Chris, 25, White Rock
Age diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Number of years in remission
Life before diagnosis
I was a skinny little kid. My parents were always trying to get me to gain weight. However, between Grade 3 and Grade 8 I got pretty heavy and dieting was mostly unsuccessful. I was never one for sweets or pop, but I could eat an entire large pizza by myself. I was telling myself I was not obese, just a bit heavy, because my face was thin. By the time I was 17, I had a BMI of about 28. But I had a lot of central obesity – a lot of fat in my belly.
By the time I was in my last year of high school I did not feel well. I was drinking a lot of water and sweating a lot. I was also waking in the middle of the night to pee often. Some days I would feel extremely sluggish and tired but I thought that was normal. My mom took me to the doctor because she wanted to make sure everything was okay.
The lab tests showed my blood glucose was very high. My HbA1c, a measure of blood glucose over 3 months, was 8.5% which is diabetes. At first, because I was so young, they thought it might be type 1 diabetes or something called LADA – latent autoimmune diabetes of adults – which shares features between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. But with a lot of tests and follow up it was determined it was type 2 diabetes.
Why did you try remission?
At first, I was in complete denial. I felt ashamed. I was depressed. The doctor told me to make an appointment with the dietitian, but I did not do it. I was given metformin but I was not adherent to the medication. For six to nine months after the diagnosis, I made no changes and my blood glucose stayed the same. But then I starting doing more research. Because of my genetics, I was at high risk for type 2 diabetes complications like blindness, kidney failure, amputation and I thought ‘I really have to do something.’
What did you do?
I started Googling “how can I cure diabetes” and other similar search terms. Back then, around 2015, there was not a lot of information but I found a subreddit about the keto diet. Most people were doing it for weight loss but I learned it might help reverse type 2 diabetes. So I tried the keto diet.
I didn’t tell my doctor I was doing keto until I came back for a check-up three months later. I had lost more than 25 pounds and my HbA1C had gone from 8.5 to 5.4. He warned me about some side effects like hypoglycemia – too low blood sugar –from keto but he said “just keep doing what you are doing.” I did have some spells of hypoglycemia. I was sitting in class and I got sweaty and my vision was distorted. I decided then I would see a dietitian so I would do keto safely.
What are you doing now?
I did a keto diet for one year. I got really into it and really counted my carbs each day, but ultimately it wasn’t sustainable for me. I transitioned to a healthy low-carb diet, just being conscious of what I am eating but not obsessively counting carbs. If I did see my blood sugar rise again, I would go back to keto to get it under control, but I am doing well now. I also found rock climbing, which I love. It is scary and exciting, and it keeps me very active and strong.
What is your favorite “go-to” meal?
I love making chili. I throw in a lot of vegetables, chickpeas some beans. It is mostly vegetables and protein and it tastes really good. It lasts in the fridge for a week, which is great for a university student.
What do you want others to know?
I think I want other young people to know that remission is possible. To feel empowered and inspired. There is a lot of stigma attached to having type 2 diabetes when you are younger. You can go into denial and get depressed like I was. But I want people to know there is hope, that you can overcome it. You don’t have to be on medication for life. And you will feel so much better. I recently finished my pharmacy degree and I hope as a pharmacist that I can be part of helping people with type 2 diabetes learn about remission and supporting them to try it.
You are going to have setbacks. You should expect them. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Understand the process and see the long term. And then just as soon as you can get back on track.