Where’s Greg? (Nov 2019 edition)
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For the last (almost) 3 years I have been spending a lot more time caregiving. My brother has been intellectually handicapped since birth. It’s a mutation in the gene KPTN that also causes epilepsy. He requires full care including diaper changes, clothing, bathing, feeding, and personal care. He is also non verbal and does not even respond to yes or no questions. This is difficult when something is obviously causing him pain but we don’t know where. In the last 3 years Brent has lost his ability to walk or stand. Everything we do at home now involves a full body sling, lifts, and wheelchairs.
But many of you already knew this. Thank you for your patience and understanding. We have 40 hrs/week of help from Medicaid on weekdays. Brent still lives at home with my 88-year-old mom, Charlene. I’m pretty sure she wears a cape and has super powers. She’s an angel of a human and has spent her life caring for Brent. I also have a healthy brother, Ned, who has a full time job. He’s been amazingly supportive through all this and helps out on weekends and every time I am gone. So when you see me at a festival, it’s because of him that I can travel away from home for short periods of time. It’s a great strain on him to work all day, go straight to mom’s, and help her with the evening duties every single day, then all day on weekends. This is why I’ve trimmed back on my travel. And it’s why you don’t see me as often.
Team Miller requires effort around the clock, 7 days a week. There are no vacations in caregiving. If one of us (like me) is gone off to a festival, it means that 3 people are now doing the work of 4 people. I am deeply grateful for the support we have from those that help with Brent. But I am also thankful for those of you who understand why I am not out birding all the time.
In caregiving, it is of utmost importance that the caregiver is healthy. In a small team like ours, if one of us has health issues then we are contributing to the care load and at the same time diminishing the resources. And that brings me to 2019.
I’ve been battling type 2 diabetes for more than a decade. And obesity. And high blood pressure. And high cholesterol. And high triglycerides. I’ve been a walking time bomb. I tried a number of diets. And exercise. But the more times I failed, the more horrible I felt about myself. I wrestled with the monstrous emotions of guilt and shame. Because I was at fault for all of this, right? I was eating too much food and not exercising enough. That is what I was told. That is what I believed.
The last straw for me happened this spring. I had a peep of hope. I had done a mostly vegetarian, low fat version of the Mediterranean Diet. I had lost 10 lbs since my last doctor’s visit. And I had increased my daily exercise. But I was dismayed at my blood numbers. My hbA1C went up instead of down. I became more diabetic—not less. My triglycerides also went the wrong direction. I had already doubled down on my efforts to eat less, eat better, and exercise more. That was what I was supposed to do, right?
Then I visited my sister, Ann, in Ft. Worth on my way to Galveston FeatherFest. I recounted my frustration with my failed efforts at lowering my blood sugar. She told me that at my level of blood sugar that I may be starting to get some permanent eye damage. Permanent eye damage? I have already lost a good deal of hearing. Losing eyesight too? That is too much to bear for this birder. She suggested that I take a look at the Keto Diet. I didn’t have a clue. I never heard of it. What’s a Keto?
I spent the next couple weeks doing a deep dive into this Ketogenic Diet. I am 61 and have struggled with obesity most of my adult life. I’ve done at least 20 different diets in my lifetime. I’ve probably lost about 20 lbs on each of those diets. And I don’t think any diet lasted more than a month. Every diet left me feeling weak and deprived and often foggy-brained. So 20 diets times 20 lbs is 400 lbs. I’ve lost over 400 lbs in my lifetime and I’m fatter and more diabetic. And I felt like even a worse human being. So I was not about to try yet another diet just for the sake of weight loss. I wanted some evidence. I desperately needed a solution for my health problems.
My quest for evidence led me to Virta Health (virtahealth.com) where I found a study where they had a 60% reversal of diabetes with their version of this ketogenic diet. The diet they recommended was very low in carbohydrates, moderate protein, and high in fat. This is so counter to everything I’ve heard for decades. But reversing diabetes is something that I had never heard of either. I couldn’t afford their program. So I watched their YouTube videos and read the information on their website. Since then I’ve read books, watched videos, and listened to podcasts from many other people, too. I decided to give this diet a try for 5 months. That was the date of my next visit to the doctor’s office.
And bam! Success! DIABETES REVERSED! I am off all my blood sugar medication. My high blood pressure? Gone. I am off all my high blood pressure medications. I am medication-free! The best side effect of this diet? The weight loss. I’m down 45 lbs since I started this 6 months ago.
Different people have different results. For me the results were dramatic. I’ve never been on a diet where I don’t have to be hungry, tired, or less-than-functional. So if you’ve got a diet that works for you, great. But if you’re searching then I suggest you start at Virta Health for information and evidence to help keep you motivated. Also, you should know that I have no ties to Virta Health. I get no money. I don’t know anybody. And they don’t know me. But I am thankful that I have finally found a way to be healthy longer.
If you want to help out, I’d be honored if you traveled with the folks who’ve bent over backwards in their support for my situation, Wildside Nature Tours (wildsidenaturetours.com) I am very privileged to be a part of such a great team of people. We have some amazingly talented guides who are doing a wonderful job. I want you to treat them as you would me.
I’m at the Wildside Nature Tours booth this week at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. Drop by and say “Hi”!