Woman-testing-blood-sugar--diabetes-[400x600]Brian and Melody are parents of four daughters and grandparents of 11 grandchildren. They are happy, healthy empty-nesters who are looking forward to a future retirement spent enjoying life and family. They live a quiet life, and looking at them, you would never suspect that they both have the same disease: type 2 diabetes. I sat down in their home with them to learn how they cope with the daily challenges of diabetes—and how they are able to remain so healthy.

Brian’s story:

Brian spent his childhood watching his grandfather and his mother struggle with type 1 diabetes, so it wasn’t a surprise when, at age 40, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He knew that his poor eating habits, combined with genetics—a family history of diabetes—had all led to this, but it still made him angry and worried. He knew how miserable his mother had been and how much his grandfather had struggled to control his diabetes. They both suffered from the side effects: heart disease, kidney problems, and poor eyesight. Brian thought he had just been condemned to a life of pain and suffering—and a slow horrible death.

One of the first things Brian did was to take classes on diabetic nutrition from a dietician. She gave him advice that he lives by: “You will die with diabetes, but it doesn’t have to kill you.” She told him that he could still live a good life; it would just take some discipline.

Brian says the first thing he did was to cut sugar out of his diet—and now, fifteen years later, that is still his main method for controlling his diabetes. Luckily, he says, he doesn’t have a sweet tooth. He doesn’t miss eating cake, pie, cookies, etc. It isn’t hard for him to pass up dessert.

He does miss eating large servings of carbohydrates at dinner, like mashed potatoes, pasta and bread. But he has learned that he can still eat those things, he just has to be careful to eat only a small portion. He monitors his carbohydrate intake closely, never eating more than just one piece of bread with lunch or a small serving, no larger than a golf ball, of potatoes with dinner.

With his family history of diabetes, he knows that the day may come when his diabetes gets worse. For now, he is able to control it with diet and medication, but the day may come when his diet gets even stricter and he has to turn to insulin shots to help him regulate his blood sugar. Knowing this, Brian is extra careful with his eating habits now, hoping to live a healthy, active life for as long as possible.

Brian says, “I am probably stricter about diet than most diabetics are, but I am determined to control my diabetes. I want to be healthy for longer. I want to grow old and be able to play with my grandkids!”

Sugar-free-candies-[399x600]Melody’s story:

When Brian was diagnosed with diabetes, Melody thought, “Life as we knew it is gone! But we both made a commitment to change.” Melody did her best to help him learn new eating habits and begin cooking meals that he could eat. For the most part, Brian would just skip the sweets that the rest of the family ate. Melody learned to buy diabetic-friendly products like low-fat mayonnaise and sugar-free syrup for Brian, but she and their four daughters would use regular mayonnaise and syrup. Melody was a busy mom, working to raise children and run the household—and she didn’t pay much attention to what she was eating or how much she weighed.

Years later, Melody’s doctor warned her that she was insulin resistant (also known as prediabetic). Melody shrugged off this diagnosis, doing what many Americans do when it comes to our health, figuring that she would be fine and didn’t have to worry about it yet. She didn’t change her eating habits. Melanie admits, “I didn’t take it seriously.”

Because of this, a few years later, Melody was diagnosed with diabetes. Melody knows that if she had changed her diet earlier, she may have been able to reverse her insulin resistance through diet and exercise, and she could have prevented her body from getting diabetes. But now that she has diabetes, it will never go away. Now she has to face the rest of her life with this disease.

However, like Brian, Melody does not let that get her down. She is following his great example and learning to control her diabetes by controlling what she eats. One of Melody’s biggest struggles has been cutting sugar out of her diet. She loves sweets and often craves chocolate, so she has learned to bake sugar-free sweets. She will often keep a batch of sugar-free cookies in the freezer, so she can pull one out every now and then for a treat. She still has to watch the amount of carbohydrates she eats, sugar-free or not, but if she just has a small amount every now and then, she can satisfy her sweet tooth and still control her blood sugar.

Melody eats six times a day (three small meals and three snacks). This method works best for her to control her diabetes. By watching what she eats, and always eating small portions, she has been able to lose a lot of weight and start feeling much better. She has more energy and feels healthier than she has in years.

 

Brian and Melody are both facing the rest of their lives with diabetes, but it is amazing to hear their story and see their great attitudes about life. Melody’s advice to those who have diabetes: “Don’t think of it as a death sentence. You can choose to control it. Our choice is to take care of ourselves and to better ourselves so we can live longer. You have to be determined. You can do it!”

Brian and Melody do not let diabetes get them down, and they are determined to be healthy and active for years to come. After watching Brian’s mother and grandfather struggle with horrible health problems due to diabetes, Brian and Melody refuse to just sit and let that happen to them. By taking charge of their diet now and doing all they can to live a healthy lifestyle, they hope to avoid the debilitating side effects of diabetes for as long as possible. And so far, they are succeeding!

Check back later this month for an in-depth look at Brian and Melody’s diabetes diet and holiday survival tips.