Battling Type 2 Diabetes with Diet and Lifestyle

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When faced with a daunting health challenge, where do you start? There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but one thing is certain: You can change the trajectory of your future by making lifestyle changes now.

Boston-based One Medical Group patient Tara Bellucci is a real and inspiring example of how you can take control of your health. When faced with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis in January, she was determined not to take any drugs. Rather, she would make significant changes in her mindset, diet, and activity levels.

Together with her doctor, Linnea Meyer, MD, Tara is working to maintain these changes on the drug-free path toward healing her body. Tara shared, “Every positive change you make is worth it, because the other side has boundless energy and truly unstoppable feelings of accomplishment.” And it shows. Just three months after her diagnosis, Tara’s total weight loss is at 25 pounds and she’s seen a significant improvement in her lab work.

We caught up with Tara to find out how she’s made such a dramatic change.

How did you find out you had type 2 diabetes? Did you have symptoms?

During my first appointment with Linnea in mid-January, I expressed concern about diabetes, which runs in my family. We did a blood test and found out I had elevated sugar levels and A1Cs that put me in the diabetes category.

BBQ-TofuWhy did you turn to diet and lifestyle changes instead of drugs?

I believe an unhealthy lifestyle causes type 2 diabetes and I thought, “I got my body into this mess, I can get my body out of this mess.” I wanted to do this for a long time, so this was finally the kick that inspired me to do it!

On your blog you said you made the decision to go gluten-, dairy-, caffeine-, and alcohol-free. What was the inspiration there?

After my diagnosis I tried a bunch of different things. I was mostly vegan, counting my carbs, seeing a nutritionist. Then I read books on obesity and diabetes and I found Dr. Mark Hyman who wrote the Blood Sugar Solution and 10-Day Detox. It shed light on how allergens like gluten, dairy, and alcohol are inflammatory and block your body’s ability to recognize insulin.

I did a preliminary elimination diet in April, and then the 10-day detox in May. I cut out all grains and focused on non-starchy vegetables and lean protein. I was surprised that the food was really delicious and I had a lot more energy. It helps you get to a place where you feel like your body is more of a well-oiled machine.

tara-timeline-3mosHow did you make it through the 10-day detox?

I believe you can do anything for 10 days if you put your mind to it. I like to cook so I used the “adventure” detox plan, which is more exotic and creative, and made everything I ate for 10 days. You don’t feel deprived at all because you’re eating healthy fats like avocado and olive oil and more lean protein.

When I looked at the nutritional information for the recipes, I had never seen so many fat grams. It was amazing that I was eating 20 grams of fat in every meal, but managed to lose eight pounds in 10 days. Having grown up in the 80s and 90s, fat seemed like the enemy.

What kind of exercise are you doing?

I do yoga and Zumba–and living in a great walking city like Boston, I do a lot of walking. My brother is a personal trainer, so he’s also given me bodyweight exercises to start rebuilding muscle. I found a while ago that if exercise is a chore, I won’t do it. Yoga is so relaxing and also a hard workout and Zumba is so upbeat. Boston is sponsoring free outdoor classes like Zumba, yoga, and CrossFit, so I’ll be working out for free all summer!

How long have you been with One Medical? How has it helped you?

I joined in January 2014. I got a flyer for One Medical and thought, “This is a whole new way to do primary care.” Linnea is so sweet, very in tune, open to listening, and supportive of my “I’m not taking any drugs” situation. She has been my cheerleader and was on board with me taking charge of my health. She’s made great recommendations for specialists and was so excited to see good test results after the three-month check-in that she gave me a big hug. I think she was even more excited than I was!

What’s next for you?

The next step is a check-in in August where my goal is to get my A1C levels below the diabetes level and, hopefully, add more to my 25-pound total weight loss since January. I may try some other diets like the “clean” diet or 8 Weeks to Optimum Health. I never thought I’d be doing this. I mean, I’m Italian–pasta practically runs through my veins. But I’m staying away from gluten and I feel so much better. I hope to add gluten back in eventually, but I’m happy to be thriving right now.

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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