Seventeen Years of Type 2 Diabetes
I realized recently that I’ve had (or known I’ve had) type 2 diabetes for more than 17 years now. That makes me a diabetes teenager. Only a couple more years and I’ll be grown up.
However, unlike the situation with real teenagers, I don’t feel a need to rebel. In fact, at the moment I’m quite content with my life, which is very different from how I lived before the diagnosis. Then I was about 30 pounds overweight, which is a lot when you’re only 5 feet tall.
I recently came across a food log I’d been keeping before I was diagnosed with diabetes, because I’d noticed that when I ate wheat, I got acid reflux, and I wanted to see if the relation was as clear as I thought (it was). When I stopped eating wheat, not only did my reflux go away, but so did some mild arthritic pain in my fingers. Unfortunately, these improvements were only temporary, and with time they re-emerged.
According to the food log, I was living on rice. Here’s my log for one day. I kept track of the foods I ate, but not the amounts as I was concerned with reactions to wheat and not effect on blood glucose.
Rice, olive oil, tomato paste, cheddar cheese melted in microwave
Pie and ice cream
Rice and vegetables (broccoli, turnip, onions, leak, ginger), curried spinach with lentils
Ice cream, raisins
Rice with cheese, broccoli, and peppers
Mounds chips (whatever those were)
I also spent more than 10 hours editing manuscripts, and I noted that I was very myopic (high blood glucose can make you myopic, but I didn’t know that at the time).
Here’s another day:
Orange juice and pear juice
Rice with Alfredo sauce
Red cabbage with olive oil and lemon
Bread and butter and jam
Ice cream with peanuts
Lamb with leek and rice
Orange juice and pear juice
Note that I didn’t eat fast food or boxed meals. But the portions were undoubtedly large, so I was eating a lot of carbohydrate as well as a lot of fat. I had rice once or twice or even three times a day almost every day because it was so easy to make a huge pot and just microwave it with meat or cheese or vegetables.
Of course I don’t eat like that anymore, especially all the rice and pie and ice cream and orange juice. Do I miss those things? Well, sort of. I loved fruit pies. But in the past 17 years I’ve found new foods that work for me, and I know if I did eat a piece of blueberry pie (my favorite) it would mostly taste cloyingly sweet. If I want something similar I can just microwave some blueberries, add fake sugar, and throw in some ground almonds. Or if I want the real “pie experience” as the copywriters would say, I can make a pie crust with ground almonds, butter, and protein powder.
How else is my life different?
Well, I lost those extra 30 pounds and I now have a normal BMI, and it’s a lot more comfortable. Without the diabetes diagnosis, I never would have had the willpower to lose the weight. I was hungry all day for several months, and had it been simply for vanity, I would have given up and gone back to the rice and ice cream. But I had no interest in losing my eyesight or my legs or going on dialysis, so I kept up the restricted diet.
Then my diet gradually morphed into a ketogenic low-carb diet, and my hunger disappeared. Now I think I actually prefer eating this way. Here’s a typical day today:
Part of a chicken breast with skin
Sour cream cucumbers
Turkey burger with Julia Child sauce (equal parts olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, and thyme)
Kale and broccoli with butter
Cucumber and cherry tomato with mayonnaise
Full-fat yogurt flavored with daVinci syrup
Broccoli with butter
Full-fat yogurt with fresh strawberries
I also measure out a half cup of home-roasted almonds in the morning and snack on them throughout the day.
Is my life with diabetes perfect?
Well, no. The hardest thing for me is that so many social interactions revolve around food, and most of my friends seem to be vegans, or at least vegetarians, and vegan meals are almost always starchy. Some people won’t invite me over because they don’t know what to feed me.
Nevertheless, I think that my life today with diabetes is much better than it was 17 years ago when I didn’t realize I had a blood glucose problem. I feel so much better weighing less, and my meter keeps me on the straight and narrow if I feel the urge to eat a carby food I shouldn’t. I love meat and cheese and vegetables and berries, and I can eat all of those things.
I try to take a walk every day except when it’s raining or 90 degrees in the shade or minus 10 degrees in the full sun, or when I’m doing some other kind of work like stacking wood, which I’m doing now. I listen to recorded books when I do these things, and I’ve heard a lot of books I never would have taken the time to read. The walking also helps to keep my muscles in shape, which is a good thing as you age.
So if you’ve just been diagnosed and you’re feeling depressed (and I confess I too was depressed when I got the diagnosis), you should know that things really do get better with time. Today the idea of living on rice and desserts rather nauseates me.
Hang in there, all those who were recently diagnosed.
(In case things change in the future, I plan to give another update after another 17 years, when I’m 90. I read once that everyone over 90 is diabetic, so at least I won’t be alone.)