I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 4 years ago when I was 36. I noticed I'd get up to go to the bathroom a couple of times a night, something I'd never done before, and that was the trigger that something was wrong.
My doctor ordered lab work, and then I knew. My grandmother had type 2 diabetes, my uncle has it, and now I do. I'm Italian, and I grew up eating rich Italian foods such as ravioli and other homemade pastas. For someone who loves to eat, finding out I had diabetes felt like a cruel trick.
But after I was diagnosed, I completely changed my diet and lifestyle. I went to the American Diabetes Association web site, looked up what foods I could eat, and started eating only low-carb foods. I counted carbs: 15 carbs for every snack and 45 for meals. I gave up bread, pasta, even most cheeses. And though I'm not a big exerciser, I got on the treadmill for 30 minutes every night.
I lost 50 pounds in about 4 months. The weight just fell off of me. My A1c [a test that shows blood sugar control] went down, and I felt great.
But then after 6 months, I got burned out. I missed the big homemade Italian meals my mother and grandmother used to make. So I started cheating on the weekends. Monday morning I'd be back to counting carbs and eating lots of vegetables and protein. But I'd gain a few pounds over the weekend, and lose them during the week. This yo-yoing wasn't healthy.
Eventually I just went back to eating whatever food I wanted, like pizza, cheeseburgers, and fries. My A1c shot up to 10. I started getting neuropathy in my feet -- it feels like you have a blister on the inside rather than the outside of your foot. I even had pains in the upper part of my stomach, and I knew I needed to do something.
Now I'm trying to eat healthier and lose the weight I gained back. I've found that what works for me is to eat several small meals and snacks during the day, so I never let myself get too hungry. I'll snack on a handful of almonds, beef jerky, or a protein-rich granola bar. At night if I'm hungry, I'll make a salad with just vinegar for dressing. Or eat a handful of apple slices.
I try to do a brisk walk every day to lose weight. I also realized that eating rich comfort foods was triggered by stress. So I'm finding better ways to cope.
I know that when I'm eating healthier, I feel so much better. My A1c is around 7 now. My energy is a lot higher. And I don't feel tired. My body responds when I eat better.
- Try to distract yourself from cravings. Eat an apple or a few carrots. Or try a pickle, which for me, kills the craving for sweets.
- Enlist support. My wife has been a huge help. She cooks healthy, low-carb meals and provides lots of encouragement.
- Get online and go to diabetes forums. Millions of others struggle with the exact same things you're facing.