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Been Thinking: What a difference a 'carb' makes

Last week I left the River Falls Medical Clinic with a big smile on my face. I had received the good news that I had reversed a medical condition that my favorite physician, Dr. Bob Johnson, had diagnosed in January: Type 2 diabetes.

I was so happy, as was Dr. Johnson. I think he was a bit surprised about my accomplishment.

Trying to practice preventative health care, I've strived to have a basic physical every January. It was just this last January that I left the clinic pretty bummed about the lab results of my routine blood test. Type 2 diabetes? Me?

No one in my family, that I know of, has had it before. But that doesn't have to be the case. Anyone can have it.

It's not inherited. It's not contagious.

Since the beginning of the year I've learned that it's based on what you eat and how your body handles the glucose (or sugars) in your blood that come from those foods.

Most of my life I've been on the thin side. My mother was so concerned about my puny and skinny little physique when I was a child, she consulted with our family doctor.

He had my thyroid gland tested to see if it might have been affecting my weight or lack of it, I should say. That test came back with "normal" results.

The good doc concluded that I was just a typical active youngster with lots of energy to burn and a high metabolism rate.

I never gave the food I ate too much thought back then. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and however much I wanted.

As I grew older, got married and began having babies, that high metabolism hung in there. Returning home from the hospital after giving birth to my two daughters and one son, within one week I was able to fit in the same clothes I was wearing before I had gotten pregnant.

Dieting, or more specifically carefully choosing what to eat, was never part of my life.

But with the news I received in January, I knew I had to start a different routine.

Dr. Johnson had the lab test my blood for its A1C level -- a test that gives a picture of a person's average blood glucose level.

A measured level of 6 is borderline, according to medical standards. If your A1C is above 6, you're classed as a type 2 diabetic. Anything below 6, you're not.

In other words, the lower your A1C level, the less concern about diabetes you need have.

In January mine was 6.2. Darn!

Dr. Johnson had me consult with the clinic's dietician, Deb Sanders. She's a very nice and personable, petite young woman, who explained the importance of choosing wisely when it comes to eating.

I haven't had to do that for over 50 years! Why did I have to do it now?

Well, unless I wanted to possibly go blind or suffer with internal organs that could malfunction in the future, I had better get on board.

And that's exactly what I did. Surprisingly, it wasn't that hard.

In addition to what was happening to my body, Deb taught me that I needed to count my "carbs" -- carbohydrates, that is. In addition to any kinds of sweet, yummy, chocolaty, fattening desserts, in my case, potatoes, breads, pasta, bagels, rice are the greatest culprits, she said.

They had been supplying me with more than enough carbohydrates than I needed. So I cut back on them -- way back.

Instead of having a cinnamon raisin bagel and a glass of grape juice for breakfast, I now eat Special K cereal with strawberries and milk.

Some fruits and vegetables are high in carbs as well. I had to learn which ones to avoid. It's not that I couldn't ever eat them again. It's that I have to eat them in moderation or if I have a choice, I should pick the one with less carbs. is a Web site designed for people with either type of diabetes, type 1 or type 2, that Deb introduced me to. It has helpful information, great low-carb recipes, and a charting system where carbs and calories can be measured.

Deb said I could eat up to 30 carbs during breakfast, 60 carbs for lunch, 60 carbs for supper and a snack anywhere in between measuring up to 15 carbs.

She also gave me a digital glucose measuring device to calculate my blood sugar level once a day. I had my choice of measuring after whichever meal I chose.

If I was eating wisely, my blood sugar levels would measure anywhere between 70 and 140.

Exercise -- regular daily exercise -- needed to be included in my new routines, said Deb. I followed her advice.

Now, after about three months of wiser food choices and more exercise, I'm happy to report that my A1C level is 5.7 and I've lost nine pounds!

I'll continue following the new routines I've established, and I encourage others battling type 2 diabetes to do the same. It can be done.

What a difference a carb makes!