No, I don't eat plants for dinner! This is the Farm Kitchen restaurant created by Mette at 100% Design, part of the London Design Festival, in September. It was part of an installation that offered so much inspiration for creating a 'living' kitchen in our own homes which is a very positive influence for those looking to live a healthy life.
Aesthetic Diabetic is a blog for anyone who wants to live a healthier life. Eat better. Become more fit. Be happier. It is essentially the documenting and sharing of the way I live my life since being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at 41 years old in the summer of 2012 - and reversing it six months later without medication or insulin. (My hba1c reading was in the non-diabetic range at my 6 month checkup.) But first I went through denial, shock, confusion, anger and bitterness - fun! There is no special diabetic diet, other than avoiding refined sugar and fatty foods and getting regular exercise. Sound familiar? Yes! It's the way we should all be living anyway! The way you manage diabetes, and reverse it if you're lucky to catch it early like I was and get on top of right away, is to do all of those things that you probably meant to be doing already.
Do I live a perfect life, then? Hell no! The pretty neat thing about my reversal of diabetes is that I didn't have to go ultra hardcore to do it. I wasn't exercising hours each day and eating nothing but lean protein and steamed veg. Yes, I did and do exercise each day and eat a balanced diet, with treats here and there. The key is consistency, and finding a balance that's right for you so you can maintain it indefinitely, and there is no better motivation than wanting to show a chronic condition who's boss. That's what it took for me. I still consider myself a diabetic because I have to live as one because I don't want to slip back into an unhealthy lifestyle and risk complications from diabetes. Makes sense, eh? (And anyway, I think once you've been diagnosed as diabetic you kind of always are one.)
So, what's the difference between Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes? They are completely different. In the simplest terms, Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn't produce insulin. You cannot identify a person with Type 1 diabetes by looking at her or him, and they depend on the regular administering of insulin to live. Type 2 diabetes occurs when our cells are 'locked' and the insulin can't get into the cell to deal with the excess glucose in our system, and having excess glucose in our system means the body has to work extra hard to get rid of it, and that can cause all kinds of serious health problems that are very undesirable. Some Type 2 diabetics need medication and some can manage it through diet and exercise; I was lucky to fall into the latter category. This is cool: exercise opens the closed cells and I can attest first hand to just how effective regular exercise is at managing Type 2 diabetes. If you live a healthy lifestyle, you can pretty much avoid Type 2 diabetes for most of your life, if not completely.
How did I get Type 2 diabetes? I know exactly how. Here it is as a timeline:
- Got married, had a baby, and moved to a new country within nine months, leaving support network of family and friends behind. (We moved from Canada to the UK for my husband's work. He gave me the final say and despite it killing me to leave, I couldn't bear for him to miss an opportunity he had worked very hard for and deserved. And with a new baby we needed the financial stability.)
- Arrived in the UK with post-natal (or post-partum) depression. I didn't mention it to the doctor because I didn't realise I had post-natal depression, thinking it was 'normal' to be feeling like I was nuts because of everything I'd been through.
- Began taking anti-depressants two years later when I'd nearly completely lost it and it finally became clear I was suffering from depression.
- Gained weight rapidly but don't clue in it's the medication because weight gain is not listed as a side effect.
- Feeling better mentally but still getting fat, especially around the middle. Get told at Charles de Gaulle airport that I'm 'too pregnant to fly' - best moment EVER!
- A couple years later go off meds when I realise they're making me fat. I'd been fine for a long time by then.
- Lost some weight through exercise, then inflamed a joint in my foot. Stopped exercising while it was healing but didn't modify my routine to keep it up - regrets!
- Gained most of the weight back.
- Started noticing I'm not feeling well and always ridiculously thirsty but figured I was just tired and drinking too many dehydrating drinks and not enough water. Got a chest infection that would not go away for months so I went to the doctor and had a blood test.
- Got called back to do a fasting glucose test. Nearly fell off my chair when the nurse told me they were looking for diabetes.
- Got called back for a second fasting glucose test.
- Told by the doctor on my mobile in an alleyway that my tests confirmed I was diabetic. I was told to wait for a call from the diabetic team that may come in 2-3 weeks (it never came) and warned 'don't google it'. Went back into the cafe where I was with a group of mums and their toddlers who didn't really seem to understand what I was telling them. I left pretty much hating them all for staring at me blankly when my life had just changed forever in an alley. (My close friends were much more sympathetic, and to be fair, it was chaos with all the kids running around so who knows if they even heard what I said.)
- Got over the self pity after bucketloads more of it and then got down to business.
- And here I am a year on, a new person! I've lost almost all of the weight and am probably the healthiest I've ever been because of the consistent exercise and sugar control.
So in summary, I gained a lot of weight, especially around the middle - I turned into a human rectangle - was still drinking something that rhymes with 'Moke' every day, wasn't really exercising any more, and with a bit of the 'betes in my DNA (paternal grandmother got it later in life and so did my dad), voila - I developed Type 2 diabetes. I wasn't even all that fat, or fat for all that long, how unforgiving was this thing? (Excess stomach fat is directly related to Type 2, and I definitely had that.) Let's not discount the toll stress can take, and depression leaves you vulnerable to diabetes as well - if it wasn't already crappy enough! I was also extremely frustrated, like to tears, that the 'diabetic team' at my surgery never did call for my first appointment. After many phone calls I finally got in and then the diabetic nurse I saw was obviously not well versed in diabetes and how to deal with those who are newly diagnosed. I nearly ground my teeth down to a fine powder. However, I am happy to say that the Diabetes Resource Centre at the local hospital is excellent and thanks to the dietician and podiatrist (they're specialists in diabetes) and the time they took to fully explain everything, I was able to take control of my condition. They also host a workshop on Type 2 diabetes that is run by Desmond at Newcastle University and it's excellent. They explain everything you need to know, they welcome questions about you as an individual and give you advice tailored to your specific circumstances. I can't describe how helpful all of this was after the rough start I had.
A funny note: While attending an appointment for a diabetes retinal scan (to detect damage in the eye) a few months after my diagnosis, I saw a flyer recruiting Type 2 diabetes patients for research at Newcastle University. I recognised the names as the people involved in a rather groundbreaking study at the school. I called and spoke with a woman on the team who asked a few questions about my situation. In the end, I was told I wasn't fat enough for the study. NOT. FAT. ENOUGH. Haha! I couldn't believe it. (It's worth mentioning that I had heard several times at the surgery that I didn't fit the profile of a diabetic. Sort of comforting, very confusing to hear 'We don't know why you got this.") Their previous study had reversed the subjects' Type 2 diabetes and I wanted in. Effectively, they starved the pancreas with a 600 daily calorie diet to remove the excess fat and restore normal pancreatic function (which confuses me because I was told Type 2 is about locked cells, not poor pancreatic function) and I just wasn't big enough to fit their ideal subject for this particular study. I did mention that while I wasn't huge all over, I did have a disproportionate amount of fat around my middle from the weight gain on the anti-depressants, and she acknowledged they suspect a link between belly fat and Type 2 diabetes as well, and that I might be useful in a future study exploring this. Too late, I've gotten rid of most of it!
So why 'Aesthetic' Diabetic? I've been writing a blog called The Swelle Life since 2008 and can't help but work design and beautiful imagery into this blog as well. There's no reason a diabetic life can't be a beautiful one.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your own stories about living with diabetes or just generally trying to lead a healthier life!
(Please bear with me while I finish designing this blog!)
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