Rina, 46, Victoria
Age diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Number of years in remission
Life before diagnosis
In my 20s and 30s I thought one of my superpowers was that if I was busy, I could go all day without eating, just have a coffee and a cigarette, pop a candy, and keep going. Sometimes dinner was a bowl of popcorn. At age 40, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and, just my bad luck, I got sepsis after the surgery. So, my health was very up and down for a while. When I recovered, I felt so much better. I felt healthier than I had felt in a long time.
I didn’t have any symptoms of diabetes. When I changed jobs one of the perks was a full medical workup where they tested everything. At that point I was feeling pretty good and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me.
Everything came back great from the tests except for my blood sugar, which was high, 7.4%. That’s diabetes. My results from the lab had the note ‘You should talk to your doctor about this.’ There was a bit of confusion about the paperwork so it took some time, a couple of months, to get in to see the doctor.
Why did you try remission?
My sister had been going through gestational diabetes and we’d been talking regularly about that, and an aunt had diabetes. So for the first time I thought 'I may be genetically at risk of this.’ And when I saw the possible complications from diabetes I thought, ‘ Oh crap, I’d better make some changes.’
What did you do?
I’m a librarian so I’m good at doing research. I started researching what to do. I researched macros – carbs, fat, protein. I realized I loved carbs and I was probably eating way more sugar than was healthy. I had already quit smoking a number of years earlier, so now I knew I had to set up a way to keep myself accountable to reduce the sugar in my diet and reduce the amount of refined carbs like bread, cookies, sweets, and donuts. Honestly quitting smoking was way harder than reducing my carbs. I focused on eating lots of vegetables with some good protein like fish or chicken.
By the time I saw my doctor, she did another HbA1c test and I had already come down to 6.7%. She was impressed that I had been able to lower it that much. I told her what I was doing and she said ‘You are on the right path. Keep going.’ She was really encouraging and said she believed that I could put my diabetes into remission with lifestyle changes alone. The best thing was that she let me know that there was no failure, that anything I did was all to the good. And if my dietary changes were not enough, we could add in medications. I am so thankful for that because she was so supportive and gave me the space to try it. I didn’t need to be afraid. It felt very empowering.
What are you doing now?
I try to make good conscious choices. I track the food I eat with an app on my phone. Every three months I get an A1C test and it is regularly around 5.8 or 5.9%. If it happens to be a bit higher I can look back over my food log to see what might have caused it to rise. I’m trying to move more, too. I found some good dance aerobics videos on Youtube that are fun to do. I don’t deny myself all sweets, but I make sure any treat is delicious and worth it.
What is your favorite “go-to” meal?
I have a breakfast that I love. I basically eat it every morning. It is a serving of frozen dark cherries, with 20 grams of hemp seeds and ¾ cup of high protein plain Greek yogurt. So easy, so filling.
What do you want others to know?
This does not feel like a difficult restrictive diet. It feels like I am finally eating like an adult. I am single, and cooking for one is always hard, but I am lucky that I can afford meal prep delivery services. It makes it easy – fresh whole foods, lots of variety, just the right amount of food. I always choose a dinner that consists of a protein, like meat or fish, and vegetables.
Try to make it easy for yourself. And try to become empowered in your food choices. I had a breakthrough when I realized one night that this delicious chicken breast dinner I was eating, with a demi -glaze sauce and roasted zucchini, had fewer calories and was a better choice for my blood sugar than a packaged kale salad I used to always eat with nuts, cranberries and a sweet dressing. The chicken dinner was so satisfying, felt luxurious even. And it was actually better for my blood sugar and health than the salad. I find it amazing that I am eating more, eating better, and weighing less --- and my health is better.