John and I reunited after 25 years and 2000 miles apart. The man who stepped off the airplane at Portland PDX in August 2015 was 50 pounds heavier than the last time I saw him. He was also a Type 2 diabetic giving himself four insulin shots a day. Luckily, I watch food documentaries for fun – the kind that claim diet and exercise can reverse chronic illnesses, like Type 2 diabetes.
During our almost two-year, long-distance courtship, John attempted to lose weight and reduce his blood sugar levels on his own with minimal success. He didn’t get serious until he moved from Michigan to Oregon to create a life with me.
John sent me a Ted Talk featuring Dr. Sarah Hallberg explaining how a high fat, no sugar, low carb food plan can reverse diabetes. My bias was towards vegetarian, low protein options, but John wanted to give this plan a shot. My research led to reviews of Reverse Your Diabetes Diet by Dr. David Craven with many readers claiming to have lowered their blood sugar levels in just a few weeks.
We decided to try it. Success with any food plan requires making the right foods easy to access. John works out of our home so I cook on the weekends to make sure the fridge is stocked with homemade soups, salad fixings, almond flour pancakes, fruit and proteins like nuts, legumes, eggs, meat and fish – mostly organic and ready to eat. We don’t purchase anything with more than a few grams of natural sugar. Occasionally, we eat fresh whipped cream on fruit, spiked with vanilla and cinnamon instead of sugar, as well as high fat foods like bacon and cheese. These foods help him feel full and minimize cravings for sugar and carbs, which are reserved for special occasions. For example, he enjoyed a single serving cake from a local baker on his birthday (no second helpings).
Even though I’m not overweight or diabetic, I knew that if I ate sweets and pasta in front of him, he would never make it. So when we’re together, we eat the same foods. And nothing comes into the house that he cannot eat. This works for me because I love to cook and view John’s journey as one, great big beautiful science experiment – putting Hippocrates command to the test – “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
John also resumed regular exercise, including pickleball, hiking, lifting weights and gardening. He took his baseline weight and continued to monitor his blood sugar every morning and two hours after each meal. He reduced his insulin shots to every other evening so he could truly gauge the effects of his new lifestyle. Almost immediately, John’s blood sugar levels began to drop into a normal range. After a month, he discontinued the insulin completely and his blood sugar remained normal. In just three months, he lost 30 pounds and says he rarely feels hungry nor craves carbs and sweets.
A visit to the doctor confirmed the results of his self testing. His A1C number, a three-month blood sugar average, is 5.7. This is the threshold number for pre-diabetes according to the Mayo Clinic and normal according to MedicineNet.com. Just nine months prior, his A1C was 9 and his health care provider suggested inserting a port into his stomach for an insulin pump. This doctor’s suggestion? “Keep doing what you’re doing.”
John still has diabetes but he’s controlling it with lifestyle. If he goes back to his old ways, his blood sugar levels will rise. This is working because John is motivated and I'm in it with him. We both have a lot to lose.
Do you have a lifestyle change success story? I’d love to hear it.