Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The first wealth is health.”, and I agree. What’s the use of investing in real estate if you have to sell them all to pay your hospital bills, or worse, you won’t be around for long? Think about it! Actually, this has been at the back of my mind ever since I found out I was a “Pre-diabetic” a few months ago.
There was something wrong with me, and I just had to fight back, which is exactly what I am doing now.
This has turned out to be another “monster” article with more than 4,000 words. Feel free to jump to any section through the table of contents below.
Early detection of diabetes can be a lifesaver
We had our annual physical exam last august 2014, and it was the very first time my Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) was above normal. I’m just glad my wife Cherry insisted that we go through this every year, otherwise it might have been too late.
While employees usually have to undergo an annual physical exam as required by employers, I believe entrepreneurs only have this when we feel like it. My tip for entrepreneurs is to make sure you have an annual physical exam, that includes a full blood chemistry, at least once a year. It can literally be a lifesaver.
Here’s my first FBS result:
As you can see, my FBS which was at 6.12 mmol/L was higher than the normal reference range and was within the Pre-Diabetics range of 5.55 – 6.94 mmol/L. Just a little more and it would hit the range for Diabetics. This was the first time in my life it went above normal.
I shrugged it off at first and tried to do things “business as usual”. You see, I was already trying to be healthy. I only ate fruits for breakfast. I eat lots of vegetables with my lunch and dinner. I also did 30 minutes of exercise on the elliptical machine 3 to 5 times a week. I was already trying to lose weight.
Apparently, I was not trying hard enough as my weight had ballooned to 194lbs, an all time high.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my FBS shot up while I was at my heaviest weight in my life.
My dad had Type 2 Diabetes, but none of my siblings developed it, and I’m the only one who has ever had above normal FBS. It’s worth to take note that I’m the youngest, and yet I’m the heaviest. This led me to conclude that my being overweight is most probably the root cause of my pre-diabetes.
Well, at least, now I know, thanks to our annual physical exam.
With this knowledge, I can now focus on losing weight. I’ve had prior success with this, so I just have to try harder.
Why all the fuss about diabetes?
Why all the fuss about diabetes, you might ask. Well, diabetes has been a concern for me ever since my dad passed away. He had Type 2 Diabetes, and I can still remember everything that happened to him because of this more than 2 decades ago.
One late afternoon at home, my mom suddenly started shouting my dad’s name. Daddy was not breathing. Mommy didn’t know what to do and she just kept shouting, and all of us rushed to their bedroom, but we all didn’t know what to do. Daddy just had a heart attack.
Only my eldest brother had the presence of mind to do chest compressions on our dad while he told mommy to do rescue breaths which she did (the rest of us were in shock). After a minute or two of doing CPR, daddy was breathing again! We were still in tears and hoped he will stabilize. Around thirty minutes later, an ambulance arrived and he was on his way to the hospital. He was in stable condition and he made it!
After a couple of weeks, he was discharged. It was literally his second life.
However, daddy was not the same man afterwards. He could no longer walk, he could not do anything without anyone assisting him, and he started to lose weight fast. After just a few weeks, It was like he was literally half the man he used to be. It was so different from what I would rather remember, when daddy was big, and strong.
I still remember seeing the sadness in his eyes, often with tears rolling down his face, when we would have to lift daddy and put him on the commode chair (a portable toilet seat) when he had to do a number 2, or when we gave him a bath, change his clothes, etc.
A few months after, daddy would also have to undergo dialysis regularly. It was during one of those routine trips to the hospital when my mommy heard a “Code blue, room xxx…” on the P.A., and the room mentioned happened to be the same room where daddy was. Daddy just had a cardiac arrest!
The doctors were able to revive him but he he would slip back into a flat-line soon afterwards. They were able to bring him back again, but he would slip away again. This happened many times. Mommy had to make a decision. Although dad had put up a good fight, maybe it was time for him to rest. It was time to let go. (this reminded me of the time we had to let go of our daughter Mira)
We lost daddy that day, due to kidney failure, which is just one of the complications caused by diabetes.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure that if daddy was here, he would be the first person to tell me to take care of myself, and I should not let what happened to him happen to me.
Just thinking about what he had to go through is enough to make me do whatever it takes to avoid getting diabetes. Feeling the pain of having to let go someone you love makes it more than enough. The message was clear, get fit or else!
Why I could not lose weight
I knew what I had to do, and I was actually doing it, but I guess I was not getting the results I wanted. After careful analysis, I figured out some of the mistakes I was doing. Let me share the major ones below.
I remember the time my wife and I were drinking coconut juice daily (there was nothing wrong with that). The only problem was when we finished drinking the coconut juice, we would also eat the coconut meat. It was good, but it turns out it also had a ton of calories. I was surprised to find out that a medium sized coconut would have about 1,405 calories, and there were days I would eat the meat from three huge coconuts in one sitting! Yep, I wasn’t using MY coconut.
The lesson learned was just because you THINK something is good for you, it does not necessarily mean it FITS your goals (which in this case was losing weight). You need to analyze the numbers, just like real estate investing (Haha… you didn’t see that coming!), but in this case, the very basic thing I needed to know was the amount of calories in coconut meat.
After this, I knew I had to re-analyze everything in my diet, and I was able to identify another possible major mistake, eating too much fruits. I eat a lot of fruits for breakfast and it turns out this was not helping me lose weight because of the fructose (more on this below). Actually, it also made me extra hungry mid-morning, which made me eat more.
One more thing, it was wrong for me to assume that I can target my problem areas with exercises, for example, my beer belly. At first I thought exercises that target the abs would help me lose belly fat, but it seems I was wrong! I was targeting my belly because I wanted to get rid of my visceral fat first (visceral fat can be deadly, read this), I found out you can only get rid of it by simply burning fat all over through aerobic/cardio exercises.
Okay, enough of the mistakes, I’ll move on to what I think I did right.
7 things I did to lose weight and turn back diabetes…
1. I started eating less rice, no more than 1 cup per meal. Here’s a tip: I used the small cup that comes with rice cookers that holds 180ml, not a cup used for coffee which can be a whole a lot more. When eating out, beware of restaurants who use big, non-standard cups! We also changed to red rice from brown rice (we’ve been on brown rice for several years). Starting sometime in November 2014, I stopped eating rice altogether. I also stopped eating anything white like bread, pasta, milk, etc, except on “cheat day”. I patterned my meals from the The Slow-Carb Diet® or SCD (more on this below). For “unavoidable” circumstances like parties and special occasions where I am compelled to eat white carbs, I took Carbtrim capsules.
2. I counted calories and the source. It seems not all calories are made the same. This simply means that aside from the total number of calories, I should also consider the source of the calories. For example, certain foods have different effects on cravings, metabolism, how long they are absorbed, etc. So even if the number of calories for such foods are the same, they can have a totally different effect. Basically, I now try to regulate my calorie intake and also make sure I get my calories from a healthy proportion of legumes, vegetables, and protein rich foods, which is also based on SCD.
3. I did moderate exercise at least 5 times a week. I focused on cardio using an elliptical machine, which was great because of the low impact on my joints. I remember I used to jog around our village before, but I ended up hurting my knees, which is why an elliptical is better for me. One thing that helped me get my daily dose is to get it done and over with early in the morning. I don’t put it off for later as I would often end up not doing it at all.
4. I got enough sleep. Yes, we can actually get fat by not getting enough sleep. The lack of sleep can slow our metabolism and make us gain weight. Lack of sleep can also make us eat more. Which is why I no longer work late at night, even if I’m most productive when everybody else in our home is asleep.
5. I said NO more often! I had let go of things that are just taking up too much of my time. These are usually what cause too much stress, they usually drain my energy, and time, and by doing this, I was able to accomplish all the other things I mentioned above. Same applies for people who cause stress, I just say no. 🙂
6. I avoided stress. Long term stress can can cause long term high blood glucose levels. so I just try to avoid it altogether. Don’t get me wrong, there is a good kind of stress called eustress. Eustress is defined as “stress that is healthful and the stimulus for growth” in the book The 4-Hour Workweek, and this kind of stress is welcome for me (ex. getting out of my comfort zone to do something new for the business, etc.).
7. I consulted with my cardiologist at her office at The Philippine Heart Center. Yup, this was the last thing I did (Sorry, I was scared!). With much prodding from my wife, I visited my doctor’s clinic about 3 months after my first blood test above. When she saw my test results, she said I needed to establish if I had Diabetes or not and I had to undergo another round of tests. So I finally had my blood/glucose tests a couple of weeks after. Now I get to know if what I did above had worked or not, it was my moment of truth.
It worked (I am not diabetic!)
In terms of weight, from a high of 194 pounds last August 2014, I got my weight down to 188 pounds by the end of October. I lost 6 pounds in 2 and 1/2 months (I believe I gained muscle while losing fat). By late November, just before I visited my cardiologist, I was down to 184 pounds, so I lost 10 pounds in total.
Here are excerpts of my second blood test results:
Now I’m getting somewhere!
My FBS went down to 5.51 mmol/L, just 0.02 shy of normal reference range. I’m confident this will be lower in my next blood test.
I passed my 2-hour Oral Glucose Tolerance Test or OGTT (I drank orange juice with 75grams of glucose and they extracted more blood after two hours). Yehey!
I was a bit concerned with the hematology results (it was still at the lower limit of the Pre-Diabetes range) but my cardiologist just told me “You are NOT diabetic!”. Thank God!
My cardio said I was actually in pretty good shape and I can come back after 6 months with another set of blood tests. Honestly, I’m excited with the next round of tests because I’m sure the results will be even better because of the other things I am doing now, and I am working out harder to further lose weight (safely) and improve my insulin sensitivity.
Plus 2 more things I am doing to lose weight faster
To enhance my initial results, I introduced 2 more things I am doing now in addition to the first 7 above. Check out number 8 and 9 below:
8. Strict compliance to the The Slow-Carb Diet® (SCD).
Here are the basics:
Rule #1: Avoid “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains. If you have to ask, don’t eat it.
Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already do this; you’re just picking new default meals.
Rule #3: Don’t drink calories. Exception: 1-2 glasses of dry red wine per night is allowed.
Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more bodyfat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are excepted.
Rule #5: Take one day off per week and go nuts. I choose and recommend Saturday.
Source: How to Lose 100 Pounds on The Slow-Carb Diet – Real Pics and Stories. You can also check out How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise and the book The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferris
My logic here is, if I got my earlier results using a diet based on SCD (I lost 10 pounds and improved my insulin sensitivity), then what more if I went all out and strictly followed SCD? I have documented my progress and you’ll see my results later. Here are pictures of typical foods I eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner:
Typical breakfast – 2 eggs with only 1 egg yolk, pinto beans, sweet peas, and probiotics. Yummy!
Typical lunch/dinner – Tuna, fresh salad with homemade salsa, and pinto beans.
When cooking beans, I made sure I soaked them overnight and rinsed before cooking (I boil them and add garlic. I add a little salt halfway). Otherwise, you might have a noisy and not so good smelling surprise after meals. 🙂
On a side-note, we now use a Philips Airfryer to “fry” our food with very little cooking oil (maximum of 1 tablespoon), and we use canola oil. Before we got the airfryer, we would consume a 2 liter bottle of cooking per month on the average, and only God knows how much oil is left in our food (our son is picky, and he prefers fried foods… we are trying to get him to eat healthier foods but that’s another story). Now, I think we only use about 10 tablespoons of oil per week in our whole household, and the food still tastes great!
9. High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT Exercise.
Using a bigger and more stable elliptical machine, I can now do HIIT at home. Here’s a definition for HIIT according to Wikipedia:
High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT), is an enhanced form of interval training, an exercise strategy alternating periods of short intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 4–30 minutes. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning.
I currently do a variation of HIIT based on the Peak Fitness method from Dr. Joseph Mercola which can be seen at mercola.com.
Here’s a summary of the method:
- Warm up for three minutes
- Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should be gasping for breath and feel like you couldn’t possibly go on another few seconds. It is better to use lower resistance and higher repetitions to increase your heart rate
- Recover for 90 seconds, still moving, but at slower pace and decreased resistance
- Repeat the high-intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times. (When you’re first starting out, depending on your level of fitness, you may only be able to do two or three repetitions of the high-intensity intervals. As you get fitter, just keep adding repetitions until you’re doing eight during your 20-minute session)
- Cool down for a few minutes afterward by cutting down your intensity by 50-80 percent
You can watch a demo that uses an elliptical machine through this video
I must admit this is very advanced and very intense. Before trying this (or anything I will share in this article), I highly advice that you check with your doctor first! Anyway, after doing HIIT, I end up drenched in sweat, and I can still feel the “burn” after several hours.
After applying all of the above, here are just some of the benefits that I am feeling/seeing, in addition to losing weight and improved insulin sensitivity:
Lower blood pressure – My average blood pressure is now at 110/70. I noticed the difference when I started to lose weight through exercise and change in diet. I still take maintenance meds though, but I am hoping my BP will get low enough up to the point where I don’t need any.
No more fatty liver – From a high of 68.19 U/L, my SGPT enzyme levels are now back to normal after just 3 months at 39.72 U/L(see below). Elevated SGPT is usually an indication of fatty liver, which I had last August. In my blood test results this December, my SGPT is now back to normal, yehey! By far this is the fastest my liver enzymes got back to normal, and I believe this is because of my diet and exercise. (Note: in 2006, my liver enzymes were also elevated at similar levels, and it took a year to normalize after taking Liveraide. Now I believe losing weight is a better solution, but I still take Liveraide).
No more hunger pangs – Before I started with the Slow-Carb Diet, I was just eating fruits in the morning, while eating less for lunch and dinner, and I often had hunger pangs in-between meals. With SCD, I no longer feels those hunger pangs. I believe the additional legumes made the big difference (we often have pinto beans, see pictures above). It’s nice to have a diet that works but does not starve you!
No more muscle cramps – We went swimming last week during a brief “stay-cation”, and I was surprised I swam 36 laps in the swimming pool with my son holding on to me, and I did not feel any cramps at all! Having cramps has become a normal thing for me when swimming before I started doing HIIT and followed SCD. Not anymore!
Improved resistance – When my wife catches a cold, I usually get it as well. She had a cold two weeks ago and I thought it will be my turn next, but so far I have been unaffected, and she has already fully recovered.
Improved endurance – Just the other day, my wife and I went up several flights of stairs and I went up quite fast and she thought I was running, yet I did not feel tired or short of breath, which was the usual case. I observed similar situations several times during the past weeks. Things are now quite different, I feel super. 🙂
More weight loss – Despite the many “food trips” we have during the Christmas Season, I still lost weight! I am now down to 182 pounds. As mentioned earlier, I believe I burned fat while gaining muscle because I actually lost a lot of inches (see below). So even if the total pounds I have lost is just 12 pounds so far, I still think it’s a huge achievement. I’m confident I will break 180 pounds soon, the lightest I have been for years.
*Update as of January 22, 2015:
I am now a little below 180 pounds! Looks like just a hairline below, but I’ll take it!
Lost inches – Now this is something that really surprised me. I started to strictly follow SCD only last December 10, 2014, and as of December 22, 2014, here are the inches I have lost so far: 1 inch from my tummy (navel or belly button area), 1/2 inch from my waist, 1/2 inch from my mid-thighs, 3/4 inch from my neck, and 1 & 3/4 inches from my upper chest (near armpits, I have fat deposits there that are “melting” now…hehe). No wonder a lot of people tell me “pumayat ka!” (You look thinner!) when they see me!
Actually, what I feel right now is amazing! I have never felt like this for a long time. The best part is it’s all natural, done by simply using exercise and proper diet with no need for any supplements (except for Carbtrim when it’s hard to avoid carbs during Christmas parties).
It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!
I remember my 9-year old son told me “Daddy, you’re too obsessed… you already defeated diabetes and it’s permanent…”. This was when he noticed I was getting to preoccupied with finding the best types of food to eat and exercising. Kids say the darndest things… haha!
I answered “CJ, it’s not permanent, I have to do this for the rest of my life. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.”.
Yes, I’m not yet out of the woods, and I have to keep this up or else.
At least now, I look forward to seeing my cardiologist in 6-months and see the progress I have made.
Before I end this, here are some more insights I’d like to share.
It seems diabetes is not taken seriously by most of the people I have met so far. Heck, even my wife thinks I was over-reacting. But I guess this is because people are beginning to think it’s getting more common and “normal”, which is sad. Truth is, diabetes can kill you, and it’s about time we all take it seriously. I don’t have statistics here in the Philippines, but in China alone, diabetes now affects 98 million people (about 10% of the population) and has been dubbed as Asia’s Silent Killer. The good thing is, diabetes can be prevented, just like many other “life style” diseases. But we need to do something about it!
Health is wealth, and poor health can really drain your wealth. For me, I would rather take the proactive route. Prevention is way better than cure. I remember 2014 as the year we bought a lot of insurance, and being healthy also meant lower premiums (pre-existing conditions would mean higher premiums, if not outright exclusions). Better work on your health so you can get insured, which is something you should have before you start investing.
The need to see (or feel) results – One thing that has helped me stay in the game was when I saw/felt results, little as they seem. Even if my weight loss was not that spectacular (only 12 pounds so far), I’ll gladly take it! Besides, I can see parts of my body (parts of my tummy to be exact) that are now shrinking, so I can definitely see results. I even confirmed that I really lost inches using a tape measure…hehe. Anyway, what’s important is this will keep me going…
It was so damn hard, discipline is key – It’s ironic that taking care of our health is often the last thing on our minds. And yet if you think about it, our lives depend on it. I guess we have so many convenient excuses, like when we say “minsan lang naman” (I only do this once in awhile) when we give in to our cravings, or we can always say we are so busy we can’t exercise, or we don’t have time to prepare food that is good for us… there are so many distractions, blah blah blah. Yes, it’s hard, and it can be quite a challenge especially during this time of the year. But if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that we need discipline. Without it, we can kiss our health goodbye.
It’s a numbers game, and the numbers don’t lie – From FBS to pounds, calories, inches, etc. These numbers told me where I was, what I needed to do, and the results I got. I am managing my health with these numbers. Simply put, they measure my progress. As the saying goes, what gets measured gets managed. Again, it is just like real estate investing.
The need for prayers – I remember when I attended a mass during Kerygma Conference 2014, I was praying that my blood tests would come out normal (actually this has become a daily prayer). Then all of a sudden, I heard Father Dave Concepcion mention something like “Diabetes can be conquered…” or something to that effect (I’m not sure though if I was the only one who heard this… they say sometimes you hear what you need to hear). A few days later, I had my blood test and they came out okay! Prayers can indeed do wonders… thanks be to God!
Frankly speaking, I feel like a dark cloud was lifted from over my head, and feelings of fear and anxiety are fading away. It was really depressing and I couldn’t do anything else. I’m so thankful things have turned out for the better. And it feels good to get this off my chest.
Anyway, if you or someone you know is on the same boat as I am, I hope my results so far will inspire you to take action. Diabetes is deadly, but it is preventable, and reversible. We can fight back, I know we can!
If you have more tips on how to lose weight and fight diabetes (and all the complications that come with it), please share theme here, thanks!
Take care of your health everyone!
- Cosmetic Fat Versus Evil Fat: Understanding and measuring Visceral Fat (Excerpt from The Four Hour Body)
- How to Lose 100 Pounds on The Slow-Carb Diet – Real Pics and Stories
- Confirmed: Belly Fat is Far More Dangerous than Having a Total BMI in Obese Range
- All Calories Not Created Equal, Study Suggests
- Sleep and Weight Gain
- How Stress Affects Diabetes
- How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise
- The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferris
- High-intensity interval training
- Peak Fitness HIIT Workout
- Peak Fitness HIIT Demo Video
P.S. – Finally, I can now move on and move forward. Sorry if I haven’t been posting any updates for the past month. I just had to focus on this until I was sure I was on the right track. Anyway, things will be back to normal, and will actually be better, while we make sure you will get your usual dose of foreclosed property listings and real estate investing tips. This also means we will go ahead and re-open our members area/online training very soon (I am currently updating it and implementing improvements prior to the public launch). Sign-up here to get notified when it re-opens.