How I Overcame Type 2 Diabetes

I’m about to go to Ikea, but I won’t be able to have any meatballs.  The delicious, delicious meatballs.  That’s just wrong, isn’t it?  Isn’t that kind of like going to see Zoolander 2 in the theatre, but not being able to have popcorn and gummy bears?  Who does this to themselves, voluntarily?

Me.  :)

Time to let the cat out of the bag – I’m officially training for my first ever fitness competition.  Western Canadians.  May 7, 2016.  Kelowna, BC.  The brand new classic physique category.

I’ve been getting asked a lot of the same questions, but right now, the main question is WHY?  Why would you spend so much time in the gym?  Why would you eat the same things over and over?  You’re not going to have even one single beer for 16 weeks?  Not so much as a single Dorito?  Chicken AGAIN?

Several reasons.  One of which being, competitors are all around me.

My wife, Mandy Urner, is a provincially qualified figure competitor.

My mother in law, Terry Aleksic, is a provincially qualified grandmaster figure competitor.

My coach, Tamara Knight of T-Zone Fitness, is a national level physique competitor.

See?  I’m around it all the time.  Maybe I want a little taste

Maybe I want a goal to strive towards.  Something big that the average person would never even think about entertaining.

But the MAIN reason…. (Bare with me, I’ve never really talked in detail about this)

Around this time last year (January 2015), my body started acting funny.  I was craving sugar like crazy.  Like, ANY kind of it.  I’d wake up several times a night with crazy drymouth, and have to piss like a racehorse every time.  I dropped 15 pounds in a week.  I knew that these were all pretty telltale signs of type 2 diabetes, but I was always reasonably healthy, so that couldn’t be it.  I worked out most days, I paid reasonable attention to my diet.  In short, I was quite healthy.  Yet diabetes runs in my family.  A lot.

So like a typical guy, I continued to ignore everything for a week or so.  I probably just picked up a flu bug.  Whatever.

I finally came clean to my wife, and she demanded that I go to the doctor to get checked out.  I knew it was the right thing to do, so that’s exactly what I did.  The doctor sent me for bloodwork which I had done right afterwards.

I went to work the next day, when I got a call from the doctor, who wanted to see me ASAP.  Ah shit.  I panicked a little bit, drove home to pick up my wife, then it was off to see the doctor.  I still remember his exact words as he looked over my chart: “There’s no easy way to tell you this… You have diabetes.”  Shit.  Shit shit shit.  How was that even possible?  My A1C was 12.4, if I recall.  My blood sugar was over 30.  He sent me straight to emergency.  I got hooked up to an IV to get some fluid in me, given a single metformin, and was told to go home, and that I was now fine.  I didn’t actually have diabetes, the ER doctor said.  But something still felt….. weird.  We went to the gym right afterwards, and I was so dizzy that I couldn't finish my workout.

Either way, I went back to living my normal life.

The next week or so is blurry in my mind.  But I remember ending up at the diabetes clinic learning how to check my blood sugar levels, and how to inject insulin.  My levels were still stupidly high, so I was sent right back to the ER.  More IVs.  I think it was at that point where I was informed that I’d be insulin dependent for the rest of my life.  Fuck.  I’d have to check my blood sugar six times a day, including a 3am check.  Plus insulin injections twice a day.  This would be the rest of my life.  I was told that if I would have left it for another week, I would have been dead.  DEAD.  Are you fucking kidding me?  

I spent the next few days lying in bed, trying to process everything.  I think I watched every Sex and the City re-run that ever aired.  No matter what I did, I just couldn’t bring my blood sugar levels in check.  And then my eyesight started to go blurry.  I was definitely getting scared.  Am I going to go blind?  I wasn’t used to feeling this powerless.  Ever.  My wife called the diabetes clinic to ask what was going on with me, and the nurse said that what I was going through was perfectly normal.  (Would have been VERY nice to know that in advance, eh?)  Turns out it was just the nerves in my retinas returning to their normal size, because they were engorged from all the sugar.  Or something like that.  A welcome relief.

At some point, my friend Lucas reached out to me and told me his story.  He was in rough shape at one point, but said he was actually able to BEAT diabetes.  Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel.  A small one, but a light nonetheless.  I was told I’d be insulin dependent for the rest of my life, right?  That’s what the doctors and nurses said, so shouldn’t I believe it?

I went to a diabetes education seminar, and I informed that nurse that I would someday be insulin free, and diabetes medication free.  She told me point blank that that was not going to happen.  Somehow, I remained unphased; I don’t like being told I can’t do something.

Later in the day, I went with my wife and her mom to see Tamara, their coach, and I told Tamara that I wanted to be off insulin, and that the nurse said it wasn’t possible.  Tamara called bullshit on the nurses, and told me that if I did what she told me to do, it would happen.  She put me on a workout program, and a diet plan.  The diet was lower in carbs, and higher in fat and protein.  6 meals a day.  Mostly single ingredient foods, not the garbage diabetic foods.  (Yeah, I made the mistake of eating too many sugar free gummy bears one night.  Learned my lesson in a hurry)

Very quickly, following Tamara’s advice, I started lowering my doses of insulin.  My eyesight was back to 100%.  My numbers started getting consistently better, so I was able to go off metformin entirely.  My insulin injections continued to go down.

I was slowly figuring out that exercise was kryptonite to my blood sugar.  I woke up one morning with my levels over 16.  I jumped on our stairmaster for 30 minutes, and that sliced my number down to around 7.  Hey, this is good.

We’re into April of 2015 now, and my wife and I had this wicked trip planned.  And truthfully, I was afraid to go.  I was afraid to be away from home with all these brand new unknowns.  I really wanted to go on this trip though!  We were going to fly to Las Vegas, rent a car, then drive to Zion National Park in Utah.  Do some hiking there (and some photography of course), and then drive back to Vegas for a few nights at Caesars Palace (and a David Guetta pool party), then off to Los Angeles, then back to Vegas for a night.

The trip is where things got really interesting, and I learned what I needed to learn.  If you’ve ever been to Vegas, you know exactly how much walking is involved.  I was definitely keeping an eye on my blood sugar levels, but I completely fell off of my diet plan.  Hey, it's Vegas!  I was drinking Sierra Nevada’s like a fish.  I was eating chicken and waffles for dinner.  I was having bulk bin candy.  Surely these things would skyrocket my blood sugar.  But they weren’t.  WTF?

We got back home, and I was almost off insulin entirely.  Almost.  I checked my levels one day, and I was around 7.  That’s ok.  I then went for a brisk walk.  A WALK.  30 minutes later, my level was at 3.9.  Holy shit, I think I get it.  I just have to move.  It seemed so simple.

No wonder I couldn’t get my levels in line earlier in the year…. I was just lying in bed moping.

I haven’t taken any insulin or any diabetes medication since April of 2015.  I was told that I’d be dependent on it for the rest of my life, but through proper exercise and nutrition, I was on it for just a shade over three months.  Take THAT, big pharma.

Now, realization set in that if I wanted to STAY medication free, I’d be living like a bodybuilder for the rest of my life.  Lots of exercise, lots of small healthy meals, lots of watching my carbs.  I was ok with this.  What were my options?  Prick my finger 6 times a day, inject insulin at least twice a day, and worry about the dangers of both high and low blood sugar?  Or make some lifestyle changes, and look and feel great in the process?  The decision seemed obvious.

So if I’m going to train like a bodybuilder, and if I’m going to eat like a bodybuilder……….. Why not BECOME a bodybuilder?

You want to beat type 2 diabetes?  It all starts with two things: What you put in your mouth, and moving your ass.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s simple.  Not easy, but simple.  Suck it up and MOVE YOUR ASS.

Thanks for reading this novel.  Hope this helps you if YOU are going through the same struggle!  Remember, you're not a slave to endless finger pricking and abdomen stabbing.  Promise.