"I’m going to France but I won’t be having a croissant. Here’s why." ~ Michelle's story
Weight loss: 25 kg in 12 months
HbA1c: 7.9 down to 5.8
In Remission: Yes
As a police officer in Sydney, Michelle Kirkwood was very active, playing touch footy, cycling, running and training hard in the gym. She joined the local surf life-saving club with her kids when she moved to Bonny Hills near Port Macquarie. It was something she had done growing up and loved it. Becoming proficient again in her bronze medallion, patrolling and then forming a women’s boat crew, Michelle began to notice pain in her shoulders. Her doctor advised that she had developed bursitis and, unable to train, she became less active and began gaining weight. Around the same time, she also developed excruciating pain in her left knee, which her GP confirmed as osteoarthritis. Then she received the diagnosis that changed everything.
“In my mid-40s, I started rowing surf boats. I was still training heaps and boxing, so when my shoulders blew up, I knew I was in trouble. I couldn’t do the things I used to take for granted; even hanging out the washing would cause my shoulders to flare up. My joints – ankles, wrists, elbows, and hips - were also inflamed and painful. I could barely walk some mornings when I got out of bed.
“I had always followed the dietary guidelines, eating plenty of carbs like bread, cereal, potatoes, pasta or rice every day. But I was no longer well enough to train, and still eating the same way. Before I knew it, I had gained 25 kgs.
“My mum died of bowel cancer, so I have a precautionary colonoscopy check-up every 3 years. In June 2021, I visited my GP for a referral, and they suggested I should also get my bloodwork checked as it hadn’t been done for some time. I’d been thirstier than usual and was going to the bathroom a lot more, so I was a little nervous but not overly concerned. After all, I never really get sick. But I went in for a colonoscopy referral and came out with a diabetes diagnosis.
“When the doctor told me I had an HbA1c of 7.9 and had type 2 diabetes, I was shocked. I didn’t think people like me would get this disease without a family history. I came home to my partner and had a cry on his shoulder. I thought it was a death sentence.
“The next day, I decided to pull up my socks and start researching and educating myself. I found Defeat Diabetes on Google, and their approach to managing type 2 diabetes made sense, so I signed up immediately. I was determined to get ahead of this disease.
“I’d grown up studying food science, home economics, and physical education and learned about the healthy eating pyramid, so it was hard to learn that much of this information was wrong. But Dr Brukner’s explanations made so much sense, and I couldn’t ignore the evidence. I decided to go cold turkey and cut out the carbs I’d been eating for the past five decades. The first meal I cooked was the Ultimate Low Carb Lasagne. I have never looked back.
“Before I started Defeat Diabetes, I would get shaky and feel sick or faint if I didn’t eat for an extended time, but all that changed when I began following low carb. Now that I eat to manage my blood sugar, that’s all stopped. I don’t really feel hungry until lunchtime, and I will often have my first meal at 2 or 3 o’clock. Intermittent fasting has become a part of our lives.
“I love cooking anyway, but the recipes in Defeat Diabetes are fabulous, and they show you how to still eat the things you used to enjoy. They have helped me enormously. I now make a 90-second keto bread which was a game changer over winter, being able to make toasties. The Pork Schnitty with Buttery Cabbage is a big winner, as is the Prawn Pad Thai, Beef Cobbler and, as a special sweet treat – the Heavenly Choc Brownies with a little cream and a few berries. Delicious!
“My joints, ankles, feet, and wrists were always sore and inflamed. I thought it was because I was getting older, but that’s almost gone. I don’t have the pain anymore. Even my bursitis is so much better. I haven’t had pain in my shoulders for two years now.
“I’ve always had horrible heartburn and reflux and would permanently have a pack of Rennies or Quickeze on hand, but that’s all gone, too. And I have so much more energy! Even after nine hours on my feet working in the Woolies deli, the next day, I feel like I could go out and walk forever with my fur baby, Benson the Labrador.
“My friends and family have been super supportive. My partner has joined me in this way of eating and has lost 20 kgs and halved his blood pressure medication, but customers in the deli often ask me, ‘How do you do it?’. The short answer is that my health is my priority. I want to be here and be well for another 30 or 40 years. I don’t want my blood sugars to go back up, to lose my sight or develop neuropathy. We’re going to France next month, which I’ve dreamed of visiting since I studied French in high school. I never thought I’d go to France and contemplate not having a croissant, a macaron, a baguette or a chocolate éclair, but I don’t want any of these things because of the damage it might cause, spiking my blood sugar. I’ll have all the cheese, though!
“Within 12 months of following the Defeat Diabetes Program, I had lost 25 kgs. Today my HbA1c is at 5.8, and my fasting insulin is under 10! It’s been so easy; you just need to go through your cupboards, ditch the foods that spike your blood sugar – the pasta, rice, cereal, grains, wheat flour, biscuits etc….and stick to fresh meat, fish, salad and veg. Keep it simple. Some people can panic about eating this way and think, ‘I’m going to starve!’ but it’s not hard; you just need to be organised, plan ahead and be prepared. I always have a BBQ chicken and some salad ingredients in the fridge to throw together an easy lunch or dinner, and I make low carb crackers for the pantry to have with cold meats and cheese on a weekend afternoon.
“I’m really happy with where I’ve got to with the support of Defeat Diabetes. I wouldn’t mind if I lost a couple more kilos, but my main goal is to come off metformin and be completely diet-controlled and medication-free. I was recently made a life member of my local surf lifesaving club. It is a wonderful feeling to know that I’ll be healthy and well enough to enjoy it for a long time.”
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