In my last blog post, I shared my type 2 diabetes diagnosis that I learned while having a diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) attack in an ambulance. DKA is usually something that only occurs in type 1 diabetics, but can happen to type 2 diabetics in extreme cases or during an illness.
The first 6 weeks after my hospital stay were very emotional for me. I felt guilty, angry, sad, and frustrated. Apparently, I went through a standard grievance process. I spent many hours researching and contemplating “what went wrong?” I wanted to be knowledgeable and completely honest with myself about what caused my diabetes.
First, how did I end up in the emergency room? I think that began two months before when I slipped on a sidewalk and hurt both my arms. I rarely left my hotel room after that. I had virtually no exercise and my food and drink choices were full of sugar, rather than following my usual healthy whole food plant-based diet. I was getting quite unhealthy.
Then I caught the flu, which means my body was making extra glucose. This was the big trigger for my DKA attack. However, in order for it to get to this life-threatening stage, I likely had undiagnosed diabetes for many months.
I believe the following issues are the causes of my type 2 diabetes:
- My belly fat. By medical standards, my 5’8″ 150 pound body was considered “healthy,” but I certainly needed to lose weight. Throughout my adult life, my weight shifted up and down within a 25-pound range. 3 years ago I was at my highest, but I started a whole food plant-based diet and lost 50 pounds. I continued to follow this healthy lifestyle in general, but I made a number of exceptions for the sake of travelling and living in hotels. I gained back some of the weight I lost, and my belly came back to visit. In medical terms, visceral fat was stored around my internal organs, including my liver and pancreas, which promoted insulin resistance. (See Diabetes as a Disease of Fat Toxicity for more information.)
- My sedentary lifestyle. I sat in a chair most of the day and did not typically have much daily physical activity, especially in the most recent months before the attack.
- I’m over 40, and diabetes runs in my family. Whether it’s truly in the genes, or that I have similar eating patterns as my type 2 diabetic mother, I seemed to be at risk.
- I did not get medical check-ups. I avoided going to a doctor for many years, and I never had my blood tested for pre-diabetes.
- Poor food and drink choices. This one goes hand-in-hand with the extra belly fat. Especially In the previous few months before my diagnosis, I was consuming too much alcohol (mostly rum) and eating quite poorly (processed salty, sugary snacks including trans fats). Major carb abuse. I swore to myself that I would give it all up in the new year!
I look at these causes as lessons learned. The silver lining is that my condition provides the ultimate motivation that I need to get and stay healthy. My next steps are clearly:
- Eat healthy. Lose weight and give myself the nutrition to maximize my health and body functions.
- Exercise more. Lose weight, get strong, and improve my cardiovascular health.
- Control my blood sugar levels. Through trial-and-error and use of my glucose meter, determine exactly how food and exercise affect my blood sugar so that I can optimize my health plan for long-term non-diabetic blood sugar levels.
These days my blood sugar levels are excellent and stable. I take daily walks, and I work out at my hotel gym 5 days/week. I even bought a Fitbit to help motivate me and keep track of my heartbeat and my calories out. I’m also eating super healthy again. I spent 2 hours with a nutritionist last week and learned so much! I’m tracking everything I eat, so I can share all of my information later. I currently take oral medicine (Glipizide and Metformin), but I hope to wean off of them soon.
For the past few weeks, I have stayed in hotels with kitchens. It was great to be able to make my own meals. However, I’ve found that I can eat very healthy in a standard hotel too. I’ll be writing more about the topic of healthy eating in hotels. I still haven’t made any decisions about whether I’ll be continuing the hotel lifestyle or “settling down” somewhere with a kitchen. I’ll share more soon!
What do you think? Am I being realistic enough? Do you agree or disagree with my causes?