On the Friday before I left for MIX11 in Las Vegas, I received a
letter from our life insurance company. It said they were denying
my request to max out the life insurance due to weight and blood
glucose level. My (non fasting) blood glucose was 290 or so, and my
weight was pushing the same numbers. Normal people idle with a
blood glucose level around or under 100.
This was late on a Friday, and I was traveling Sunday through
Thursday the following week. I did the usual internet searches as I
had a pretty good idea of what these numbers meant, but I had to
confirm. The consensus (if there is such thing on the internet) was
that any number greater than around 175 is really bad, and means
you're a diabetic. Great.
I was really depressed for a couple days. Finding out that the
life insurance company isn't betting on you living is depressing.
Realizing you have a disease that affects
everything in your system, and is guaranteed to shorten your
lifespan is even worse. It was easily the worst personal
health news I had ever received. I'm 39 years old, not
I was pretty upset. While this explained a number of health
problems I had really started noticing over the prior 8 months or
so (painfully dry mouth, vision going blurry (I got glasses), more
hearing loss, a daily recurring pain in my liver, etc.) I hadn't
previously put those together. The liver pain was pretty new, and
was hard for me to nail down. I called and made an appointment with
my doctor for the Friday when I return (I hadn't seen him since
2007, as I've been bad about wellness checkups), and decided to do
a very low carb diet for the week I was at MIX, hoping for the
My grandmother on my mother's side has type 2, and has to inject
insulin daily, but she's in her 70s. My father got type 2 a while
before he passed of pancreatic cancer in early 2010 at the age of
59. My family, on my mother's side, tends toward being overweight
unless they really work hard not to be. My father's side was all
skinny, but has a long history of heart disease. While much of it
comes down to personal choice, the single largest factor in being
overweight is whether your family is also overweight. (That's not
just diet, it's genes, as it affects people who live apart as
Far more people have Type 2 than you know. It turns out that my
doctor has it, and my dentist has it. Many people have it, and like
me three months ago, simply don't know.
My First Quarterly Doctor Appointment
I had my first appointment in years the Friday after I returned
from MIX. The doctor took one look at the blood test paperwork from
the life insurance company (showed very high glucose, protein in
urine, high triglycerides etc.) and said yes, there was no doubt I
am a diabetic. He said as well that when my blood is tested,
they'll see a thin layer of cream at the the top due to the
triglycerides. Pretty nasty, but I found that amusing for some
reason. We fat people would make a good vampire desert.
He took some additional tests himself to check some other
numbers. He also tested my cholesterol since I had been on a low
carb diet for the week prior.
The tests showed that yes, I have damaged my kidneys and, to an
extent, my liver. Yes, just by eating like crap. I don't smoke, I
don't drink. I don't do drugs. What did this? Me and
crackers, breads, candy, and other high carb/sugar foods. No, I
don't need a transplant or anything at this point, but I likely
took some years (no idea, really) off their useful lifespan.
My cholesterol is, as it has always been, extremely low. So low
(under 90 total), that if I didn't have diabetes, he'd be treating
me to try and raise it. What I eat has no effect on my
cholesterol. My blood pressure was good, also as it always has
been, which is surprising for someone who weighs what I do. You
have to take what you can get :)
My follow-up was just after the tests arrived. The main number
he was interested in was the A1C,
which measures average sugar in your blood over the past three
months - the lifespan of a red blood cell. Mine came back way too
high for me to continue to treat just with diet - almost the max on
the scale indicating an average blood sugar level
of above 300. As he didn't want me to have to do insulin injections
unless there was no choice, he put me on the max dosage (4 pills a
day) of Metformin. Metformin is a wonderful drug, but
really tears up your digestive system.
My doctor's single biggest piece of advice was to lose weight.
At my peak in 2010, I weighed 285 pounds, which is pretty big. Ok,
it's huge. It's like a hippo. I always knew I was big, but
was just never motivated enough to do something about it.
While diabetes never crossed my mind (I don't know why), the other
health risks associated with it did.
I also spoke with my good friend (and former manager) Scott
Hanselman, who is a
well-known Type 1 diabetic. While he and I have very different
diseases, he was able to help with sound advice on dealing with
elevated sugar levels, plus moral support :) Thanks for your help,
I've had a lot of great support from my family, and the few
friends and coworkers I've told this to. Thanks to them for helping
me make sense of it all.
My wife was pretty upset about the whole thing. Happily, she's
been much better about diet than I have. Unfortunately, we have
fairly incompatible diets now, as she has very high cholesterol in
her family, and also can't have anything with lactose. I eat a fair
bit of cheese and meat, but also a lot more vegetables than I used
to. Oh, and bacon. Nom nom.
One thing this made us do immediately was reevaluate how we feed
our two children. While my son, like me, is not a fan of most
veggies, his diet has gotten a lot better over the past three
months. The trips to McDonald's when he's out with mom or me
on errands have stopped. In general, we've cleaned up their diets,
and with my wife's plate and mine visible to them at every meal,
have set a much better example. Ben is already showing some weight
loss as a result; it's amazing how quickly things affect kids.
Where to go from Here
I'm still pretty embarrassed about the whole
thing. I haven't told many people until now, because
type 2 diabetes like this is absolutely the result of just
treating your body like a dumping ground. It was entirely
preventable - caused by weight and very poor diet. Even with the
hereditary aspects of both weight and diabetes, it came down to
Sites tend to sugar coat it (ha! see what I did there?) as no
one wants to hear that it's their own personal life choices that
did this. Hearing that will likely be unpopular with some people,
but the fact of the matter is that this is completely avoidable at
my age. Of course, our country doesn't exactly make healthy food
choices easy (compare our food marketing and choices to France for
a good example. I was amazed both times I went there), but it still
comes down to personal decisions.
I've been on a very low carb diet since April. I haven't had any
real amount of sugar/rice/white flour since then. Once in a while,
there will be a small amount of sugar in a sauce at a restaurant
(and corn syrup is in everything in the US and has a
really strong lobby spreading misinformation so big farmers can
continue to grow corn; I do my best to avoid that). The only
fruit I've had are blueberries every once in a while, and as I
continue to lose weight, I'll add more relatively low glycemic
fruits. I haven't had any candy (I used to have a jelly bean jar on
my desk), or crackers (I lived on crackers) the whole time, and I
no longer miss them.
…and no tacos. I do actually miss tacos, but corn is really high
up on the list of things people should avoid, especially people
with diabetes. When I go to the local Mexican restaurant with the
family, I get the fajita and eat it right from the skillet, no
sides, no tortillas. It's actually pretty good that way. It's no
taco, but I deal.
That has helped immensely both in helping to control sugar
levels as well as weight loss. I'm down something like 40 pounds
from my peak (down two shirt sizes from 4x to 2x), but need to lose
another 60-70 to be down at the healthy weight for my 5' 11" 1/2".
Perhaps, when I hit that target, the Metformin will no longer be
required. It all depends on how my body responds. I've tested my
blood sugar many times, and it (with the diet and metformin) is
always between 90 and 100, which is respectable.
In the end, the distressing and cold letter from the
life insurance company almost certainly saved my life. At
the very least, it made me switch things around enough that I'll
likely live longer now than I would have had I not known. I've been
on diets in the past, but never had the willpower or motivation to
stick with them. This news was exactly the kick in the ass I needed
to start behaving.
Unfortunately, I'll always have this mark against me on my life
insurance regardless of where I go and regardless of whether or not
I succeed in getting rid of diabetes. I'll never be able to get as
much insurance as I want to; I'll only be able to get whatever
amount they'll give without asking for personal history or a blood
My next quarterly doctor appointment is next Friday. At least I
see my doctor on a regular basis now :)
Good news from my doctor. My A1C test, from my first three
months of diet and medication, came back a solid 6.0 - exactly
where he wanted me to be. He didn't think it could be done at my
weight, but was really excited to see it happen. I was told "don't
change a single thing" and to keep going.
Oh, and my cholesterol was even up a little: 124 instead of the
90 it was before. For a value that low, it's really good to see it
come up a little into a good range. He was happy about that as