I am in my late 40’s and a former health and fitness nut who due to life’s stressors, developed an unhealthy lifestyle. In August 2019, I was broken. I was in a hospital bed and feeling depressed and dejected. A freak basketball accident had left me with a broken humerus and a ruptured patellar tendon. I had to undergo multiple surgeries with months of therapy. Being bedridden for a couple of months did nothing to mitigate the situation. The love and support of my family went a long way towards my mental rehabilitation. As always, my wife was there by my side with the patience of a Buddhist monk. Together with my mother-in-law, they took care of all my wants and needs. However, this immobility, stress, my weight, and the corona pandemic all contributed to the diabetes diagnosis.
It all came to a head last year. My wife rushed me to the emergency room with a blood sugar of over 500, a weight of 320 lbs, and a hemoglobin A1C of 11.3. Note: Hemoglobin A1C is the average amount of glucose in the blood over a span of 3 months. Meaning, you can’t cheat by only eating well on the day that you’ll be seeing the doctor.
For over a week I had been experiencing classic signs of diabetes which due to my family history were pretty obvious: insatiable thirst, frequent urination, and blurry vision. These symptoms tipped me off that something was definitely wrong. I purchased a glucometer that registered a blood sugar of 540. That was a seriously high level. I was definitely in denial and tt took the reassuring countenance of my wife to bring me back to reality. Everything else that followed seemed to happen as if in a trance- the call to my doctor, the visit to the emergency room, the confirmation of my worst fears, two bags of saline, and two doses of insulin. In the end, I was discharged with a glucose level of 289 (still too high) and on an oral anti-diabetic medication with instructions to follow up with my PCP who decided that an additional medication was needed as I was trending in the 300s at home.
I made a solemn vow to myself that morning not to let the disease define me and in conjunction with a dietitian and personal trainer, embarked on a diet and exercise regimen to tackle the underlying conditions-my weight and sedentary lifestyle. The only things cut out of my diet were sugary drinks and processed foods. My meals are usually balanced and incorporate multiple food groups: whole grains, protein, fruit and vegetables. However, I was very strict during the initial crisis and have since loosened up. My mantra has always been “moderation, moderation, moderation.” You can still eat most of your favorite foods, just not all the time.
As a novice, here are my observations on blood sugar levels:
Moderate sugar intake: I’ve always preferred savory over sweet so cutting off sugars was not as difficult as it could have been.
Meal Prep: Cooking my sides beforehand has been a lifesaver because it ensures that there’s always a healthy option during mealtime.
Portion control: This is key! I accomplish this by making sure to use measuring cups and an appropriately sized plate. I don’t know about you, but no matter the size of the plate, I always want to fill it up!
Exercise: Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Moderate exercise increases sensitivity to insulin and increases your cells’ ability to pick up glucose from your blood to be converted to energy. The takeaway? Diet without exercise is NOT the way to go. Walking, cycling, or any other aerobic activity is great for your overall health. It has helped tremendously with my mobility as well.
Weight Loss: Weight gain was a contributing factor to my diabetes diagnosis. Fortunately, the steps I’m taking to control my blood sugar are working to control my weight as well. I have lost about 90 lbs since my diagnosis in May 2020!
I never had an ideal weight in mind at the beginning of this journey. As a matter of fact, weight loss was ancillary. My aim was to live a healthier life. I realized a while back that food cravings were mental and not physical. It was my mind making me feel like my body was craving certain foods. Just like the Pavlovian bell, there are certain triggers that cause these cravings. The trick is to anticipate those triggers and develop mitigation strategies.
My lifestyle changes have resulted in positive changes to my health, my relationships, and my overall quality of life. My blood sugar has normalized, I picked up cooking as a new hobby, and my wife and I have reconnected.
Fast forward to the most recent visit to my PCP: blood sugar of 87, weight 235 lbs, and an A1C of 5.0. Diabetes II is a lifestyle disease. It can be properly managed and even overcome with discipline.
My wife often jokes that diabetes saved me. It is not a joke. It certainly has!
Black and Diabetic: How I reduced my blood sugar naturally and lost 90lbs in 6 months.