Diet plays key role

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE -

Have you heard the one about the fat guy in his early 50s who walked into his doc­tor’s and was told he had Type 2 di­a­betes? Nei­ther had I, un­til it hap­pened to me last year.

I’d only had the blood test as part of a rou­tine pa­tient screen­ing af­ter mov­ing to a dif­fer­ent area and reg­is­ter­ing with a new fam­ily doc­tor. I had no symp­toms, I was rea­son­ably ac­tive (run­ning a small farm and brew­ery) and hon­estly be­lieved I led a fairly healthy life­style (no smok­ing or ma­jor drink­ing).

But the killer is­sue was that I 40 kilo­grams (88 pounds) over­weight. Plus, that spare tire (or two) cou­pled with my age meant I was squarely in the high-risk group for Type 2 di­a­betes. I’d seen the ads warn­ing about its dan­gers — heart and kid­ney fail­ure, blind­ness, limb am­pu­ta­tion — but I thought I wouldn’t get it as no one in my fam­ily ever had. I didn’t have any of the tell­tale symp­toms, ei­ther: I wasn’t tired all the time, didn’t need to pee in the night, didn’t have blurred vi­sion or any itch­ing.

So when the GP told me the blood test had come back fully diabetic, I al­most didn’t be­lieve him.

It wasn’t a “blip” ei­ther. The test was the more ac­cu­rate HbA1c test, which mea­sures what a per­son’s av­er­age blood sugar lev­els have been for sev­eral weeks. He felt the only thing for it was to pre­scribe met­formin, a first-line med­i­ca­tion for the treat­ment of Type 2 di­a­betes, and send me on my way, telling me: “If we look af­ter you prop­erly, there is no rea­son why your life ex­pectancy shouldn’t be as long as it would have been with­out this di­ag­no­sis.”

Oh my God, I thought: I am go­ing to die. So what do you do when sud­denly faced with your own mor­tal­ity?

As a for­mer magazine ed­i­tor, I had read the hor­ror sto­ries about di­a­betes — the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties of sud­den blind­ness, nerve pain, heart prob­lems, or­gan fail­ure, be­ing sent home from hos­pi­tal with your toes in a jar ... So why had I let my weight bal­loon? Amaz­ingly, look­ing back, I wasn’t aware that I was an overeater. I ex­er­cised by lift­ing heavy sacks of an­i­mal feed and malt. But the cru­cial thing lack­ing was car­dio­vas­cu­lar ex­er­cise.

I knew then I had to use ev­ery weapon in the weight-loss ar­moury.

In among all the on­line fo­rums I vis­ited for ad­vice, I came across a study, by the Mag­netic Res­o­nance Cen­tre at New­cas­tle Univer­sity, which sug­gested a Type 2 di­a­betes di­ag­no­sis could be re­versed sim­ply by fol­low­ing a pun­ish­ing diet.

By erad­i­cat­ing sub­stan­tial amounts of fat from your liver and pan­creas (and else­where), it sug­gested, your body will be bet­ter able to start pro­duc­ing in­sulin nor­mally again, es­pe­cially in those peo­ple who have been only re­cently di­ag­nosed.

I de­cided there and then to give it a go. I went out, bought a bike and com­mit­ted to do­ing at least a half-hour of fast cy­cling twice daily. Aer­o­bic ex­er­cise is very im­por­tant in di­a­betes con­trol. I also bought a blood sugar mon­i­tor to mea­sure how I was do­ing. For the next four months, I went on an 800-calo­ries-a-day diet. There would be no al­co­hol, no cho­co­late, no carbs, no meat, no dairy, no fish ... no fun. I was al­lowed just three meal re­place­ment shakes (each 200 calo­ries a hit) and 250 grams of green leafy veg (an­other 200 calo­ries) a day, washed down with three litres of wa­ter.

I soon got fed up of the meal re­place­ment shakes and cut them down to one a day for break­fast and in­stead made up the 800 calo­ries with three por­tions of green leafy veg in soups, stir fries and sal­ads. It was hideous and flat­u­lence­caus­ing.

But af­ter the first few days, the diet be­came bear­able. I ac­tu­ally felt al­most as full as I felt vir­tu­ous. Weight dropped off me in buck­ets, which spurred me on even more.

And it worked. Three months af­ter my di­ag­no­sis, I went back for a fol­lowup blood test. Not only had I lost 30 kg (66 pounds), but my blood sugar was down to nor­mal — 5.4 as op­posed to 7.2 when I was di­ag­nosed.

The GP and the nurses were as de­lighted as I was.

I’ve since lost an­other 10 kg (22 pounds) by stick­ing to the diet for a fourth month, and have kept my blood sugar well within the nor­mal range.

One year on, with my blood sugar and weight sta­ble and at healthy lev­els, I posted a be­fore­and-af­ter on Face­book, and was over­whelmed by the sup­port and en­cour­age­ment from my friends.

I know this dras­tic diet and ex­er­cise reg­i­men won’t work for ev­ery­one, but I’m very for­tu­nate that it seems to have worked for me


Stay­ing ac­tive with aer­o­bic ex­er­cise, whether by hitting the trails out­doors or us­ing your lo­cal gym, can help com­bat Type 2 di­a­betes.

Adding leafy green veg­eta­bles to your daily eat­ing can help keep blood sugar lev­els down and help man­age Type 2 di­a­betes.


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