It was two years ago on 07-MAR-13 that I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and I labeled it as a life changing moment but at that time I had no idea how much my life would truly change!
I don’t think anyone is truly “comfortable” with change but I am hard wire to be a quick adopter to change and adapt quicker than others. Some might view that as a weakness because I can be seen as unpredictable and willing to alter core beliefs to match the prevailing winds. But I view myself as someone who is quick to obtain the right data, analyze it and course correct to take advantage of the new landscape.
It took me a couple of days to come to grips with this major disease that I now had the unfortunate pleasure of living with but make no mistake about it, I fully accepted this disease and was determined to not let it beat me. I told my endocrinologist at our first meeting that my goal was to die of something unrelated to diabetes.
It should be noted that my Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis was not “borderline” but very serious. A person without Type 2 Diabetes will have morning (fasting) blood sugar measurements in the 70-100 mg/dL range and my measurements were around 350 mg/dL. I was in the fast lane to a very long and painful death – nerve damage, losing my eyesight, amputation of extremities, kidney damage and heart disease. For a person who doesn’t take seriously his Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, the end game is very bad.
My first plan of action was to reverse the deleterious lifestyle choices I had made a couple of years prior to my diagnosis which amounted to resuming my regular running/exercise routine and making better food choices. Those choices, along with the medicine my doctor prescribed (Janumet) did improve my situation as I wrote about here.
After 4 months on my new routine, my morning blood sugar measurements did come down to the “normal” range for a Type 2 Diabetic (below 120 mg/dL) as you can see from the graph below and I lost 10 pounds of the 25 pounds that I needed to lose (as compared to my lowest adult weight when I was in my 30’s and running 5 times a week).
But that wasn’t enough for me. I hated taking the Janumet because of the side effects that came along with it (unpredictable diarrhea). I told my doctor that I wanted to get off this medicine and find a way to get my blood sugar measurements in the normal range for someone without Type 2 Diabetes. He politely told me that I should get used to taking these 2 pills every day because this problem was genetic for me (my dad and most of his brothers also had Type 2 Diabetes). My doctor didn’t know me too well and he didn’t realize that I am not wired to accept the status quo without doing my due diligence first!
Thanks to a comment in that 4-month post diagnosis blog post, I was turned onto a study that showed how people could have normal blood sugar measurements without medication. That study, found here, was the 1st trigger that started me on a longer and deeper study into how our bodies operate and how the types of food we eat and the lifestyle we choose affect our overall health more than genetics.
After a month of research I decided to try this low calorie, low carbohydrate diet for a few weeks to see if it would work. What did I have to lose? My current lifestyle was being compromised due to the side effects of the Janumet so going off the meds for a few weeks and suffering through this very restrictive diet was a small risk considering the possible benefits the study promised.
As I wrote about here, I only needed to stay on that diet for a week before my blood sugar measurements were within the normal range of someone who didn’t have Type 2 Diabetes. And all this with no medication!
It should be noted that I lost another 10 pounds during the week I was on this diet and for all intents and purposes I was back to my ideal weight for my body type.
It was during that time I was on this diet that a co-worker mentioned the Paleo diet as a way I could eats foods that controlled my blood sugar levels but also allowed me to exercise and function normally (because living on 700 calories a day, as the diet prescribed, is no way to go through the rest of my life). This was the second trigger that started me on a journey that led me to a lifestyle that allowed me not to just survive but to thrive.
I read Robb Wolf’s “The Paleo Solution” and slowly over the course of several months adopted that lifestyle. I say “lifestyle” instead of “diet” because Paleo is a lifestyle change. It’s not only about the diet of eating only natural meats, fruits, vegetables, seafood, nuts, seeds and healthy fats, it’s about getting enough sleep (at least 7 hours), exercising the right way (lift heavy stuff and run fast) and simplifying your life by eliminating unnecessary stress.
My adoption of the full Paleo lifestyle starting when I eliminated grains, then a couple months later I eliminated legumes and processed food and I finished up by eliminating all dairy products and adding daily fish oil pills to my diet. During this journey I also altered my exercise routine to add high intensity workouts and tried as best I could to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
The results speak for themselves – A1C is normal for someone without Type 2 Diabetes, I’ve lost 25 pounds since my diagnosis, cholesterol and other markers are all normal and I now have the energy I had when I was in my 20’s (I’m comfortably in my 40’s now!).
I still can’t explain the drastic step function drop in blood sugar measurements that I saw in June 2014 (as outlined here) and as you can see from the graphs below (the green line shows a normal reading for someone without Type 2 Diabetes), this change was permanent and not transient.
I can only hypothesize that after months on the Paleo lifestyle my body “reset” in some fashion where my insulin sensitivity improved. It pains me that I can’t assign a cause to this but I’ll still take the benefit anyway!
If there is anyone who is coming to grips with their Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, I hope this post finds them and they can learn from me as I have learned from others how to improve my life without medication.
A Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis is not a death sentence but instead a wake up call for those who are willing to confront the brutal facts, analyze the data and adopt a lifestyle that complements the way our bodies were designed.