Anne Mullens is an award-winning health and science journalist, located in Canada, who writes about health issues for a wide variety of magazines, including International editions of Reader’s Digest. She is our newest recruit to Team Diet Doctor. Here is her first post.
In the fall of 2015 I received a phone call that shocked me and changed my life. It was my doctor’s office telling me my recent fasting blood sugar result was 5.7 mmol/liter (103 mg/dl). “You have pre-diabetes,” my doctor said.
How was that even possible? I had been writing about type 2 diabetes for more than 25 years. I knew all about it — and I didn’t fit the typical risk pattern. I was a normal, healthy weight — 143 lbs (65 kg) on a 5’6″ frame (165 cm) giving me a BMI of 23 — not bad for a 57-year-old woman.
I exercised and lifted weights at least three times a week and walked to and from work every day, always getting 10,000 daily steps. I ate the recommended low-fat diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. My avoidance of fat was so dedicated that I always put insipid skim milk in my morning coffee and ate dry, skinless chicken breasts. I was doing it all because I truly believed it was better for my long-term health.
Now I know that I was wrong.
Searching for an alternative
After that phone call I went searching in the medical literature – something I always do when researching a health story. I wanted to learn more about the 20 per cent of type 2 diabetics who are of normal weight. I learned that type 2 diabetes risk isn’t as much about excess weight as about the underlying insulin resistance.
Researching insulin resistance led me to the work of Dr. Jason Fung, which led me to Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt and Diet Doctor.
The Diet Doctor site blew me away. I spent hours going into all the fantastic information: the blog posts and links, the interviews with experts and the questions they answered, the links to new research, the movies, the inspiring stories of individuals whose health had turned around.
And a light went on for me: Most likely I had been reacting badly to carbohydrates all my life.
Carbohydrate intolerance explained almost every health issue I ever had — my IBS, my polycystic ovarian syndrome, my hangry blood-sugar swings in which I felt I would faint if I didn’t eat this very second, my borderline gestational diabetes in two pregnancies and my two huge 9 lb+ (4 kg) babies. Moreover, the solution was so clear and simple: adopt a keto diet.
I cut out all flour, breads, potatoes, rice, cookies, cakes, crackers, even most fruit except blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. My carbs came primarily from leafy green and above ground vegetables.
I bought Ketostix to test whether I was in ketosis. Within a week I was; by three weeks my blood sugar had normalized and I had lost 10 lbs (5 kg).
Even better, I felt fantastic: mentally clear, no more hangry spells, full of energy, muscles strong, barely a grumble from my IBS.
Unexpected benefits, to which I credit the diet, also emerged within a few months: my joints hurt less, my muscles weren’t as sore after a hard workout, I hadn’t had a migraine since I switched, and my skin felt more supple — I had to use less moisturizer even in a cold Canadian winter.
I had been denying my body the fat it needs for almost 30 years, and adding it back in was like finally lubricating a rusty old machine. My body was loving it.
I admit, a longstanding fear of fat was my biggest hurdle with the keto diet. After all, I had written hundreds of articles in my career quoting leading health experts saying fat was the enemy and the low fat as the only way to eat. I feel guilty now for helping spread that low-fat message for so long.
Now I feel compelled and excited to help more people achieve better health and feel great eating low carb and HIGH fat. Since writing about reversing pre-diabetes with low carb eating for Reader’s Digest, I have been coaching friends and family in the diet and creating and adapting recipes. I always say “If you don’t feel great on this diet, it may not be right for you.” But almost everyone I know who I’ve coached or linked to Diet Doctor sends me an email thanking me for helping them feel so much better.
I have now been on a ketogenic diet for 18 months and I won’t ever go back to my old way of eating. I follow all the advice and it works. I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full; my food is wholesome, natural and satisfying. I am strong, fit and trim. My health is the best it has been in years — not bad for a woman closing in on 60.
And, oh yeah: full-fat cream in my coffee and crispy chicken skin taste so darn good.