Better Living Through Science

I take back every bad thing I ever said about antidepressants. OK, maybe not everything. Abilify did make my hair fall out. Viibryd gave me sleestak dreams. Wellbutrin plugged me up until I began looking like a snake who’d swallowed a rat. But this new one, Brintellix, has had no side effects. Zero. And, I feel better. I’m fairly astonished it’s working as well as it is.

Lunch-time walk around the Texas Capitol
Lunch-time walk around the Texas Capitol

I began the Brintellix in November, slowly increasing to the current dose of 20 mg per day. Several weeks ago, Dr. McEnroe added Deplin to the mix. I noticed a difference, a brightening, within days of adding the Deplin. I feel so much better that I’ve actually begun walking at lunch every day. I haven’t done that since my lovely boutique law firm merged with BigLaw five years ago. For the past couple of years I’ve had it in my head that I could catch up on my health and fitness when I retire. But emerging from the depression has made it clear how far I’ve fallen since the death trifecta, not only so far as my mental health goes, but my physical health as well. (And, of course, the two are inextricably intertwined.) Waiting to get serious until I retire is no longer an option.

I started with the easiest task first. I went to the dentist and got my teeth cleaned. Building on that momentum, I made an appointment with my doctor for a physical, something I haven’t done for three years. That’s right folks: I had not been to a doctor since early 2013. My blood pressure was fine, but she confirmed, as I already was well aware, I’ve packed on the pounds. The doctor ordered blood work, a mammogram, and a colonoscopy. I’ve already suffered the indignities of the mammogram, which was negative. I have a pre-colonoscopy appointment on Tuesday, following which I’ll schedule the test. It will be my first. I’m trying to put a positive spin on it, and so am looking at it like an insurance-paid colonic. Gwyneth Paltrow swears by them, so I expect I’ll be feeling super fresh afterward.

I am, however, burying the lead.

The blood work was not so good. My fasting blood glucose was high. Not diabetes high, but not normal, either. The doctor said: “Cut back on the carbs and get some exercise.” My mother is a Type 2 diabetic. I do not want to follow in her footsteps. My genetics, once again, are stacked against me. This is, therefore, a health emergency. “Cut back on the carbs and get some exercise” isn’t quite a complete enough recommendation. Naturally, I have spent the past seventeen days totally flipping out. Flipping out and researching the disease as if I’m writing my dissertation on it. I have totally immersed myself in learning everything there is to know, and doing everything I can possibly do to stop this thing before it gets started. Here’s what I’m doing, so far:

  • Daily walks, minimum 30 minutes
  • No sugar or starches (including potatoes, pasta!, flour, bread!, beans, corn, lentils, peas, and beets)
  • No alcohol (luckily, I already quit that)
  • No fruit, except berries, for now

Since I saw the doctor on February 4, I’ve lost 16.6 pounds. (I weigh in the buff at home, and was fully clothed at the doctor’s office, so we could subtract 2-4 pounds from that number to account for it.) My energy is steadily improving. I have been able to get out of bed in the morning without hours of self-negotiation. And, according to the glucose monitor I bought, my fasting blood glucose (as well my as my blood glucose throughout the day) has been normal for the past seven days. Normal! The doctor will re-do my blood work in early August. I’m looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, Sadie, my favorite cat, has had her blood work done twice more since last I posted her numbers. Each time, her numbers improve. Currently her BUN is high normal. Normal! Her creatinine, is still high at 3.1, but considering we started at 4.9, she’s come a long way. She’s also turned out to be the poster-cat for fluids. She gets excited, following me around meowing, when she sees me preparing to heat the fluid bag. She bounds up the stairs ahead of me when I go to hang the heated bag on her IV pole. She jumps up to our spot by the window, waiting for her Greenies and her 100 millilitres. Sadie seems to know when we’re nearing 100, as she starts to get a little antsy toward the end. Since we started fluids just before Christmas, she’s generally been pretty darn frisky.

But, like me, once a little piggy, Sadie has turned into a terribly particular eater. Currently, sardines in water are a hit. Since they’re good for me, too, I sometimes share a can with her. Alas, I cannot share her Greenies. Too carby.




  • In order to sort the good advice from the not-so-good advice, I would recommend you check the “Cochran Database”. This is a compendium of evidence-based medicine, with an evaluation of how well-studied the advice is. Sounds to me like you’ve over-done it a bit, but this is typical of first finding out you’re headed for diabetes. However, you can put off getting diabetes pretty much forever with a less restrictive plan. Legumes and fruit (not juice) are very important for fiber and antioxidants, which help prevent heart disease and stroke — the two most life-threatening diseases related to diabetes. Eating too much protein can lead to kidney disease, another disease related to diabetes. Cutting out the sugar, however, is a big YAY YOU! And keeping off those 16.6 lbs will continue to make a big difference. Who am I to be giving this advice? A physician. Do I follow my own advice? Well…that’s another story. πŸ™‚

    Love to Sadie, and I am so happy for you that you are feeling better.


    • Thank you, Josie. I’ll have a look at that database. Of course I’ve over-corrected! That’s my m.o. I’ll add fruits back (I haven’t given up berries) soon. I wanted to subtract, and then add back a bit at a time and see what it does. I’m pretty happy with the lack of cravings. I hope I can keep that going. Oh, and I’m never giving up extra-dark chocolate. I’m so relieved to learn I can put off full-blown diabetes. Thank you, Doctor! xo

      Liked by 2 people

  • Hola Ella! Wow! Every post now seems to be a milestone. You decide to start doing some more self-care, and then off you go! You lost nearly SEVENTEEN POUNDS!?!?! You go, girl! That’s awesome!!! And you’re only going to start to feel better and better.

    A book I’d recommend you read is Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Though I don’t need to lose weight (never have, really), it did completely change my thinking around what was a healthy diet, and what wasn’t. And it’s a pretty interesting read, at least if you enjoy that kind of thing, haha.

    Any, I’m very happy for you, Keep up the momentum.


    Kim G
    CDMX, MΓ©xico
    Where we started to put on weight (despite also dramatically increasing our exercise) when we were in the hotel, eating sugary yogurt for breakfast. Now in an apartment eating oats for breakfast, we’re back to our normal weight again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s probably more like 12 since I was fully clothed, including shoes, at the doctor’s office. I’m still thrilled! Funny you mention Fuhrman. I was poking around on his blog, Forks Over Knives. I didn’t know he’s the ANDI guy. Go, kale! I’m going to look for his book at the digital library. It’s great you’re maintaining your svelte figure south of the border. Excelente!

      Liked by 1 person

  • it’s always a pleasure to read your posts and even greater to hear you’re doing great – and (finally?) are looking after yourself. oh. and the chocolate – 90% is the best πŸ˜‰


  • looking good! I’ve always said that sometimes we must have a bit of ‘better living through chemistry’ to get us over something. Without synthetic hormones I would not have survived menopause.The Wellbutrin was the only thing that worked to quit smoking. I then stayed on that until I retired or I never would have made that milestone. I weaned myself off them.
    Glad to hear that things are looking up!


  • If you feel good than whatever you are doing is the right thing for you.

    I take cipralex and expect I will indefinitely. I still remember when the clouds parted and a tiny ray of hope shone through my depression.

    Here’s to health!


  • Happy you and Sadie are improving your health πŸ˜€
    Diet: I can only suggest you my personal experience with a professional nutritionist (not a dietitian!) who got me tested for food allergies/intolerance (Prick Test, CAP System and Rast Test). Then I eliminated all intollerant food and lost weight. Blood is perfect, no diabetes!
    Exercise: Pilates once a week πŸ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

  • I’m glad you feel much better. And, Sadie, she thinks what you two do together is special and doesn’t involve her fur-sisters. πŸ™‚


  • Just discovered your blog and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful! In terms of sugar and antidepressants, see if you can check out “Potatoes not Prozac” from Austin Public Library — either that or the follow-up book (which I believe is called the Complete Sugar Addicts Guide to Total Recovery. Also, for PTSD left over from the death trifecta, you might try reading “The Body Keeps the Score”. Who am I to be giving such advice? A science librarian ;). Better living through reading science books!


    • Oh Meg, thank you for your kind words! I am thrilled to receive book recommendations from a science librarian. I’ve stuck pretty well with my no-sugar/starch plan (although the walking is hard now with the heat), and have passed forty pounds. More importantly, I feel better emotionally. But still, I do believe you are correct about the lingering PTSD. I now have Potatoes not Prozac and The Body Keeps Score on hold. Thank you, Science Librarian!

      Liked by 1 person

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