Metabolic Syndrome and Christmas Cookies

In September Tom and I had to fill out a wellness check for our health insurance.  They encourage us to do this every year, but I usually ignore it.  This year the health insurers said that if we didn’t fill it out, they would increase our deductible.  Hitting me in the pocketbook usually gets my attention and Tom and I both filled it out.  Once the results were logged, my health insurance flagged me to get an A1C test.

I had never had an A1C test before.  It is related to diabetes and my blood sugar levels have always been fine, well within the normal range.  You don’t have to do anything special for the test – just part of the blood diagnostic tests a doctor can order.  My doctor didn’t feel it was necessary, but ordered it because the health insurance would pay for it.

When the A1C results came back, my level was 5.7 which puts me in the prediabetic category.  I was shocked and appalled.  One in three Americans is prediabetic, which makes it very common and most of it is undiagnosed.  70% of people with prediabetes will develop Type 2 Diabetes within ten years.  As a pastor, I saw the effects of diabetes on too many people and there is no way I am getting diabetes if I can do anything to stop it.

In talking with my doctor about my test results, she suggested that I read about Metabolic Syndrome and control my carbohydrate intake.  She also recommended losing a little weight.  When I read about Prediabetes, it didn’t seem possible I could have it.  It does not run in our family and I am physically active and work on keeping my weight under control.

But when I read about Metabolic Syndrome, lightbulbs went off over my head.  I have four of the five traits that lead to a diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome and insulin resistance.  All my weight has been going to my waist and my waist measurement is more than 35 inches.  I have high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol, which I control with medication.  My blood pressure has been creeping up despite exercise and a low sodium diet.

After reading about Metabolic Syndrome, I decided to do what I could to reverse my prediabetes.  First off is losing weight.  The actual amount of weight isn’t as important as getting rid of the fat around my middle.  I am working on losing weight by being very careful about carbohydrates, basically following a prediabetic diet.

Almost any food contains carbohydrates.  The only things that don’t are meats.  But controlling the amount of carbs and the kind of carbs is the key.  The easiest way I’ve found to do this is through the carb exchange.  I pay attention to the grams of carbohydrates in the food I eat.  Every 15 grams of carbohydrate is one carb serving.  Then I try to limit the number of carb servings to under 15 per day.  I also try to be sure my carbs are quality – high in fiber and low in added sugar.  Sugar makes my insulin resistance worse.

For example, one slice of whole wheat bread is one carb serving.  I switched to a whole grain cereal in the morning that doesn’t have any added sugar.  It tastes a little bit like cardboard, but it is high in fiber and is tolerable with blueberries or raspberries added in.  Potato chips and French Fries are off the list of foods that I should eat, as are cookies and other sweets.  But I do have them occasionally because this is a lifestyle change and not a temporary diet.  I try not to think of foods as forbidden because that just makes me crave them.  I’ve only had ice cream once since my diagnosis, although I do have one (and only one) cookie most days.

I also increased my exercise levels.  In addition to my 10,000 steps every day, I alternate weight training and yoga six days a week.  One of my wise friends told me recently, “The older you get, the harder you have to work to keep what you took for granted when you were younger.”  This is definitely true.  I try to look at it as “now that I’m retired, I have more time to focus on my health.”

In being careful, but not excessive, I’ve lost 14 pounds since my diagnosis.  More importantly, I’ve lost four inches around my waist.  I do feel deprived sometimes and often wish I didn’t have to be so careful.  There are days (my birthday and Thanksgiving) that I threw the carb counting out the window.  But they are days – not weeks or months – and then I get right back on track.

I hate it when old people complain about their health all the time, so I won’t dwell on this anymore.  In fact, there are just two reasons I wrote about it at all.  First, because some of you might also have  Metabolic Syndrome and not know about it.  Second, because it, sadly, affects my Christmas cookie production.  I can be disciplined and good about not eating a lot of cookies.  But the best way to do that is not to have them around at all.

Ginger Cookies and Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

So far I have made four kinds of Christmas cookies.  Mom and I took a day and make Ginger Cookies and Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies.  Tom suggested a particular cookie with only three ingredients – bananas, oats, and chocolate chips – so we tried those.  Not recommended.  I also made a pan of Scotcheroos and immediately gave away half of the pan.  (Scotcheroos are my biggest weakness.)  I will probably make a couple more kinds of cookies before Christmas because I love to bake and share what I bake with people who enjoy it.  But it will be very restrained compared to years past.

How about you?  How are you coming with your Christmas baking?  Do you have any health issues that affect how you eat?  Any thoughts on maintaining health as you get older?  I’d be glad to hear what you have to say.