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Mohammed's story: Educating myself about diet helped put my type 2 diabetes into remission

Mohammed sitting on sofa looking at camera


I've also realised that when I become too relaxed about my diet, my numbers go up again, so I must remain on top of things and in control of my nutrition. I’ve been following my eating regime and this has kept my diabetes in remission.



I’m a retired solicitor and in 2013, during my regular medical check-up, I was told that I was on the verge of developing type 2 diabetes. I had no symptoms and knew very little about the condition. I then went onto receive a confirmed diagnosis of type 2 and was put on diabetes medication to lower my blood sugar levels.  
As the years passed, my appointments showed my blood sugar levels were increasing. Then in 2019, I was told that my sugar levels had really shot up and they wanted to prescribe further diabetes medication. At that point I said, “hold on” and that was the first time I started to think about what was happening with my body. Instead of just accepting more medication, I wanted to go away and think about it. The doctors are experts in their field and if they prescribe medication, it is very easy to just accept it, but I wasn’t prepared to do that anymore. 

Food and healthy eating

Making changes

I started reading up on type 2 diabetes and recognised how important it was to change my diet. As part of my research, I watched videos and lectures, and observed other people’s experiences. I decided to make changes overnight; I stopped eating certain foods, and completely changed my diet. Some people thought I was mad because it was so drastic, but I saw it as a crash course, initiated by me, to address my diabetes. Three months later, following another blood test, I had lowered my HbA1c from 59 to 40 and no longer needed any medication to lower my blood sugar levels.  
I am of South Asian origin, and we eat a lot of rice as part of our meals. I was also eating naan bread, and then on top of that more bread, as well as many cereals. I was basically eating a very high-carb diet, but at the time I didn’t realise the impact carbs were having on my body. 
My breakfast was usually cereal, which was often two bowls with a pint of milk meaning more sugar – it was quick and easy. Then lunch would be a sandwich and a couple of hours later, I would be hungry again, so I enjoyed a cake or similar in the afternoon. I realised my diet was basically all carbs.  At that time I didn’t really have an awareness of diabetes. As an educated man, I was intellectually sound but not about my body or health.  
I decided to join a gym and was there almost every day. A week after joining, I weighed myself and had lost a kilo. After four weeks I had lost 4 kilos in weight. Then the date came around to visit the doctor again. When she put me on the scales, she couldn't believe it. She said, “whatever you're doing just carry on doing it,” which was exactly what I did. I reduced my carb intake, I cut back on fatty foods and sugar, and introduced more vegetables into my diet. This became my new eating regime to help me with my weight loss.

Cultural influence

Being a Muslim, I am familiar with fasting but that’s only once a year during Ramadan. However, I decided that I would incorporate some fasting all year round. I looked at a combination of intermittent fasting as part of my new eating regime, alongside reducing some of my carbs, especially rice. To be honest, I was never a big rice eater anyway, it was mostly the naan, chapati, and potatoes, so those were the foods I cut down on. I moved onto green smoothies, with spinach or kale. Anything green would do, and you get lots of fiber from green vegetables. However, it’s quite a bitter taste so I added a couple of strawberries or blueberries which have natural sugars, and made it taste nicer. It was quite hard going at times, but my determination prevailed.



Avoiding complications

What kept me motivated was knowing about the seriousness of the condition and the complications that can arise from diabetes, like amputations, losing your sight, and possibly causing damage to your kidneys. Although I haven’t lost anyone close to me as a result of these complications, I do know of people who have experienced long term complications of diabetes, and that was enough for me not to want a similar outcome. There were also other health concerns, like my blood pressure, which meant I needed to make these changes.


Benefits of remission

Since changing my lifestyle, especially my diet, the benefits have been immense. My diet has completely changed but I’m not hungry anymore. Now I can just have some natural yogurt and nuts for breakfast, or some days I might have eggs or a piece of cheese, and I alternate my drinks, between green tea, or normal breakfast tea and sometimes black coffee. I then have my one main meal in the evening. I have no flour products, but I enjoy lentils, salads, chicken and salmon. 
My family have embraced my change of lifestyle; it’s been some time now, so they are used to me doing my own thing and are very supportive. We often attend different events and parties, and our Asian weddings are quite elaborate with much food on offer. However, I’m able to navigate around the many courses and where possible I just stick to the starters.

New normal

It has been four years now and I have pretty much maintained my remission. My HbA1c is currently at 42 mmol/mol, which is pre-diabetes, so it may have crept up a little bit as I was relaxing my diet and doing less physical activity, but it’s still in a good range. What has really helped me has been reading other people’s experiences about how to stop feeling hungry, what to eat, when to eat, and intermittent fasting. 

I recognised that I needed to make a substantial change to my diet, however this needed to be a change that I could also sustain. I’m not completely rigid in my diet and occasionally I may have half a naan, so when guests visit I can join them in some curry, naan and rice, without overindulging. 

I've also realised that when I become too relaxed about my diet, my numbers go up again, so I must remain on top of things and in control of my nutrition. I’ve been following my eating regime and this has kept my diabetes in remission. I’m not saying my diet is the right diet for everyone with type 2 diabetes, but it’s worked for me and I’m so glad I did it. 

I recall reading a blog by a patient just like me and he had said to his doctor, “I'm really pleased the diet seems to have worked, I've lost weight, and everything has improved, so when do I go back to my normal self?” And the doctor replied, “This is your new normal.” That’s how I now feel about myself.  This is my new normal, my normal way of eating, drinking, and living. 



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