I know how struggles with health and weight feel. I struggled with my health and weight for over 20 years, beginning shortly after the onset of my thyroid disease. I went from a dress size 6 to size 20 at my heaviest weight. I tried the trendy, unsustainable yo-yo diets, such as Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins and other low-carb diets. I consulted several doctors and nutritionists. I would lose a few pounds only to gain it back again. After which, I then would feel both fat and depressed.
For a long time doctors told me my weight struggles were tied to metabolic issues, further compounded by plantar fasciitis, sleep apnea, and being premenopausal. I was told that I might be “weight loss resistant.” My symptoms included being hungry and tired all the time. My husband, Bruce, would plan snack times and stops for me–when I was on the road–to keep me from getting irritable.
Eventually my biometric numbers began to rise a bit, including glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure. My weight continued to increase even though I was eating mostly lean meats and vegetables, and limiting my carbohydrates.
In 2015, I needed to get exercise so I started working as a personal shopper at a local grocery store, where I walked on average five miles a day. I was still gaining weight! After a while a severe pain started in my feet and hands. My health continued to deteriorate.
If I did not eat every couple of hours, I’d start to shake, became irritable, and was unable to think about or focus on anything but eating. After I ate, I would fall asleep. I was tired all the time. I had shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and pressure in my chest. I was using an asthma inhaler. My quality of sleep was getting worse and I snored so loud I would wake myself up. I did have a sleep study done, after which I started using a CPAP machine and my sleep improved. I was beyond miserable and I was only 54 years old!
I enjoy the outdoors and made every attempt to remain active. Early in the summer of 2017, a friend and I went bike riding. About 30 minutes into the ride, I started to shake, had tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing. I could think of nothing but food. I had to stop immediately and eat. I could tell from the look on my friend’s face that something was really wrong with me.
Later that summer, I was wakeboarding with my family. As soon as I stood up on the board, I could not breathe. I had to drop the rope and fall into the water. My husband asked, “What is wrong with you?” I had no energy and I had pressure in my chest. I just couldn’t breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack. I knew that I needed to see a doctor.
This doctor’s appointment lasted two and a half hours. I had so many symptoms, in addition to my sleep apnea and thyroid disease: morbid obesity, the shakes, heart flutters or palpitations, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and pain in joints, hands and feet. My test results revealed a rise in blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose. Diabetes became a major concern. I was referred to an Endocrinologist.
In October 2017, I went to my Endocrinologist appointment and was amazed by the number of patients in his office. There was a waiting room for the waiting room! That’s right, two waiting rooms to accommodate the large number of patients. Almost everyone in the waiting room was morbidly obese–like me. At that moment, I realized that diabetes wasn’t just a disease, it’s an epidemic! I asked myself, “How did so many of us get to this point?”
Once in the examination room, the doctor took one look at me and my test results and said, “You need to lose weight. You need to eat less and move more.” I immediately started to cry. I was so frustrated and felt so defeated. I was already walking five-plus miles a day, and eating yogurt, salads, vegetables, and lean meats as directed by my primary doctor. I watched my carbs and wasn’t eating processed foods. I don’t even like sweet things or sugar, and rarely ate them. How can I be a diabetic?
Then I became angry. All the years of trying to get to the bottom of my ailments welled up in me and I told the doctor, “No, I don’t need to move more, I move plenty! I average five miles a day. I eat a healthy diet. I am not like all your OBESE patients. Something is wrong with me.” The doctor said that he would order a glucose tolerance test to take a closer look at my concerns.
Fasting for the test was difficult, but I got through it. They drew my blood and then I drank the sweet liquid that the nurse gave me. I sat and had blood drawn again. This was repeated a few times. Then I noticed the nurse’s look of concern. She locked me in the chair with the arm rest, walked over to a manual and opened it. She said, “Stay right there, I need to get the doctor. Your glucose is down to 62. I’m not sure we are going to be able to continue this test.”
The nurse returned and asked if I felt faint or dizzy. I told her that as long as I was sitting, I felt okay. Apparently, the doctor said that if I wasn’t faint, we could continue with the test. Blood was taken as we waited, and my glucose level rose to 70. The nurse said, “Well that’s good, we now can rule out pancreatic cancer.”
I didn’t have an appointment with the doctor, but he arranged to see me right away. He told me I was insulin resistant and that he was putting me on Metformin and sending me to a nutritionist. Again that doctor said that if I wanted to improve my condition that I needed to lose weight. After drinking orange juice, I went back to the nurse, and she checked to make sure my glucose was at 80 so I could leave.
Taking Metformin diminished my appetite, and initially I lost a few pounds because of the side effects. I also went to a nutritionist, who gave me the American Diabetes Association’s “Create Your Plate” to use as my food group guide and encouraged me to increase the amount of non-starchy vegetables and low-glycemic fruit in my diet. I was instructed to stay away from processed, high-glycemic, and sugary foods. I was told to start my day with oatmeal to stabilize my blood sugar and lower my cholesterol, eat every 2 hours, and keep my calories to between 1,600 – 1,800 per day.
I tracked everything I ate and drank through the fitness pal app on my phone, which synced up with my Garmin fitness tracker watch. Eating every 2 hours and keeping calories low was not easy. I felt like all I was doing was eating and logging my food. Slowly, I was losing weight, but I still would get the shakes if I went close to two hours with no food. And when I ate, I fell asleep. I began to feel like this way of eating and charting wasn’t going to be sustainable in the long run.
In January 2018, I got the flu–even after having a flu shot. I was even more sick and tired, and miserable. Trapped in the house, I began watching the Megyn Kelly Today show and one day she had four men as guests. Together the four men explained they had lost a total of 750 lbs! Needless to say, this got my attention.
They talked about how switching to a whole food, plant-based diet reversed the majority of their diseases, including type 2 diabetes. They encouraged viewers to watch a documentary, Forks over Knives, streaming on Netflix to learn more about the healthy lifestyle.
That afternoon, my husband and I watched the documentary and we were blown away. The studies and results presented were indisputable. After viewing the film, we were both very emotional. We felt ANGRY, BETRAYED and SO MISLED. We are intelligent people, how could we not know this stuff? And now that we know this, where do we go from here? We couldn’t continue eating meat and dairy knowing what we know now. To do so would be not only intellectually dishonest, but tantamount to committing suicide. In that moment, we changed to a whole food, plant-based diet and cut out sugar, oil, and salt, or SOS for short.
This is how our battle against type 2 diabetes began. My husband and I are a year into living the whole food, plant-based lifestyle, and it as a lifestyle, not a diet. I have lost 53 lbs; combined, we have lost over 100 lbs. My blood work parameters are now within the normal range. No more high glucose, cholesterol, etc. My protein levels have actually gone UP a full point since our change. My doctor took me off Metformin, officially saying that my type 2 diabetes is reversed.
I no longer shake if I don’t eat every 2 hours, or fall asleep after eating. Instead, I have a new-found energy and endurance. In August of 2018, I wake boarded for a distance of two miles. I am no longer out of breath and I can hike mountains and complete trails of over 14 miles with substantial changes in elevation.
This past fall I completed a difficult challenge and hiked “7 Peaks in 7 Weeks” on the Appalachian Trail in southwest Virginia. This is a structured hike sponsored by PlayRoanonke.com. A year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to complete one mountain hike, much less seven summits! I feel better than I have in 10 years. I am so excited for the opportunities that this lifestyle has given me and the possibilities it has for anyone interested in following this lifestyle.
Bruce has his own success story. He had sleep apnea and was using a CPAP machine. He also had a condition called Dupuytren’s Contracture, which created large hard lumps on both palms. Plus he had numbness and a burning sensation on the back of his right hand. He was developing neuropathy in his feet, which was beginning to radiate up his leg. At almost 350 pounds., he was morbidly obese. His blood pressure was routinely 155/95 and his resting heartbeat was in the mid-90s. He experienced back pain and shortness of breath and could not walk up two flights of stairs without resting. His blood work was generally within normal limits, but always at one of the extreme ends of the normal range. His cardiac risk assessment was over 5, indicating greater than normal risk of a heart attack.
NOW, after a year of this plant-based lifestyle, Bruce’s neuropathy is over 80 percent resolved. The lumps on his palms are either softer and barely discernible or gone! His blood pressure is routinely in the 120/75 range. All elements of his blood work are comfortably within normal limits. His cardiac risk is 3.4, significantly better than the average man of his age. The back and joint pain has significantly improved, and he often walks for more than a mile without resting. Most dramatically, shortly after we began, his resting heart beat declined steadily over a two-week period from 94 to 59! He’s also experiencing renewed hair growth on scalp, arms and lower legs, and the hair on his head is no longer white, but darkening with time. As mentioned, he, too, has lost about 50 lbs.
While we are still angry about not knowing the truth for so long, we turn the anger into motivation. I started my own personal ministry, which I named “Type2Warrior,” because I feel compelled to share the TRUTH about the whole food, plant-based lifestyle, as well as my positive experience on how it contributed to reversing my diseases.
Type 2 diabetes is at a pandemic level and a gateway to so many other diseases. While I am thrilled to have lost so much weight, it wasn’t my main goal–rather a happy side effect of the process, which reversed my disease. I want health and happiness for all who want it too. It’s not just merely longevity, but longevity with quality of life. I believe EVERYONE deserves to know the TRUTH and make an informed decision on what they eat and how they treat their own bodies.
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