Living with Diabetes
By Noel Daniel
Harold Peterson retired two and a half years ago, planning to finally experience the world after years of working. Last July, he went on a motorhome trip – but something was off. He wasn’t feeling great, but wrote it off as malaise from the trip. Then he got the blood test on July 29 that changed his life.
“There was no history of it in my family,” Peterson said. “It was the furthest thing from my mind.”
He was officially diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and left very confused about how he might have gotten it. He admitted he may have stagnated during his retirement, but could it really have been enough? Some research lead him to find out that his being a Vietnam veteran may have influenced his health. Those subjected to Agent Orange are suspected to be susceptible to diabetes mellitus (Type 2).
Now he has to self-monitor his blood glucose with a stick twice a day, morning and night.
“It became a measurement every day,” said Peterson. “Gotta get that number down. I’m not a fan of medicine, so I knew I had to get my body back in shape.”
So Peterson started eating less and was almost instantly rewarded by losing 20 pounds. His first 28 days of the crash diet were a detox regimen.
“It was a lot of herbal things,” said Peterson. “They were flushing out things in my system.”
And it couldn’t have come soon enough. He immediately started feeling so much better. Inflammation in his knees went down and weight came off. For the next 30 days, he followed a diet of chicken, fish, turkey, salads with protein, and a very strict, glycemic-index-approved list of fruits.
Once, even, there was a no protein week.
“I thought I was going to die,” Peterson said. He mentioned a lancing pain in his back that only stopped when he’d incorporated meat back into his diet. The road’s been hard for Peterson, who was a self-proclaimed sugar junkie all of his life.
“I haven’t had coffee in 30 days,” Peterson said proudly, “Haven’t had wine in 30 days. I thought I’d have died by now.”
No butter or starches, either. And, a heartbreaking point for Peterson, no corn.
“I had my first cookie today,” Peterson laughed, “It was kinda weird.”
His journey has taught him a lot about food and what he should and shouldn’t eat. He was also introduced to an idea called “the better-bads,” a list of foods that aren’t great for you, but are better than other foods. Peterson cited avocado as one of these. His new diet is 80 percent good food, like chicken, and 20 percent “bad” food, like beef.
As of the middle of November, he was down 40 pounds since his diet started in August.
“The success was phenomenal,” said Peterson, “Even for me.”
Peterson’s initial A1C, also known as the glycohemoglobin test, revealed a reading of 8.8 percent. This is high, considering that only what’s below a 5.7 percent is what’s considered normal. As of November, however, his had gone down to a 6.1 percent.
“I’m not healed,” said Peterson. “I’ll always have diabetes. But I’m so much more healthy than I was.”
Peterson was very inspired by David Boring, Owner of Never Boring Associates and a member of a local Rotary group. When Boring stood up and showed he’d lost nearly 100 pounds, Peterson was amazed.
“‘Wow, how did you do that?’” he remembered asking.
His goal is much the same as Boring’s — he wants to lose 100 pounds. He wants a healthy lifestyle, and lives in fear of his diabetes affecting his life either by affecting his feet or mobility in some way.
“That was what really scared me,” said Peterson. “Losing functionality, not being able to be where I want to be. Because I worked 50 years to do things I’ve never done before, see things I’ve never seen.”
Peterson cautions others not to find out the same way he did. And he urges those who are unsure to get routine testing.
“If your doctor is telling you you’re pre-diabetic, listen,” Peterson said. “I didn’t pay attention to what that was, what that could be. I thought I was bulletproof. I thought that I’d keep doing what I was doing, have a heart attack, then get better. It’s the mindset of a lot of people, I think. I should’ve paid attention, I would never have gotten to this place.”
For as hard as it’s been, however, he comes away positive.
“It’s been a journey,” said Peterson at last. “In a lot of ways, it’s awakened me to a new lifestyle. It’s been good so far. I’m glad I’m doing it.”
The Never Boring Story
After years of staying the same weight, Never Boring’s Kit Lloyd was suddenly exposed to a plethora of sweets. In addition to being hooked on a new icecream, one of his oworkers always had a bowl of candy on the desk.
“All the best ones,” he said, listing them off, “Snickers, Twix, Kit Kats.”
Sometimes he’d be working late and he could hear their siren call, even all the way up in the loft. Some nights, he’d eat the entire thing and leave $5 in the bowl.
“I was eating no-holds barred,” Lloyd said.
And then, the miracle: He started losing weight.
“This is the best diet ever!” Lloyd said with a laugh. What he didn’t realize at the time was that it was a warning sign of diabetes. Then he grew thirsty. It was a permanent thirst, one that he thought might just be warm summer weather until his wife mentioned it was another warning sign.
Lloyd thought about it and started to research the telltale signs. He had at least four of them. The ﬁrst was a powerful dizziness that lasted from morning until he ate lunch at 12. On top of that, he was fatigued. But before this, he hadn’t thought anything of all that. He ﬁgured there was an easy way to settle this.
He had a friend with type 1 diabetes who had a test kit. He thought, “I’ll have him test me.”
They went to lunch, waited 45 minutes, and then tested. His friend’s eyes got wide, and Lloyd, a perpetual optimist, thought he was about to reveal they were the best numbers he’d seen. But that was not the case.
“‘Dude, you’re a diabetic,’” Lloyd recalled him saying.
His numbers were over 600, which was high enough to potentially spell a coma in his future. Right at that point, he started eating better.
David Boring and owner of Never Boring Associates, had his own wake up call in 2014. “I made a decision that I didn’t want to test myself with a needle every morning and night,” Boring said.
He knew much of it was weight and diet, and so addressed his diet much in the same way Lloyd did. He started watching his calorie intake, eating only 1,500 a day, focusing on protein and vegetables.
“When you lose weight, you get cold!” Lloyd laughed, rubbing his hands together. “I used to be hot all the time, now my hands, feet, everything is cold.”
“I feel the cold weather more this year,” Boring agreed.
After a year and a half of hard work, Boring was 94 pounds lighter. And he intends to keep going. His waist size is down ten inches, he ﬁts in a lot of new clothing, and — most importantly — he’s managing his diabetes. Both his cholesterol and his blood sugar are in normal ranges.
“Once I started losing weight, I was so appreciative of friends and colleagues noticing it and encouraging it,” Boring said. “If anyone around you is losing weight, especially for health reasons, mention it. It can inspire others who are facing the same challenge.”