Today, my guest blogger is my dad, Cecil Deadman. He and my mom are amazing. Just amazing. They have done what many people laugh about, but internally fear more than anything else - they changed the way they eat. It's not easy, and you all know I will never tell you otherwise. Yet, my parents practiced self-discipline and have created a new normal, and they really do love it!
They both work for the Baptist General Convention of Texas - a typical work environment, where meetings are held over meals, candy dishes are in abundance, holiday parties are coated in calories and eating out for lunch is so much easier than bringing it. Not to mention, they are extremely active at their Cowboy Church. Dad is an elder. They are both a part of the band (yeah, ask me about what it's like to get videos of your mom singing "Achy Breaky Heart" at some festival, with your dad behind her playing the stand-up bass ... my life = NOT boring!) Cowboys not only know how to barbecue, but they spend time on their food - all food.
Both of them helping us out last fall
And now, ladies and gentlemen, my father, Cecil ...
December 23rd was a day that will forever remain in my memory. It was the eve of my 64th birthday, a Wednesday when the Dallas Cowboy Church Band would gather to celebrate Christmas with loads of food and some great fellowship. It was also the day that my beautiful bride and I had scheduled our annual check-up with our doctor. We fasted on Tuesday night in preparation for blood work on Wednesday morning and were nearly starved by the time we left the doctor’s office. We made the trip around the corner, across from Baylor Hospital, to the neighborhood McDonalds to grab a quick burger and some fries to calm the rumbling of our stomachs. We didn’t want to eat too much because we knew that around 6:00 that evening we would FEAST!!!!!
I remember my cell phone ringing as we were driving into the parking lot of the Dallas County Cowboy Church. The doctor had seemed pleased that I had lost 16 pounds since my last visit and told us he would give us a call once he had received the results of our blood work. His voice was reassuring as he explained that most of my blood work was good. He was a bit concerned about my blood sugar because it was elevated but he indicated that it was not something he was terribly concerned about except there was one test result he had not received from the lab and that would determine where we would go from there. We arrived at the church and began to check out all the beautiful food, especially the desserts. Someone had brought some of my favorites. What am I saying? It was all my favorite food. Truth is I just loved food in general!
We were about to sit down to dig into this feast when my cell phone rang again. It was the doctor and he had received the final blood test. The news was not good, I had developed diabetes and he was going to give me a prescription for some medication to help get it under control. I sat and looked at the food on my plate and knew I had best enjoy what I could. The dessert table could not be an option on that evening. The diagnosis explained why I had lost 16 pounds over about a six month period and why I had to have new glasses just a week or so before because of some dramatic changes in my eyesight.
The news that diabetes had come to live in me was not totally unexpected. I have waited for the word for years. It is a family legacy and I always knew it was a possibility, yet I was not ready to hear that diagnosis. There was one instruction from my doctor that rang in my ears that night. “I want you off this medication as quickly as possible. Diabetes can be reversed.” I don’t believe I had ever heard anyone make that statement but it rang in my ears and penetrated into my mind. I was about to begin a journey that would take me places I never believed I would go.
We had already scheduled a visit to our daughter’s family the week following Christmas. Our daughter had scolded, lovingly, her parents about the need to eat a healthier diet. Her Dad was hooked on beef, pork, sweets, and a host of other foods that had brought me to the moment when the “D” word would finally invade my life. We visited with Christine about the diagnosis and shared with her the doctors instructions to get “off the medication as quickly as possible.” She was pleased to know the doctor wanted me to reverse the diabetes not just manage it. She promised to do her part.
The four days we spent in her home were some of the most amazing days for me personally. Joye and I both moved beyond talking about diet and health to discovering a new journey toward health. Christine prepared meals for us that were basically vegetarian (note from Christine: I actually made sure everything that went in his mouth during that time was 99% vegan, including some tofu - which he loved! yea!). She shared a video with us, "Raw for 30 Days" that helped me to understand the role good, healthy food plays in our lives. I also saw the film, "Supersize Me" during our time there. Talk about a wake-up call. It was during those days, especially when the grandchildren kept telling us about how good the food was, that Joye and I determined that we would begin the journey. Honestly, after four days of eating good, fresh, healthy foods I really felt that I could make the necessary changes that would be necessary to reverse the diabetes and develop a healthier lifestyle. Joye and I made a commitment to lose the weight and to make whatever changes were necessary to restore our health. The best part, we were going to do it together.
My first checkup was scheduled for February 26th, two months from the diagnosis. By the time we reached that date I had lost 25 pounds and Joye had lost 20. When the doctor walked into the examining room he looked at me and said, “Do I know you?” To say he was pleased with the progress we had made would be an understatement. I had faithfully taken the medication he had prescribed and my blood sugar was normal. The change of diet had helped in several ways. Not only was my blood sugar normal, but my cholesterol had dropped from 230 to 116. For the first time in years my good cholesterol was at an acceptable level and my bad cholesterol remained at the proper level. Those two had never worked together until that office visit. My blood pressure was normal. I attributed the blood pressure and blood sugar levels to the medications even though I knew the weight loss was a huge factor. The doctor said he was a bit chicken and wanted to keep me on my blood pressure medication but cut it in half. He scheduled our next follow-up appointment in three months.
We had learned to enjoy the marvelous flavors in the foods we were eating. One of the best parts of the journey was spending time with my bride in the kitchen. We were cooking, literally! We were working on new dishes and recipes and enjoying every minute. We found we could socialize with friends around meals, occasionally eating fish and chicken. The key was to stay as close to a vegetarian diet as possible. On at least two occasions during that first two months I was in situations where only beef or pork was available. I was able to eat mostly vegetables with a few bites of the meat without making an issue or making others feel uncomfortable because of my choices. It was during this time that I attended a meeting at my workplace and had one of the participants come up to me and ask, “Do you have cancer?” I really wanted to laugh but graciously responded that I was on a journey to improve my health and that the natural result was weight loss.
April 29th finally arrived. Joye and I had both lost more weight. Food was becoming a joy instead of a necessity. I had lost another 13 pounds and Joye had lost about 12 more. The doctor was impressed that we had continued on the journey. My blood pressure was elevated and he went back to my original prescription as a precaution. I suspected that the elevated blood pressure may have been from a couple of stressful weeks that preceded my visit to the doctor but he was concerned that it might be hereditary. He confirmed that my blood sugar was at an average normal saying, “You have reversed your diabetes.” I had been off the medication for two months by that time. As we sat there talking he was looking over my chart and I noticed him shaking his head. He looked at me and said, “In all my years of practice I have never had a patient reverse their diabetes without having lap band or gastric by-pass surgery, until now.” The journey was paying dividends.
Fast forward three months to July 30, 2010. It has been 7 months on the journey. Things have continued to change. It was time for another check-up and some more good news. Joye had lost an additional 17 pounds and I had lost another 16 for a total weight loss of 49 and 54 pounds respectively. I had to confess to the doctor that I had stopped taking the blood pressure medicine because I was becoming lightheaded and dizzy after I would take the medication. Now after three months with no medication my blood pressure was normal. The doctor attributed it at least partially to the additional weight loss. I just rejoice that for the first time in years I’m not living out of pill bottles.
One of the most important aspects of our journey is the constant questions from those who know us and work with us. They have been first hand observers and have watched to see if we vary what we eat or how much we eat. “What are you guys doing?” is a common question these days. It is exciting to share with them the journey we are on. We are both cautious not to try to push our choices on others. Through the years I’ve had others who have “told” me that I needed to stop certain habits and change choices in my life. I confess that I was always resistant to those kinds of approaches. Both Joye and I have reached a point where we can give wise counsel about how someone can make some healthy choices that will improve the quality of their lives. I don’t want to become “preachy” but I won’t shy away from sharing about the journey.
These are confessions of a carnivore. No one was a better poster child for the beef and pork industry than me. I loved my meat, and my bread, and my desserts way too much! Sweets were necessary for life. The greatest challenge for both Joye and I was to give up those wonderful yeast rolls and super sweet desserts. The biggest change for us was moving away from processed sugar and white flour. We have been able to find substitutes for just about every food we enjoyed. The bonus: we are experiencing the most magnificent flavors and textures in our food that we have ever known. Will the journey continue? You know it will. We plan on living a long time so that we can be a bother and a burden to our children!