I have type 2 diabetes. There. I’ve said it.
Since the start of the year, I was diagnosed with diabetes and it came as a real shock; “Isn’t it the condition that unhealthy people get?” I remember thinking at the time.
Diabetes was the thing I used to joke about. After downing a big piece of cake, I would mockingly say that I was one step closer to sugar-oblivion.
My diagnosis came about after getting a few routine health checks last year. I had one early last year and my blood sugar levels were in the risk zone. It is absolutely no excuse, but during 2017 I had an absolute shocker… I was going through a difficult time at work and struggled to cope with the resulting stress. I overate, I found comfort in sweet treats, I exercised less, and I tended to dwell on unhelpful thoughts.
So my follow-up test earlier this year confirmed my suspicions. My health was definitely not in order and I was getting regular headaches, often felt thirsty, and visited the toilet regularly.
My heart sank when my doctor shared the results. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I felt their was a stigma towards having diabetes and for two weeks I honestly felt like I walking around with a slapped face while I processed the news.
But I now know that diabetes is more wide-spread than I dared to think.
So what it type 2 diabetes? (Thank you Diabetes NZ for this great information!)
Diabetes is the result of the body not creating enough insulin to keep blood glucose (sugar) levels in the normal range. Everyone needs some glucose in their blood, but if it’s too high it can damage your body over time.
In type 2 diabetes, either the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the cells in the body don’t recognise the insulin that is present. The end result is the same: high levels of glucose in your blood.
Some groups of people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes:
- European 40 years of age or older
- Diabetes in your family (grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters)
- Maori, Asian, Middle Eastern or Pacific Island descent aged 30 years or older
- High blood pressure
- Overweight (especially if you carry most of your weight around your waist)
- Diagnosed as having pre-diabetes (also known as impaired glucose tolerance) – this occurs when the glucose (sugar) in your blood is higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes
Wow. I was flabbergasted to see that I ticked many of the above criteria. I am a 37 year old Samoan-Chinese male with a family history of diabetes. My grandmother (on mum’s side), my grandpa (on dad’s side) had diabetes, and my mum currently takes insulin for hers. I have a pre-disposition for high blood pressure too.
What also elevated the risk was also eating many foods that were high in sugar. I enjoyed the odd sweet treat and also LOVED carbs (many of which can turn into sugars).
A transformational chat with the nurse
So with my diagnosis, I sat quietly in the nurse’s office. She could sense I was feeling deflated, but she very kindly gave me great information on the condition and what I could do to bring my blood sugar levels down. It would require a life-style change, but she was confident I could being it down in the space of 3-4 months.
So what changes did I make?
- I can be very goal focussed when I want to be, so I prepared myself to try some new things for those 3-4 months. If I didn’t change, then my health would potentially get worse.
- I had already started doing this in 2017, but I cut sweet drinks (soft drinks, juices) out of my diet. It wasn’t too hard to do and it made realise how much I like sparkling water.
- I decided to stop drinking alcohol. I didn’t drink much of it anyway.
- I decided not to eat sweet treats such as cakes, snack bars and muffins. This was hard at first, especially at morning teas and cafe visits. But turning to alternatives become easy after a while (online research helps!).
- I took daily tablets as prescribed my my doctor to help control my blood sugar levels. Over time I will be weaned off if I can manage my condition at a consistent level.
- I committed to eating less carbs. At home we embraced Fresh Start, one of the My Food Bag meal plans, that features lots of vegetables, proteins, and good carb alternatives including freekah, grains, pulses etc. I still allow myself to have the odd cheat day and naughty meal (gotta be realistic and kind to yourself people!).
- I maintained my usual amount of exercise and made sure I did lots of walking during the day.
- I changed my job and work in a role that is less demanding, but just as fulfilling. I consciously take more time out to relax and unwind.
- I talk openly with my loved ones so they can support me through this journey.
Four months on and I have lost weight and feel good mentally and physically. I recently received my blood test results and my blood sugar levels have dropped by 18 points. Woo hoo!!!!!!!
I know I need to maintain what I’m doing to keep myself on the right track. Having diabetes doesn’t need to be scary, but requires a few lifestyle changes that are realistic and achievable.
If there are any other readers out there with diabetes then please connect with me! I would love to hear about your experience and gain any tips or advice from you.