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Gluten free food is freaking everywhere.

Ev-reee-WHERE!

You can’t go into an aisle of a store without seeing a label that cries, “Gluten free”. Then there is a barrage of postings on my Facebook timeline about paleo diets and gluten free recipes. Who are all these people with gluten allergies? Are they self diagnosed celiacs? Will gluten filled bread kill me?

I have only met one person who has had a doctor prescribe a gluten-free diet for health but the food manufacturers have responded as if this sudden up tic is a real epidemic. Who are all these bread allergic people walking among us?

The real disease that is running rampant right now is diabetes. I see a lot of commercials for diabetes. I know a lot of diabetics, mostly type 2. I am sure if you think about it you can quickly name 5 people that you know that has diabetes, maybe some of them are related to you. But if you go to the store you aren’t going to see food labels touting their products to be diabetic friendly. Maybe it’s because we look at diabetes as people who brought the disease upon themselves. They can eat what we eat, they just shouldn’t eat too much of it. Or maybe they shouldn’t be eating it at all, because they are fat. Think about it, they are fat, why are they eating.

I can say this because I am a diabetic. At first I was diagnosed as type 2 and then type 1.

How can I go from type 2 to type 1? Well, it’s kind of a funny story…

Four years ago I went to a fertility specialist to find out what was blocking me from getting pregnant, discovered several things (which I will talk about in another post) but the main one is that I had glucose in my urine. Go back to my doctor and she sees that I am a middle age black woman who is nearly 200lbs so she tests me and I discover that I am diabetic. Not pre-diabetic, just diabetic. I don’t have any symptoms– at least I didn’t think I did. She sends me to a place for diabetics that is affiliated with a hospital that was completely humiliating. I sat in a room with 10 other people who were also fat and condescended to from a skinny white chick who stood at the front of the room. She told us we had to turn our lives over to her: keep a diary, come in once a week for weigh-ins, forced exercise on their machines and purchase these nasty shakes that were to be used as meal replacements for two meals a day. Everyone around me seemed enthralled with the information and I know I wore the expression that said, “Bitch, please, I am not that fat”. As we all filed out at the end of the presentation people stood around the desk making appointments and signing out checks for $500 bucks to get the meal replacement plan (the other things were partially paid for by insurance). The presenter stops me and wants to know if I want to sign up.

“Noooope”, I say. She got me stuck.

She hands me a complimentary shake and asks me to think about, telling me I can take off the rest of the year –many people might not make the change until the new year (it was October at the time).

“Yeah, ok,” I say. I leave rolling my eyes, thinking bitch you ain’t gonna never see me again.

Instead of giving 1000 dollars to her I take the money and join a local Sports Club that has a lot of fitness classes, opens at 5am, closes at midnight and has a nice steam room and indoor track. I begin losing weight, slowly at first. When I go to the doctor in December I lost 5lbs but when I go back to the doctor in late January because of a cold I lost 15lbs.

“Oh, you are using weight,” my doctor’s office say.

“Yeah, I am,” I said although I am still mad at them because they sent me to that horrible place that tried to gauge me for money and run my life.

When May rolls around that year I lost 30lbs. As I lost the weight suddenly the diabetic symptoms appear. My hands go numb from time to time. I wake up in the middle of the night with pain in my hands I can’t explain. I begin to urinate more frequently and it smells sweet. Why this? Why now? I go see my doctor and she gives me strong pain killers. I try to test my blood sugars but I have no idea what any of it means. I’m losing weight but nothing is making any sense.

A new December rolls around and I go see my doctor. She says this is the new normal. The nurse says you are new to being a diabetic, aren’t you?

I go to a friend at work that has been living with type 2 diabetes for over 10 years now and ask her how she is living and she gives me terms I had never heard before: what was your last A1C? What are your daily blood sugars? I don’t know, I told her. She suggested I see a new doctor.

So one night, after staying up for an hour I go to the bathroom and tried to bring the feeling back with hot water I decided something had to change. I had been seeing a place near my home that touted itself as a diabetes center, so I made up my mind to call them that morning.

“I don’t want you to take over my health, I want you to show me how I can control it,” I told the receptionist on the phone, a bit defiantly. “I don’t want to purchase food supplements, I want to learn what I can eat. I want to be in control.”

They said they wanted that for me, too. So I made an appointment.

Initially I met with a nurse who asked me to keep a food diary and set a blood sugar daily goal. Next I took several classes with a nutritionist where I learned that carbohydrates were the key to dealing with diabetes. If you can control carbs (no more than 45 per regular meal; 15 to 22 for snacks) then I’d be fine. I started losing the last 30lbs. Then I kept losing weight. I was slipping down to 145, then 135, then 130.

J held up his baby finger to his eyes, turned sideways and squinted. “I can’t see you,” he teased.

I was down to 128lbs. I hadn’t been that thin since I was in high school and depressed. But I didn’t know what to do because I needed to lose the weight to kick diabetes. People can reverse type 2, right?

My regular doctor said no. I was definitely a diabetic now. My Endocrinologist said I was holding tight at below a 6 for A1C (at least that is what I remember).

And then everything changed in 2013.

In May of 13 I ran a half marathon (finishing at a time that I didn’t even expect 2.5 hours). One morning in July I woke up with pain in my left shoulder. I couldn’t move it. If I reached it hurt. I ran through my mind trying to figure out what I did to it. Did I hold a plank too long? Were the weights I lifting too heavy? I tried to ignore it the pain but it steadily got worse.

Then suddenly my blood sugars were rising and I could feel it rising. I was trying to keep the number before 140 but it was rising to 150 and 160. I was told in the nutrition classes that if you eat and your blood sugars are high that I brisk walk can help. I ate a low carb meal and went for a brisk walk with the dog. Two hours later I checked my blood sugar and it was 168.

Ok, something wasn’t right.

So I made an appointment and went to see the Endocrinologist. At first she thought it was just a blip but when I told her about the marathon and the semi-rigorous carb counting and the fact that I had lost nearly 80lbs she said she wanted to do a deeper blood work instead of just a regular A1C.

I didn’t think about it, we just did it.

A few weeks later they call me at work and gave me the news that I wasn’t a type 2 but a type 1 diabetic. I cried because I did everything right and there is nothing you can do about type one. I had to go in immediately to talk to a nurse again to learn the ropes: exercising after eating would not help if I over ate carbs– it could actually raise my blood sugar. I needed to be more vigilant not just for highs but for lows. I had to throw away the metformin, which wasn’t doing anything for me anyway, and begin taking long acting insulin that night.

Ok, so it’s not that funny. Seriously in those four years I could have easily have had an insulin crash and died.

There is a difference between type 2 and type 1. They are very different. If you have type 2 it won’t morph into type 1 and vice versa. Type 2 can be controlled with pills and insulin. Type 1 can only be controlled with insulin. Type 1 your body has decided to stop making insulin. Type 2 your body makes insulin, sometimes a lot of insulin, but it’s not getting into the cells.

Type 2 used to be called late onset diabetes. Years ago mostly people in their 60s developed it but now many people regardless of age may develop type 2 diabetes because of weight or a sedentary lifestyle.

Type 1 used to be called juvenile diabetes because so many children and young people were diagnosed with it.

I am far from a youth. So why did my pancreas slow down on making insulin? They don’t know.

Type 2 you can control with weight loss; type 1 your body type doesn’t matter too much. The more carbs you eat the more insulin you will have to take to cover those carbs but that is about it.

I became depressed. I stopped running. It didn’t mean anything anymore. This whole time of meticulous carb counting and exercising it didn’t mean anything. I didn’t have to lose the weight in the end.

I didn’t gain the weight back. Well, I gained some weight back because my fitting into a size 00 didn’t look right on me. I am now a size 4/6 and feel it’s where I should be.

But after a year of consciously living with Type 1 (and just now getting back the use of my shoulder –it’s now at 80 to 90% use) I discovered that many people around me were living with the disease. I got a new co-worker who has Type 1 and has lived with it since she was a child. Two more co-workers discovered they have Type 2. An old friend stopped in while working on her brothers obit and told me he went into a diabetic coma in the parking lot of the grocery store where he went to purchase orange juice (low blood sugar can make you act loopy).

Diabetics are everywhere. It’s a controllable disease; both are genetic in nature. It’s not anyone’s fault who develops it, even if you are overweight. It’s not a judgement or a punishment.

And food is not the enemy. Something doesn’t have to be covered in grease or high in carbs to taste good. Okay, sometimes those things do taste good, but once you make a lifestyle change you barely miss it.

November is National Diabetes Month. For more information about the disease for yourself or a loved one check out the information on the American Diabetes Association.

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