How I turned my health around

 
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Some major lifestyle changes saw Julie Allan turn her health around and her type 2 diabetes symptoms disappeared. 

Five years ago, my doctor sent me for a range of blood tests including one that screened for diabetes. My blood sugar level was 61, I was overweight and my blood pressure was too high. 

It was a huge shock because I didn’t feel unwell. My GP said I had type 2 diabetes, and if I didn’t do something about my weight, blood pressure, and high blood sugar, I’d end up needing medication. 

He gave me a copy of Diabetes New Zealand’s Diabetes and Healthy Food Choices and other information. He said “I’d like you to have another blood (HBA1c) test in a month to see how you are going.” 

I realised I needed to make changes to my diet and lifestyle. Both my parents had pre-diabetes and my grandmother had type 1. I was a carb-loving vegetarian. 

I changed my diet by eating fewer carbs like bread, pasta, and sweet things. I also ate more vegetables, fruit, and protein such as eggs, nuts, beans, lentils and tofu. I substituted white rice for brown rice and quinoa. I now drink lots of water. I’ve never really drunk sugary fizzy drinks. 

The other change I made was to start walking home from work, and that’s pretty much all I did at first. 

Three months later I had lost 10kg, my blood sugar had dropped to 37, my blood pressure was down. My GP was very happy and so was I. 

I kept going and after six months my blood sugar level had dropped to 35 and I’d lost more weight. 

My doctor asked me “How did you do it?” I told him I took to heart what he said and made some lifestyle changes.  

Today, five years later, my HBA1c has nearly halved to 32, my blood pressure is normal and I’ve lost almost 30kg in weight. I’m not on any medication and I didn’t starve to get to this point, not by any means. I do have to watch what I eat, because it is easy to slip off the wagon. But I still allow myself the occasional treat.  

I think walking home from work made a big difference. It’s 6km from the centre of Wellington to my home; it takes an hour and I do it every day, in all weathers. I also go for a walk at the weekend. The mental health benefits of walking are great, too. This month I’m going to walk the Auckland half-marathon with two friends.  

Once I started walking, I began to have more energy and I took up yoga, swimming and aqua aerobics as well. I am now 55 years old and feel fitter than when I was half my age. I started enjoying exercise and it’s helped lower my blood sugar levels.  

Before I decided to do my own version of a GP’s “green prescription” and become more physically active, the most exercise I’d do was walk a short distance to get the bus to and from work and perhaps a short walk at lunchtime. Like many office workers I sit at my desk much of the day.  

This is a permanent lifestyle change for me, I’ve changed my diet, not “gone on” a diet. I’ve lost over 25% of my body weight and I feel great for it. I could still do with losing a few more kilos, but I’m certainly healthier and have more energy than I did five years ago.  

It wasn’t easy, but I’m motivated to keep on the straight and narrow. I don’t want to fall back into my old habits, and disappoint myself, or my doctor and practice nurse – they’ve been so supportive of my journey back to better health. 

*Julie shared her story in the Summer 2017 issue of Diabetes Wellness magazine. To read back issues, visit here.  

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Jo Chapman