How Diabetes Saved My Life
My name is Laura, and I was a bread junkie. I loved any kind of bread. I also loved potatoes. And sodas. Basically, I used to eat pretty much what everyone eats: far too much fat, sugar and starchy foods. But when I was diagnosed with diabetes, all of that had to go. My doctor told me I’d have to drop 70 pounds to get healthy.
It was difficult news to hear, and I was overwhelmed at first. Since I struggle exercising due to excess weight and my autoimmune disease stressing my connective tissue, my weight loss would have to rely a lot on diet changes. You might wonder, “How can I possibly lose weight if I have trouble exercising?” Well, making healthier changes in my diet has helped me to get to a point where I could exercise. I’ve lost 55 pounds already, and I feel healthier and more energetic than I have in years.
How I Did It
The first step in my weight loss journey was learning about healthy foods and what I needed to eat to help my body heal. Since I’ve taught graduate research for years, it was a natural progression for me to add diabetes to my list of topics to find out more about.
A lot of my get-healthier journey, of course, ended up being trial and error, but it’s these three rules that helped me lose weight -- and can help you too, whether you’re diabetic or not:
1. Make healthy food lists.
Making lists of what I should and should not eat was a difficult and slow process at first. But once I had it down, I could mix and match healthy foods for delicious meals that made me feel great afterward.
2. Read labels.
I became meticulous about reading labels at the grocery store. I start with serving size to make sure I know how the nutritional info relates proportionally to the food. As a diabetic, I pay special attention to sugars and carbs, but I also watch out for high amounts of fat, cholesterol and sodium. Anything with a daily value below 5% I consider low while anything above 20% is high.
3. Love complex carbs.
I tested my blood sugar after every meal for over a year; if my blood sugar spiked, I didn’t eat that food again. I cut out simple starches, such as pasta and potatoes, and I only stuck with carbohydrate-dense, whole-grain foods.
By paying attention to what I was eating, my body adapted and my blood sugar dropped slowly and steadily over time. My new diet gave me the balance and energy I needed to lessen my troubles with exercise, allowing me to be more active than ever before. With my new changes in both diet and exercise, I’ve lost 55 pounds -- I only have 15 left to go! I've lost weight very slowly and hit plateaus along the way. My doc says that's good because it gives the body time to adjust to the gradual weight loss. I've been at a plateau for about four months, and now it's easier to get back to a weight loss of about 3 pounds per month. Sure, it's slow, but I was a yo-yo dieter for most of my adult life, and this gradual weight loss is working!
My blood sugar became easier to control thanks to the weight loss, and my levels are now in a healthy zone. I am taking medication but haven’t needed to go on insulin -- my doctor says that when I lose the last 15 pounds, I probably won’t need to take any drugs at all to manage my diabetes! Also, my joint issues aren’t progressing as much as they were, because I’m not carrying around all of that extra weight.
In general, I feel a lot better, and I have a ton more energy. And, strangely enough, I can thank my diagnosis for that: Finding out I had diabetes turned out to be not just a wakeup call, but also the motivation I needed to learn to live my best life ever!