For the last month, I have been doing something without telling you about it, and in fact I had no intention of telling you about it, but now I kind of feel like I have to, in case my story can help someone else.
So first, some history. In May of 2015, when I ended up in the hospital for an emergency appendectomy, I was informed that I was diabetic. My blood sugar was at 300. After the surgery, I was visited by a diabetes educator who told me that I should limit carbs and starches to about 25% of my diet. I also got started on Metformin and insulin.
Once I got home, I soon discovered that eating 25% carbs was a recipe for disaster. I tried to keep my carb consumption a lot lower than that, but even so, over time I found I had to increase my insulin dosage in order to keep my blood sugar under control. From needing 30 units a day when first diagnosed, my needs steadily increased until by the beginning of this year, I was needing 170 units per day!
Not only did this make me nervous; it was getting very expensive. A vial of insulin which used to last me a month now only lasted a week. Even using the cheap Walmart insulin, that adds up. I don’t have an “insulin budget.” So my insulin had to come out of my already tight grocery budget.
As I reported to you on February 6, I went to the doctor for a check-up and asked her why my insulin needs were continuing to climb, and her answer was, “Because your pancreas is wearing out.” I don’t know how you would react if your doctor told you that your pancreas is wearing out. I reacted with horror—and with determination to do something about it.
I went home realizing that I had to come up with a plan. The doctor had recommended diabetes education. I’m sorry, but I already went through all that stuff, many times, and I was doing what they said to do and that’s what got me to the point of needing 170 units of insulin a day. So I knew I was going to have to find a solution that actually had some sort of beneficial result. I started a document on my computer and titled it My Pancreas Rescue Plan.
When I was researching various sites to come up with my plan, I read an article that was very discouraging. First of all, it made the assumption that diabetes always gets worse and there’s not much you can do about it. It went on to explain that this is why so many diabetics give up. Once they start experiencing complications, they figure their efforts no longer matter, so they might as well eat what they want and just die sooner rather than later. I have known two people who did this and basically ate themselves to death. I refuse to accept that fate for myself.
My thoughts turned to a study my dad had told me about, and that I often see various advertisements about. There are various versions of it, but what they all boil down to is that some people have been able to greatly reduce their insulin dosage by going on a low-calorie diet, sometimes as low as 600 calories per day. In addition, sometimes when they stay on the diet for 6-8 weeks, their diabetes seems to “disappear.”
Now, I have always rejected this approach for two reasons. First, I can’t recall reading of a single case where anyone started off needing more than 50-60 units of insulin per day, so I knew in my case I’d be lucky to even cut my insulin dosage in half, and at the time that didn’t seem like it would be worth it. Why not? Because secondly, my metabolism is so spectacularly screwed up from my many failed attempts to lose weight, that a very low-calorie diet would just inflict more damage and guarantee that nothing ever would enable me to succeed in losing weight.
However, once you realize that your pancreas is actually failing, your priorities change. I would much rather be alive and still fat than dead from diabetes complications, so I decided I was going to start restricting calories in general and carbs in particular. I spent two days coming up with my pancreas rescue plan, and I started it on February 8. My goal was to stay on this regime at least through the end of April in hopes of halving my dependence on insulin, and also, of course, giving my pancreas a break.
One week later, on February 15, I was able to eliminate my morning insulin injection, which had started off at 75 units. My evening dose was down to 25 units. That first week, my need for insulin decreased so suddenly that I had to actually have some carbs in the afternoon to keep my blood sugar from getting too low. (I tested my blood sugar very often to make sure I didn’t get in serious trouble.)
At the end of that first week, when I had reduced my insulin intake from 170 units to 25 units, I began to wonder if it might actually be possible for me to get completely off insulin—a goal which hadn’t even seemed reachable when I started. I had to go out and buy smaller syringes. Over the next couple of weeks, I was able to reduce my evening dose by small increments, until March 2, when I made the jump to zero insulin.
So what did I do? It was surprisingly simple. I’m still kind of stunned that it worked. Normally my body doesn’t obey any of the “rules” that seem to work for other people.
- For breakfast, I have tea (with cream but no sweetening), one egg, and either a sausage patty or three strips of bacon. I squeeze as much fat out of the meat as possible with paper towels. I was and am willing to replace this meal with a protein shake, but it hasn’t been necessary so far and breakfast happens to be my favorite meal.
- For lunch, I have a protein shake, made with water and usually with a few berries thrown in. At first I got my protein from Aldi but it made me nervous because of the artificial sweetener, so I switched to a more expensive unsweetened brand. Not sure I can continue to afford that, though.
- I still have my cup of tea in the afternoon. If I really feel hungry, I might have a cheese stick or ¼ cup of nuts.
- For supper, I have a piece of meat (eg. a chicken thigh) and some low-carb veggie like cauliflower or zucchini. I also have a veggie drink–you know the kind that is a mix of a bunch of greens, veggies, and fruits—so I can make sure to get more veggies. The drink tastes vile because it is sweetened with stevia, but I can gulp it down in a few swallows and it actually seems to help lower my blood sugar so I don’t skip it.
- Supper is eaten no later than 5:00 p.m. I hate eating that early, but I have known for a long time that is one of the best things I can do for my blood sugar. This means I never get to eat dinner with my family, but if they’re having something that’s not too tempting to me, I will sit and visit with them while they eat. I usually take my supplements and multivitamin at this time. What if I’m out at suppertime and miss my 5:00 deadline? I just have the veggie drink and feel a little sorry for myself. Missing a meal is not a big deal.
- Half an hour before lunch and supper, I take a Garcinia Cambogia tablet. I know they are associated with weight loss diets, but I take them because they are supposed to reduce appetite, and I don’t want to feel ravenous all the time.
- Also half an hour before lunch and supper, and at bedtime, I take 2 Tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar. Lots of people believe this helps lower blood sugar. I tried it before and didn’t feel like it helped at all, but I’m giving it another chance and I definitely feel that the bedtime dose seems to help with my fasting number the next morning. Do I like drinking vinegar three times a day? No. It makes me shudder—but I’ll keep doing it. I will also try ACV capsules and see if they are as effective as drinking it.
- My rule is no calories in the evening, so if I’m still hungry an hour after supper, I might have a ¼ cup of nuts, but usually I don’t. If I want a hot drink, I have herbal tea since I can drink that with no additives. I thought I’d be starving all evening after eating supper so early, but it hasn’t been that bad at all.
- If someone wants me to go to lunch with them, I can do it, as long as I get a salad with no high-carb ingredients. A lettuce-based salad with grilled chicken, cheese, eggs, and tomatoes does not raise my blood sugar. And since I normally just have a shake for lunch, I am too full to eat supper after eating lunch out, so I just have my veggie drink and call it good.
If you are not diabetic, you might not realize why this is such a big deal or why it is so revolutionary for me. I’m still in shock that in one month I could go from 170 units of insulin a day to none. I never dreamed of that level of success when I started. The great part is that it has not been as burdensome or difficult as I thought it would be. I can continue to eat this way for the foreseeable future. I am getting enough protein, vitamins, and at least a fair amount of veggies.
If you, like me, are a Type 2 diabetic, I know you are wondering what my “numbers” are like since I no longer use insulin. My fasting blood sugar is usually in the 80s or 90s. A few times it has been between 100 and 115, but only when I was in the process of reducing my insulin by another notch, and I am trying some supplements to see if they will help keep it low. My “after supper” number is always less than 120, and more often in the 90s.
I know what some of you are wondering. You’re thinking I must be losing massive amounts of weight as a side effect of doing this diet. I wish that were the case. I only weigh myself once a month, so I had to wait until March 1 to see how I was doing in that regard. I had lost some weight, but nowhere near as much as I would have expected given the drastic reduction in calories. This is why I avoided this approach to controlling blood sugar for so long. I know for a fact that I can subsist on 800 calories a day and not lose weight. The lower I go in calorie intake, the fewer calories it takes my body to live on and the easier I gain weight if I increase my caloric intake even a little.
So, unlike the people in the studies who “cured” their diabetes after being on a low-calorie diet for a couple of months, I don’t expect to ever be able to eat normally even for a diabetic. I will have to keep doing what I’m doing, with maybe a few tweaks here and there, but starches are never going to be back in the picture and I am unlikely to be able to increase my daily calories by any appreciable amount.
Sure, sometimes I feel deprived—but it sure beats being dead, if you know what I mean. I really feel that I have saved my own life, and it was relatively easy to do. The bonus is that I’m also saving money! Next time I go to the doctor I’ll be interested to see if I can reduce the amount of the other drugs I’m taking. She’s gonna freak out when she hears I’m completely off of insulin.
So yeah, even though I worked hard to achieve this result, it really does feel like a miracle.
Final Note: I know that some of you are thinking I was crazy to attempt such drastic changes without medical supervision. And yes, it would have been preferable to do this under my doctor’s supervision, but that was not financially feasible. Nothing related to my diabetes is covered under our plan, so I had to go it alone. I tested a LOT during the first couple of weeks to make sure my blood sugar didn’t get too low. If you want to try something similar, and you have real insurance, I strongly recommend that you get your doctor to team up with you and supervise your progress.