Amy, 60, Comox Valley BC
Age diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Number of years in remission
Life before diagnosis
In my 50s I had started to gain weight and I also began to feel very tired. All I wanted to do was lie down, especially in the mid-afternoon. When you feel that way you don’t have any energy to exercise; so the fatigue and weight gain became a vicious cycle. At one point, during a very difficult period of my life around 2018, I did not have the energy to cook. Some nights dinner might be potato chips and coke. It was not a good time for my physical, emotional, or mental health.
You always hear that diabetes has symptoms like excessive thirst and needing to pee a lot, but I had none of that. I just had weight gain and extreme fatigue, which had been going on for a number of years. But it got worse and worse.
In the spring of 2021 my doctors told me my blood glucose results showed I had type 2 diabetes. But I still didn’t really do anything about it for about six months. I didn’t take it seriously. I lacked motivation. I even had one time where I drove to the gym but sat in the car and then drove home. I actually learned later that my HbA1C was 11%, which is terrible. But I didn’t know that.
Why did you try remission?
My daughter, who is a nurse, was concerned. She said “do you know what could happen?” I had no clue. She told me I must not ignore it. And then, at Christmas 2021, I saw a picture of myself with the family. I was shocked. I did not look healthy. So, I decided in January 2022 that I had to do something. Along with those motivations, it was when I embraced the principles of mindful self-compassion–treating myself with the same kindness and understanding that I would treat a friend who was struggling–that I found the right mindset to make changes.
What did you do?
Being a teacher and researcher, I starting researching type 2 diabetes. And I found the type 2 diabetes remission study led by Dr. Jonathan Little at the University of BC. He was the most positive person. He said ‘you can do this.’ I got involved in their study and that was exactly what I needed because I got a lot of information, support, and a coach to help me. I wore a CGM – a continuous glucose monitor – and with that I could see exactly what different foods did to my blood glucose. I could see how a walk or exercise after eating could lower my blood glucose. I could see sugar, ultra-processed foods, and higher carb foods really increased my blood glucose.
At first, I drove myself crazy by obsessively counting and measuring the grams of carbs I was eating. I realized that counting and tracking food was overwhelming to me. The study referred me to the dietitian and she showed me how to visually plan a plate of food for each meal. Make one half the plate vegetables or salad, one quarter protein like meat or fish or poultry, and one quarter a healthy better choice of carb like wild rice rather than white rice. I didn’t have to count or measure anything.
What are you doing now?
The plate method is really working for me. I find it easy. I also started doing exercise I enjoy. I joined a dragon boating team and go out twice a week. I did some line dancing. I’m now playing tennis. Just a lot of fun movement. And I never take the elevator. Getting more steps count. I get my HbA1c tested every three months and I am in remission, always about 5.5% to 5.7%. It is like my body has done a reset.
What is your favorite “go-to” meal?
I really love pasta but a full plate of that is now too many carbs for me. But with the plate method I have learned that if I make the sauce full of every vegetable, with a protein, and that takes up three quarters of the plate, I can have a quarter plate of pasta. So I can have what I love, but I just make it work for me.
What do you want others to know?
I really think it starts with mindful self-compassion, and then educating yourself with the science so you can find the eating method that is right for you. There are lots of ways to do this, but it starts with figuring out what foods personally are raising your blood sugar.
For me having the coaching and support from the study was really crucial, and using the CGM so I could see what was happening. Even after the study was over, I bought a sensor myself for two weeks just to make sure I stayed on track. So, if you are like me, find a way to get support from others while you make the changes.