In the summer of 2005 I was diagnosed with Prolific Diabetic Retinopathy. I could not see out of either of my eyes by the time I was diagnosed. I was one of the lucky ones and after 3 years and 10 eye surgeries; my sight was restored to a point where I can do most everything I could prior to losing my sight. As odd as it may sound, this ended up being one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
I’ve been a type one diabetic almost my entire life. I have had take insulin injections since the age of 7. Nothing says “fun childhood” like taking 4 shots a day and being told that I had to suppress a sweet tooth strong enough to make me get into a van with a stranger had he just offered me a piece of candy. Thankfully that never happened, however,I was never able to get control of that sweet tooth as a child, as a teenager, or while in college. Even worse, while in college, I decided to subscribe to the Burger King/6th street diet and simultaneously decided that I really didn’t need to adhere to my endocrinologist’s advice on managing my diabetes…. I know college is supposed to be a time of self-discovery, but in my case, what I probably discovered most, was that I was an idiot when it came to diet and diabetes management. I was of the mindset that because my height and weight were proportional, I played basketball a few hours a day during college, and looked healthy on the outside, that I must be doing just fine…. Sadly, that couldn’t have been further from the truth and something I didn’t learn until my poor diabetes management robbed me of my eyesight.
I had no idea how to get into the shape I wanted to be before I found CrossFit Central. All I did was play basketball a couple hours a day and stumble through random exercises in the weight room at other gyms. It was frustrating to be able to imagine the shape I wanted to be in, but have no real idea or plan on how to get there.
AJ’s AC1 levels are 6.0 & insulin intake went from 12 units per meal to 2 units
After about 2 months at CrossFit Central, I started seeing some changes that my doctors found hard to believe. I hadn’t changed my diet at all, but with doing 3 WOD’s a week at CrossFit Central and still playing basketball and running on my days off, my insulin intake was cut in half and my A1C levels dropped to a 6.2, the lowest I had seen it in years. My doctors were ecstatic but I think were skeptical of the way I was achieving my results. I didn’t honestly care, I was saving a few grand a year on insulin costs with the reduced dosages I was taking and was in as good of shape physically and managing my diabetes as well as I thought possible. I was wrong!
I had not changed my diet at all since joining CrossFit Central. I had control and cutting out grains and dairy seemed like a bad idea. If I cut those out, I was worried that my blood sugars would run too low—which is just as dangerous as anything a diabetic can do! If that happened, I would not have the energy to do CrossFit or worse, would pass out in the middle of workout and cause serious damage. I politely listened to Carey Kepler’s nutrition lecture and thought to myself that she didn’t know what she was talking about in regards to diabetes.
After much more consideration, I joined Crystal Nelson’s Fuel 21 program. I decided that I was going to give this Paleo thing an honest attempt for 21 days and see what happened. On day one, I honestly thought I had made a mistake when Crystal told me I had to give up grains, dairy, processed sugar, legumes, and most importantly, diet coke. Diet Coke was my one vice at that point and I’d have rather given up women than diet coke.
Four days into eating strictly Paleo, my insulin intake was cut from 6 units per meal to 2 units per meal. That is 1/6 of what I had been taking before every meal for the last 18 years of my life. Two months after finishing Fuel 21, I had my A1C drawn again and it was a 6.0, which for diabetics nearly impossible to achieve. My doctors were stunned with my results.
My little brother is a diabetic too, though he developed it much later in life and has been over weight for years. I find myself worrying about him all the time; afraid he is going to make the same mistakes I did and suffer the same problems too. So I made a deal with him to try the Paleo diet for 3 months and see what happens. As a result, my mom decided to try it too as a way to support her children. After 3 months, my little brother lost about 20 pounds and had better control of his diabetes than ever before. My mom, who is in her mid-sixties, and exercises sparing because of her rheumatoid arthritis, is at the lowest weight she has been in 20 years! Her arthritis is becoming much more manageable. In addition to that, my older brother, who is a doctor of genetics and can be skeptical of “diets” decided he would try to eat Paleo as well. He too has now lost over 20 pounds and is loving a lifestyle that he thought would be too difficult for him to sustain based on the way he used to enjoy eating.
My success has been nice, but the success that CrossFit Central inadvertently brought to my family, who do not even live in Austin has been much more important!
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