4 Reasons Why My Journey Is Drug-Free

I had my first appointment with an endocrinologist yesterday. While everyone was nice and no one forcibly made me take a scrip, my desire to not take insulin-management drugs keeps getting questioned. So I thought I’d explain in more detail why I’m starting this journey with diabetes by making exclusively diet and lifestyle changes, without the use of pharmaceuticals. 

I know that I’m lucky that I even have this choice between drugs or no drugs. Some people, especially those with Type 1 diabetes, really don’t have working pancreases and will die without insulin and insulin management supplements. But I know deep down that I can fix this myself, and I prefer my natural, non-invasive, organic, homespun, holistic route when given the choice.

babyshower

There was a time when I was thinner.

Outside of infancy and early childhood, I’ve never actually been a textbook “healthy” weight, but at one point, I was much thinner. I lost 90 pounds, and I kept it off for a few years. Though factors derailed me in the past, I am even more motivated to succeed (and prepared for it) this time around. Plus, research shows that trying and failing and trying again is a big predictor in eventual success.

My blood sugar isn’t dangerously high or low.

At 170 on the day of my diagnosis, my blood glucose level is above the normal 100, but not pushing near a level that will make me feel any ill effects or cause too much damage. If it was over 200, there’d be more cause to start me on meds right away.

A disease of lifestyle should be treated with lifestyle changes.

I believe in my heart of hearts that Type 2 diabetes is primarily a disease of poor diet and lifestyle. And I believe with even more fervor that that is how it should be cured when appropriate. I am so frustrated when the first thing out of a Western doctor’s mouth is the next prescription that’s going to fix you. Except the majority of drugs treat symptoms and not diseases, so if you don’t make actual changes in your daily lifestyle, you’ll be on drugs forever because you haven’t actually changed anything.

Drugs, for me, are not the first step. It’s the step you reach when you’ve exhausted the other ones. It’s why, during my period of depression, I saw a therapist before considering a psychiatrist. I’m in Boston, a hub for leaders in the health field, and I have yet to have one medical doctor tell me that diabetes can be successfully managed or cured through diet and exercise, and that makes me really sad. Just once, I would like a doctor to write prescriptions for vegetables and yoga first instead of pills.

Most importantly, I want this success to be mine, not the drug’s. 

This may be a little selfish, but I want the credit for my success. I got my body into this mess, and I want to be the one to get it out. My endocrinologist said, “While you’ll likely have some success in lowering your A1c on your own, it won’t be near the normal target of 7.” Well, Doctor, I take that as a challenge! Do I think I can miraculously be completely healthy in just three months? Well, kinda. But like I mentioned in my very first post, I’m not being completely strict… only 80 to 90%. Because I have to live like this forever. So, no, maybe it’s not realistic to think the test could be under 7, but I expect it to come back lower than it was. And that’s good enough for me.

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9 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why My Journey Is Drug-Free

  1. Elizabeth Browning April 4, 2014 at 8:58 pm Reply

    Tara, I applaud your resolve to do this.

    I was married for 26 years to a man who under-exercised and overate himself into diabetic neuropathy and, while taking every diabetes medication available, refused to exercise or change his eating habits. Not only did his diabetes and neuropathy continue to worsen, but the cost of his multiple medications were astronomical. I worked to support him and our children, battled with insurance companies who refused service and payments based on “pre-existing” condition, and had to make hard budget choices every paycheck between his meds and doctors visits, versus everything else needed by the family. I vowed that if I were ever diagnosed with diabetes I would find a doctor willing to work with me, and try to control my blood sugar with diet and exercise.

    I’m not overweight, have eaten a healthy piscatarian diet for the past 7 years, but my schedule as a graduate researcher and adjunct instructor for two years was incredibly stressful, largely sedentary, severely impacted my ability to sleep , and left far too little time for the exercise needed. So, after a change of job 6 months ago, the diagnosis of diabetes by a new doctor was disappointing but not entirely surprising. I attended the required “consultations” with a multidisciplinary team of diabetes educators, nutritionists and pharmacists. Their one-size-fits-all preconceptions – I don’t exercise, eat junk food, live on pasta and cookies, and understand nothing about nutrition – made me realize that I was going to have to be VERY clear with my doctor about my wishes for a 3-month trial period during which I’d keep a detailed log of my glucose readings, and closely monitor my diet and exercise.

    I added meat back into my diet – pasture-raised and grass-fed for both health and ethical reasons – but eliminated oatmeal, portioned my consumption of almonds and walnuts, and limited myself to one serving of fresh fruit each day. I go to the gym for an hour 4 times a week, alternating cardio with muscle resistance. At the end of the first 3 month trial, my A1C was reduced from a 9 (212) to an 8 (183), and the doctor agreed to extend the trial for another 3 months, at which time I hope to be at 7 and on my way to a non-diabetic 6 efore the end of the year.

    Recent research on the diabetes-Alzheimers link has given me even more reason to stay the course, and to do what you’re doing …. let my body regulate itself if it can, which means that every day and every meal has to be a mindful thing.

    Good luck to us both!

    • Tara B. April 7, 2014 at 12:27 pm Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth! We can do it 🙂

  2. Nancy April 4, 2014 at 11:11 pm Reply

    I am certain you can get it UNDER 7 in 3 months with great diligence.
    I did it, so can you!
    I am back up & my #’s are up, but you have inspired me to do it again.
    I’m with you!

    • Tara B. April 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm Reply

      Thanks, Nancy! Sending you healthy thoughts 🙂

  3. Mary Jo Rhodes April 7, 2014 at 7:45 pm Reply

    Sending you both healthy thoughts & wishing you God’s grace. I was diagnosed with Diabetes 2 a couple yrs ago & have been pretending that I don’t have it. I’ve been too much into sweets all my life & have been stuck in that mode all these years. Here I am at 64 & for some reason a week ago I began being able to walk by the candy bowl at work & not buy any new sweets to bring home for a dessert EVERY night of my life. When I would buy a container or 2 of ice cream, sometimes I would get a bowl of it at 2 or 3am when I got up to piddle, but I have decided to no longer bring sweets into the house. I am counting on God my Savior to keep me from indulging like a was before a week ago. I have started taking bottles of water to work to drink instead of getting into the sodas in the office frige (we only have to pay a quarter for a 12 oz can). Why my mindset suddenly changed at age 64, I do not know, but it feels good to be able to resist the sweets. So I’m hoping to lose 90 lbs over the next 2 yrs. I haven’t seen 160 lbs since the 1980s. Kind of late to be getting in shape, but I’m thinking about all the leg/knee/ankle/foot/back pain that might be relieved with the weight loss. Maybe I’ll even be able to avoid knee replacement. A week ago I was 5 ft 3 in & 244 lbs. I’ve lost about 4 lbs in the 1st week. So 90 more lbs to go is my goal & who knows, maybe I’ll even make it back to 130 lbs like I was in my early 20s. My knees hurt too much to go for long walks, so for now I exercise in front of the TV, 50 to 100 arm lifts, 50 to 100 walking in place, 20 to 30 knee bends. That gets my blood moving. So wish you well with your journey. We can encourage each other! Mary Jo in PA 4/7/14

  4. Pam April 8, 2014 at 10:40 am Reply

    I am so happy to have found this information – I have been struggling with medications for some time and what I learned from you was that I needed to make a real lifestyle change with my eating and exercising. I really have ignored my diabetes up until this point – My A1C yesterday was a 7 – which means what I am doing has been living in a dream and I need to change. Because it is going up and now down and I have been consistenly on medication for 5 years.

  5. Elizabeth Browning April 8, 2014 at 8:35 pm Reply

    I am very encouraged by finding this blog community – very interesting that all are women so far. Making the decision to try and control our diabetes through genuine, healthy, lifelong changes in diet and exercise requires “guts” – especially when facing the onslaught of doomsayers (family, friends, health providers) who frequently use scare tactics rather than providing support in words and actions.

    I’m currently reading the emerging research on the diabetes-Alzheimers link – enough to keep me on track 😉

  6. Connie April 9, 2014 at 9:34 am Reply

    Tara – I stumbled across your blog today through Everyday Health’s Living with Diabetes. I swear it was like reading my own journal. This post about scrip happy docs really hit home for me. My numbers were brought to my attention last August (6.5 at the time) and I was handed the proverbial scrip. No one said lose weight, eat healthier, just here, take this pill. I said and felt exactly what you did – no – I will do this on my own. I started watching my intake of food carefully, I tried to exercise more but long work hours made it very difficult. I went back to the doc (different one) in March and my number is now 7.1. I was devastated. Again, handed a scrip. You REALLY need to take this. I cried all the way home. Since then I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about low carb, low GI, no wheat, you name it. And yes, I gave in and started taking the pills. I’m not happy about that. But I am determined to find the right balance of eating and exercise to bring these numbers down and remove the need for these drugs. I am excited to find your blog and to follow along with you. We can do this! Good luck to you and thank you for sharing your struggle with the rest of us.

  7. […] period! My doctor was so thrilled, she hugged me. And I’m excited to announce we’re continuing on the drug-free path. I still have elevated fatty liver levels, so she’s recommending an abdominal ultrasound, but […]

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