Jon has had a dramatic year, to say the least. After hitting rock bottom and being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, he’s turned his life around with the help of a keto diet and intermittent fasting. Here he takes us through the whole inspiring story:
So this year hasn’t gone exactly as planned. It started with a severe case of pancreatitis in January, which resulted in a few days in hospital before being sent home to my house in London which I share with my cat Nala and my girlfriend Emily. They suspected it had something to do with my obvious obesity at 138 kg (304 lbs), but not much more was said at the time. I quickly went back to work, but for the next month I had an almost unquenchable thirst — to the extent that I would buy three half-litre bottles of water, drink them one after the other in a matter of minutes – and STILL be thirsty afterwards.
After about a month of this I ended up back in hospital with pancreatitis again – and this time it was far worse. After a dramatic arrival in the emergency room that saw me passing out at the registration desk before throwing up ten times in a row, I was quickly transferred to the high dependency unit. I looked bit like a half-finished Robo-Cop whose prime directive was to try not to be sick on himself. The room was full of wailing people, beeping alarms, and I was driven half crazy by a nil-by-mouth and morphine drip diet, compounded by nurses taking my blood readings every 30 minutes (meaning I never slept for longer than 20 minutes at a time for almost six days).
I endured this morphine-fuelled madness for almost a week, with various doctors and specialists coming and shaking their heads and then leaving again, until eventually a priest turned up, which gave me a bit of a fright. He quickly explained he wasn’t there to read me my last rights, but to tell me the good news about how Jesus can help soothe our suffering. Before he could start though, I told him at great length (and through sobbing tears) how much I missed my cat Nala, until he started to look a bit nervous and left, muttering that he had a lot of other people to see. It’s sad, but I guess not everyone is ready to accept the good news about Nala just yet.
Eventually some endocrinologists arrived and told me I had developed diabetes – largely due to my obesity and incredibly high carb intake. Which was fair – a combination of past depression and self-medication through food had meant that I’d never knowingly refused any donut, beer or pizza slice that was on offer.
I was sent home with a bag full of medication and the address of a YouTube video showing how to inject insulin. It was quite a shock at the time – I didn’t really know anything about diabetes. To suddenly have to enter a world of where I was taking a cocktail of 10 drugs and injecting myself with insulin four times a day required a massive life adjustment. Indeed the first time I had to inject, the nurse who was meant to help me failed to turn up, so I had to do it completely on my own – it sounds silly maybe, but I was completely terrified that first time.
It was difficult at first, and just getting used to the new medication regime resulted in a lot of confusion, drowsiness and despair. Ultimately I lost my job due to being unable to transition to the new normal of injections and medication quick enough. It was incredibly depressing.
But I decided it wasn’t going to beat me. After reading some Facebook posts by legendary video games developer John Pickford (who has also made an incredible transformation to his health in recent years), and reading a few books about fasting and diabetes (including Dr. Fung’s The Diabetes Code), I started a strict low carb and fasting regime. Cut sugar out totally. I quit drinking alcohol completely. I joined a gym.
Perhaps more impressively, I actually WENT to the gym. Now I run 10k three times a week – something that would have been unthinkable in my pre-diabetes life.
Although the diet was very strict (I mourned pizza as if it was an ex-lover that had died unexpectedly in a freak yeast explosion accident), I soldiered on.
For the first four or five months I did a 16:8 fast every day. That eating window slowly became smaller and smaller until I was mainly having a black coffee at breakfast, a handful of nuts or some pork rinds in the afternoon if I got hungry, and then one main low-carb meal in the evening (usually turkey or chicken with green vegetables, and a small greek yoghurt with a few fresh raspberries in for desert).
Eventually I started to lose weight. By my 42nd birthday this September, I’d lost an entire third of my body weight, over 45 kg (99 lbs). You can see the difference in the pictures I’ve attached, the one in the red t-shirt being pre-diabetes and weighing almost 130 kg (287 lbs), and the one in the blue t-shirt taken in September on holiday in Jordan, weighing 80 kg (176 lbs). My BMI has now tipped into the ’healthy’ range for the first time in 20 years.
Yesterday I had my first visit with a Diabetes consultant, almost 9 months after my initial diagnosis in February. It should have been much earlier, but somehow the appointment had got lost in the post. He said he was sorry I’d had to do the first nine months without much support.
He had my latest blood test results, and he was slightly astounded. He said that they use the HbA1C blood test to determine how diabetic someone is. A result between 42 and 47 mmol/mol is pre-diabetic. Anything over 47 mmol/mol is diabetic. When I first went into hospital, my Hbc1a levels were over 110 mmol/mol, and my triglycerides were so high they couldn’t even be measured.
I nervously asked how high they were in the recent results. He smiled. “38 mmol/mol.” Which is essentially in the non-diabetic normal range. I couldn’t believe it.
He told me that he wanted me to come off the insulin injections immediately, and that I would be able to control my diabetes with diet and pills alone going forward. Huge pools of tears formed in my eyes, and the room wasn’t even dusty.
“It’s incredibly rare what you’ve managed to do,” he said approvingly. “If all of may patients out there managed to do what you’ve done, I’d be a happy man,” he paused for a second, before adding: “Albeit potentially unemployed.”
Obviously it’s required a lot of determination to get to this point, but I want people to know that it is possible, if you’re disciplined enough, to accomplish your diabetes goals. And I don’t think I’m some sort of freak who has an iron will – before this I’d never been particularly disciplined about anything.
Things aren’t yet perfect – I’m still trying to find a way back to work, but at least I feel like I have a stable base to build from health-wise for the first time. I also feel lighter, healthier and happier. I’d also like to publicly thank John Pickford and Dr. Jason Fung for putting me on the path I’ve ended up on. You both are true inspirations.
Anyway, that’s pretty much me for now. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, please read Dr. Fung’s books, please know that diabetes is something that you can tame!
Jon is active on Twitter, @Jon_Cybernet.
Thanks for sharing your story and your journey Jon. I am saddened to hear how you were completely left alone to find this out. But I am certainly encouraged that you succeeded! Your story highlights the failings on the medical system and the power of independent research. I hope your story inspires others to not accept the standard answer of “take more medication,” but rather to take control and learn for themselves the power of low carb and healthy lifestyle habits.
/ Dr. Bret Scher, MD
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