In my younger years, I participated in the Ironman Triathlon, so healthy eating and exercise were part of my daily routine. As recommended by both my sports nutritionist and my registered dietician, I ate chicken, fish, and occasionally red meat, but also lots of fruit and salads. So you can imagine my shock when, at the age of 55, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
An Unsettling Diagnosis
When questioning my doctor about the diagnosis, I was told that it is normal for people of American Indian heritage to have diabetes appear in their mid-50s, due to genetics. I went to the American Diabetes Association website to learn everything I could about this thing that was trying to control my body. I found a recommended diet and exercise plan that I was pretty much already following, but I ramped up the running to six days a week. That seemed to keep the blood sugar under control, but not the A1C level.
The Summer 2023 Issue
Our gorgeous “bookazine” features expert tips, inspiration, and 74 fresh and tasty recipes for Summer.
Fast-forward five years: Injuries left me unable to run on a regular basis, and exercising became more difficult. On top of that, I was pulling 60-hour weeks at work. My blood sugar levels were consistently higher than the acceptable range. As a diabetic, I have quarterly checkups at the American Indian Health Center in San Diego. Four months ago, my A1C level was 9—definitely diabetic. My doctor informed me that if I did not lower my A1C levels drastically, I would be put back on daily insulin shots and additional medication.
Discovering Another Path
Soon after this appointment, a friend introduced me to the Forks Over Knives documentary. I was infuriated: For years, I had done all that the medical professionals instructed me to do to combat my diabetes, only to find out that I’d been misinformed.
Immediately after watching the documentary, I sought out more information from the Forks Over Knives website and downloaded the app. (I love the app, by the way.) I emptied my refrigerator of all meat and dairy and my cupboards of processed foods. I made a total commitment to eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, and I am proud to inform you that I lowered my A1C level to 6.5 in two and a half months—and that was without exercise. I have since gone back to exercising, and I believe I will lower my A1C level to below 6, which is considered nondiabetic.
Plant-Based and Lovin’ It
Never in a million years did I think I’d give up meat and dairy. I thought I would miss it too much (especially bacon). Remarkably, the transition was easy for me: This is not a diet but a sustainable lifestyle.
Now I work out three times a week at the gym. My stamina is so high that my trainers can’t believe I’m 60 years old. I am also back to running two to three times a week and going on hikes, which I love. Plus, I’ve cut my grocery bill in half.
My doctor thinks that I’m a rock star, and she has agreed to work with me on creating an educational seminar for the American Indian community, a population in which diabetes occurs at staggering rates. As the modern medical industry emphasizes treating instead of curing, I feel that it is urgent to get the message out that there is a better way, a way back to our original intention of living, a way of being in harmony with our bodies and our planet.
Ready to get started? Check out Forks Meal Planner, FOK’s easy weekly meal-planning tool to keep you on a healthy plant-based path.