*This article is an 8 minute read
I'll get straight to the point. I had a cancer scare in 2017. An abnormal pelvic exam, led to two biopsies, and an MRI which revealed fat on my liver, high triglycerides, high cholesterol and prediabetes. Thankfully, I did not have reproductive cancer.
At the time, my doctor didn't give any nutritional advice except to lose weight. I was technically obese, but I wasn't bothered by my weight. I still lived an active lifestyle, and quite frankly as a full-time mom I just put diet and exercise on my future to do list.
Fast forward to February 2022, and I was ready to go on that diet, work-out, and finally start living again, but it was too late...
February 1st, 2022 I had a complete diagnostic physical. My A1C which tests your blood over a three month period for sugar had twice the amount of acceptable sugar. A normal A1C is 5.7 or lower, mine was 12.7! I was a walking time bomb.
I had felt a little off. Frequent trips to the bathroom, itchy skin, dry mouth, and pins and needles in my hands and feet. At times the discomfort was so bad I would wake up in the middle of the night so you can add insomnia, and temporary blurred vision to my list of symptoms totaling six! One night I was afraid to drive home because I could no longer read neon store signs.
I thought I was prediabetic until I received a call from my pharmacist. He told me that my diabetes and cholesterol medicine was ready for pick-up-Say What?
Type 2 Diabetes
My doctor failed to inform me that I had diabetes. I never received a call, or a request to see him in person. Apparently he only emailed me on the hospital app which was down for five days. I tried calling my doctor repeatedly, but he was unreachable. The receptionist on the other end of the phone was unable to tell me any information. After several calls and desperate pleas, he read the doctor's email aloud to me.
"Remember you were prediabetic? Well congratulations you've graduated! You're diabetic now!"
I could sense the awkwardness in the receptionists tone reading this egotistical doctor's email. I wanted to cry, scream, laugh at the absurdity of my new normal.
I was left with no tools except a prescription for Metformin, a diabetes drug. Instead I turned to the web for health advice and it saved my life.
If you follow my blog you'll see a plethora of articles demonizing the web, but like anything else there are silver linings. After searching diabetes diet and recipes I kept finding articles on reversing diabetes.
I wasn't sure if it was legitimate, but I had heard a friend mention diabetes reversal back when I was prediabetic. Could I still reverse my diabetes?
The more I read about diabetes reversal, the more I realized that the high carb diet I had grown up on was killing me. I grew up on bran flakes, sandwiches, pizza and pasta. I loved carbs, but carbs didn't love me. Carbs turn into sugar, particularly simple carbs like pasta.
Just to be clear I was not a soda drinker, candy lover, fast food patron, or alcoholic, I didn't even put sugar in my coffee.
There is added sugar in processed foods, and carbs convert into sugar twenty minutes after consumption. Most people are unaware of how much added sugar is in packaged foods.
A Ketogenic Diet is little to no carb, no sugar, no processed foods, no hydrogenated oils. It's a real food diet, a whole foods diet. The ketogenic diet was used to treat diabetes before there were diabetes drugs. As I waited to see my doctor for a follow up, and a call from a diabetes nurse, I tried it out. I had nothing to lose but weight and an apparent Costco stockpile of sugar in my bloodstream.
I bought a glucose monitor to measure my blood sugar. Initially I tested before and after meals. I learned that frequent snacking caused my insulin to spike, the hormone that brings glucose to my cells. So frequent eating caused high blood sugar. Intermittent fasting was recommended, basically eating in an eight hour window, no snacks. I tried it the first few months of my journey. I ate between 11 AM and 7 PM.
A typical breakfast was a vegetable omelette, coffee with cream. Lunch would be a salad with protein, dinner meat or fish with vegetables. I would eat low glycemic fruits like berries with full fat plain yogurt or cottage cheese for dessert. I learned that full fat is better that low fat dairy. Low fat dairy was loaded with sugar and carbs. I had to avoid low fat everything!
I made most of my meals at home the first few months. Initially my meals looked different from my families, but most days I just swapped the starches ex. potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta, and instead I had just non-root vegetables and protein. Root vegetables like corn, beets and peas have more carbohydrates and sugar than non-root vegetables like leafy greens.
Did I have cravings? Initially you bet! I remember seeing a chocolate chip cookie on the floor at the supermarket covered in lint and debris. It looked appetizing! I wanted to eat it.
What I really missed was the texture of a sponge cake, the crunchiness of toasted French bread, but I quickly realized that I was sick, and those foods were slowly killing me.
I'm a former marathon runner. I ran the Rock n Roll Marathon three years in a row, but that was years ago. I was basically just an active full-time parent walking around the zoo and amusement parks all day. So I started a work-out routine at ground zero. That mean't a ten minute work-out. Yes, ten minutes! Anyone can find ten minutes to work-out, and everyone has ten minutes of stamina. So that very first day I worked out at the gym in my complex for a whopping 15 minutes on the stationary bike. I kept adding another five minutes each day, slowly building up to a full hour. I added the elliptical, treadmill, and weights. I was certain my next blood test would reveal that I no longer had diabetes, or so I thought...
I Fired My Doctor The One That Ghosted Me
I had high hopes for my new doctor, but I was soon disappointed. He hated the Ketogenic diet, and he immediately wanted to put me on insulin. I agreed to take my previous doctor's Metformin prescription, but I didn't take the recommended four pills a day, instead I only took one pill, and I continued the Ketogenic diet. Every three months I had to repeat my A1C test, and every three months revealed a lower A1C number, but I was still diabetic despite my strict diet, continuous weight loss, and exercise regime.
It Took 1 Year To Reverse My Type 2 Diabetes!
Diabetes is a nightmare that you cannot wake up from, but thankfully a year after my journey began with my new doctor that disliked Keto, he opened the door to the exam room and instead of looking like an Angry Bird, he was joyful.
"Great news! Your numbers are amazing! You've lost thirty pounds, and your A1C is a 5.4, your triglicerides are normal, even your cholesterol went down."
He said medication alone wouldn't have yielded such amazing results, and that I did most of the work myself. We now have a great rapport. I realized that doctors have to follow the standard of care which usually involves prescribing pharmaceutical drugs. Since the average patient typically fails at dieting, they generally do not recommend changing a patient's nutritional habits. Most doctor's barely study nutrition in medical school so they wouldn't even know which diet to recommend. The hospitals diabetes nurses offered some support over the phone, but unfortunately their diet advice was not helpful at all. They recommended eating carbohydrates, and just eating less food.
My Gripe With Traditional Diets
"Eat less exercise more!" "Calories in calories out!" These falsehoods keep us fat and sick. In the past I tried many diets, at times loosing weight only to gain it back plus some. In college I was anorexic and bulimic. I received compliments the entire time. I was a size 4 and 124 pounds, but in my mind I could always lose another 10 pounds and at 5' 8 that's too skinny. I wasn't healthy. I was sick.
Keto not only reversed my Type 2 diabetes, it stopped me from yo-yo dieting, and taught me to eat healthy, real food not highly processed foods with fake promises on their boxes. I never felt deprived. Eating protein is very satisfying. It basically killed my hunger cravings! Eventually, I was able to add some treats like Rebel Ice Cream which is low carb and low sugar for an occasional treat.
I found a few places with sugar free desserts like The Cheesecake Factory and Sprinkles Cupcakes. These sugar free desserts are not part of my daily diet, but they make eating desserts possible for me.
A friend made a Keto pumpkin cheesecake for me, and it was the greatest gift I ever received.
Food is supposed to nourish the body, not make us sick. Healthy food can taste good, just use real ingredients. Shop the outer periphery of the supermarket: produce, meat and seafood. Avoid the center which contains highly processed, addictive food with little to no nutritional value. Most processed foods are made from three main ingredients- corn, wheat, and soy. If they're conventional (non-organic) they contain GMO's and pesticides like glyphosate (Round Up). It might be convenient, but you'll pay a price for that convenience if it's your main food source. The easiest way to avoid Frankenfood is to make it yourself.
Don't Believe The Hype!
The word "Natural" is used loosely on a lot of processed foods. You might think because it's vegan it's healthy. Well if it has a bar code and a laundry list of ingredients that you can't pronounce it's bad news. Apps like Bobby Approved are a great tool to help you find food that doesn't contain harmful ingredients.
SAD-The Standard American Diet
1 in 3 Americans is either diabetic or prediabetic according to the CDC.
Diabetes used to only affect elderly people, now we're seeing Type 2 Diabetes in children. These diseases are metabolic diseases, and they are rampant in our population, just a few years ago they were rare.
Youtube medical podcasts were my salvation. I watched Dr. Mark Hyman's Doctor's Farmacy, Dr. Ken Berry (Family Practitioner), Dr. Jason Fung (Nephrologist), Dr. Robert Lustig, and Trainer Thomas DeLauer.
I learned that Diabetes is no joke. If I didn't reverse my diabetes it would cut my life by about twenty years. Diabetics are at a higher risk for all cause mortality. The sugar in my blood worked like a poison damaging my organs. I could have had kidney failure, blindness, leg amputation, stroke and heart disease even dementia; which is now being referred to as Type 3 Diabetes because of it's link to Type 2.
Diabetes is the jackpot of all diseases. So if you or someone you know is either diabetic or prediabetic tell them to take it very seriously and get their numbers under control.
I didn't want to be a burden to my family so I fought this disease with everything I had. I had to advocate for myself when the medical system failed me.
Ozempic, Insulin and Metformin
Diabetes drugs will reduce your A1C, but they are not a cure. Your diabetes will progress, and inevitably you will need more meds and suffer more symptoms and illnesses. It's best to change your diet eliminating carbs and sugar. Remember my original symptoms included: itchy skin, frequent urination, dry mouth, pins and needles in my hands and feet (known as diabetic neuropathy), and insomnia. Two weeks into eating whole foods and every symptom disappeared. Forget the calories! Please folks, calories don't matter. It was a lie told to us to buy psydo food.
I reversed my diabetes, but if I go back to carbs and sugar it will come back. It's kind of like being an alcoholic. It's never going to fully go away, but I will not suffer from it's wrath. Nowadays my biggest problem is buying new pants and skirts every eight weeks when I drop another dress size. For the record I went from a size 16 dress and an 11 size shoe, to a size 6 dress size and a size 10 shoe. Yes even my feet shrunk!
Several people thought diabetes ran in my family, and it does not. There's something to be said for Epigenetics, Your diet and lifestyle have the ability to switch some of these genes on or off. That's a powerful piece of information. You have the power 2-3 times a day when you eat to do something magnificent for your body, an investment in you the only body you'll ever have. If diabetes runs in your family, that's all the more reason to eat whole foods, and if it doesn't well eat healthy so you don't get it like I did!