“You have type 2 diabetes, until proven otherwise.”
My doctor’s words gave me a cold chill. After years of treating diabetic patients as a podiatrist, I never dreamed I would join their ranks. I wasn’t overweight. I was active and ate a reasonably healthy diet. I also had no family history of diabetes.
My Hemoglobin A1c, a blood test that estimates the average level of blood glucose for the past three months, was elevated. Even though my fasting glucose was only a squeak above normal, it was the A1c that got my doctor’s attention. He explained that I would be testing my blood twice a day and would have to attend diabetes classes.
The instructors at the Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital diabetes classes were great. They patiently explained the right way to test my blood, how to tailor my diet to my new diagnosis, and got me off to a good start. After six months of eating my new diet and patiently poking my fingers, I sat in my doctor’s office waiting while he looked through my logbook. As he turned the pages and looked at the numbers I had written down so faithfully, he looked up and said, “These numbers are fantastic! I’m going to cut your testing back to once a week.”
What a relief!
Fast-forward five months. I’m still behaving. I can walk past a whole buffet full of sweets and carbs and leave them alone. I’ve stepped up my exercise regimen and my numbers are in the middle of normal. I’d really like them to be lower, especially that pesky A1c, to have some insurance against a return to daily testing, or worse.
Recently, a book caught my eye with its catchy title, “The End of Diabetes” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I recognized him as the author of “Eat to Live,” a best-selling diet book. Fuhrman claims to have cured several people of their type 2, or age-related, diabetes through a combination of exercise and a very creative diet.
As Fuhrman points out, type 2 diabetes affects 10 to 15 percent of adults older than 50. The great majority of them are overweight, which puts the pancreas under a lot of stress to produce enough insulin to keep up with the standard American diet, which he refers to as SAD. Fuhrman points out that 80 percent of all diabetics die of heart attacks and strokes. Therefore, taking the weight off is beneficial on many levels.
As I was reading the book, the actual diet started to come into focus. Here are the highlights:
• You won’t be eating as much meat.
• Items such as cheese, eggs and oils are in shorter supply.
• Only fat-free milk is permitted.
• You’ll become more familiar with veggies, legumes, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. Some of the veggies are way better for you than others, such as kale, spinach and romaine lettuce. The same is true of the other categories.
• Breakfast is considered a light meal. Lunch and dinner are your main meals.
• No snacking between meals, especially between dinner and breakfast. This is the time when your body needs to detoxify and undergo deep cellular repair. Your poor, overworked pancreas needs a break, too.
• Say hello to veggie-based smoothies while your sugar intake is reduced.
• Recommended exercises are walking three times a day and climbing stairs, even though no mention is made of a post-exercise snack. Note from the foot doctor: If you’re going to start a walking program from scratch, start out by walking around the block (if you can make it) and add another block each day.
• Meal suggestions and recipes are included. If you have a smoothie maker or juicer, you’re already ahead.
In spite of all the rules, Fuhrman makes a compelling case for a healthier way of eating. The many testimonials from his happy patients who have gone from insulin dependence to zero medications make it hard to ignore. You would do well to let your health care provider know if you’re going to start the program.
I plan to sit down and make a timetable for slowly introducing his recommendations, starting with the easy stuff. I’ve already cut out the snacking (you actually get used to it). Fuhrman points out that we eat the way we do out of habit, and that healthier habits can be developed.
“The End of Diabetes” is well-researched and all the facts are backed up with scientific studies listed in the back. You may dismiss it as a wacko mirage or believe that it could make a difference in your struggle with diabetes. You’ll never know until you read it for yourself.
• “The End of Diabetes” by Joel Fuhrman was published in December 2012 by HarperOne. The paperback edition was published in April. It retails for $15.99.
• Scott Lee is a retired podiatrist and a part-time proofreader for Inklings Bookshop. He and other Inklings staffers review books in this space each week.