When I was first diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I didn't really know what to expect. I bought some books so I could learn about Diabetes. I had to wait a month to get in to see the Diabetes Specialist. Having no guidance for the first month concerned me.

It turned out that the reason I was to wait was because my situation was not urgent, but this was not explained to me at the time. Had my stage of Diabetes been of concern to the Specialist, my appointment would have been treated with greater urgency.

Once I had met with the Nutritionist and the Diabetes Specialist, I felt I could move on to the next stage. I moved from uncertainty, fear and disappointment in myself, to gaining knowledge, gaining the tools to manage my Diabetes and a plan of where to go from here.

Getting Used To It All

I initially had to test every couple of days at different times of the day. If a reading was high, I noted what I had eaten. If I had a hunch it was a certain food that caused the reading to be so high, I would have the same meal again (on another day) without that particular food to see if it changed the reading. By doing this, I managed to eliminate or at least limit the foods that were bad for me.

Everyone reacts differently to different foods. Something that may cause one person's blood sugar reading to be high might have no effect on someone else. For me, oranges are no longer part of my diet, and rice is limited.

My nutritionist had said to me, "You have caused this". My lack of exercise and poor diet was why I now had diabetes. The way I was feeling, having ruined my gift of life, this was the last thing I wanted to hear.

That sentence, "You have caused this", is pretty much all I remember of what she said to me that day.

My diabetes educator said it was the luck of the "genetics draw". Some people twice as big as me but never get diabetes. I chose to listen to the Educator rather than the Nutritionist, and this is what helped me move on and come to terms with it.

The Diet

I have re-learned all the things I had forgotten over the years: the five major food groups, portion sizes, "every-day" foods, and "not-every-day" foods. Carbohydrates are much less a part of my diet than before. Our bodies need carbs, so you cant eliminate them completely. You just have to limit them, or work out the right quantity for you.

Salads are a big part of my diet now: baby spinach leaves with lemon juice, mini tomatoes and a little Greek yoghurt and some protein (fish, chicken or meat).

Cinnamon enables me to drink tea without sugar. I pop a cinnamon stick in with the tea bag, add water, stir, remove the cinnamon (you can re-use it many times), add low-fat milk, and you're done!

Both lemon juice and cinnamon are good for diabetics, and help with the blood sugar levels.

My nutritionist taught me that I should eat bread that has visible grains. Lumpy bits are not my thing when it comes to bread. So I go for whole meal or rye and then have a low-fat muesli bar for desert. (E.g. I eat the lumpy bits afterwards, but part of the same meal).

The Exercise

Exercise is now part of my routine. Using your muscles uses the sugar in your blood. I try to exercise every day for thirty minutes. I say "try" because it is not always every day, and it is not always for thirty minutes. I try not to miss more than one day at a time. And when I do exercise, I make sure I do at least fifteen minutes, preferably thirty.

Exercise is a very personal thing. I won't go to a gym, with other people and mirrors and loud music. I don't want to go outside and walk or ride. I don't want an exercise buddy. I'm a stay-at-home exerciser. I have my exercise bike in front of the television, and a treadmill in the other room. I have found that I have to do my exercise as soon as I get home from work before dinner and settling in for the evening, or else it doesn't happen. Everyone has his or her own way. You have to find a pattern that suits you or you won't stick to it.

Resistance training (weights) is also good for the blood sugar levels. My morning fasting levels are often a little high. I have found that doing some bicep curls right before bed means my body has something to work on into the night and my morning readings are lower. This is still a theory that I need to work on further.

The Stress

One thing to watch out for is stress. Avoiding stress is not easy, whether you are an office worker (like me), a stay-at-home mum, a senior executive, or a waitress. The trick is to learn how to deal with the stress and not let it take over your life. Process the stress and move on. There are many books on how to deal with stress.

One Year Later

A year since my initial diagnosis and I am still free of diabetes medication, handling it only with diet and exercise. I know a lot of people are never given that option and are put on medication straight away. But I am grateful for having the opportunity to try to manage this without medication first. It has given me a greater insight into what I need to do to control it. I have a healthier lifestyle than before. I have lost 11 kilos (24 pounds) in the past year – most of it in the first six months. And my blood sugar readings are generally pretty good. My HbA1C readings are in the 5's and 6's. And remember, that's with no medication.

A lot of Diabetes authorities say you should network with other Diabetics so you can have someone to talk to and help you through it. I tried. But I'm doing better going it alone, without the Diabetic buddies. There are four people in my life that I know have Diabetes. There could be more, but I am unaware of their medical situation. I spoke with each of the four – all of whom are on medication to control their Diabetes. Each one of them was of no help to me. Their responses ranged from:

  • I don't do salad - that's rabbit food.
  • HbA1C is all gobbledygook to me - it doesn't mean anything.
  • I still eat all the bad stuff - I just take more medication.
  • I want to enjoy my life, not worry all the time about what I'm eating.

This was not the kind of help I imagined before talking with these people. So I stopped looking for Diabetics to share my experience with. Perhaps that's why I'm sharing it with you now. I know if I had kept looking, I might have found some helpful Diabetics. There has to be some out there. But I'm doing okay the way I'm going. And I'm handling it okay.

My Diabetes Educator treats me like a star pupil and success story - a super hero. She is enthused by my constant successes and her enthusiasm inspires me to continue. Thank you to Kathy for helping me through this.

If you are reading this because you have diabetes, I wish you luck in your Diabetes Journey. If you are reading this because of a loved one, I hope this helps you understand it a little of what they might be going through, from their perspective.

Diabetes Organisations

Diabetes Australia – www.diabetesaustralia.com.au
Diabetes UK – www.diabetes.org.uk
American Diabetes Association – www.diabetes.org