamburger, barbequed tri-tips, chocolate shakes, ice cream, etc. In fact I would have been perfectly happy to have hamburgers for every meal. I still would—but I can’t do it, because I know too much about what that would do to my body, not to mention the cows’ bodies.

So my journey toward a plant-based diet came slowly. As my wife became totally plant-based, I supported her (easy to do since she looks amazing). We had mostly plant-based food at home, except for cheese and a few other things like that. She learned to cook meals that could be done completely plant-based or with a little bit of cheese or even meat thrown in.

At 46 I was in very good health, or so I thought. I was in a kick-boxing class, could do 80 pushups, and could run forever. But my feet started to tingle a lot. The tingling gradually grew into outright pain. Terrible, unbearable pain. I went to several doctors who simply couldn’t figure out what was going on. When they took x-rays of my feet they were astounded. My bones were disappearing. I was osteoporotic as an otherwise healthy 46-year-old male: practically unheard of.

After numerous tests, they discovered my kidneys were throwing out all of my calcium, causing my parathyroid glands to grab the calcium from my bones so that my body would have enough to function. The docs gave me prescriptions to help my condition. Nothing worked and the meds had weird, unacceptable side effects. During this time they also discovered I was pre-diabetic, glucose intolerant. Apparently my feet found out I was about to become diabetic and decided to get peripheral neuropathy early—thus the tingling, numbness and sharp pains in my feet. (I realize that numbness and pain don’t seem too congruent, but just ask anybody with neuropathy about that. They won’t be able to explain why, but they’ll make a pretty convincing case that it happens.)

So now I had two problems: diabetes and the kidney thing. I had also had two very bad kidney stones, requiring three surgeries between them because they would not pass on their own. I was given more medicine for the diabetes issue and was told to cut way down on carbs: go easy on the fruit and bread and eat meat. My wife was very supportive and went out of her way to make sure I could follow the standard American diet for diabetes.

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“The results were nearly miraculous”

Marc and Vicki SorensonBy: Marc Sorenson

Much of my youth was spent at our ranch/farm, located within one-half mile of the Nevada border in Utah’s west desert. We had no electricity and no indoor plumbing, necessitating old methods of cutting wood for the heater and carrying water in from the well for drinking and culinary purposes. It was a hard but good life, and we always had plenty to eat. We ate the typical cowboy fare, starting with bacon and eggs for breakfast, with an occasional bowl of cereal, and always a plethora of milk. I milked the cow, who was quite generous to us, providing not only milk, but cream and butter, which I often ate by the spoonful.

We did have some healthful foods, since my Dad loved fruit and often would buy cherries, apricots, peaches, watermelon, and apples, and we had some corn, peas and tomatoes from our garden or the gardens of our neighbors who sometimes had surplus.

Every meal contained meat and/or chicken, duck, turkey, fish or other animal food. I killed them, cut them up, put them in a cool area, and sometimes cooked some meals. When Mom was gone for a few weeks to keep her teaching certificate renewed (she taught school in the winter), Dad and I would eat as many as 16 eggs daily, he consuming about 8-10 and I another 6 or so. They were all sloshed liberally with bacon or other meat grease. I feel fortunate to have survived past my teenage years, considering the mountain of animal products along with their cholesterol and saturated fats that went through my digestive and circulatory systems! In spite of the hard ranch work my weight at one time was as high as 217 pounds at a height of 5’10 ½.” I now weigh about 178 pounds and am very muscular for a man of 72 years.

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“I topped the scale at 269 pounds!”

April ThompsonBy: April Thompson

I’m a wife and a mother of four. If you saw me and talked to me today, you would think that I’m a fitness nut. Well maybe I am, but I haven’t always been that way.

As a kid, I was pretty happy, but the divorce of my parents left me feeling a little hollow and empty. I turned to food for comfort. It was an easy choice. Every time I ate, I felt better. I would feel full. I wasn’t obese, but I was bigger than most other little girls and was teased about it. I told myself it didn’t matter, but I knew inside that it really did. These feelings continued for years.

I met Joshua, the man who is now my husband, and he changed my world. Most of the changes were great, but . . . well . . . I’m not going to blame my weight issues on my husband, however he was an integral part of them. I adopted many of his HORRIBLE eating habits, and bit by bit, they added up to me being UNHEALTHY.

Through the next 8 years, I had 3 beautiful daughters and supported Josh through graduate school, and managed our apartment complex among other things. If I was treating my body the way I should have, I could have handled the stress. But because my fitness and eating habits were terrible, I topped the scale at 269 pounds!

You heard me right.

Outside I seemed happy, but inside I was sad. I hated looking in the mirror—yuck! I felt trapped in my body but with the brain of an athlete. Not only that, I had pre-diabetic blood sugar levels.

What was I going to do about it though? I started where many start: with a few fad diets. I tried hCG, Body for Life, South Beach and Weight Watchers. As fad diets always are, these diets were a temporary fix. I would lose weight, but eventually it came back.

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