Time for a Nutritional Wake-Up Call

At best, my physical activity over the past year can be described as sporadic. I go through spurts where I’ll workout consistently for a couple of weeks then take months at a time off. I don’t even bother making excuses for downtime most of the time any more. After a summer that has been defined by my filling my body with crap rather than quality fuel and spending most of the summer as a couch potato or beach bum, I had quite the wake-up call this week.

I am on my employer’s health insurance plan, which of course comes with different deductible options. I don’t pay a cent in premiums (because I don’t use tobacco products), which is fantastic, but in order to stay on the lowest deductible plan there are certain criteria one has to meet in order to stay on that plan. Essentially, they are little ways to commit your time to your health over the course of the fiscal year to ensure that the company isn’t paying for you to be high risk for huge medical bills.

One is called the Latitude Wellness Program. For me that part is easy. It is synced to my Fitbit account and every day my step count is updated. I get points every day that occurs (which is every day because I always have my Fitbit on). You can also get points for tracking sleep, food, exercise, water intake, etc. Conveniently, you can also track all of that through the Fitbit app. I had met my required point total for the year before the end of the first month.

The second one is an online health assessment. You just answer questions about your lifestyle and it gives you feedback on what you should do to continue to stay healthy or improve your health. Everybody I have talked to lies on it much like they do to their primary care physician. I mean, come on. Who is honestly going to tell an internet survey how much they actually drink or how much sleep they don’t get? Nobody’s checking.

The third part is where I ran into an issue. Every year, we are required to get a basic health screening that includes a weigh in, waist measurement, blood pressure check, and a few blood tests. Because I was hired after the start of the fiscal year when I started, I was exempt from the requirement last year. This year I was not, and I was absolutely dreading it.

I knew there were blood tests. Blood tests involve at least one needle. I am terrified of needles, which meant my blood pressure was higher than usual. Mind you, I am 27 years old and have only ever had blood drawn in an attempt to diagnose an illness (Dengue Fever, 2007. It sucked). Until yesterday, I had never had my blood sugar or cholesterol levels checked. There is a family history of both heart disease and diabetes, but I’ve spent most of my life as an athlete and tend to eat quite well so doctors have never bothered to check, I guess. However, diabetes is something I have always worried about. Logical, considering how terrified of needles I am. The worst thing ever (not really) for a needle-phobe (not the technical term) would be to wind up with a disease that required repeated, daily use of needles. I know, I know. Diabetes is far from a death sentence. It can be managed with diet and exercise, especially if caught early. I get it.

I am happy to report that everything came back with an A grade, even my fear-elevated blood pressure. Well, almost everything. My blood sugar tested high. At first, the nurse had the sensor set to “fasting” which registered my glucose levels high enough to put me in the borderline/prediabetic region (C+). When she changed it to “random” or “non-fasting” my levels registered in the mid-range of normal. For some reason, she left it at “non-fasting” so I could get my A-, like when students get pushed through a class. The thing is, I hadn’t eaten since dinner 10+ hours prior. There is absolutely no reason my blood sugar levels should be that high after more than 10 hours without food.

Which means I am FREAKING OUT.

She didn’t comment on it at all, even after I told her I hadn’t eaten yet. I guess she assumed it was a fluke. I’m hoping it was a fluke. Either way, it was enough to make me sit back and evaluate some of the nutritional choices I’ve been making this past year. They always say you can’t out train a bad diet when it comes to getting into physical shape. I guess the same goes for other health metrics. You can’t out exercise a bad diet (or genetics) when it comes to diabetes.

Disclaimers:

  • I have not actually been diagnosed with anything. The nurse did not seem concerned, but I am planning a midyear follow up test with my primary care provider just in case.
  • I know that diet is not the only thing that contributes to diabetes. However, while I can’t control any genetic predisposition I might have, I can control my diet.
  • I know that there are different types of diabetes with different causes and that everybody’s experience is unique.
  • If I am eventually diagnosed with something, there are a myriad of options to manage it.
  • Plenty of incredibly fit folks who eat healthily are living with diabetes, and it is not a disease limited to certain body types, diets, or activity levels.
  • Most importantly: I am not a doctor, nor am I a nutritionist or any other trained medical professional. I’m actually probably one of those people who spends too much time reading WebMD trying to self-diagnose before going to the doctor.
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