By Vicky Rao
Two decades ago, I was hospitalised with dengue. After running some bloodwork, the doctors came back with some shocking news – that I also had Type-2 diabetes. My perspective changed in an instant, and I realised I had taken my health for granted my entire life.
I knew very little about diabetes and the impact it would have. I was a young man, happy to be enjoying my life as much as possible. For me, that meant eating whatever I wanted. I loved fast food and fizzy drinks. I weighed 160 kg.
The last thing I wanted was to restrict my enjoyment of the junk food that gave me so much pleasure. Living with diabetes meant doing exactly that—and I knew change would not come easily. Moreover, the pain and hassle of pricking your finger to test glucose levels was not appealing.
My doctor informed me that managing diabetes is a lifelong commitment and advised me to exercise more while cutting down on sugar and carbohydrates. My everyday decisions around food preparation and how much I eat could significantly impact my glucose levels.
However, making drastic changes to my lifestyle was overwhelming and I started to feel burned out, gradually slipping back into my old habits of eating and inactivity. I was frustrated, unhappy and ready to give up.
The Turning Point
Many years passed before my concerned mother encouraged me to take an HbA1c test, measuring my glucose level for the first time in a long time. To our horror, my glucose level stood at 19.1 millimoles per litre (mmol/L) – the highest it had been and well above the normal range of under 5.7 mmol/L.
The result came as such a shock that I knew instantly that I had to make some serious changes in my life.
However, managing fluctuating glucose levels without the proper guidance and support proved challenging. Gradually, I found myself poorly managing my condition again, and it felt like I could make no progress, no matter how firmly I resolved to do so.
The real turning point came six years ago when I was admitted to the hospital because my glucose level was too high–this time reading 16.1 mmol/L. Older, wiser, and married at this point, I knew I had to change my lifestyle or die.
I started looking online for information to understand the habits I would need to adopt, for life, to better manage my diabetes. The more I learned, the more excited I became: Technology has advanced significantly since I was first diagnosed, and I found an array of tools that helped me monitor my glucose levels and understand what I need to do to stay healthy.
I now employ a consistent monitoring regime, checking my glucose level seven times a day. Doing so keeps me mindful of my food intake. I started prioritising a more nutritious and healthy diet that included more protein and fewer carbohydrates, while opting for healthier foods like brown rice and vegetables. I also integrated the diabetes nutritional supplement Glucerna in my daily intake.
In addition to eating healthier, I exercised, took my medication on time and had regular follow-up visits to my doctor’s office.
As a result of my efforts, my glucose level readings improved, which has encouraged me to push myself further toward better health.
Being In Control
In 2021 I joined the Glucerna Lifestyle Change Programme (GLCP), a four-week intervention programme that includes dietary counselling, diabetes nutrition, exercise and continuous glucose monitoring.
Throughout the programme I had weekly virtual consultations with dietitians who provided support with my meal plans based on my dietary needs, preferences and health goals. I was encouraged to make journal entries to track my daily glucose level reading and food intake, and to keep track of my weekly progress. I increased my level of exercise to the point where I was running on the treadmill for 45 minutes to an hour every day—a significant change from my once-sedentary lifestyle.
The results of the programme were swift and dramatic. I began to feel better, and after a month on the programme I had lost five kilograms and my glucose level was stable at around 6 mmol/L.
I also learned how to effectively treat episodes of low glucose level, known as hypoglycaemia, which was one of the biggest challenges. The programme allowed me to connect with my peers who face similar challenges, to share our experiences and learnings. It was comforting and inspiring to have this community of people around me to feel like I’m not alone in this journey.
What I learned
My experience in the programme taught me many lessons, such as the importance of healthy lifestyle habits, controlling portion sizes for each type of food, keeping to a meal schedule, exercising regularly and taking diabetes-specific formulas that contain complete and balanced nutrition—such as Glucerna. But the most important lesson I learned is that diabetes can be managed. It is not a death sentence.
Now, I am more committed to keeping my glucose levels within a target range, averaging 6-6.3 mmol/L. I aim to bring it even lower and have set clear, defined goals to work towards. I am confident I can achieve them. I’ve come a long way, from a peak weight of 160 kg to my current, healthier weight of 100kg, I have better control of my diabetes and feel more energised.
I want to share my story and knowledge with others who are struggling with diabetes. Adopting positive lifestyle changes has been a life-changing experience for my family and me. Witnessing my journey has especially helped my father-in-law, who has been living with diabetes for many years. He feels empowered to make lifestyle changes.
I hope that sharing my experience will inspire people with diabetes to make positive lifestyle changes. I want to help people understand even with diabetes, you can live a healthy, happy and fulfilling life.