So, for those of you who are new to my blog, I used to have Type II Diabetes. If you feel like reading a little more about my “revelations” on Diabetes then you should definitely read My Blog Post for TEDx Folkestone – I’ve got some brilliant analogies for you in that post to help better understand the condition and what’s going on *inside*… But for today’s post, I wanted to expand a little more on one of the major lifestyle changes I made at the time to help me reverse the condition.
Now, when I was first diagnosed (about a decade ago now), I had just moved to South Korea; and truthfully, it wasn’t all that “shocking”. I had been aware of the symptoms for quite some time, but I was just trying to truck on without jumping to conclusions. Therefore, while not entirely taken aback, I didn’t expect the news either… but I took it as a challenge virtually off the bat.
See, the first thing that came to mind was the memory of an article that I’d read some years prior (when a good friend of mine from uni had been diagnosed with Type I Diabetes)… Now while Type I is something that [unfortunately] stays with you for life, *Type II* is very much reversible.
Living in South Korea was either going to be a blessing or a curse, and it all hinged on the dietary habits I adopted early on.
How would it have been a curse? Well, just look at the two things that are staples of their diet over there: Rice & Noodles. Basically, “Carbs Squared”… No Bueno for when it comes to Glucose regulation!
How is it a blessing? Korean BBQ! And this was my proverbial “saving grace” as it is seriously a Diabetic’s best friend as far as Macronutrients go. You’ve got a healthy level of Fat, a solid amount of Protein, and Carbs are relatively minimal. The other aspect of Korean BBQ that makes it a winner in my books is that it is very much Paleo-friendly.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Korean BBQ, let me just breakdown what it consists of:
Traditionally, you have thinly-sliced marinated Beef [Sirloin] (although you can also get Pork & Chicken too! And even unmarinated versions of each as well)… and this is served up with Lettuce Leaves that you use as Wraps for the Beef/Pork/Chicken. But what really makes it all come together is the “Banchan” (side dishes); you get to customize your wraps in so many ways with all these amazing little extras like – sliced Cucumber, [Bell] Peppers, Garlic, Green Onion, Mushrooms, Kimchi (fermented cabbage), [grated] Potato & Green Beans, Seasoned Seaweed, Radish, Sprouts and more…
So, where you have the actual meat itself covering your Protein & Fat intake, the “Banchan” have you covered not only on *healthy-AF* Carbs, but a crazy kick of *Micro*-nutrients to boot! And honestly, we’re not even just talking “basics” [with Vitamins & Minerals], but also Phyto-Nutrients and Anti-Oxidants as well. It really just brings you an A-game of nutrition because you have so many bases covered in Aces!
But okay, I’ll quit singing Korean BBQ’s praises for a sec to reflect on what makes it “Paleo”, and why that’s relevant to the reversal of Type II Diabetes…
The ‘Paleo Diet’ is one that tries to emulate that of our ancestors – and I’m not just talking about those that you can look up on Ancestry.com, no. I mean the Hunter-Gatherers from many, many, many millennia ago. We’re talking “Back to Basics” – food that was either prancing around one second, then on the spit-roast the next; or what you could easily forage or pick from a tree, a bush or the ground (think nuts, berries and mushrooms – for example). And everything that comes as part of the traditional layout of a Korean BBQ matches that description.
Essentially, we’re talking about *REAL* food! Mother Nature’s daily offerings. And as such, we’re presented with a viable solution for healing (and even reversing) a condition like Type II Diabetes. See, this particular condition is not a Virus, it’s not Bacterial, and it isn’t an Autoimmune Disease; it is simply an Inflammatory Condition. Now, I don’t want to “dumb down” the severity of Type II Diabetes, but rather shed light on what it really is, and what YOU can do to ameliorate the symptoms (and possibly even be rid of it).
Disclaimer: I am not guaranteeing ANYTHING here. Paleo may *not* help you to reverse Type II Diabetes (or any other inflammation-based condition – like IBS, for example), but it did help me. It would be prudent to consult your doctor first, but frankly, the notion of simply cleaning up your diet is a bit of a no-brainer [if you haven’t already tried], and it shouldn’t yield any negative results.
Fact is, if you live in a country that has access to an abundance of packaged/processed foods (& beverages) then you’re likely to have a higher risk of developing Type II Diabetes. By consuming vast amounts of foods that have a) had their nutrients rendered virtually useless by excessive processing, b) been laden with additives that are not natural [and thus considered “foreign” to the body], and c) even had some of its natural “contents” removed (think ‘Fat Free’ or ‘Zero Sugar’)… well, these are all things that the body reacts to poorly.
Inflammation is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. If you get stung – the site gets inflamed/swollen as part of your body’s response to deal with the issue. If you break a bone – the area surrounding the breakage [again] becomes inflamed, and your body gets to work on the healing processes.
You could say that Inflammation is a bit like CSI – a bunch of yellow tape gets put around the area (i.e. swelling occurs), and the “investigators” (your body’s various cells/enzymes/antibodies/etc) will take as much time as they need to secure the site, analyse the damage, and determine the best way to neutralize the threat and return things back to normal (or as close to ‘normal’ as possible).
The problem with Type II Diabetes is that it is like an overworked CSI Team – every time you consume food that is either high in sugar or “bad for you” (i.e. lacking in nutrients the body can actually use, yet containing a surplus of crap that your body doesn’t like/want/need) the Team goes out and it’s “investigation time”. Oh… false alarm. The stuff wasn’t *poison*, so it’s not going to kill you. It didn’t provoke an allergy, so “you’re okay”. But ‘the Team’ gets called out again, and again, and again. And it gets really knackering.
Hence the reason why fatigue is one of the major symptoms of Type II Diabetes – because every single time you’re eating something that can severely spike your Insulin (and cause a reaction within your body) you’re creating more work for it than it can realistically deal with. And it is exhausting!
If you’re prone to a lacklustre diet, then you need to stop shovelling stuff in your face that is completely unnatural and start to eat real food – yes, the stuff that you end up just ‘whipping past’ in the supermarket as you get sucked into the blackhole of Bargains & Deals (that “oddly enough” are all on the food that’s going to exacerbate your condition).
Meat, vegetables, nuts and fruit all have plenty to offer that your body wants and needs! Meat is high in Protein, has some Saturated Fats (which we DO need in small amounts), is pretty much devoid of Carbohydrates (which isn’t a problem as you’ll get all you need from the veggies and fruit), and even contains important Minerals like Zinc and Iron (contents will vary depending on whether you go for ‘white meat’ vs ‘dark’, and if you opt for “fleshy” cuts or try organs).
Vegetables and Fruit both have an immense amount of Vitamins, Phyto-Nutrients (nutrients derived from plants that have a plethora of health benefits for the body), Anti-Oxidants, and in some cases, even healthy Fats [like Omega-3’s – an *anti-inflammatory*] found in Avocados (for example). And then, Nuts have a little extra protein, and even more healthy fats to boot (Omega-6, MCTs, Omega-7, etc).
So, when I decided that I needed to do something about my Type II Diabetes, my first “pitstop” was addressing the Macros. I knew that decreasing *Sugar* was paramount, so despite having a sweet-tooth like no other, I made sure to prioritize the moderation of my sugar-intake. Easiest way to do it is to [gradually] cut out all the processed junk that either has added sugars, or worse – has artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.
Also, it was kind of a given, but increasing my Daily Activity was a good idea also; I’d always gone to the Gym several times per week (for about an hour a day)… but what about the other 23hrs of the day, right? Well, one of my goals for my time in Korea was to pursue Martial Arts, and I wound up diving in head first! Doing as much as *fifteen* hours per week (on top of my Gym time) meant that the next thing to address [dietarily speaking] was: Protein intake!
This part of the puzzle really is just like those Shape Sorting Toys – you know: where you simply fit the X-shaped piece through the X-shaped hole, the Square-shaped one through the Square hole, etc. That’s really how simple the “macro portion” of the puzzle is here.
Truthfully, it was pure coincidence that Korean BBQ presented itself as a prime option to help with my dietary needs. I hadn’t really been aware of it being “a thing” until I was invited out to try it with some new friends at the time. Fortunately, that invitation came early on, so that serendipitous discovery wound up being a bit of a life saver (almost literally).
By the end of my year in South Korea my symptoms were like night and day! I felt far more energetic throughout the day, and I attribute it to the healthy habits I adopted while I was there. When I returned to the UK, I finally told my family about the diagnosis (I didn’t want to worry them about it while I was halfway around the world, and frankly, had it under control – fortunately, they were very understanding). My brother referred me to a blog that I have been subscribed to ever since: Mark’s Daily Apple… the brain-child of Mark Sisson, who I have learned a TON from over the course of the last decade!
I read his book – Primal Blueprint – and it put so much of the ‘bits and bobs’ I had discovered for myself over the prior year into an ever clearer perspective; the best way I can describe it is like this:
Most of us are like VHS when it comes to Diet and Nutrition – we’ve got one “Script” engrained in us that we just Play, Pause, Stop and Rewind. I had come to be like a DVD – suddenly there are “Options”, you can select individual “Scenes” and “Chapters”, do “Frame-by-frame Rewinds” and more. Then Marks’ stuff was like going Ultra Hi-Def Blu-Ray… with all the Bonuses available, with “Behind the Scenes” footage, “How they made it”, “Bloopers” and then some!
This same evolutionary revelation is one that I hope to evoke in my readers here on the CXP Fitness blog – whether you’re sifting through my articles on Nutrition or some other nuggets of wisdom that I have to offer.
So, let me summarize my point with the Paleo/Diabetes (Type II) issue here: lowering Sugar (and moderating Carbs), increasing Protein, consuming plenty of Healthy Fats (like Omega-3, which are Anti-Inflammatory), avoiding processed foods and just eating REAL food is the first crucial step you can take towards [potentially] reversing Type II Diabetes; and the Paleo [or Primal] Diet is ideal for this. It helped me, and it could help you.
I’ve tried other things like the Keto Diet and Intermittent Fasting since reversing the condition, and they’ve both had positive effects. They could even be viable alternatives; for more info on these you should check out:
Guys and gals, I really hope you’ve gotten something out of this today. If you know someone who has Type II Diabetes, and feel like they might benefit from reading about my personal experience with the condition and my advice on overcoming it, then feel free to share the love and send them the link to this article.
I’ll catch you in the next post, but in the meantime, remember: Eat Healthy, and Eat Smart!
Yours in Training,
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO