How a Toronto Dad Reversed His Diabetes with Food
Born and raised on the island of Trinidad and later immigrating to Toronto in my mid teens, I arrived with a ripened passion for mouthwatering flavours from all around the world and have been on culinary adventures ever since.
With Toronto being a multi ethnic melting pot of people, culture, and culinary flavours, one is sure to be in awe at the endless creations available to satisfy even the fussiest of palates.
In my early thirties as I became a dad to a wonderful son and daughter, I always wanted to keep their dishes full of bright colours and flavours like I enjoyed growing up. This was meant to engage them in a full sensory experience with each mealtime. To accomplish this I prepared many delicious dishes from fresh vegetables, meats, and sea foods, which when complimented with rice, pastas, soups, and stir fries, brought a mouthwatering experience to each meal. To my delight, my children would repeatedly ask for these dishes as they enjoyed the colours, flavours, and the aromas of each.
I ate fairly healthy as I tried to ensure we all ate the same nutritious things and was mindful that leading by example would be the best way to teach the children about making healthy food choices. Working a full time job, being an active gym buff, a very busy musician, I still managed to pack meals for when I was on the go, and this certainly helped keep me feeling great both emotionally and physically.
Over the next few years as life continued to happen, I began to feel unwell and was eventually diagnosed with a severe form of Fibromyalgia. A short while after, it severely limited my ability to move the way I was used to. These limitations became much worse after a couple years and all physical tasks became quite a challenge as I was now mostly confined to bed.
As the limitations got worse, my eating habits became horrible as I began to comfort eat, and my physical activity went to zero. Even though I still loved fresh vegetables and fruits, it now only made up about 10 percent of my diet and the rest of it was, let’s just say any and everything that tasted good and that was bad for you.
I began to feel awful every time I would look at myself with all the weight I had now gained. The bad food choices, lack of activity, and frustration of all of it, started to gain momentum. Every day I felt more and more worn out and would wake up exhausted. I was thirsty all the time and yet no matter how much water I drank, it did not seem to quench my thirst. At times my vision would get really blurry, and I found myself urinating quite a lot more than normal. I would often suffer hunger pangs and would tend to get frustrated which cycled into more comfort eating. I can honestly say it was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to experience and learn to navigate through in life, but one thing I always held on to was hope.
One Sunday afternoon in mid June of 2020, I woke up feeling a lot more drained than usual. I immediately began to feel faint and disoriented. This was cause for extreme concern as I had never felt like this before. I had a family member drive me straight to the hospital and the amazing nurse immediately did a blood glucose test which caused her to be quite alarmed.
After a couple bags of Intravenous to get me hydrated and some hyperglycemic medications, the elevated glucose level started to slowly come down and I was able to go home after quite a few hours, but not without a warning. This amazing doctor that was assigned to my case sat with me and looked me dead in the eyes and said “You got this. Start eating right and I promise you all of this will change. If you don’t take action now, you may not have an opportunity in future to be able to control or reverse it and you do not want to be a diabetic for life”. Her words hit me deeply within that short moment and I said “Thank you Dr. I will do my very best”.
This was my opportunity to begin a healthy relationship with food. Immediately I reflected on the fact that I was 40yrs old, with two children that needed me. I was so thankful for this experience as this opportunity could not have come at a better time for me to make a healthy lifestyle change.
I wanted to continue being the best person I can be for myself, and my family. I also wanted to lead by example and show that regardless of age or physical ability, a well thought out plan with a positive mindset would bring unimaginable rewards. I learned to forgive myself for not doing it sooner. Forgiving myself allowed me to start a journey of healing, both emotionally and physically.
I knew that by doing this I will eventually reach a point of momentum where the opportunities for healing and sharing my story would someday be an inspiration for someone going through the same thing.
By now you must be wondering what changes I made and how long it took for me to see some tangible results. Here are the steps I took that helped in bringing my blood glucose levels to near optimum.
I started by visiting a weight clinic which provided a variety of resources that helped me with understanding my emotional and physical relationship with food. I was taught how to design my meals in a way that would help me reduce my weight, reduce my blood glucose levels, and help me feel better both emotionally and physically.
Planning each meal with 65% raw or cooked vegetables, 20% proteins, and 15% healthy carbohydrates was designed to suit my individual needs. This took some practice, but I was invested in doing it whole heartedly and consistently because I wanted to see results.
Each meal was cooked and eaten with healthy fats like avocado and coconut oils which also enhanced the flavours of each dish.
The only drink that accompanied my meals or when I was thirsty was water. Staying hydrated with water was such an important part to this equation because it is such an imperative part of not only body functions but also cellular activity within the body. Once the cells are hydrated and nourished, then everything starts working correctly.
As my body tried to adjust to this new lifestyle, the first couple of weeks felt like I was going through a detox from all processed foods, sugars, and everything that I thought was delicious but had no real nourishing or vital energy. This was both a physical and emotional experience because it was accompanied by extreme cravings, headaches, and sometimes anxiety, during the eliminating of everything bad that was in my body.
After I got over the adjustment period, I no longer had cravings for unhealthy foods or the urge to eat more than I needed to be full. The hunger pangs disappeared and I did not even feel like snacking much. I was satiated each meal and felt a much higher energy than before. This impacted my overall emotional and physical well being to the point where I began to feel like a whole new person.
In approximately 60 days, my blood glucose levels were now consistently near normal as my body responded to the new fuel it was receiving daily. I also made it a point to walk more every day as the physical movement also helped to reduce the levels quicker in combination with the right nutrition.
On my follow up visit with my doctor, he was really impressed about the lifestyle changes I had made and advised that if I continued on this path and my blood glucose levels kept within range, I may soon be able to come off medication completely. This was music to my ears!
You may be wondering at this point what type of foods I ate and continue to intake daily to achieve these results. These foods should be widely available at any grocer or fresh food market in the area you live.
My grocery list includes things like kale, cabbage, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, celery, bok choy, and snow peas. I like a variety of proteins like chicken, fish, eggs, and lean red meats.
For the lower glycemic index carbohydrates I tend to find myself eating things like sweet potato, quinoa, low GI labeled rice or even cauliflower rice, and chickpea salads. There are many types of pasta that are made of quinoa and cauliflower which are great alternatives for diabetics. When I bake I use gluten free flour, and stevia as an alternative sweetener.
The use of herbs and spices tend to wake up the palette and enhance the flavours of each dish. I enjoy cooking with fresh herbs like basil, dill, coriander, parsley, red onions, and garlic, so I tend to mix and match for the flavors I want for each meal. The main spices that I use are sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise, turmeric, paprika, and chili powder or fresh chili peppers for heat.
Snack time usually involves things like a cheeses, nuts, green apples, and avocados, or fresh salads with a healthy drizzle of olive oil.
Being a diabetic can be overwhelming at times but the best advice I can give anyone is to take a moment to think about why you want to make a change. Once you understand the “why” behind your decision, taking the next steps will come easily. As soon as you make a decision that you want to be in control of your blood glucose levels, you will be inclined to take suitable actions for the right reasons and your journey will be successful.
If you are ready for change, I highly recommend that you contact your doctor. Having guidance through a consultation on what you are about to do and the resources available to you to help support you in that process, would give you the right tools you need to get started. If you have the opportunity to also have a consultation with a nutritionist, their expertise will benefit greatly as they will help you plan your meals around the foods and flavours you like, while keeping within the range of foods that would be beneficial to your success.
If you take intended action to use food as your medicine and follow a designed meal plan that best suits your body’s needs, within 60-90 days you will see a vast improvement in your blood glucose levels and If you are overweight, you will definitely be happier when you see those few extra pounds begin to disappear.
Once you start feeling better because you are now in conscious control of your well being, you may find yourself be able to move more and enjoy the things that you love doing in a whole new way.
Trust me when I tell you that creating a new lifestyle for yourself that supports your well being is the best feeling in the world!
Your body and mind will thank you, and the people around you will notice a happier, healthier you!