Get inspired: Chris' remission story
The IPTN is gathering stories of Canadians who have put their type 2 diabetes into remission with therapeutic nutrition. We will be featuring a growing collection of these inspiring transformations at our diabetesremission.ca under the heading "Get Inspired". Here is Chris' story:
Who: Chris, 58, Victoria BC
Age when diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: 46
Number of years in remission: 12
Life before diagnosis: I probably had prediabetes for at least five years. Prior to the diagnosis, I had gone back to university. I was working on my Masters, hunched over a desk all the time. I was stressed and depressed. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was eating badly and sleeping badly. I'd gained weight over the years. I had no energy. I felt awful.
Symptoms: Leading up to the diagnosis I was urinating constantly and I was thirsty all the time. I was drinking a lot of juice, or water, but it would never quench my thirst. My tongue got all white, which I learned was thrush that thrived on my high blood sugar levels.
Diagnosis: I went to the doctor around late 2011 because I was feeling so horrible. I was worried I had cancer. He ordered several blood tests. After I went to the lab, they phoned me like 90 minutes later and said I had to go back to the doctor right away. It wasn’t cancer, but it was type 2 diabetes. My fasting blood sugar was 22 mmol/L, which was very high. My doctor said that I could have had a stroke or heart attack at any time.
Why did you try remission? My doctor said: ‘You are at a crossroads in your life right now. One road is where you are sick, a slave to medication, and you will get worse and worse over time. Or you can take the other road where you try to manage your diabetes with diet and exercise.’ That really lit a fire under me. He put me on metformin, but I decided I really wanted to try to change my diet and exercise more.
What did you do? For the first year, I focused on eating low-calorie, low-fat, high-fiber food, small meals, and lots of walking. I used to be quite athletic in my 20s, but, at the start, I could no longer run. I built up to running again. Four to six times a week I would walk 10 km. Over time I would run more and walk less. I tested my blood sugar with a glucose meter every day for about six months. I kept a food diary on an app and I tracked everything I ate.
What happened? Within a few months, my blood sugar had returned to healthy ranges and I felt 200% better. Then after six months or so I was able to come off the metformin. I kept at that for a couple of years, but my weight bounced around and honestly, keeping to that diet and exercise routine was very hard work.
Did you make any tweaks or changes? About three years after my diagnosis, I heard about the low-carb, keto diet and I started doing more research about using it for type 2 diabetes. I was skeptical at first but thought I would just try it for a few months. But I was blown away by the results. The biggest change was that I ate less fruit and no grains, and more healthy fat and protein. I still ate lots of vegetables. It removed cravings and kept me full. I could go long stretches without eating. I lost more weight. I had more energy. I hadn’t felt that good in more than 20 years. It supercharged my results and it transformed my body. I even trained for and did an Iron Man. I did keto for about five or six years. It was like a whole-body reset.
What are you doing now? I am no longer doing keto. I don't need to be quite so strict because I’ve managed to keep the weight off and keep my blood sugar in normal ranges. I am now doing a more liberal low-carb, Mediterranean-style diet. I still stay away from sugar, sweets, and ultra-processed foods, but I’ll have a cheat day every so often. I still do lots of exercise. If I started having trouble again, I would go back to either the very low-calorie diet, or the keto diet. I know from my experience both can work for me.
What do you want others to know? You can do this! My doctor says now that when he diagnoses other patients with type 2 diabetes, he tells them about what I did. He told me, 'I use you as an example of how you can take charge, turn your life around, and totally reclaim your health.’
Top tips? You don’t need to be perfect, just try. Set a time each day when you will go for a walk. Build on that. And look at what you are eating each day, and just look at where the sugar is, in all forms, and try to eliminate it or reduce it. Then tweak as you go. Find what works best for you so that you can maintain it for the long term.