My type 2 diabetes adventure

People who have been diagnosed with type 2 are certainly not alone.

People who have been diagnosed with type 2 are certainly not alone.

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes took software engineer Alan Murray by surprise, but he was determined to see it as a positive.

My type 2 diabetes adventure started in April 2018, when my doctor sent me for a blood test and it came back with an HbA1c reading of 85. A double-check a few weeks later showed it had increased to 87. I really didn’t have any symptoms as such, but I’d noticed I’d put on weight from 70kg to 75kg.

The first thing I did was write down everything that I ate and research what I could eat and what I shouldn’t eat as a type 2 diabetic. This turned out to be a very useful exercise. In the past, I hadn’t paid too much attention to food. I’d just eaten what I wanted.

I learned how to read food labels and was amazed how much sugar was in everything. I didn’t think I’d been eating particularly badly, but when I added it all up it came to 1kg of sugar per week! I couldn’t believe it. Breakfast cereals, a can of coke with lunch, one or two chocolate bars per day, dilutable fruit syrups, and several chocolate biscuits on an evening quickly adds up – as I found.

I stopped eating virtually all processed food and stopped eating in the café at work. I started making more healthy breakfasts – low-sugar cereals and unsweetened yoghurt with berries.

I was lucky as evening meals have always been mainly cooked from scratch. However, I paid more attention to portion sizes and significantly reduced the amount of carbs. I read the Diabetes and Healthy Food Choices booklet and followed the ¼ protein, ¼ carbs and ½ vegetables guidelines. Making extra was easy, and the healthy leftovers went straight into the freezer, which I have for lunch most days.

I replaced chocolate bars and biscuits with fruit and nuts as snacks during the day and evening. Plus I added a regular 20- to 30-minute brisk walk four or five times per week over lunch.

My weight quickly dropped to my target of 70kg, and after the first three months, my HbA1c had dropped to 61. After six months, it had dropped to 48, and at the latest test it had come down to 45.

I think the hardest challenge for me was the thought of giving up all the things which I really liked, but which were not a good fit for a person with type 2 diabetes – beer, chocolate, desserts and fruit juice. I overcame this challenge by thinking of these items as treats. Life with T2 to be had in small amounts and only now and again. I found this works for me, and I now look forward to these treats.

The important thing for me was that I had to enjoy the changes I was making, as I knew this was a permanent lifestyle change. Eating with type 2 diabetes is just eating a healthy diet with a lot less processed food, significantly less sugar, less carbs, more vegetables, and correct portion sizes.

After changing my lifestyle nearly 12 months ago I would not go back, as it now makes a lot of sense to me. People who have been diagnosed with type 2 are certainly not alone, and there are a lot of resources out there: cooking books, a good New Zealand Facebook group, and lots of information on Pinterest.

Everybody has been supportive, and a lot of people were actually very interested in the more healthy eating habits I was implementing.

Alan shared his story in the Winter 2019 issue of Diabetes Wellness magazine.

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Jo Chapmantype 1 diabetes