pennie haleBy: Pennie Hale – May 2013

I would like to share an email I received in response to my column from my new friend Rick Bellanti:

Dear Pennie: I loved the article on weight loss. I am a food addict – I have been on a weight loss journey since December 15th 2011, and I’m happy to say I’m down 130lbs. with 85 lbs. more to go.

Here is part of my Story:

I grew up watching the impact of diabetes on my Dad. My Dad, Jerry Bellanti, was a very famous musician from Lawrence, Massachusetts. My Dad lost his toe, foot and then leg due to diabetes, and then lost his life as a result of complications from the disease on September 6,1998. Now I watch other relatives and friends dealing with it and knew I was headed in the same direction.

My doctor was concerned that I already had the signs of Type 2 diabetes, also known as pre-diabetes and I knew that I did. I had high blood pressure as well as very bad sleep habits. I had been trying to exercise regularly and eat better, but never really made significant progress. In December 2011 (at 46 years old) all of that changed. At my yearly physical my doctor had a very serious talk with me about my health. At the time of my appointment I was told I had an 8 A1C sugar level (Type 2 diabetes) and weighed 407lbs. My BMI (Body Mass Index) was 62.9. I had dangerously high blood pressure, gout in my feet as well as other foot problems, knee pain, signs of back problems arising and, complications from Type 2 diabetes and heart problems all seemed to be in the very near future for me. I became serious about the food I was eating as well as making exercise a part of my daily life – I started on December 15,2011…this is my new journey -thank you for being a part of it.

This journey has been one of the hardest (and yet most fulfilling) I’ve ever done. I’m starting to write a book mostly from my journal of notes that I’ve been taking down over the last 12 months or so. I’ve been on every diet known to mankind (and even some I made up on my own) always had great success in the short term usually losing around 30 lbs. in 6 weeks or so, then I get complacent and stop thinking of my objective and not taking it seriously and, in a very short term the weight always comes back and with more, the Yo-Yo dieter…. This has been a cycle I’ve been on my whole life since I was 13yrs old. This particular journey started rather quickly and I had no choice in the matter, it was do it or do nothing and die (like my father before me did).

I went to the doctor December 8, 2011 for my yearly check up. At that time I was physically run down, exhausted, knee pain, back pain, I had a persistent cough that had started back in September that would not go away. I had hypertension and I could barley lift my leg up to get on the scale which said I was 412 lbs. I picked up some prescriptions, did some blood work and went home. Four days later, the doctor’s office called me and they said he needed to see me right away, so I made an appointment for the next week. When I showed up, there was the doctor, a nurse practitioner and a nutritionist there. On a table in front of them were all these medications and gadgets, as well as needles. Apparently, my blood work came back as Type 2 diabetes – really bad cholesterol and a dangerously high blood pressure. They wanted to teach me how to check my own blood sugar as well as give myself insulin with a needle – in addition to medication for my high blood pressure. My head was spinning and I couldn’t understand anything they were saying, so I talked to him by myself and he basically said that if I kept going the way I was, I would be dead in 5 years. (NOT good with a 5yr old princess at home waiting for me).

He told me he would give me 3 months to try and lower my blood sugar on my own without the meds. It takes 90 days for your blood cells to clear out the sugar. He also told me that he wanted me to have gastric bypass surgery to save my life, and that high blood pressure medicine was a must. By the time I got home from my appointment with the doctor, there was a message on my machine from CMC Hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire setting up an appointment for a consultation for the surgery… I never called them back! Instead, I went home and sat at the computer and googled “how to lower your blood sugar” and “how to lower your blood pressure”. I must’ve hit at least 30-40 websites all day and night, taking down notes…

I came up with 2 lists; one was the foods that help lower your blood sugar, and another list of the foods to stay away from. Obviously, sugar was the main thing to stay away from, so from that day on (December 15,2011) I never had sugar again. This wasn’t a diet to lose weight, it was a diet to lower my blood sugar as much as I could before my next appointment with the doctor. The weight loss started as a side effect of eating all the right foods.

I started watching shows like The Doctors, and Dr. Oz, and listened to everything they were saying. I’ve learned that sugar substitutes are just as bad, if not worse than regular sugar, so in January I gave them up as well. This meant no more diet coke for me (which was the hardest part as of yet). I found out that artificial sugars trigger your brain by tricking it into thinking it’s having sugar when it’s not, and in a short time you start craving bad carbs, sweets etc….

I was so scared about eating sugar that I even swore off fruit for the first 5 months. I have since incorporated them in. In January I joined the gym. It was the hardest thing I ever did, walking in there not knowing what to expect. I walked in with my head down and just focused on my objective. I just got on a treadmill, programmed a slow speed and walked for one hour…I ended up walking 3 miles! Then the following day was easier, then the next day, the next day etc.. Now I do it 5 times a week and have incorporated some weightlifting, as well as running in a half dozen 5K races this summer. When I went back to the doctor, I was down 86 lbs., my A1C sugar went from 8 to 5.7…normal person, so no diabetes. My blood pressure was normal, all my cholesterol numbers were perfect in every way, he was so excited – NO MEDICATIONS for anything! I went and saw him last month and all my numbers were even better, and I had lost 130 lbs. altogether, with 85 more to go to reach my goal.

I don’t miss sugar at all. I still have another 85 pounds to go, but I know I will eventually get there. I’m taking it slow with a loss of 1 pound a week or sometimes nothing at all, but I feel great and I’ve never said that before in my life!!!!!

So many people have said I have inspired them to join a gym, workout, diet etc. That’s so cool to know, but I always have to keep things grounded because I know I could easily go back to where I was, and I don’t want that…ever!”

That is just one of the emails I’ve received from readers of my column. If you would like to share your story, please email me at pennielacouture@verizon.net