Dec 09 2008

Dumb, Dumb, Dumb

Sometimes I wonder about my brain, if I burned out too many cells back in my drinking days.

I’ve been doing this low-carb thing for several years now, and I know exactly what I should and shouldn’t eat. I’ve read all the books, discussed it ad nauseam online, and written enough about it to add a couple more books to the pile if I were organized enough to put the words in manuscript form. I got a blood glucose tester and used it regularly for a while, so I could see exactly what different foods were doing to me. I’ve seen my blood sugar shoot up to 160 after a bowl of ice cream, or 180 after potato sticks. (Beta cell damage starts at 140, or 120 according to some people.) I lost 60 pounds by eating the right things, gained back 30 by getting sloppy, and have re-lost 20 so far by eating right again. I know exactly what to do.

I even like low-carb foods! I like steak, burgers, pork chops, brats, cheese, nuts, eggs, broccoli, green beans, Swiss chard, spinach, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, fish, chicken, and pretty much any other low-carb food except green peppers. This should be easy. Yet every once in a while I get a major hankering for something poisonous. Usually it happens soon after I strayed off the plan just a little, which is why people shouldn’t say, “Oh, surely one small piece wouldn’t hurt you.” I had a piece of my mom’s cherry pie over a week ago, and ever since then I’ve been looking for an excuse to binge on something carb-filled. One day, the only reason I didn’t was that I’d forgotten to carry any cash while I was out walking the dog.

Yesterday I caved and stopped at Long John Silvers while I was out. Now, if I wanted fish, I could have gotten fish at the grocery store and fried it myself, or gotten grilled fish without breading. But no, I had to have the breaded kind—and the fries too, and even those nasty bread-ball things. I know it’s all horrible stuff, probably fish caught in China by political prisoners and fried in hydrogenated soybean oil, but I’ve always loved the taste of their stuff, and when I get one of these craving fits, LJS calls to me.

After I ate it, I didn’t feel too bad at first. A little wired and spacey with some heartburn, but I was still functioning. A few hours later, I seriously needed a nap, but my mind was racing too hard to sleep, so I tried to read. After a while, I realized I was getting too shaky and dizzy to absorb the words and my vision was getting kind of weird, so I thought I’d check my blood sugar. It was 37, which is well below the normal range of 70-100. Seizures start being a possibility below 40, so I checked the other hand, and it was 41. Either way that’s dangerously low, so I quickly drank some cream and ate some meat and cheese to help stabilize it. Today I’m feeling mostly normal again, but still a little spaced-out at times.

Funny thing is, one myth about low-carbing is that, if you don’t eat enough carbs, your blood sugar will get dangerously low. That’s simply not true, unless you’re taking insulin or some drug that artificially lowers it. Your body will remove glycogen from storage or convert protein and fat to sugar to maintain the very small amount of sugar (about a teaspoon) it needs in the blood stream when you aren’t eating that much.

But high-carb eating can cause dangerously low blood sugar in people without solid blood sugar control, as I demonstrated yesterday. (For people with great blood sugar control, it doesn’t matter what they eat; they’ll always make just enough insulin to maintain the right blood sugar levels. Until their pancreas wears down from the constant stress of high-carb eating, anyway.) From past experience, I’d guess mine shot up to 200 or so right after lunch yesterday, and then dropped to 40 within 3-4 hours. If I ate carbs regularly, I’d be on that roller-coaster every day, burning up the beta cells in my pancreas for a couple hours after each meal, followed by shakiness, headaches, and mood swings a couple hours later. No thanks.

Maybe I just need to do this to myself a couple times a year to remind myself why I’m eating this way: why I have to disappoint my mom when she makes my favorite pie; why I can’t just grab a sandwich and fries from the nearest fast-food joint anymore. Maybe I have a fear of success, and I’m afraid of how people will see me differently when I’m lean and mean. Or maybe I’ve got a little devil on my shoulder that’s trying to kill me. Whatever the reason, I sure hope I learned my lesson this time.

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