Living with Type 2 Diabetes – My Journey
Who Am I?
- I am a person living with Type 2 Diabetes
- I am not any sort of medical professional
- I am simply one person navigating life with this disease who loves to read, research, experiment and share
- I view life with Type 2 Diabetes as a challenge to be conquered one day and one choice at a time
My Personal Journey of Living with Type 2 Diabetes
My introduction to the world of being a Type 2 Diabetic with my diagnosis shortly before the holiday season in 2015. I now know that I was likely undiagnosed for a long time. Looking back, there were multiple signs of insulin resistance years prior, but at the time I was unaware.
At the time of diagnosis, I had dangerously high blood glucose levels. I had few recognizable symptoms, but my blood test showed very high blood sugar levels. My immediate response was to ask the doctor what lifestyle changes I could make to manage the situation as much as possible with as little medication as possible.
The discussion of treatment options was short, as I was determined to see how much of an improvement could be made without medication. I was not interested in accepting the standard view that long-term complications are inevitable. I am sure the doctor was initially skeptical and somewhat hesitant to agree with my idea but agreed to give me two weeks to show him if I could make any progress toward controlling things on my own. We agreed that I would report my daily test results back to their office every other day.
During those two weeks, I made great progress toward understanding what my options were for a manageable treatment plan. My average blood sugar level was steadily decreasing but was not yet at a safe level. I did not make enough progress to totally avoid all diabetes medications at that time, but I was able to begin understanding how my body was or was not processing glucose.
My instructions from the doctor at the time were to lower my carbs to less than 100 grams per day. He instructed me to avoid all sugars, natural or added, especially in any liquid form. And to steer clear of all types of processed carbs. He also instructed me to check my blood glucose once a day, alternating between morning and night.
To most people, that would have seemed a dramatic difference, but to me, it wasn’t. I needed to knock off fruit juices and soda, but the rest of my diet wasn’t that far off. Other than an occasional meal out or special occasion, I wasn’t in the habit of consuming a lot of processed carbs. White bread was never part of my diet. I was, however, a consumer of lots of homemade whole-grain bread, pasta, beans, and lots more that for a healthy person would be considered healthy foods. So it left me with the question, “how much can I change?”
Initially, I eliminated whole grains in addition to processed grains. Fruit juices were eliminated. Soda was eliminated. Potatoes were eliminated. Starchy vegetables were eliminated.
Research, Experiment, and Research Some More
So I went home with my new diagnosis and the determination to learn everything I could as quickly as possible. Being all too aware of the effects of diabetes when left uncontrolled, I was not about to sit back and let severe damage occur without a fight.
I was determined to master living with Type 2 Diabetes as soon as possible, but I wasn’t sure what that was going to look like.
It did not take me long to discover that there was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the treatment, management, and control of type 2 diabetes.
I initially cut my carbohydrate consumption to under 100 gm per day, as recommended by the doctor. I did not find that too difficult to do by just eliminating soda and fruit juice. But as I was doing that,
I found the Diet Doctor website, and I was reading information suggesting that a lower carbohydrate limit could be beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes. During this time I also discovered the concept of “eating to your meter” and the theory of insulin resistance. The concept of insulin resistance really stuck with me as I had been experiencing symptoms of it for at least 10-15 years prior to my Type 2 diagnosis. I had never heard of it before but it sure made sense.
I worked through my two weeks of experimenting, keeping the doctor’s office informed of what my blood sugar levels were running. At the end of the two weeks, I did make progress, but still needed to start a low dose of medication for a short time.
Beginning the Practice of “Eating to the Meter”
We scheduled a follow-up appointment for three months later. And in the meantime, I received nearly 300 test strips as a gift. It was now time to try out the “eating to the meter” method and learn how my body was reacting to different foods and activities.
At the three-month appointment, there had been a significant improvement in my glucose numbers and my A1C. The doctor commented, “I wish half of my patients would listen half this well and put in half this much effort”. He was very pleased with my progress and so was I.
At that same appointment, I asked the doctor if he had any problem with me cutting my carbs further. With what I had been reading, I planned to cut them down to about 50 to 70 grams per day. His only response was, “my only concern is whether you can maintain that level”. I told him I would not know unless I tried it.
In the following three months, I worked on keeping my grams of carbs under 70. I continued to research. I continued to notice the discrepancies between the different recommendations for what patients with diabetes should or should not eat. I continued to increase my regular physical activity. And I continued to do what was working for me.
At the end of six months, my A1C was at a level considered acceptable by the American Diabetes Association. Considering I had started at twice that level initially, this was significant progress. I had ultimately settled in at staying somewhere between 35 and 50 grams of carbohydrates a day and following a low-carb, higher fat, and higher protein diet (which was further adjusted after a few years). Also, by the six-month point, a healthy weight was achieved.
Daily Living with Type 2 Diabetes
So now to bring things quickly up-to-date, after doing more experimenting, I settled in at approximately 30-50 carbs per day, moderately high fat, and higher protein.
I kept this level for a few years and have now settled in around 30 grams most days. I make sure I get regular exercise. My A1C currently stays in the mid-low 5’s. All of my lab results are good with my A1C now hovering at the high end of normal.
What I Believe about Type 2 Now
Do I believe it is a chronic disease? Yes.
Do I understand that serious health problems like cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, and diabetic retinopathy are very real and possible long-term complications of Type 2 Diabetes? Yes.
Do I believe Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic illness and lifelong condition? Yes, but I also believe the increased risk of complications can be lessened by healthy lifestyle choices.
In my own case, the idea that insulin resistance leads to overproduction of insulin which in turn causes weight gain and cravings, which in turn becomes a vicious cycle makes sense. Is it truly a case of which came first? The long-held theory that excess weight causes Type 2 Diabetes and that weight loss would help control blood sugar levels might just be a bit backward. Are they related? Sure, but I know my cravings and body weight easily corrected themselves once I started consuming fewer carbs, and presumably, insulin levels dropped. I often think it would be interesting to be around in 50 years to see what the then professionals think of our current ideas about a healthy diet and disease control. I am sure there is still a lot to be learned.
I know that I have made a conscious decision to follow a path not largely supported by mainstream medicine yet, but a path supported by large bodies of anecdotal evidence and emerging science. I know I have seen greater and greater support for this style of management since I first became familiar with it in 2015. I know I feel better following this path and I know it is the right path for me. My blood sugar control is very tight. My regular check-ups with my health care provider have been spaced out to annually now instead of the usual 3-6 months for patients with diabetes.
The information presented here is just that, information. I and many others have taken a different path in taking charge of our health. We are challenging the traditional recommendations for type 2 diabetic care. We are seeing significant improvements with less (or no) medication and are feeling great!