When you first get a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, you may feel overwhelmed. It may feel like your doctor and other healthcare providers are asking you to do so much: change your diet, start exercising or, if you’re already exercising, do more of it.
And that’s not all. There are also finger pricks to test your blood glucose levels, and keeping track of everything you eat. The list goes on and on.
But don’t despair. Yes, it’s overwhelming at first, but with time, you’ll adapt to a new way of living and may feel better because of it. I did.
Like many people with type 2 diabetes, I was overweight when I was diagnosed. I’d been trying to lose weight for 30 years, and I sometimes lost a little. But then I’d get waylaid by a vacation or a big celebration. I figured once I’d “cheated” on the diet, I might as well cheat big time.
You might be familiar with that situation. You’ve eliminated desserts, but one day a piece of blueberry pie is shouting your name, so you eat it. Then you feel badly that you’ve failed to stick to the diet, so you eat the whole pie.
Getting type 2 diabetes was the kick in the pants that I needed. Now it wasn’t just vanity, it was my life. I really, really didn’t want to go blind or lose my feet. So, I followed a strict diet and lost enough weight to have a body mass index in the healthy range.
If I hadn’t gotten diabetes, I think I’d probably look like a rutabaga with legs by now. So, thank you, diabetes.
Sticking with it
Here’s the amazing part: I’ve kept the weight off for more than 20 years. Most people who lose weight regain it, so how did I manage keep the weight off?
First, I now have a new definition of full. It used to be that I’d eat until I was stuffed or until my plate was clean. Now I eat until the hunger pangs subside, and then I stop.
After about 40 years as a member of the Clean Plate Club, I turned in my membership card. If there’s food left on my plate, I either throw it or put it in the fridge to eat later. If I’m in a restaurant, I put it in a plastic container I carry with me, as I hate those big Styrofoam containers that restaurants give you. I can sometimes get three meals out of one restaurant portion, and that saves money as well as my avoirdupois.
Knowing what works for me
I’m on a low-carb diet. Dietitians admit they work in the short term but they claim no one can stick to such a diet for very long. I’ve been doing it for 22 years. I followed the low-fat American Diabetes Association diet for about a year until I got tired of being hungry all the time.
I no longer want foods like bread and potatoes. I can go to a party where everyone is eating chocolate cheesecake, and I don’t want it. I love the foods I can eat, like full-fat plain yogurt to which I add flavorings, and veggies with butter.
It doesn’t work for me to take just a little bit of a high-carb food because that will lead me to crave more. If I avoid those foods altogether, I don’t want them. Show me a potato chip and I’ll say, “No thanks.” If I ate one, I’d eat the whole bag.
The internet is filled with sites with delicious low-carb recipes. In fact, I just printed out one for low-carb cinnamon rolls. So, I don’t feel deprived, although it would be nice to have a full-time cook — along with a housekeeper, a gardener, and a secretary.
There’s another thing I now do on a regular basis: I take a walk every day when the weather cooperates. I don’t walk when it’s above 85 and humid, or below 20 and windy. But in the summer, I walk just before the sun comes up, when it’s cool and lovely. Without diabetes, I think I wouldn’t have the incentive to walk — especially if I looked like a rutabaga with legs.
Thank you, diabetes.
So, hang in there. Yes, it’s hard at first. But with time, I think you’ll realize that a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can help push you to make some changes — and those changes can be positive. I know that it takes time to come to terms with it all, but for me, the bright sides were worth the wait. Always remember that you can succeed.
Gretchen Becker studied biology for 8 years at Radcliffe/Harvard, where she was a PhD candidate, published two papers in peer-reviewed journals, and then dropped out to take a more lucrative job as a live-in maid in Manhattan. She later moved on to other jobs including lab technician and newspaper reporter, among others. For years she was a freelance editor of medical books and journals. She lives on a small sheep farm in Vermont. Since her type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 1996, she’s devoted time to learning about the condition and educating fellow patients throughout the world so they can take control of their disease. She is the author of “The First Year: Type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes” and co-author of “The Four Corners Diet.”