Editor’s note: Coach Mary is a keto rockstar, and she’s popping in today to talk about overcoming diabetes with keto.
Ten years ago this month, I was diagnosed with type two diabetes. I am fairly certain that I walked around undiagnosed for several years prior.
Diabetes is a progressive disease, or so they told me. My doctors gave me a trifold brochure, put out by the American Diabetes Association, and information on how to sign up for a “diabetic nutrition” class.
I was sufficiently scared; everything I thought I knew about diabetes was terrifying. I thought for sure I would end up blind and losing a limb, or dying young and leaving my children behind. So, I attended the “diabetic nutrition” class, where they taught me all about “carb exchange.” Basically, 15 g of carbs equals one carb exchange. I was told to eat 3-4 carb exchanges (45-60g) of carbs per meal, and that it was “crucial” that I ate three meals a day and two snacks (at 15 g carbs each) or I would harm myself.
I went home, determined to conquer this thing! Disappointment quickly followed. Although I followed their rules, my blood sugar did not come down very much at all. I was “starving” all the time, even though I was eating five times a day! Their plan had me eating things like rice, chicken, lots of fruits, sugar free Jello, and candy- the last of which I was told was perfectly acceptable at the class- and I gagged down lots of vegetables.
You have to understand, I was competently addicted to all things carbohydrate, not just things that went in tasting sweet. I could pretty easily stick to the “diabetic” plan; I continued to eat brown rice, rice cakes, whole grain bread, spray butter, low-fat everything, and I either maintained or gained weight. My blood sugar did not go down enough to be worth mentioning, and the high carb content I continued to consume only served to keep hunger and cravings stimulated.
At my three month follow-up appointment, my doctor prescribed Metformin, and the PA very condescendingly asked me if I attended the “diabetic nutrition” class. Of course, I had, and I informed her that I had been following their instructions to a tee. I don’t remember her exact response, but it was basically along the lines of, “That’s weird, because your A1c hasn’t really gone down (I think it went down about .2). Are you sure you’re doing everything they told you?” To be perfectly frank, I was pretty pissed, and also fairly confused because I knew was following the rules. At this point, I was even more convinced I was going to die of diabetes, because obviously my body wasn’t responding. It was hopeless.
After a while, I simply gave up. I quit following the rules, because they weren’t working, and I was freaking hungry all the time. My fall back was to just do what I’d always done; I stayed on the diet roller coaster, always with weight loss first on my list because I figured, hey if I lost weight then everything else would be great. Forty pounds would disappear pretty quickly with each attempt at calorie counting, but I would always hit a wall and regain that weight plus some. The real kicker was that my health did not improve with weight loss.
Then one day, my friend Mandy told me about Atkins. So, I went to the Atkins website and ordered their little free starter kit. When it arrived, I dove in. The induction phase suuuucccked, but my blood sugar finally went down. I think Atkins is great for a lot of people, and it’s also a great starting point for many others. The one thing I learned from doing Atkins was that I am, indeed, a carb addict. I stuck to it for several months, but ultimately “jumped off the wagon” because at around 40 pounds lost I stalled out, just like I’d always done, and would get extremely discouraged. It’s important to note that I was following the suggested Atkins phases, which meant gradually increasing my carbs after that first two weeks, and with my carb addiction I would quickly incorporate unhealthy carbs back into my carb count. The Atkins program also encourages counting net carbs, and that was not doing me any favors. Two attempts at Atkins later, I lost forty-ish pounds each time, fell off the wagon, and jumped back onto the binge/diet roller coaster.
One morning in March 2014, the day after my husband’s birthday and the morning after I binged and polished off his birthday cake and Bluebell ice cream that was left over from our little celebration, something in me snapped. I got on the scale that morning, and was a whopping 260 pounds, which coincidentally matched my blood sugar. I cried. Angry and frustrated, I pulled out the camera and took a “before” photo. When I looked at the picture, I couldn’t believe what I saw; I didn’t see myself in the mirror the way I looked on the camera screen. I was huge. I cried so hard that I had snot bubbles.
Round three of Atkins began that morning. Four days later, at Sunday school, I was chatting with my friend Brian Williamson (aka, Mr. Ketovangelist), and he told me about Keto. The rest, as they say, is history. Four years later, and I’m down over a hundred pounds, wearing a size four, hitting the gym regularly, have perfect blood sugar, and my diabetes is finally in remission!
About that diabetes: I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be progressive, and that the treatments and recommendations for type two diabetics are all wrong. My anger about all the bad advice I received fuels me on my mission to bring the message of healing to other type two diabetics. I promise you, if you follow the guidelines of the American Diabetes Association, your type two diabetes will, indeed, progress. Diabetics do not have to accept what their doctors and the American Diabetes Association are telling them.
If you are a type two diabetic, your best bet is to get your carbs below 50g total per day, and ideally 20g or less per day for the best results. Cut out all sugar and grains. Get yourself on the path to reducing insulin! Your problem as a type two diabetic is that you already produce too much insulin, and your cells are resistant to it, so injecting yourself with even more insulin is like putting a Band-Aid on a cut that really needs stitches.
I was diagnosed in October 2008, and we diabetics are told that an A1c of 7.0 is “good” for a diabetic. 7.0 is an average blood sugar of 154, and that is not “good” for a diabetic or otherwise, especially considering that organ damage begins to occur at much lower blood sugar levels. On the ketogenic diet, I maintain an average A1c of 4.5-4.9, which is blood sugar between 83-94. This is normal blood sugar for all human bodies, including those that are diabetic.
There is no “cure” for diabetes; you cannot ever return to eating lots of carbs and sugars like “normal” people do, and you will always need to be vigilant about and aware of your diet. However, using the word “reverse” is totally appropriate in a diabetic context. It does not imply cured, it implies exactly what the word means: to reverse diabetes means your disease and prognosis has gone the other direction. You can maintain a normal blood sugar and a normal healthy body weight as a diabetic. Do not listen to anyone who uses the phrase normal blood sugar “for a diabetic,” as there is no such thing. There is only normal blood sugar for a human being, and diabetics deserve to have it!