I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen posters, TV advertisements, and various people talking about how we need to find a “cure” for type II diabetes. Well readers, today is your lucky day! I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’VE FOUND IT! It’s good old-fashioned diet and exercise. It’s living a healthy lifestyle. It’s getting your lazy butt up off the couch.

I’ve worked as an inpatient dietitian for a while now, and I’ve served as the educator for many patients who were just diagnosed with type II diabetes that day, and I’ve also been the educator for even more people who have been diagnosed years ago. 95% of them have one major thing in common: No one has ever told them that their diabetes is REVERSIBLE. No people, you do NOT have to have this for the rest of your life. You do NOT need to spend the rest of your days pricking your finger to take your glucose level and shooting yourself up with insulin. I’m not sure why I’m the first person to tell my patients this. It seems like everyone has this stigma that diabetes is this disease that just happens and you can’t control. Type II diabetes, just like heart disease, is something that takes years and years of bad lifestyle choices to develop. It is not something that just pops up overnight, and you can’t blame it on anything but yourself. I know some people will try to blame it on heredity, but guess what? I bet your parents ate like crap and didn’t exercise, and that’s probably where you learned it from, so I’m throwing that excuse out the window. I’m not sure if our portrayal of this disease has been formed by money-hungry pharmaceutical companies and careless overworked physicians/caregivers with no time to explain, but regardless of why, it needs to change.

People need to know the truth, as hard as it may be to hear. I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked one of my diabetic patients, “has anyone ever talked to you about the importance of diet and exercise?” and the answer is no. But, you better believe their physician has talked to them about their medications they need to take. The FIRST line of defense, the FIRST thing that should be talked about is DIET, not a sidebar, not something that you can do in addition to medicine, it needs to be brought to the forefront and into the limelight, considering it is what caused the condition in the first place.

Let me back up for a second. There is a difference between type I and type II diabetes, type I being the type that is diagnosed when you are an adolescent or younger, that lifestyle does not control. About 5-15% of diabetics are classified as type I. Those with type I are usually thin, and their pancreas does not secrete insulin the way a normal pancreas would, which is why type I’s always need insulin. We used to call this type “juvenile-onset diabetes.” Unfortunately, due to the rise in obesity in the younger population, we can no longer call it this since adolescents are now being diagnosed with type II diabetes as well (the youngest on record being five years old— yes, FIVE!). The more common type II diabetes usually occurs in overweight, sedentary individuals. Unlike type I, the pancreas continues to secrete insulin, but the bodies cells, overrun with fat, are unable to properly recognize the insulin. Risk factors for type II (other than obesity and sedentary lifestyle) include high blood pressure, high cholesterol,  high alcohol intake, and those who’ve had gestational diabetes while pregnant.

I’m no longer interested in teaching my patients how to “manage” their diabetes. I want to help them reverse it. A weight loss as small as 10 percent of body weight can improve blood sugar levels and make you less dependent on medication. Contact me if you’re interested.