Are you one of the whopping 40% of Americans who are pre-diabetic or diabetic, but undiagnosed, like I was? Type 2 diabetes isn’t anything to mess around with. It can cause loss of eyesight, kidney and organ damage and loss of function, even digit and limb loss, not to mention completely undermine your quality of life. Scary thought, isn’t it? And I shudder to think of how many children are pre-diabetic or diabetic in this country due (primarily) to poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle.
Typical markers for being at risk for developing type 2 diabetes are carrying excess weight, especially belly fat—even 5 pounds can tip the scale into diabetes or pre-diabetes—the standard American diet, sedentary lifestyle, age and family history of the disease.
It was a bright, sunny, Southern California day when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. As I walked out of the doctor’s office, blinking in shock behind my dark glasses, both hands filled with bags of medications, blood sugar monitors, lances, test strips, literature and doctor’s orders. I felt a swirl of confusion and a healthy dose of denial. Mostly denial. This couldn’t be happening to me. I was too young. I was too healthy. I didn’t have the typical symptoms. Every reason I could think of ran its course through my thoughts.
I had gone to the doctor for a knee injury, not because I felt sick or had the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Something was painfully wrong with my knee, and I had reached the point of literally dragging my right leg behind me. As a matter of course, since it was my first visit to her, she did a complete intake exam with blood work. That’s how the diabetes was found.
My blood sugar wasn’t just a little elevated. I wasn’t just slightly over the line. My fasting blood sugar was 258 and my A1C was 10.9. Normal fasting blood sugar is around 90 and non-diabetic A1C is in the 4%-5% range. My numbers were so elevated she had me come in for a retest. With numbers that high, she told me I’d probably had undiagnosed, untreated diabetes for a decade.
A decade. How had this been missed in previous medical visits? In part, I believe, it was because I didn’t display typical symptoms. I didn’t have crazy thirst and frequent urination. NO vision issues. I was active, walking, hiking, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, yoga etc., at least until my knee injury had curtailed me. Even with the pain I was still walking at least 30 minutes daily and doing light yoga. There was no known family history of the disease. It’s true, I was carrying an extra 35 pounds and ate a lot of gluten-free carbs (I am also celiac). But still, no real, typical symptoms. I had had gestational diabetes with my last child, but no one ever retested me to make sure it went away—they told me I didn’t have to worry, it went away after the baby was born.
In retrospect I did have symptoms, but they were subtle, and would have been easily missed since I didn’t mention them to any doctor. I was tired a lot. Every day I had to take a nap and I often woke up tired. Sleep was interrupted. I had tingling in my hands and feet. I often had episodes of low blood sugar. But I’d had these for so long, and they had come on so gradually, I thought it was just normal for me. What mother isn’t tired all the time? What middle aged woman doesn’t have a bit of carpal tunnel? So many of my symptoms were often dismissed as just part of the aging experience they went unnoticed by me and undiagnosed my physicians.
“What am I going to do” screamed through my mind as I walked through the parking lot to my car. Not knowing much about the disease itself, I thought it was a death sentence. A slow death. The people I had known who had diabetes were so unhealthy and experienced the full range of dire consequences of the disease. Amputations, kidney failure, vision loss. You could see them deteriorate every year, disintegrating toward a painful, burdensome death.
I was horrified by the thought that this was to be my fate. I began to rage at the idea as I drove the short distance to my home.
Inside my house, I collapsed facedown on my bed, crying in fear and anger. I still couldn’t grasp that I was consigned to the dreadful progression of this disease that I had seen, confined to a life of managing symptoms, testing my blood several times a day, medications and shots and finally losing my sight and toes and feet.
I was numb.
Then I did what I usually did when faced with a crisis of enormous proportions. I called my mentor. She listened to what I had to say about my fears of the decline of my life and health and my denial and then she calmly said, “Leslie this is totally reversible. You can reverse diabetes through lifestyle changes. You don’t have to live with this disease and the horrible end you’re imagining.”
Diabetes is reversible? REALLY?!?
Here’s what I did:
- Research, research, research. I got on reputable websites and for 2 full days researched reversing type 2 diabetes. What I found out? This disease is something we usually give ourselves, and it is something you can reverse, in almost all cases, at least to some degree.
- Started a fast, with my doctor’s approval. I found out during my research that a fast mimicking diet, 5 days a month, can regenerate pancreatic beta cells, those that produce insulin. I went on a nine day fast I lost eleven pounds and reduced my fasting blood sugar level to well below 130. This was HARD. It wasn’t a total fast, but it was 500 calories a day or less. I kept in touch with my doctor during this time and by the end of it she took me off the metformin she had prescribed me because she didn’t want my blood sugar to fall too low. I never made to it the full dosage of 2 pills twice a day (4 total)—I only made to it 1/2 pill twice a day.
- Got a copy of Dr. Don Colbert’s “Reversing Diabetes” book and followed the eating plan in there. He recommended HCG shots for weight loss, which I didn’t need. At the end of a month I had lost 20 pounds and my fasting blood sugar was in the 120 range.
- I was bound by my physical therapist to not exercise because of my knee injury. Exercise is a vital component of reversing diabetes so I did what I could. I faithfully did the few exercises the physical therapist gave me to strengthen my muscles. Every. Single. Day. It wasn’t much, but what it did do was get me in the habit of a daily exercise routine. After a few weeks, I was allowed to swim in the pool but not kick, so that meant using a float and hold it between my legs and swim with my arms. I was also allowed to begin using a stationary bike on the lowest tension setting for 10 minutes. I took it. And it actually helped.
- I kept at it. It was hard. My body and emotions wanted the comfort foods that elevated my blood sugar. I wanted to not have diabetes and lose my quality of life. I won, some days through sheer grit and tears. Frankly, there are many days that still is hard.
- I did emotional healing work both directly in relation to food and to other wounds that kept me locked in unhealthy patterns and kept me from recalibrating to my new normal.
I successfully reversed my type 2 diabetes. In six months my A1C went from 10.9 to 5.3—normal range. My average fasting blood sugar was 124. My doctor was amazed, she had never heard of reversing diabetes before.
What I want you to know is that YOU can also reverse diabetes. My results were not typical. But, as Ray Edwards says, why talk about typical results if you don’t want typical results?
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to go into more detail in each of these areas so you can develop and follow your diabetes reversal plan in conjunction with your own doctor. You may be able to reduce medications or even get off them all together with your doctor’s supervision. You may reverse some of the symptoms and effects of this epidemic disease. You can “ungive” it to yourself in much the same way you gave it to yourself, through diet and lifestyle. I’ll show you how.
Walk with me on this continuing journey into health. You can start right where you are, right now.
Until next week, dear readers…