Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘HbA1c

Imperfect Improvement

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Five years. It’s been almost five years since I saw the 2014 documentary movie, “Fed Up” and decided once and for all to commit to a long-term intentional change to address my uncontrolled craving for sugar. (See “My Addiction“) My solution was admittedly an imperfect one, but I have very slowly achieved a noticeable improvement throughout the ensuing years.

One of the imperfections of my plan to take command of that insidious nagging urge to eat something that will produce the intoxicating dopamine reward is that I allow myself to have a little sweet treat or treats every day. I liken it to trying to live a sober life while still continuing to have an alcoholic drink every day, (no disrespect intended to those who are working a program to manage alcohol or any other substances). From my understanding, total abstinence is the more effective practice.

Since there are natural sugars in plenty of foods, total avoidance of sugar is an extreme I chose not to pursue. After watching “Fed Up,” my plan was to avoid the added sugar in processed food, especially in cases where it is well hidden and unexpected. I was surprised to learn how much sugar might be included in buns and some types of bread, in sauces, dressings, and yogurts, to name a few.

I decided to start paying attention to labels and serving sizes and plotted to achieve the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Food and Drug dietary guidelines of 10% of daily calories consumed.

Based on an oft-referenced 2000 calorie per day average (your mileage may vary) that amounts to 200 calories or roughly 50 grams of sugar per day. I decided to aim for 10 grams of sugar per my three main meals. That gave me a full 20 grams of headroom to account for variations and a modest cookie or dessert bite for moments of rewarding bliss.

One serving size of a Girl Scout S’mores® cookie equals two cookies coming in at 16 grams of sugar. I eat just one.

These S’mores taste incredibly sweet to me. One welcome improvement over the five years of measured sugar intake is that I have developed a heightened sensitivity to sweetness. That’s probably one of the things that helps me to be able to stop at just one cookie per serving.

It’s an imperfect formula that I’ve settled on, but since I started this practice, I have controlled my hemoglobin A1c levels and avoided the all-too-typical annual weight gain that normal aging usually brings on.

The craving? It’s still a constant companion, but one that has become much easier to contain, …one measured serving at a time.



Not There

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It has been 15 months since I began paying attention to how much sugar I was consuming on a daily basis and trying to achieve a level closer to the World Health Organization’s recommendation of limiting sugar to only 5-10% of my daily calories. Prior to that time, I was consuming the daily total and more by the completion of my breakfasts. By the end of the days, I was likely hitting somewhere around quadruple the recommended amount.

dscn5149eFor more than a year I have been measuring the amount of cereal and yogurt I serve myself to keep the serving size small enough to provide no more than 10 grams of sugar per meal. Based on a 2000 calorie per day diet, I was aiming to stay below around 200 of those calories to come from sugar.

One gram of sugar contains 3.87 calories.

One trick with my plan is keeping the total calories at the daily target of 2000. The average American diet all too easily exceeds that amount. So, by wanting to reduce my sugar intake, I found myself also bringing my total calories down. That is not something I ever bothered measuring before this effort.

I simply knew that I should aim for a balance of obvious healthy choices. At the same time, an addict will respond to urges that exceed what they know to be healthy. I was addicted to sugar.

Not only were the lab results for my blood work revealing I was pre-diabetic, I was uncomfortably pudging out. The love-handles and belly bulge, the flabby arms, and my usual full face were ever present and slowly expanding.

My main goal was to appease the pressure from my doctor to get my numbers down for glycosylated hemoglobin, or HbA1c. After a year of working on it, I was looking forward to this year’s physical to learn the results of my efforts.

Much to my surprise, I’m not there yet.

Two years ago, my HbA1c reading came in at 5.8. My clinic seeks a level of <5.7, so I was just barely outside their “normal” range. Thus, the diagnosis of “pre-diabetic.”

My results this time, after a year of attention to my sugar intake, came in at 5.9.


Doc says there may be some genetics involved, as well as the fact that as we age our pancreas function deteriorates. I figure it’s because I had eaten so many of Cyndie’s sweet caramel rolls over the years, it will take me longer than a year to purge the glucose from my system.

So, my HbA1c may not have come down where the doctor wants to see it, but in the past year I have pleasantly reduced most of that flab that I never liked and I’ve dropped 8 pounds since my last visit to the clinic.

I’ll claim that small victory and keep measuring my sugar grams in search of a lower number for the level of my hemoglobin-bound-to-glucose next year. I want to keep my diet below the daily amount of recommended sugar to help my body as much as possible.

My poor pancreas isn’t gettin’ any younger.