Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dealing With Type II Diabetes - Lessons Learned

In early July of this year, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. This was a surprise because I lived a healthy lifestyle (or so I thought) and didn't have a family history of diabetes (or so I thought). This article is about the mistakes I made and lessons I've learned.

The bad news is that my A1C level (a measure of blood sugar over the previous 3 months) in July was extremely high, and likely had been for quite a while. The diabetes was beginning to seriously affect my vision, so much so that I had to undergo a series of injections in my eyes (as in needles piercing the wall of my eyeballs and injecting medicine directly into the liquid centers).

The good news is my blood sugar levels have come down sharply in the 3+ months since my diagnose, and the improvement to my vision is dramatic.

Diabetes Symptoms

According to the American Diabetes Association, "the following symptoms of diabetes are typical. However, some people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed.

Common symptoms of diabetes:
  •     Urinating often
  •     Feeling very thirsty
  •     Feeling very hungry - even though you are eating
  •     Extreme fatigue
  •     Blurry vision
  •     Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  •     Weight loss - even though you are eating more (type 1)
  •     Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)
Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes."
Why My Diabetes Wasn't Diagnosed Earlier

It was my fault. I made two mistakes.

First, I avoided doctors most of my adult life. In fact, during the 20+ years of my adult life prior to my diabetes diagnose, I went to the doctor only once. There were a number of excuses why I avoided doctors - didn't want to waste money, too busy, didn't have time, wasn't sick enough to go... Perhaps I was even too macho. After all, many of us guys think we are supposed to always be tough and never admit weakness. We tend to "walk it off" and "play through the pain" rather then actually dealing with it in a constructive fashion.

Second, I made some false assumptions about my health. I thought I was just getting older because what I now know as symptoms of diabetes actually started not long after I turned 40. Many of the symptoms I had - blurred vision (I needed reading glasses), lower energy levels, more frequent urination, especially at night - can be common as people age. In essence, I wrongly self-diagnosed my symptoms to mean I was simply becoming middle-aged. 

It wasn't until earlier this year, when my symptoms became much more severe, that I began to suspect something else was going on. Eventually, my worsening vision forced me to go to the doctor, where I learned that I had diabetes, not just normal aging.

Family Medical History

Research shows that people who have a family history of diabetes are more likely to get diabetes. Many other diseases also have a genetic component. This is why it is very important to know your family medical history. In my case, it turns out that my grandfather, who died when I was much younger, had diabetes, as did an uncle (also deceased). I was unaware of this family medical history until talking to my mother after I was diagnosed with diabetes.

Healthy Diet and Lifestyle?

I thought I had a relatively healthy diet and lifestyle. I didn't smoke, do drugs, or abuse alcohol. I was fairly active physically.  I rarely ate fast food or drank sodas. I wasn't much for sweets (except ice cream). I even liked salads and vegetables. Good, huh? Well, maybe not. There is more to having a healthy diet and lifestyle, and I made a number of mistakes.

Despite not eating sweets (other than the ice cream), I had way too much sugar in my diet. Most Americans do. The food companies put huge amounts of sugar into our food. They have too in order to cover up the taste of the massive amounts of salt they add to extend shelf-life. Its not just the massive amounts of sugar in our processed foods, even basic foods such as most canned vegetables have lots of added sugar.

Starchy foods - such as potatoes, flour, bread, cereals, pasta, corn, and rice - contain carbohydrates that are easily and quickly converted into sugar by the body. Even "whole grain" foods are quickly converted into sugar by the body. (Personally, I don't agree that whole grains are healthy, as much of the current health advice advocates. Instead, I consider whole grains to be only somewhat less bad than refined grains.) Starchy foods made up a significant portion of my diet.

It also turns out that I had no real understanding of what a serving size it. A serving is not as much as you can pile onto one plate. Instead a serving size is much smaller. Before my diabetes, my typical serving of rice (one pile on my plate) was really equal to  two or three actual servings. A typical serving of oatmeal for me in the morning was one bowlful. It turns out that a serving of oatmeal is only one cup cooked, or about half my typical bowlful. Americans, including me, have supersized our food for so long we no longer have a true sense of serving size, and therefore tend to eat way too much. This taxes our body's ability to cope, and has contributed to the current epidemic of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

I will go into much more detail about a healthy diet and lifestyle in future articles, including the changes I have personally made to get positive results.

Lessons Learned

Here is a quick summary of the lessons I've learned in having to deal with my diabetes:

  • Visit your doctor regularly. Had I been getting regular checkups, even if only once every couple of years, my diabetes would have been caught much earlier (and I likely wouldn't have had to let an eye surgeon stick needles into my eyes). You are NOT wasting money or time by going to a doctor.
  • Never self-diagnose. In today's Internet world, its easy to look up symptoms on a website and decide that you have this problem or that disease. But many different diseases have very similar symptoms. In most cases, doctors are still necessary to determine what is wrong with any degree of certainty.
  • Know your family medical history. Don't assume, like I did, that you know all the important stuff in your family's medical history. You might be aware of your immediate family's history, but do you really know all the medical conditions of your grandparents, great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and other relatives? Probably not, unless you've actually asked people. I suggest talking  about your family's medical history with several of the elder matriarchs (women seem to be more aware of these things)  on both sides of your family tree.
  • Understand what actually constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle. Sure, most people have some basic idea. But, like me, they have large gaps in their understanding (and perhaps an even larger gaps in what they are actually doing). I'll be writing more on this in future articles. There is also a lot of misinformation out there, and what we think we know is often wrong.  So be careful - read various sources, consider the sources and their possible biases, look for good information (not just information to fit your predetermined point of view), try to integrate the best of both conventional medicine and alternative medicine, and think! 
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, and nothing presented in this article is intended as professional medical advice. This article is only intended to relay my personal experiences and opinions in dealing with my type II diabetes. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be diabetic, PLEASE seek a diagnose and advice from a qualified medical professional as soon as possible. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: What Could Possibly Go Wrong???

Survivor Jane (on Twitter: @SurvivorJane) is the author of a new survival/preparedness book, What Could Possibly Go Wrong??? How To Go From Completely Clueless To Totally Prepared, aimed especially at women (but can be useful for anyone). She is the creator of the popular #preppertalk hashtag on Twitter, is the proprietor of the SurvivorJane.com website, and was featured on season 4, episode 5 of Doomsday Preppers.

This book tells you, as its name implies, what could possibly go wrong, and more importantly, what you can do about it. But what makes this book stand out from the many other preparedness and survival books on the market today is the style in which it is written, a much more conversational tone without the doom-and-gloom so common in other books of the genre (which often come across as lecturing their readers, rather than talking to them). She also uses less technical jargon and acronyms, fully explaining them when she does. She makes use of humor and personal experiences to make her points. This style makes her book less intimidating to those new to preparedness and survival. Coming from a woman's perspective, with a woman's tone, women might find it speaking to them in a way that is more natural and comfortable.

A quick look at the chapter titles gives an idea of the scope of the book:
  1. Disasters Come in All Size
  2. Mental Preparedness
  3. Self-Defense
  4. Survival Mindset
  5. Health and Hygiene
  6. Fitness
  7. Medical- First Aid
  8. Food
  9. Survival Gear
  10. Sustainable Living
  11. Finance
  12. Survival Skills
  13. The Government
One aspect I really like about Survivor Jane's book is that it covers several areas in detail that are often given little attention elsewhere. For example, mental preparedness is an area I find to almost always be mentioned, but rarely discussed, in most survival books. Typically, survival authors give a line (or, at most, a paragraph) stating that mental preparedness is important, then go on to completely ignore the subject for the rest of the book. In Survivor Jane's book, mental preparedness is given an entire chapter (ch. 2), or two if you count the closely related Survival Mindset (ch. 4).

The chapter on Self-Defense (ch. 3) thankfully goes beyond the typical guns & ammo (which are very useful, but are actually the last line of defense after the other lines have failed). She explains what can happen (knowing is the first step in preparing, as Survivor Jane notes). She gives some great ideas on improving your situational awareness (critical for self-defense). She discusses improvised weapons for when you don't have your gun for whatever reason. There is a section of cheap (or even free) ideas for improving your home security. And there is even a section on women disguising themselves as men for protection (something I had never thought of before reading it in her book).

This book makes a great general introduction to survival and preparedness. It is especially useful to those folks who might find typical survival and preparedness books uninteresting, intimidating, or otherwise difficult to understand. You can find What Could Possibly Go Wrong??? on Amazon in either paperback or kindle versions.

Other Books By Survivor Jane:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jesus, Self-Defense, and the Pajama Boy

Luke 22:35-38 English Standard Version (ESV):

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 

36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.
37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 

38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough. 

The Context: This teaching takes place immediately before the events at the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane, including the arrest of Jesus (which is described in verses 39-53 of this same chapter).

Tim’s Comments: Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had sent out his disciples “without money bag, knapsack, and sandals.” The idea was to trust God to provide for their needs. And, indeed, they did not lack anything. 

Yet, difficult times are coming. Jesus forewarns His disciples of future persecution, and tells them to prepare for whatever may lie ahead.  But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” (During this time, travelers carried swords for self-defense against robbers.)

Different interpretations of this passage are possible. First, that Jesus is speaking metaphorically, warning His disciples to prepare spiritually for the spiritual battles ahead (see Ephesians 6:10-17, the “Whole Armor of God” passage). Second, that Jesus is speaking literally, suggesting that His disciples need to prepare for the difficult times that are ahead of them, including arming themselves for self-defense. Both of these possible interpretations have merit (see the following paragraphs), so a third interpretation is that Jesus is speaking to both ideas – metaphorically of spiritual battles, and more literally of physical preparations for future difficulties and persecution.

The editors of the ESV Study Bible give two reasons for  the metaphorical interpretation: “(1) In Luke 22: 38 the disciples misunderstand Jesus’ command and produce literal swords (v. 38); on this view, Jesus’ response that “It is enough” is a rebuke, saying essentially, “Enough of this talk about swords.” (2) Just a few minutes later Jesus will again prohibit the use of a literal sword.

Additionally, they also give reasons for the literal interpretation: “(a) The moneybag and knapsack and cloak in this same verse are literal, and so the sword must be taken literally as well. (b) Jesus’ response that “It is enough” (v 38) actually approves the swords the disciples have as being enough, and Jesus’ later rebuke in vv. 49– 51 only prohibits them from blocking his arrest and suffering, that is, from seeking to advance the kingdom of God by force. (c) The very fact that the disciples possess swords (v 38) suggests that Jesus has not prohibited them from carrying swords up to this point, and Jesus never prohibited self-defense.

Jesus is clearly drawing a distinction (“but now”) between the way His disciples went out to the people early on in His ministry, and the way they must go out in the difficult times ahead.  Father Lawrence Farley, in his commentary The Gospel of Luke – Good News for the Poor, writes: “Difficult times are indeed coming, and Christ forewarns His disciples of the dangers to come. He asks them to compare the time when He sent them out with purse and bags and sandals (9:1f) to the coming days. In those earlier times of mission, did they lack anything? They answered “Nothing” – they had all they needed, being supplied by the hospitality they encountered. But now, things will be different. They cannot count on receiving hospitality or help but must rely solely on themselves. Persecution, not welcome, would be the order of the day.

The point Jesus was making is that the disciples must now rely on themselves for their needs. But, what does it mean for the disciples to rely on themselves? Earlier, Jesus sent His disciples out without anything other than the clothes they were wearing. They were to rely on the hospitality of others for their needs. But now, they “must now provide for their own needs and not rely on receiving a friendly welcome” (Fr. Farley). In contrast, Jesus now tells His disciples to prepare – to take money and knapsack and sword (even if they had to sell their clock to buy one). 

Certainly, a major part preparedness for the followers of Jesus is spiritual preparedness (the metaphorical interpretation). But, spiritual preparedness had not been among the things forbidden by Jesus earlier, only physical preparations. Allowing spiritual preparations, therefore, would not be a contrast to the earlier way, only a continuation of the same. A purely metaphorical interpretation fails to provide the needed contrast. Since Jesus obviously intended his statement  show show a contrast, it has to be more than just (or only) a metaphor.

It also, as the editors of the ESV Study Bible point out, makes little sense for the sword alone to be a metaphor, while the other items in the same sentence are meant literally. 

Specifically about the sword, Fr. Farley writes: “Literally speaking two swords among eleven disciples are nothing and will be quite inadequate to defend them against actual armed attack. But Jesus was not referring to actual armed combat, but to their using their own resources in reliance on the power of God. Therefore, He answers “It is sufficient,” for even such small resources are sufficient if accompanied by faith in God.” 

God can use our preparations - our actions and resources - meager as they might be, to accomplish His will. But, this doesn’t mean that we aren’t supposed to make preparations. Indeed, the Bible is replete with examples of God requiring His people to prepare for future difficulties. 

But what about Jesus’ rebuke of Peter later that same night? When the authorities came to arrest Jesus, Peter used a sword to defend Him, cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest (Luke 22:50). This resulted in a sharp rebuke of Peter from Jesus (Luke 22:51). This rebuke is often used to paint a picture of a pacifist Jesus, who prohibits even self-defense. 

The problems with that interpretation are many: 1) Jesus never prohibits self-defense in any of His teachings; 2) it goes against the nature of Jesus, who is shown to act forcibly when the situation called for it, such as His attack on the money-changers at the Temple (see John 2:13-16), when He made a whip and used it against the money-changers, overturning tables, scattering money, and driving the money-changers from the Temple; 3) Jesus never forbids His disciples from carrying swords, as shown by the fact that at least two of them were carrying swords during the events recorded in Luke 2.

Jesus taught love and forgiveness, but never taught pacifism. Loving our neighbor does not in any way preclude self-defense or forceful actions when necessary. Forgiving others does not mean we must allow them to continue hurting or threatening us.

A more accurate interpretation of the rebuke of Peter is Jesus was upset at Peter for not realizing what must happen to Him for scripture to be fulfilled.  Jesus’ death and resurrection, not armed rebellion or the establishment of an earthly kingdom, is what must happen. This lack of understanding on the part of the disciples was a long-standing frustration for Jesus. It was this lack of understanding that Jesus rebuked, not the sword itself.

Conclusions:  There are many lessons that can be learned from Luke 22. One lesson is that the followers of Jesus are NOT guaranteed easy times ahead. In fact, persecution at the hands of the worldly system is to be expected, as Jesus warned His disciples. Another is that the followers are Jesus are told to prepare for difficult times and persecutions ahead. This certainly requires spiritual preparations (growing in our relationship with God through prayer, reading scripture, worshiping Him, etc.). It also requires physical preparations, including preparations for self-defense when necessary. 

The Pajama Boy is not Jesus
Finally, let me give warning against a non-biblical presentation of Jesus that is in vogue among many Christians today. Remember the Pajama Boy Internet meme from a few years ago? Many Christians see Jesus as kind of an ultimate Pajama Boy – a super-sensitive, in-touch-with-his-feminine-side, person solely about love, peace, and forgiveness. This is NOT the biblical Jesus.

Yes, Jesus was about love, peace, and forgiveness. But He was also a man of action, a forceful personality, aggressive when He needed to be, uncompromising in His values and expectations, willing to stand up against evil, willing to upset the authorities and the status-quo, willing commit civil disobedience, unconcerned with public opinion, strong, fearless, a true man’s man...

Yes, Jesus was quick to forgive, but at the same time He also demanded repentance - that those who received His forgiveness turn away from their sin and turn back to the ways of God. Forgiveness of the sinner never meant acceptance of the sin. Too many Christians today so emphasize the forgiveness part, that they forget about the repentance that must accompany forgiveness.

The Pajama Boy Jesus is preferred by many people today despite its incompleteness. Many folks are simply uncomfortable with those aspects of Jesus that clash with modern worldly sensitivities. But we ignore the fullness of Jesus’ personality and teachings at our own peril. 

Agree? Disagree? Please feel free to leave your comments below.