Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Turning Point

 This is my story about negative body image, disordered eating, dieting, and ultimately, healing. 

In no way am I judging, shaming, or giving advice to anyone who is dealing with similar issues. If that is you, I wish you well on your journey. 


For the past fourteen months, I have eaten countless steaks the size of my face, and entire mountains of green vegetables.  A cup of fresh berries (or cherries, my summer indulgence) serves as a luscious dessert.

The turning point came on a Friday afternoon in January, 2020, as I sat in my sleep doctor's office, crying. 

Now, there's no shame in crying in a doctor's office. That can often be a rational and reasonable response to many such conversations, and I don't mean to suggest otherwise.

But for me, it was a sure sign that my emotional stress from a lifetime of weight loss issues, disordered eating, and sleep dysfunction was finally and furiously boiling over. 

"My general practitioners are not listening to me," I told him. "They don't understand about Delayed Sleep Phase, how it affects every aspect of my life, and when I try to explain, they brush me off." 

Tears still streaming, I explained that back in 2018, my blood glucose levels had suddenly popped off the charts. After some rudimentary Googling, I had evidence that this was due to either 

a) the chronic effects of a lifetime of mistimed sleep or 

b) the fallout from an intense dosage of steroids I'd taken just a few months earlier to combat Bell's Palsy

Or, most likely, both. 

But rather than help me adjust my sleep schedule or talk about steroids, my doctors had simply and unceremoniously ignored my concerns. I needed to understand that I had Type 2 Diabetes because I was overweight and under-exercised, they condescendingly corrected me, and this talk about sleep and steroids was nothing more than wishful thinking and my pitiful attempts to deny reality. 

"Well, they didn't tell you that you can't adjust your sleep schedule, right? So sleep whenever you want and don't worry about it. I don't understand why this is a problem for you," my sleep doctor said, a statement of such insensitivity and misguided logic that the tears only fell faster, blazing hot rivers across my cheeks and dripping into my lap.

Seeing that he was really botching this conversation and finally acknowledging that a patient probably did have a right to a doctor who would actually listen and address their concerns, he wisely decided to pivot.

"Let me take off my sleep doctor hat for a fminute," he suggested, literally taking an imaginary cap off his head and setting it on his credenza, which made me smile through my tears. "I know someone who may be able to help you."

And this was how I came to meet Dr. Ted Naiman.

* * * * *


Sometimes I can leverage my dinner in with the family menu; on this night, the rest of the clan ate fajitas while I stuck to my own (massive) serving of beef (plate on the bottom right) and tapped into the shared serving dish of grilled peppers, onions, and mushrooms. 

Two weeks later, I was sitting in Dr. Naiman's exam room, waiting for him to join me. I looked over his credentials, framed and fabulous on the walls, and wondered what possible combination of nature and nurture might be bubbling in his brain, and whether he could truly deliver more than just the usual risk-management flow-chart diagnoses that the average doctor has served up to me lately.

At the sound of a light knock, I looked up as he playfully popped his head around the half-open door, grinned easily, and said, "Hi, I'm Ted." And in that moment, my life changed.

* * * * *


Salmon is a huge mainstay of my eating plan, and here I tried it with my daily dose of green veggies tucked into a simple omelet. But eggs are not really my jam, so this was more of a one-time experiment. 

With a three-sentence intro from me:

I was recently diagnosed with Diabetes 2,

I am pretty sure it was triggered by either Prednisone or my sleep issues,

My sleep doctor thinks you might be able to help me;

he looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, "We got this."

* * * * *

Sure enough, over the next hour, he assured me that Prednisone taken orally always, ALWAYS increases blood glucose levels, and that my theory that Prednisone had caused my diabetes was almost certainly accurate. 

And with a well-practiced one-two punch, he laid out a simple plan for diet and exercise that he assured me would cause me to drop weight like gangbusters, build a ton of muscle, and thereby coax my body into processing my blood glucose with renewed ease. 

He showed me some articles from medical journals written in the 1950s that promoted the same eating plan he was recommending to me.

He described how economic forces within modern food processing corporations and among government lobbyists have overrun this scientifically proven approach and created the Frankenstein's monster that has become today's diet economy. 

And using stories from his personal journey down this same path, including shirtless before-and-after pics of his own now-ripped physique, he assured me that with just a little bit of grit, I could achieve the same jaw-dropping results. 

Dr. Ted Naiman, I quickly learned, is pure rock and roll. 

* * * * *


When I travel, I take along my trusty air fryer and sizzle up my usual dinner on the road. 

Works like a charm. (This is only half of my steak; the other part was still cooking.)

While I don't mean to drag the entire medical profession, because I have had my fair share of good doctors over the years, Dr. Naiman is like none other.

He talks directly, using straightforward, conversational, colorfully animated sentences and a bare minimum of tedious jargon. He's funny and irreverent.

He handles himself with an informal, causal style but burns with deep passion for the issues he's discussing. He loves his work and it shows.

He bluntly speaks his mind, and feels free to disagree with any so-called experts who don't back up their conclusions with hard scientific evidence. He is all about the science. 

Dr. Naiman is exactly the kind of doctor I would want to be, if I was a doctor, and I told him so.

* * * * *

He scrolled me through the highlights of his book, The PE Diet, and gave me a free copy. 

"Read it," he said. "You'll understand all the chemistry behind this advice, but here's what I want you to do:

Go home. 

Start intermittent fasting: eight hours of eating, sixteen hours of fasting.

Eat a pound and a half of protein every day, and a ton of green vegetables. Every night for dinner, I want you to eat a steak as big as your face. 

And if you're really serious about this, go to the gym and hire a personal trainer. Build as much muscle mass as you can.

Come back and see me in a month.

* * * * *


Sometimes I bend my rules ever so slightly and that's okay. Ground beef is the main ingredient in meatloaf as well as onions and egg, all of which are great for me. The ketchup and the handful of bread crumbs? Not so much, but eaten occasionally and in such small doses, they're fine. 

So that's what I did. 

I followed his rules.

I read his book.

I joined a gym, hired a trainer, and started a serious exercise plan.

And a month later, I showed up in Dr. Naiman's office to discover that, as he promised, my numbers had tumbled in a delightfully steep decline on both my weight and blood glucose charts. 

"You are my hero," Dr. Naiman told me. "Come back in five more months." 

* * * * *

July's numbers looked even better, and while I was well chuffed, Dr. Naiman was positively stoked. 

"Your blood glucose level is down to 5.7; that's one tenth of a percentage point above normal. You have pretty much kicked diabetes' butt in six months," he beamed. "I'm so proud of you. Do you want to keep going?" 

Um, yes. Yes, I do.

"Okay, come back in a year."

* * * * *

The months tick by. 

I happily follow Dr. Naiman's eating guidelines and yes, I eat steaks the size of my face for dinner almost every night. 

I allow myself enough treats and indulgences that I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. 

I stick to my intermittent fasting hours.

Though Covid ruined my time at the gym, and came between me and my adorable personal trainer, I transitioned to a home workout routine that is getting the job done. 

And even though I don't measure my progress by any quantifiable means, I know that I'm getting healthier with each passing day. I feel great. I love what I eat, and I'm satisfied after every meal. I know that I can eat like this for the rest of my life.

* * * * *


But most of the time, I am perfectly happy to eat my tried and true face-sized steak and green veggies.

When July rolls around, I'll happily go back to Dr. Naiman and find out how my numbers are doing. 

Who knows, I may even cry. But this time, since I've reached a turning point in my journey toward a healthy relationship with food and a positive self-image, they will be tears of joy. 

* * * * *

What in the world kind of healthy eating plan has me consuming steaks the size of my face on a daily basis? 

I know. I too was skeptical at first, but as promised, Dr. Naiman's book lays out the science behind this apparently antithetical concept, and I'm now a believer. I'll explain more in my next post on this topic. 

* * * * *

Read about my body image journey:

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