Obesity > Diabetes > "Diabesity"!
My dieting history started when I was 7! My parents thought I was getting fat because I had a little tummy on me. I now know this is normal when a child is about to have a growth spurt, but they were very into dieting and pulled me into it too. The first diet they had me doing was the same one they were doing called "Stillman's Quick Weight Loss Diet"—which was a low carb diet—way back in the '60s! This began a yo-yo dieting journey that turned into an obsession with food, dieting, and weight, and I ended up really messing up my metabolism from eating very low calorie. At one point I was eating only 500 calories a day and exercising 3 hours a day, yet I still couldn't lose any more weight! After each diet came the inevitable weight regain, plus more that always happens after low-calorie dieting due to the lowered metabolism.
I remember as young as 7 years old keeping a diary that showed my weight each day—whether I'd lost or gained, if I blew it the day before, ate a cookie, etc.! How sad…! All through my teen years, this continued. My entire life became all about dieting and weight. I look back over those diaries and feel so sad. What a waste of TIME! What all could I have accomplished if I hadn't gone down that path?
I always thought I was so overweight, but when I look back at the photos of me during those early years, I was an average size! Yet my mother and I did all the diets together. I remember one in particular called TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly - yeah, right!)… We'd go to this meeting each week, take off ALL our jewelry(!), and get weighed in front of everyone there! How humiliating! I was only 11 at the time! If you lost weight, everyone would clap and cheer for you. If you stayed the same, they'd say, "Do better next time." If you gained weight, you'd get "Boo'ed." Unbelievable! There was a little red songbook we'd sing songs from where they'd changed the words to fit dieting and weight loss. One song in particular that I still remember to this day was to the tune of "Glow Worm." It went like this…
Grow, little fat girl, thinner, thinner
Go without your daily dinner
Eat green salads every day
This will drive the pounds away
My arms are long, but they won't go 'round you
Gee you're a peach, and I'm glad I found you
But 'round your waist my arms won't go
Until you thinner grow!
How HORRIFIC is THAT for a little girl to think about herself?!!!!
Just like everyone else who tries calorie restriction to lose weight, I always lost weight (sometimes as much as 100 lbs.), but I always regained it, PLUS some. By the time I was in my 30s, I'd dieted my way UP to 350 lbs. I'd developed Type II diabetes and a host of other illnesses (some weight related, others not). If you'd like to read my story of developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Environmental Illness (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities) (eventually diagnosed as Lyme Disease), please see my story on my other web site!
Here are a couple of my original "before" pictures—long before I found low carb/keto!
Here is my "before" picture from 2013 not too long before I began my low carb journey…
And here are two more recent photos of me "in progress" after losing 105 lbs. so far!
Type II Diabetes
In 1994 I went to the doctor for a urinary tract infection. When he ran the urinalysis, the nurse suddenly came into the room and did a blood sugar finger stick. I asked what was going on, and she just said they had found sugar in my urine. I had no idea at the time what this meant! My blood glucose reading was 235! Next thing I knew, the doctor was handing me a box of pills to take (it was called Glynase, a sulfonylurea) to bring my sugar down. I asked him if I had diabetes, and he never really gave me an answer! He just sent me away with that box of pills and a prescription to get filled once the sample box ran out.
SIDE NOTE… I now realize that I actually had diabetes for MANY years before I was finally diagnosed. My doctor had only been testing my fasting glucose for my yearly physical (which is still what most doctors do to this day!), and it had been creeping higher and higher each year. Because it was still technically in the "normal" range, he never said anything about it or suggested I make dietary changes to prevent full-blown diabetes! And I now know that even before I had diabetes, I was insulin resistant for most likely 10–15 years, which was already leading to health problems! (PLEASE see my posts on insulin resistance—how to see if you have it, what to do to correct it, and especially how to prevent it!)
I went home and found some books to order about diabetes (this was before the internet was widely available) and realized that I did indeed have Type II Diabetes. I learned that it was crucial to monitor your own blood sugar regularly and to learn what foods cause your sugar to go high. I went back to my doctor and literally had to BEG for a prescription for a glucose meter and test strips! He said there was really no need for me to be testing myself! I insisted that I would be flying blind if I couldn't tell how well I was controlling my sugar! He eventually agreed.
My diabetes journey followed the typical path… I was started on pills—eventually leading to insulin injections and more pills—then higher and higher doses of insulin. I was told to lose weight in order to get the diabetes under control. The only problem was I could NOT lose weight no matter how hard I tried! I know now that it was because of the high doses of INSULIN I was taking! Insulin is a GROWTH hormone!! It tells the body to STORE FAT. I've also learned that Type II Diabetes is a disease of TOO MUCH INSULIN—NOT too little! So why was I given even MORE insulin to add to the problem?!
I never realized that obesity and diabetes were two sides of the same coin—namely INSULIN RESISTANCE! The way I'd been eating since I was a young child had contributed to this condition, and I never knew it! I'd been told over and over that I was gaining weight because I overate and didn't exercise enough—yet, I'd dieted and exercised harder than anyone possibly could! How much was enough?! What a relief to finally learn the TRUTH! That my own body was fighting against me and that this condition was REVERSIBLE! I thank God for the events that followed…
Fast-forward to 2013… I had been struggling with my weight and diabetes for years, and was up to over 400 units of insulin a day, and yet my A1C (3-month average of blood sugar) was 9.7 (very high). I didn't understand why I couldn't get things under control! It was very frustrating, to say the least! It was in September of 2013 that—of all people(!)—my Lyme Disease doctor finally recommended I cut the carbs! No other doctor had ever suggested this! I'd seen endocrinologists who specialize in diabetes, yet I was never taught that carbohydrates were the problem and that I was carb-intolerant! My Lyme doctor told me that eating very low carb would bring my blood sugar into control and that the weight would melt off similar to if I'd had bariatric surgery!
My appointment was 5 hours away, so on the way home (with my husband driving) I downloaded a book called The Diabetes Solution by Dr. Richard Bernstein (an AMAZING book, highly recommended for all diabetics) to learn how to use a very low carb way of eating to get the diabetes under control. I started realizing this would mean giving up all the foods I loved the most—bread, pasta, chips, pizza, crackers, basically anything carb-loaded! I literally cried all the way home, but upon reading page after page of the reviews for the book on Amazon, I began to feel something different—I felt full of HOPE! People were saying they were able to reduce—or even stop—their insulin and other diabetes meds, were losing weight, feeling better, etc.
Shortly after this I ended up in the hospital for almost a week with VERY high blood sugar, swelling on the brain, a very rapid heart rate, and I was so mentally confused I didn't even know my own birthday when asked! I also had been suffering from severe edema (swelling) in my lower legs for 5 years, and even taking 3 diuretics at the same time wasn't helping this swelling. (I now know that it was all the insulin that was causing so many problems because insulin increases inflammation!) While in the hospital, I picked up the book again and started preparing to start this plan once I got home.
I began cutting carbs on a Monday and by Tuesday morning, my husband glanced over at my legs and said, "Look at your ankles!" The swelling that I'd suffered from for 5 years was GONE—literally OVERNIGHT! I could see the bones in my ankles and had to compare them with his just to make sure it was normal! This happens for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that insulin causes salt retention by the kidneys. Once you get the insulin down, your body tells the kidneys to let go of the salt. Water follows salt, so you urinate a lot and all the excess swelling goes away! I had to stop the diuretics cold turkey! I never have needed them since, and my legs remain normal to this day…
I also had to reduce my insulin right away or I would have low blood sugar. Within one month, my A1C had gone down to 6.5, and by two months it was 5.8! Within 3 months, 65 lbs. had dropped off as well! My doctor was absolutely AMAZED! I read every book I could find on the subject of low carb (and eventually what ketogenic meant) and listened to every podcast I could find! (See my Resources section for my suggestions!)
After this initial dramatic reduction in weight and blood sugar, things stayed put for many months. I had several stressful life situations going on, which I believe contributed to this, since cortisol is another hormone that plays a big part in weight gain and high blood sugar. My knees had gotten really bad, and I eventually had both knees replaced in 2015, which has been miraculous!
Back up to 2014 when I'd asked my doctor to run a C-Peptide test. This is a test that shows whether you are still making any insulin on your own or not. Sometimes Type II diabetics eventually quit making any insulin once the pancreas becomes so worn out from many years of having to overproduce insulin due to a high carb diet. My results were a little discouraging—0.56 (normal is 0.8 - 3.1). She told me I would never get off insulin and that my pancreas had just about quit on me.
However, in 2016 I asked her to repeat this test just to see where I was. She was absolutely amazed to find my results were now 2.6!! My pancreas was HEALING due to my low carb way of eating! At this same appointment, she also was amazed to find my LDL cholesterol had dropped from 156 to 92 in just 3 months! She said she'd NEVER seen that happen unless someone was on a statin drug (which I was NOT!). These are just SOME of the unseen improvements that happen regularly with LCHF/Keto!
I was still having trouble losing more weight, however, and I knew by this time that INSULIN was the culprit! I was still taking about 75–100 units a day. In the fall of 2016 I read a wonderful book called The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jimmy Moore and Dr. Jason Fung. I decided to give it a try, and to my shock and horror(!) my blood sugar went sky high! I didn't know what was going on, but I contacted Jimmy who told me that Dr. Adam Nally had recently addressed this very issue on their KetoTalk podcast and that this particular episode would air that week! I tuned in and learned that many diabetics are also deficient in another pancreatic hormone called Amylin, which offsets the action of insulin. It acts as an "off switch" to the liver's production of glucagon, which secretes glucose into the bloodstream! That HAD to be what was happening to me! My own liver was sending glucose into my bloodstream because I definitely wasn't eating any since I was fasting!
I researched online and learned there is a synthetic form of Amylin called Symlin, which is an injection you take before meals. I asked my doctor about it, and she thought it was a WONDERFUL idea for me to give it a try! This could also help reduce my insulin needs, which is what I know is necessary in order for the rest of the weight to come off. Within a week of taking the Symlin, I had dropped 19 lbs.! I was able to reduce my insulin down to around 50 units a day at that point.
I knew I still needed to reduce the insulin—hopefully to none—and I learned about a newer class of diabetes drugs called SGLT-2 Inhibitors. The name brands of these are Invokana, Jardiance, and Farxiga. These drugs work in a different way than the other diabetes drugs. Instead of increasing insulin (which causes weight gain!), these drugs LOWER insulin and lower glucose in the body by causing you to urinate the glucose out! A good article on this new class of drugs can be found on the Diet Doctor site.
I asked my doctor about giving Jardiance a try, and she agreed that it might help me reduce insulin the rest of the way. Adding the medicine made a HUGE difference right away! The weight started FALLING off me, and I was OFF the insulin! However, I had no idea how strong this medicine could be—especially when combined with an already ketogenic diet—and I ended up in the hospital with severe dehydration, as well as what is called "euglycemic diabetic ketoacidosis" (DKA). I didn't realize a Type II diabetic could have DKA until I read about it online when researching what might be wrong with me and found the warnings about these drugs possibly causing DKA. The ER doctors didn't believe me (and even laughed at me) when I suggested I had DKA since my glucose was only 120 at that point! They're taught if it's not over 250 not to even suspect DKA. But they were treating me for the dehydration with fluids, which is what I needed to help both the dehydration and the DKA, so I knew I would be okay. I had stopped taking the Jardiance a few days before since I'd suspected it was causing the dehydration, which led to the DKA.
After this incident, I went back to my usual routine of fasting and ketogenic eating, but I had to go back on insulin, so some of the weight came back on. At my next visit with my doctor I asked what she thought about me using the Jardiance but more cautiously—every other day or so—and now I know what symptoms to watch for. She agreed, so that's what I'm doing now. When I fast now, I don't take it! I know that the two things combined is too strong for me!
I've gone from 400 units of insulin a day down to between 15-50. I've also lost 105 lbs. so far by eating this way, along with learning about fasting and using that tool as well. I learned that low carb is different from ketogenic and that people with severe insulin resistance or Type II diabetes usually need this more advanced form of the diet. I will explain more about all this in my blog posts, so stay tuned!
So that's where I am for today… Subscribe to my site if you'd like to receive updates on my journey and all the things I'm learning along the way! I will also help guide you on a journey of your own if you would like to learn this way of eating…