In Which We Experience a Little Magic
Is calorie cycling the answer to controlling blood sugar levels?
By Kathryn Foss
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
April 2012 — If you read this column with any kind of regularity you know that I am forever trying new kinds of eating plans, and you also know that both crazy and sound get equal footing here. Back in my low carb days I was quite active on some of the more popular forums. I love reading about other people on the same quest as myself to find what works for their bodies. It also makes me feel not so crazy, because it stands to reason that if there are other people out there who agree with you, it can't be all that bad, right?
So when I was low carbing, I read a lot about intermittent fasting. This is big in a lot of the Paleo-ish forums and really has a lot of science backing it and outlining its benefits to human health. I won't list them here, but a simple Google search will give you lots of reading material. Needless to say, it was never something I considered, because I have no self-control and I love my food too much to even consider not eating for 24 hours.
Well, about two months ago, I quite innocently stumbled upon something called Johnson's Up Day Down Day diet, or as it's known on the interwebs, JUDDD. I read with growing fascination and could feel myself getting sucked in. There was a whole forum dedicated to it with page after page of success stories. In a nutshell it's calorie cycling. Some guy called Dr. Johnson has discovered that alternate day calorie restricting helps you lose weight and has great health benefits. I've tried too many diets to be a skeptic, so I read on. There is a calculator where you enter in your age, weight, height, and activity level, press a button, and voila, your numbers appear! It tells you how many calories to eat on your down day and how many to eat on your up day. Overall you are averaging about 1300 calories a day, which isn't too bad considering that FitDay was only letting me eat about 1450 on their plan. The beauty is I only have to be on a diet for ONE day! And even I can do anything for one day. Be good on your down day and eat what you want on your up day. Simple right? So, I started it.
A few weeks went by, five pounds dropped off and I actually felt really good. I found I was enjoying restricting calories every other day. It made me feel clean and clear headed. Then on one of my up days, my husband was out of town and my little girl wanted pasta for dinner. I don't eat pasta often, but it was an up day after all, so I made this delicious tagliatelli with cream sauce. Nice diet right?? It was awesome, but I know from experience that my blood sugar would be sky high in about two hours. So, I went to check it, intending to try to combat it with about 1000mg of Metformin, but when I checked, my blood sugar was 130. What??? That has to be wrong. Usually after a meal like that, I am up around 190. Checked again, and it was indeed 130. I was fascinated. I'm really not a good blood sugar checker. After five years, I know what foods are good for me and which ones are not. I know that my fasting blood sugar is going to be around 130-140. So, I rarely check unless I'm sick or I eat lots of bad stuff. Well, now my curiosity was piqued.
The next morning I checked my fasting blood sugar and it was 110! What?? That is NORMAL. And after a night of pasta! I started getting excited and that day Googled "alternate day fasting and diabetes" and it turns out there are some exciting results. Nothing official and supported by the American Diabetes Association mind you, but exciting stuff just the same. The next day was a down day and my blood sugar never went above 100. Those numbers are unheard of for me, but the real shock was that the next morning my fasting number was 90! Yes, 90. I've not had a fasting number like that in seven years. It felt magical.
I am finding out that calorie cycling is working well for me in relation to controlling my numbers. I quickly went hog wild with my eating after this, mistakenly believing that I could now eat whatever starchy carbs I wanted. This proved to be not true. I still have to be really careful with carbs. Too much too often and my numbers are high, regardless of how many calories I consume. So, did I find a magic cure? I don't know. I just know that for me, this is working and I cannot wait for my next A1C to see what the longer-term results are. It just felt good to have a little hope again that maybe my diabetes is not so far gone that I can't still help control it with a little discipline in my diet. Is it magical thinking? Perhaps, but sometimes a little magic is just what we need.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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My diabetes is changing. Until a few years ago, my morning readings were reasonable and within the desired range of under 100 mg/dl. About two years ago, they started slipping upwards into the less-desirable but apparently not-worrisome range of 100-110 mg/dl. Now, this was what was recorded by my Abbott Freestyle Lite meter, which is known to record at the lower end of the home-glucometer variability range, but with my A1c firmly in the high 5s and low 6s, the meter's tendency to...