When Lynn Risor, 49, of Albuquerque, NM, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during a routine checkup last summer, she was terrified. She had seen firsthand how it can ruin your health and diminish your quality of life, because two of her great-aunts had struggled with the disease. "I was scared," Risor admits.
While she may have been frightened, she wasn't surprised. At 245 pounds and with a family history of the disease, Risor knew her risk was high. But like many of the 100 million Americans affected by diabetes and prediabetes (including the 7 million that the CDC estimates don't know they have the disease), she hadn't made the dietary changes that can often prevent type 2 diabetes. (Related: Register for the Diabetes DTOUR Diet for balanced blood sugar, a flatter tummy, and increased energy) The diagnosis knocked the apathy out of her--suddenly, she was determined to do whatever it took to avoid taking medications. She sought out a holistic doctor who put her on a low-fat, plant-based diet and recommended a fitness routine. Within 6 months, Risor lost 55 pounds, restored her blood sugar to normal levels, and reversed her disease--without popping a single pill.
Trying to Lose Weight? Drop Up to 19 Pounds in 35 Days
Although she came to it a bit late, Risor's strategy was smart. While genes, age, and race contribute to your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the disease isn't necessarily inevitable. "Having a family history of diabetes doubles your risk," says Melina Jampolis, MD, a board-certified physician nutrition specialist in Los Angeles. "But, as the saying goes, genes load the gun and lifestyle pulls the trigger." With diabetes, however, you can frequently call back the bullet, especially when you're newly diagnosed. The way to do that is with a healthy diet-and-exercise program that helps you lose weight.
On one level, that's bad news, given how tough losing weight (and keeping it off) can be for most people. But there's good news too: In many cases, you need to lose only 5 to 7% of total body weight to reduce your risks, according to the Diabetes Prevention Program, a clinical research study of 3,234 people. Translation: If you weigh 200 pounds, dropping just 10 to 14 of them will drastically cut your odds of developing type 2 diabetes. "You don't need to squeeze back into your prom dress," says David Marrero, MD, a professor of medicine at Indiana University. But you do need to make healthy diet changes you can stick with for life.