What is a DTR?
A few years ago my son had told me that he and a girl he was dating were going to have a DTR. He explained a DTR was when a couple sits down and describes their intentions and accordingly define the relationship, hence a DTR. Where is the relationship going? What are each person’s intentions? and most importantly, are they FBO (Facebook Official)? Okay that’s not the most important part but the fact that the term Facebook Official exists and has it’s own acronym makes me chuckle.
So why is a DTR in a blog about nutrition and exercise? Here is why, I think one of the most important things a person trying to put obesity behind them needs to do is to define their relationship with food. Where is this relationship going long term? What our my expectations from food? And is this relationship Facebook official? Okay, not the Facebook official part, that concept in dating still cracks me chuckle. Dating has changed a lot since my wife and I first went out in 1983. The biggest question I was asking was am I going to get a kiss at the end of the date but that’s a topic for another day.
For the vast majority of my life, my relationship with food was based on how good it made me feel, how happy it made me or how comfortable it made me. Taste was the driving force behind that feeling, how did it taste? Cheetos, Cheeseburgers, Gravy, Deep Fried anything with lots of salt that was the taste I loved. They were things I loved far more than sweet but I could go for waffles and syrup and rich chocolate as well. That’s what I expected from food, that it taste good. If it was good for me, it typically didn’t taste as good as the things that weren’t good for me.
In May of 2012 I went on a cleanse, just because my wife and son were doing it as well. We chose the 21 Day Body Makeover that was championed by a local sports talk radio host that I listened to on occasion. It was a very black and white diet, very black and white, eat these things and don’t eat these things. There were no gray areas, I didn’t have options, so for me it was easy to stay on an eating regimine like that. It was the same black and white type framework I had always eaten with, historically my diet was very black and white, only eat the things that taste good, don’t eat the things that don’t taste good.
I’ve got a need to read
I stuck to that cleanse, I still weighed over 300 pounds, so it was hard to say at that time that I had a lot more energy but I was losing weight and that felt good. However, I was experiencing one change that was causing me an immediate concern, that I thought had nothing to do with the eating regimen I had been on the last couple of weeks. I needed tri-focals and I struggled enough with bi-focals that I wore single vision contacts to see far away and swapped out two pair of readers, one pair to see the computer and another pair to read with. The problem was that the pair I had to read with suddenly quit working, everything was a blur. When I got home I’d take out my contacts and wear my old bi-focals and I couldn’t read with them either. I had just had an eye appointment and I couldn’t believe my prescription was already off. In fact it was so bad that I could lift my bifocals at home and read better than I could with them. Reading is pretty important to be able to do my job, as it is for anyone, so I called my eye doctor immediately and he got me right in, which just so happened to coincide with the end of the 21 Day Body Makeover. I met with the doctor and explained to him what I was experiencing and added “the craziest thing is I can read better without any glasses on, than I can with them.”
Clearly my prescription was broken but he answered “it looks like you’ve lost some weight to me, if you have your blood sugar might have come down and the high blood sugar from your diabetes directly impacts your near vision.” I really didn’t understand what he said but after the vision test, he confirmed what he had said before, my near vision had returned to near perfect, I could still wear my old bifocals but the reading part of the lens would need to be replaced with clear glass.
My eye told a story
That was incomprehensible to me, I was 48 years old, nobody’s eyes get better as they get older so I asked how in the world does that happen? Instead of explaining it again he pulled up a picture of my eye on a big screen television and explained that because of the way an eye is laid out, you can get a complete picture of everything that was wrong with me, at least the direct conditions related to my obesity.
He showed how the blood vessels crossed over each other and how you could tell the high cholesterol affected how they laid each other. Normally your arteries lay over each other when they cross paths like spaghetti, they are soft without a noticeable bend. If your cholesterol stays high, your arteries get hard and over time, you can see a bend in them. You couldn’t see it yet in my eye, so that really was much of a surprise, I was taking medication for that.
He moved on to the size of my arteries compared to the size of my veins and what you could tell about my blood pressure by comparing the two, my arteries were slightly bigger than my veins, since I had high blood pressure, that pressure expanded my arteries, like a balloon. I knew I had high blood pressure, so the fact you could see the evidence of it was really interesting, but it didn’t really didn’t create any concern on my part. An artery was bigger than a vein, clearly that wasn’t good but I was taking medication for that. It wasn’t working as well as it should, but we can change my meds or something and fix that.
Then he went to a brown spot on my eye. He explained that brown spot would get darker and darker if my blood sugar stayed high. He said mine wasn’t that bad, in fact it wasn’t impacting my near vision at all, that’s why I didn’t need a prescription to read. Older eyes don’t adjust as well as they do when we were younger, that’s why I needed clear glass to read because the far vision lense would blur my vision.
As that brown spot worsens, I can’t remember if he meant bigger or darker when he described it, not only does your near vision get worse but it will eventually make you go completely blind. I had heard people go blind from diabetes so that wasn’t surprising either.
It’s better than a poke in the eye
What he said next had the greatest impact I have ever experienced with my relationship with food. I can say with confidence that my lifestyle change started that very second. He pulled up a picture of an eye that he claimed he couldn’t treat. He pointed at the brown spot and said see how bad that spot is? If he were my patient, I couldn’t treat him. I would have to send him to the Texas Eye Institute for treatment. He would need a shot in his eye every month to keep from going blind.
They would do what? I had intended to ask what the difference was between the two brown spots because I didn’t see them side by side, since I wasn’t an eye doctor I couldn’t see the difference. Now there was only one question I wanted to ask, actually there were three: A shot? In they eye? Every month? He replied yes to all three and explained my medication and insulin could only do so much and the impact of those surges in blood sugar, long-term, if you don’t address it will make you go blind. Wow, where is the pill for that?
Food’s new role: Better than a poke in the eye
I could not watch a Saw movie under any circumstance. I don’t like scary movies at all but Saw is the king of movies I can’t watch because the bad guy tortures people before he kills them and one of them gets a drill or something stuck in his eye. For that alone, I am out. I have a hard time sticking my contacts in my eye. I cannot put in eye drops, nobody can if fact. Stick a needle in my eye? No way.
I have heard a lot of guys talk about losing weight and how the decision came over time, I can tell you exactly when and exactly where, sitting on the side of that examination chair and looking at that eye. I don’t even remember the untreatable spot looking much different than mine but it was huge. I realized in that second that all that medication could only do so much. It was a band-aid, not a cure. They have spent millions of dollars on developing and promoting Metformin, I had been taking 1,000 mg of it twice a day for 4 years and it couldn’t do what the fruits and vegetable aisle did for me in less than 3 weeks. This wasn’t some crazy story on the internet with a these results are not typical disclaimer in the fine print, this was me, who cares if they aren’t typical, they were mine.
For the first time in my life what food could do for me was more important than how it tastes. I would rather not eat cheeseburgers than get a needle stuck in my eye every month. I could easily argue that I would rather go blind than have that happen because I knew that blindness was a long-term consequence of type 2 diabetes and that had no effect on how I felt about food. Food still had to make me happy, to taste good, to comfort me … it was a tool I could use to manipulate how I felt, and it really wasn’t very good at that.
Now it was nutrition, it was the cure and it wasn’t a shot in the eye. I got serious about walking, without a goal of doing anything than walking a little further, a little faster than yesterday and I continued to eat like the 21 day makeover prescribed each day. I didn’t tell myself that I couldn’t ever eat another cheeseburger, it just wasn’t on the menu today. I didn’t tell myself that I had to run a marathon, I just had to walk my dog today and within 1 year my addiction to Metformin, Actos and Byetta for my blood sugar, Toprol and Losartan for my blood pressure, and Simvastan for my cholesterol would be gone.
In a year, food did more for my condition than pills had done in 25 years. Now I had first hand experience that all those pills just slowed down how quickly my condition deteriorated, but food made it better.