Warding off diabetes for 23 years
A general belief about chronic diseases like diabetes is that once someone has them, they never go away.
As diabetes is a chronic and progressive disease, there is some truth to this. However, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine believe that if a prediabetic were to lose 5-10% of their body weight, it could decrease their chance of developing diabetes by 58% (due to their improved blood sugar level).
Sounds too good to be true?
Well, I can tell you that it’s definitely possible. By losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, my father not only reversed his diabetes but also kept it at bay for 23 years!
My father is a doctor (a paediatrician) by profession. Being the hardworking person that he is, he used to work as a consultant in the morning and do private practice in the evening. This left little time to invest in exercise or workouts.
His busy and stressful routine, along with a lack of sufficient physical activity, led to significant weight gain. At 5ft 8inches, he weighed approximately 115kg (making his BMI 38.5).
A family history of diabetes on his mother’s side was another predisposing factor and he developed diabetes at the young age of 36.
Drastic lifestyle modification
Being a doctor, instead of resorting to the comfort of medicines to treat his disease he took charge of his health and drastically changed his lifestyle. This included:
- Cutting out carbohydrates from his meals – He replaced chapati (wheat bread) and rice with raw vegetables like carrots, turnips, cucumber, etc.
- Stopping eating sugar in every form.
- Taking a brisk, 3-mile walk every night after clinic hours.
- Strictly monitoring his blood sugar level.
- Increasing the intake of fiber and complex carbs (like oatmeal) in his breakfast.
- Cutting out most fats from his diet.
My father’s aggressive exercise and diet control regime paid off very well.
In just 3-4 months, he lost 30 kgs – About 26% of his starting body weight.
He had very good glycemic control. His overall health improved a lot, making him feel fresher and more energetic. His blood sugar level stabilised, with his fasting and postprandial (after eating) sugar levels within normal limits.
His diabetes literally disappeared with the weight.
While it may be hard to believe, this proves there is a direct correlation between obesity and diabetes. And when your extra weight goes, so too can your diabetes.
The importance of exercise in reducing insulin resistance and increasing insulin sensitivity also cannot be ignored. And when you’re physically active, your body uses glucose, helping to control your blood sugar level.
Maintaining the lifestyle
The difficult part of maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just losing excess weight though – It’s keeping it off as well.
It wasn’t enough for my father to lose weight. He had to maintain his new healthy lifestyle too. Staying a healthy weight was crucial to keeping my father’s diabetes at bay for the next 2 decades.
Avoiding foods which would cause his blood sugar level to rise became a lifetime struggle. It needed the utmost commitment and discipline and a focused dedication to avoiding sugar and carbohydrates.
Whenever my father felt the weight was piling back up, he would immediately go back to eating raw vegetables instead of chapati and rice and bring it back to 80-85kg.
Still going strong
Around the time my father retired from Government service (at the age of 60), his diabetes came back – 23 years after it first appeared.
However, thanks to my father’s healthy lifestyle his diabetes can be kept under control with mild oral hypoglycemics (a combination of Glimepiride and Glucophage).
As well as taking his medicine, he still goes on his evening walk and restricts all carbohydrates in his diet. This keeps his glycemic control optimal, with an HbA1c level of 5-6.
Food is one of the greatest joys in life, and diabetes deprives us of it. It also renders vital organs (like the brain, heart and kidneys) vulnerable to microvessel damage.
So to enjoy life to its fullest, diabetes must be kept at bay.
If you’re an obese type 2 diabetic, weight reduction can potentially reverse your diabetes and decrease the risk of other related health issues.
My father is a testament to the fact that lifestyle modification is the most effective tool in diabetes management. What would have otherwise been a lifetime of medication and organ damage was replaced by a productive and active life.
My advice to all obese people is to invest your time and energy into your health, lose those extra pounds and keep diabetes away!
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Ikram is a type 2 diabetic. Suffering from frequent urination, weight loss and kidney problems, he turned his diabetes around by cultivating a kitchen garden.
Hira is a type 1 diabetic. When she was first diagnosed, she was overcome by stress. Now she’s worked out how to balance her health both physical and mental.
Sana was diagnosed as a prediabetic. Determined to avoid type 2 diabetes, she made changes to her lifestyle and brought her blood sugar levels under control.