Diabetes Forecast

Recipe for Health

Nancy and Jeff Kiehl, with Zoe.

This morning my husband, Jeff, and I enjoyed a well-balanced breakfast of scrambled eggs, sprouted whole-grain toast, and local fresh fruit. A little later, we walked 3 miles with our golden retriever, Zoe. Invigorated by the salty sea air, dazzling sunshine, and sound of waves crashing along the cliffs on the California coast, we returned home.

Later, we prepared and enjoyed together a lunch of salad greens and kale, topped with roasted root vegetables, fresh carrots, celery, tomatoes, salmon, and a bit of cheese. Then we turned to planning our meals for the coming week and, with reusable shopping bags and grocery list in hand, headed to the market.

Planning menus, grocery shopping, and cooking delicious, satisfying meals were not always joint activities for Jeff and me. But a health scare united us in a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and consistent exercise.

Last year, just as we were beginning to enjoy a newly empty nest, Jeff was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He'd been running a fever for three days when it spiked to 105 degrees. In the emergency room, lab work revealed an E. coli infection as well as elevated blood sugar.

I knew Jeff faced making crucial lifestyle changes. Twenty-three years earlier, I had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. After two decades of reading Diabetes Forecast, I had learned a thing or two about the risk factors for developing type 2. So, while Jeff's elevated blood sugars were of great concern, they did not come as a complete surprise to me. His mother had been diagnosed in her 70s with type 2. Also, Jeff's weight had climbed during our 32-year marriage, and he was about 30 pounds above his ideal weight range.

At the time of his discharge, a hospitalist met with us. She supported Jeff's wish to try to treat his diabetes with dietary changes and exercise exclusively. At first, he felt that a salad for lunch was a deprivation because he often was hungry. However, he met early on with a diabetes educator who schooled him well in carbohydrate counting. She gave him an appropriate carb allotment, which alleviated his hunger while helping him to meet his weight-loss goals.

By the time of his follow-up appointment, Jeff was well on his way to avoiding type 2 medication. He had transitioned to eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods, letting go of his daily coffee shop "treats." After four months, he had lost 20 pounds and was walking daily. I was thrilled to have a new walking partner. It was working! His A1C dropped from 6.5 to 5.4 percent. At this writing, he has lost a total of 30 pounds and kept it off.

Jeff's type 2 diagnosis put us on the same page with regards to a healthy lifestyle. While I wouldn't wish this disease on anyone, it has brought first me and then Jeff to a way of living that is likely to keep us in the best possible health as we grow older together.

Nancy Kiehl and her husband, Jeff, longtime Boulder, Colo., residents, are enjoying a sabbatical year in Santa Cruz, Calif. After 23 years with type 1 diabetes, she has an A1C "in the low 6s" and no complications.



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