The door opened. She came into the room with papers in hand. The door closed. She took a moment and looked at the papers. This is when I discovered that my doctor had the worst poker face ever. Seriously. It’s as though she wasn’t even attempting to hide her personal reaction to the numbers she read on the aforementioned in-hand papers.
The primary purpose of my visit was to come up with a plan to wean off of the antidepressants I had been taking for some years. (Let’s table the conversation of depression, medication, and faith for the time being.) A secondary reason was to get ready for allergy season. It is because of allergy season that I call myself The Great Indoorsman. My doctor decided it was time to check my blood sugar and cholesterol while I was there since it had been a while from the last check. Adult onset diabetes runs in the family and I was about to turn 41 so it seemed prudent at this juncture. I knew my bad cholesterol was a little high last time and I hadn’t changed any of my habits so I expected it to be at least as iffy.
Boy, was I wrong.
My blood sugar was normal, surprisingly. The reason Dr. Sans-Poker-Face looked so shocked was that my bad cholesterol was 600. What’s more, that’s as high as that test will register. How high it actually was is unknown. I was reminded of the times when I would play Asteroids on my Atari 2600 and try to turn the score over. That’s what I did with the cholesterol test. Yay me! Yeah, not so much.
In order to address the allergies and the cholesterol from a systemic perspective my doctor decided that a radical diet change was in order along with some supplements. She removed wheat and dairy for the allergies. I don’t know if you know this, but wheat and dairy are in everything that I love to eat. Ev-ry-thing. “There isn’t any wheat or dairy in fruits and veggies,” you say? Yeah, I know. I don’t eat that stuff. I’m not an animal at the zoo. I’m a human therefore I eat human food, like cheeseburgers. (Can haz?) The thought is that if I’m stuffing myself with food that I’m probably allergic to anyway, taking meds to deal with seasonal allergy stuff probably isn’t going to be as effective as it once was.
She also took me off of sugar. At this point in my thinking there was nothing left to eat. All three of my food groups were now gone. Wheat, dairy, and sugar. Pizza and root beer were my perfect meal. Not any more. Mochas were my life blood. I was a shameless mocha slut. Ice cream was the teddy bear I snuggled when life seemed lame. “No pizza for you!” My doctor was now the Food Nazi.
What was left? What could I eat? Naturally occurring sugar in fruit and other foods was fine. Sugar in donuts and Oreos, not so much. I was to eat more fresh veggies. Foods high in protein were ideal, like quinoa. Mineral rich veggies like spinach and kale we on the menu. Things like veggie sticks with hummus, and nuts were the preferred snack. I was to basically be on a gluten free and nearly paleo diet. Omega 3/6/9 pills were to become my new best friend, as was Udo’s Oil, magnesium, a vitamin B complex pill as well as vitamin D. For someone like me, the plan was become as miserable of a person as possible. Maybe going off the antidepressants right now was was a bad idea!
The irony of ironies is that the Sunday previous to this I had just preached on a section of 2 Peter 1 that mentions self control. When it came to food I had no self control. From birth until about 21 I had an unstoppable metabolism. I had no need for self control when it came to food. Then the unstoppable metabolism suddenly stopped and self control never started. It was time to practice what I preach in an area where I never had.
When this adventure started I was 253 pounds, my bad cholesterol was literally off the chart, my skin was messed up from allergies, my blood pressure was 130/80, and I had been on an antidepressant for about three to four years. I didn’t want to deal with any of it. My doctor said I could have some kind of heart event at any moment. Whatever, Jesus was on the other side anyway.
(Read in monotone French accent from Sponge Bob) Five, weeks, later…
My weight is now 240 pounds, I’m down a belt notch, my cholesterol is down to 371 from who knows what, the affected areas of skin are pretty much cleared up, my blood pressure is down to 112/70 and I’m off of the antidepressants. I know that 371 is still really high, but that’s a dramatic drop all from a diet change and some supplements. If I were to exercise regularly (don’t get me moaning about that) it would be even better.
How did I do it? There are several simultaneously contributing factors.
- People were praying for me. I was scared because just coming off of sugar is supposed to be as nasty as coming off of a narcotic. I was as much of a sugar addict as any drug addict is to their drug of choice. It was a miracle of God that I didn’t really experience any physical withdrawal effects. While it may sound trite, Jesus get’s all the credit.
- My wife. She had always wanted to go paleo anyway so this was the perfect excuse. She made the required eating doable and continues to do so because this will never be over. This is forever. Had I been left to my own self discipline then nothing would have changed in diet or outcome. My kids were also sensitive to their own snacking habits and tried not to tempt me with stuff.
- My doctor. She isn’t just my doctor, she is my friend. It sounds cheesy (mmm, cheese) but it’s absolutely true. My wife and I love her and I know that she loves us. She cares and it shows.
- Following the instruction of very passage I taught, 2 Peter 1:5-9. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” This plus allowing the fruit of the Spirit, which is also self control (Galatians 5:22-23), to grow in me.
Like many of the things we have in a relationship with Jesus, self control is both something we do and something that is done in us. It is a fruit that grows naturally. But it only grows naturally when we provide what it needs to grow. The tree grows the fruit. That’s what it does. The farmer provides the tree with what it needs to do what it does. That’s how self control works.
Were there times when this was tough? Yup. Will there be times in the future where it will be tough? No doubt. It is what it is. It probably won’t get any easier but it doesn’t have to get any harder. If I do my what-is-possible-for-me part then the Holy Spirit will do His what-is-only-possible-for-Him part. That’s how it works. And it does work.
Now if you will excuse me, there is a baggie of baby carrots and snap peas, and a single-serving container of hummus calling my name.