This is Megan Christie. I am not only your IDM Program Manager, Megan Christie, I’m also a patient! Alright, not exactly a patient, but I was the program’s very first guinea pig, and the patient profile for the month of September.
I recently turned 30 last month, stand at 5’2” and weigh-in at 115 lbs. When I first counsel new patients about how easy the program is, they always roll their eyes at me. “Easy for you to say,” “Only because you are young,” and “You do not have any health problems.” are typical responses. While fairly slim and healthy now, that wasn’t always the case. Like most patients, I have struggled with my weight and health over the years.
I would like to take this blog post to tell the readers and our patients a little bit more about myself and my history with the program.
When I was younger I could eat my weight in Mc Nuggets every day without gaining a pound. At 23-years-old I only weighed 97 pounds and ate more than a frat boy. One of my friends made me a scrapbook for my birthday that year. On one of the pages she placed photos of me eating my biggest dietary vice, Mc Nuggets. The caption said “I hate you for being able to eat so much junk food and not gaining any weight.” I didn’t have problems maintaining my weight or staying healthy, but my mother always warned me things would go downhill at 35. Or maybe even sooner.
I suddenly gained 53 pounds over a period of four or five months shortly after my 26th birthday. This amount of weight gain just devastated me. I knew I had not been eating great, but I could always eat the same foods and maintain my weight without difficulty. I immediately stopped eating all of the junk and started following a strict low fat diet where I counted calories meticulously. I would eat about 800 calories and limited myself to less than 15 grams of fat per day. I took the advice of one of my friends, who had been following weight watchers, and ate five or six times throughout the day. I also worked out for an hour five times a week. The first two weeks I lost about six pounds a week. The following four weeks I lost roughly a pound a week. I was down 10 lbs and was pleased, however, the weight loss stopped after that despite my efforts. In fact, I started to gain back some of the weight I had lost.
During this time I was eating all of these “low fat,” “no fat,” “fat free,” and “no sugar added” foods, and I was gaining weight. I felt defeated. I went to my physician and she tested my thyroid. I saw another specialist and he tested my thyroid. As ridiculous as this sounds I even tested my thyroid too. After 15 times over a three-month period, I concluded my thyroid function was normal.
My physician recommended I see a dietician, so I went to see a very prominent dietician in Toronto. It cost $1250 for six 30-minute appointments with this woman. She reviewed my food list. She said I had been making excellent choices. She told me I must have a very low metabolism and need to exercise more. Exercise more? Five hours of exercise a week was not enough? I went to the gym every morning and evening for the next two weeks. My weight had not changed. I went back to see the dietician. She rolled her eyes at me. I knew she thought I was lying to her. Her advice – try harder. That was the last time I went to see her despite having four more appointments I had already paid for.
I was beyond frustrated. I was also starving despite eating 6 small meals a day. I never felt full consuming all of these so-called “healthy” foods. I was constantly obsessing over foods. I did not know what to do next, but then I came across this article about one of my favourite celebrities, Beyoncé. She had just given birth and was able to lose all of her baby weight by following this “Master Cleanse” for 40 days. It is essentially just water, fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper and some pure maple syrup all mixed together. The Cleanse requires you to consume nothing but this concoction and water for at least a week. The next day I started my Master Cleanse and after about 8 hours I was a mess. I picked a slow day at work to start the cleanse because I thought I would have to do my best to conserve my energy since I wasn’t “fueling up” on food. All I could think about was how I could not eat all day long. After work I went home and ate my weight in pasta. That was the first and last day of my Master Cleanse. At the time I remember thinking this was just more evidence to conclude the amazing Beyoncé is not entirely human!
Not long after my failed Master Cleanse attempt I was diagnosed with a treatable heart condition and an early stage of a rare cancer some specialist believed to be related to my aspartame intake – I am a reformed diet soda-a-holic. Shortly afterwards, my physician informed me that my HbA1c had climbed up to 6.2%. She gave me the whole speech about diabetes and how it is a chronic progressive illness that would just lead to more and more medical complications down the road. I did not need this speech. I have been working in clinical research in nephrology since I was 18-years-old. Most of my research has focused on the progression of kidney disease, and almost every one of my study subjects had kidney disease secondary to type 2 diabetes. I literally watched diabetes destroy people’s health every day. What really got me was that most of my patients developed diabetes in their 40’s and 50’s, and they had developed numerous diabetic related illnesses within 10 years of their initial diagnosis. I was developing diabetes in my 20’s! What did this mean for me 10 years down the road? To say I was petrified is an understatement. I wouldn’t have wished diabetes on my worst enemy.
However, Dr. Fung believed there was a way he could help people reverse their diabetes. This concept was contrary to everything I had ever learned about diabetes, but Dr. Fung has been a colleague of mine for over a decade. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him both as a physician and a person. Although certain there was no way he could reverse diabetes, I decided to listen one of his presentations. Everything made sense. Something clicked and I understood why I had gained the weight, why I couldn’t lose the weight, and why I had developed borderline diabetes.
I still had a hard time wrapping my mind around his theories, since they were the total opposite I had ever learned in university or through my work experience. As a clinical researcher I am trained to question everything, but why hadn’t I questioned this? The way diabetes is managed never made sense. The way we educate people on weight loss never made sense. I had just accepted everything I had been told about diabetes and obesity without asking why do we treat these conditions
I won’t lie to you. I really thought I would fail at intermittent fasting just like I did at the Master Cleanse, which is essentially a fasting cleanse. This time I was determined to achieve a healthier lifestyle. I was scared. I had tried to do the Master Cleanse before on my slowest day of the week, which just gave me a lot of time to think about food. This time I decided to fast on my busiest days of the week. I decided to fast on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 24 hours.
The first day was very difficult. I see so many patients now who can fast for weeks on end without struggling very much at all, but I did struggle with it a bit for the first couple of weeks. On my very first attempt to do a 24 hour fast I could only last for 22 hours. I decided going into this to be very positive. I had to do this or face a life of chronic illness. I told myself that 22 hours was still a great success. That was 22 hours longer than I had ever fasted before. I wasn’t even hungry by the end of the 22 hours. I just wanted to eat. I didn’t need to eat. This is when I truly knew that fasting was all mind over matter.
I was able to reach the 24 hour mark successfully on my second fasting day. Since I had determined fasting was purely a state of mind, I decided the best way to achieve the full 24 hours of fasting was to keep busy. I decided to go to the gym before I got home to occupy my time. Before I walked into the gym that evening I thought I was going to fall off of the spin bike, but figured there were enough people there to save me if that happened. My spin class was actually a lot easier for me to do while fasting than it was on a regular day!
Each fasting day got better. At first I did experience daily headaches, but some good homemade bone broth with sea salt did the trick. I drank three cups a day. After a month the headaches were a thing of the past. My energy levels started to increase after a month too. After two months of fasting I was able to increase the duration of my fast to 36 hours without difficulty. I will also fast for seven days every now and then when I know I haven’t been eating as well as I should on my eating days. Now I actually feel better on fasting days than I do on eating days.
I weighed 100 pounds prior to my weight gain. I knew this weight was probably too low for me. My goal was to get to 120 pounds. I was able to lose 33 pounds and reach my target weight within 3 months. I have been able to keep this weight off for over a year and a half without difficulty. In fact, I lost another 15 pounds of unhealthy fat without trying to lose any more weight, and then I put on 10 pounds of lean muscle tissue. My HbA1c was checked last week and it is now 4.8%! I have never felt so good or have been in better shape. Also, I used to have to take medication for ADHD while attempting certain tasks too, but now I don’t need to take anything. I have never been able to focus so well in my life!
It has been such a honour to watch even greater transformations as my patients progress. For the first time in my career I get to watch people get better. Almost every time a patient comes to see us they are a little bit better than the time before. It is the most incredible feeling to witness firsthand. I am so proud and grateful to work with such an amazing group of patients, who work so hard and are so dedicated towards achieving a healthier lifestyle.