Posted by: scintillatingspeck | February 25, 2009

Update on prediabetes and exercise study. And some thoughts about death.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was attempting to be part of a research study on prediabetes, exercise, and metformin at UMass, but that I was disqualified because my blood glucose levels were too high.  After writing that last post, I heard again from Steve, who wanted to know how things had gone after following up with my doctor, and I filled him in.  He suggested, “Why don’t you come in and repeat the glucose tolerance test, this time fasting overnight and coming in the morning?  Sometimes stress hormones can have an effect on blood glucose levels taken in the afternoon.”  So on Tuesday morning, with trepidation, I did. 

The results were much better than the first time.  Not normal, but prediabetic.  My first blood draw after fasting overnight was 112; one hour after drinking the disgusting glucose drink, 165; and two hours after, 139.  It turned out that I qualified for the study after all.  So I will soon embark on a 12-week exercise odyssey, with three workouts a week at UMass (two workouts lasting 90 minutes, and one lasting 60 minutes).  First they will measure my metabolism, and study my body composition, and measure something else that I can’t remember.  Then I will be meeting with a personal trainer who will tell me what to do.

I am scared about this.  On the one hand, I’m sort of excited to have a very structured, supported approach to exercise, where I have an obligation to show up, because I think this will help me get the exercise I need.  On the other hand, I am worried about a whole bunch of other things:

  • Will I look like a fat slob?
  • Will I have a panic attack, which feels awful, and appear insane?
  • Will I be surrounded by lithe 20-year-old undergraduates who will sneer at me?
  • Will I feel compelled to shave my legs so as not to feel self-conscious, precipitating yet another bout of feminist indignation mixed with shame?
  • Will the time commitment make me feel even more frantic regarding balancing work and family?
  • Will I freak out if my body changes even more and people make comments?

I’m not sure how to manage this emotionally just yet.  I seem to be forging ahead despite all of my misgivings, desperately hoping that I will be able to avert a health disaster.

The truth is, we are all living on borrowed time.  I was so gratified by all the comments on my last post, and I was especially struck by Nancy’s offering that all we ever have is the present moment.  This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot.  I took out a book from the library recently, called “Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death” by Irvin Yalom.  Yalom’s main insight is that we all experience death anxiety and that we can work with it to enrich our experience of life.  This doesn’t change the fact that we experience grief and pain and fear, but it means we can value the present moment anyway.  Mostly I’m centering on a desire to experience my emotions and thoughts and perceptions as fully as possible, no matter how painful, so that I can finally reach a full appreciation of the present moment.  Carla has recommended meditation as well as reading books by Pema Chodron, so I am also working on reading Chodron’s “Start Where You Are,” which I picked up on the same library visit.  I think I have meditated for a total of two minutes in the past week, because it is so excruciating to me, but maybe I will eventually be able to convince myself to do it some more.  I understand, at an intellectual level, that the lived experience of meditation can lead to certain transformations, but somehow my whole being passionately resists it.  I do love the phrase “start where you are,” however, so I am trying to focus on that phrase and the practice of unconditional friendliness toward the self, even if I can’t sit down and meditate.

I have been reading a fair amount about type 2 diabetes lately, and so far the most useful information has been about coping and not blaming one’s self.  I have very little patience with the attitude of “you have diabetes/prediabetes because you are weak and lazy and bad.”  And yet, it is a narrative with enormous power.  One of the most valuable things I read on this topic is here.

However, lest anyone think that I am fixating on diabetes, death, and excruciating meditation, be aware that I also got from the library “The No-Cry Potty Training Solution” and a children’s book called “Owls.”



  1. wear stretchy long pants – cuts down on sneer factor real or perceived.

    My opinion on being fat and in a gym: anyone who would prefer fat people *not* to be in a gym has their priorities so out of whack why care what they think.

    Congrats on meeting the study criteria this time – I hope it’s a really positive experience for you. It’s taken me many years but I think I’m finally at a point where I enjoy being in the moment with exercise rather than seeing it as a chore.

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