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26 Oct

Type 1 Diabetes No Match for Primal Lifestyle!

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

real life stories stories 1 2My name is Shawn and I am 28 years old. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes about a year ago. I haven’t seen many stories or articles related to diabetes on the MDA website so I thought I would share how going Primal has helped me take back control over my health and wellbeing.

First of all, I have actually been very healthy most of my life (or so I thought). In college I lifted weights, ran, and did pushups and sit-ups in my dorm room on a regular basis. I despised salad and fresh veggies, and loaded up on Hamburger Helper, cereal, and PB&J because it was convenient and I “worked it all off” during my workouts. I am 6’ tall and my weight maxed out at about 205 lbs (92 kgs) during my last year of college (2007)…perfectly healthy I thought.

PIC1 1

Fast forward several years (during which I managed to drop about 10 lbs thanks to army basic training) to September of 2011. I started losing weight…lots of weight…about 25 lbs in 3 weeks to be exact, I drank water by the gallons, and I could no longer exercise without getting severe cramping in my legs. Something was obviously wrong, so I made an appointment with my doctor who I hadn’t seen in about 10 years. I had a fasting blood sugar level of 350 (normal is 70-99 mg/dL). The last several months of 2011 were very challenging. There was no explanation why I got this disease (no family history) and trying to come to terms with the fact that I would have to deal with this every day for the rest of my life was a bit overwhelming. I started working with diabetes educators and nutritionists at the local hospital and was told that I should take in about 320 CARBS/DAY(!!) based on my activity level. And they call themselves nutritionists?? Even my endocrinologist said I could eat whatever I wanted because the disease “sucks enough the way it is” and I just needed to shoot up with enough insulin to cover the food I was eating. At this point I still did not know any better so I bought into their conventional wisdom.


Needless to say, my blood sugar control was not good. I would go up to 250 right after meals, but since I dropped down to normal again after a few hours my doctor was fine with it. Being all too aware of the side effects of uncontrolled blood sugar, I decided to educate myself and become my own “nutritionist/doctor.”

Around January of this year a friend exposed me to the paleo diet. I checked it out and was intrigued. I started doing extensive reading and research (during which I came across this website) and decided to give it a try. I slowly started purging out the sugars/carbs/processed foods that were poisoning my body (especially cereal which was a staple of my diet at the time), and whaddya know…my blood sugars and overall health improved drastically, and my insulin requirements dropped like a rock!!!

Fast forward another 8 months to today and life has never been better! Through my faith, support of my wonderful wife and family, and a little help from the Primal Blueprint, I have been able to cope with my diabetes to the point that it is a mere afterthought in my everyday life. My diet includes massive amounts of meat/eggs/veggies/salad/nuts to fuel my active lifestyle, ~120 carbs worth/day with virtually no SAD food (if I do slip up, my blood sugar pays the price!). I do still indulge in some diabetic friendly, Primally questionable foods (quite a bit of cheese, a few peanuts, and the occasional artificially sweetened drink). I guess there is always room for improvement? I still work out quite often, but in Primal fashion: biking in to work as often as possible (~16 miles, 50 minutes each way), sprint sessions when I can’t get on the bike, and circuit-type training with pushups/pullups/core exercises/any other bodyweight exercise I can think up 4-5 days/week . The results: My weight has stabilized at 187 lbs (slightly less than pre-diabetes weight) while also managing to drop a couple pants sizes. I have tons of energy, especially compared to some of my type 2 diabetic relatives who always feel run-down due to their poor diets. (I’m trying to convert them, but no luck as of yet). And of course, combined with the omnipod insulin pump that I am now on (which I would strongly recommend to all insulin-dependent diabetics) I find it quite easy to tightly control my blood sugars (i.e. less than 100 AT ALL TIMES with very few hypoglycemic episodes, i.e. low blood sugar). And possibly the best part, my family/friends/coworkers are noticing these changes and starting to question their own diets and lifestyle habits…it’s like a contagious disease (the good kind)!


A few stats for the diabetics out there (or non-diabetics) who may be interested:

  • A1C – September 2011=13.0 (newly diagnosed), January 2012=5.7 (pre-Primal), May 2012=5.4 (partially Primal), November 2012=?? (should be under 5).
  • Average total insulin use per day (bolus+basal)=13-14 units (doctor thinks I’m still in the honeymoon phase after 1 year. Possibly, but I think it’s more a result of my diet and fitness level.)
  • Cholesterol levels at diagnosis: HDL=35, LDL=90, Tri=sky high because of high BS. Next test in November, the real indicator of the effectiveness of my new lifestyle!

I look forward to a long and healthy life (in spite of the diabetes) as my Primal lifestyle continues to evolve, and hopefully I can get more people on board! Thanks for reading and I hope this can provide some motivation for the diabetics out there who may need a little extra motivation once in a while!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Yay first positive story I have read about T1 and Paleo. I have Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood .. like a cross between type 1 and 2 .. I am really struggling with my weight and finally the ball has dropped that its the carbs/insulin thing.. I am now going to the gym and cleaning up my diet slowly. My HbA1c is good as Im on a pump but my LDL/HDL is crap ..
    What Im struggling with is hypos after the gym .. any suggestions of a Paleoish snack that gets it back up quick?
    You look awesome sounds like you feel awesome too?

    Liss wrote on January 14th, 2014
    • I always tend to drop low towards the end of my bike rides too, but find that my bgs usually will rebound on their own without even eating anything. I will often times drink some whey protein after strenuous exercise(1 serving whey ptotein, 8oz almond milk, 8 oz water or coconut milk), the protein will slowly digest and raise bgs over a length of time. I also find sweet potatoes are great for this type of thing, they dont spike me but will raise my blood sugar slowly over the course of several hrs. If you need to raise it real quick, glucose tabs are the best ive found. they are pretty much just plain sugar with no other additives and are about as close as we will get to primal for treating lows!
      i have never felt better in my whole life than i do now, i think diabetes has made me healthier if that makes any sense.

      Shawn wrote on January 18th, 2014
  2. awesome…..u inspired me…..i am in a similar situation as u..

    Fiasta Tracy wrote on January 17th, 2014
  3. Hi
    You are inspiring. I got type 1 5 years ago on my 30th birthday. Instead of doing the sensible thing and getting my life sorted and focusing on health, food, exercise etc. I hid from it continued smoking, eating rubbish food, forgetting to take my insulin. I have also only one kidney that works pre diabetes. I continued to not drink regularily and then binge out at parties.
    Basically I’ve been doing nothing right. I
    In 2014 my primary focus is finally me, my health and my diabetes.
    I’ve quit smoking (On an e cig at the moment), I made the decision to have my old dead kidney removed (5 days ago) and I am going paleo.
    I stumbled across your story whilst surfing for advice on paleo and type 1 diabetes.
    Thank you for being the thing that made me wake up and realise that I have been living in excuses and hiding from my diagnosis for five years. Its a hard thing to realise. However it is the thing that I needed to realise in order to get another 35 years of living my dreams.
    Good luck with your life :)

    Emma wrote on January 21st, 2014
  4. Great story and gives me a lot of hope, diagnosed two days ago after losing 40 lb in weight over 6 months, I’ll actually for the first time in 15 years am happy that I have a genuine motivation to get healthy, fit and control whatever I have coming my way over the next 50 or so years. Every dark cloud has a silver lining.

    Scott wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  5. As a fellow T1 within a couple years of you (on the omnipod aswell) I can totally relate and revel in your story. Congratulations on finding a way past the conventional wisdom killing diabetics daily.How are those pods doing on your abdomen anyhow?

    Richard wrote on January 24th, 2014
  6. Is that an insulin pump on his ab? That would tend to aid control. Just curious.

    Leo wrote on March 30th, 2014
  7. I was diagnosed 4 years ago with type 1 and I am SOO GLAD to have read your story. It is just the motivation I was looking for. I couldn’t agree with you more that the “doctors” and diabetes “experts” give HORRIBLE advice. The amount of insulin I was told to take in a day was insanely high (unless I’m looking to become a blue whale which I’m NOT). And my endocrinologist also told me that I literally could eat whatever I want. I even asked if I could go to mcdonalds and get a large fry and large coke (specifically) and she said YES…after living with diabetes for 4 years now I have learned the hard way what horrible advice all that was. And they ALSO specifically tell you NOT to go on a low carb diet. CRAZY!!! They have NO IDEA WHAT THEYRE SAYING!!! Eating low carb, 100 a day or so for me (29 years old now) seriously made me feel like a different person. I wish I wouldn’t have listened to the “experts” and started the low carb thing sooner. My blood sugar levels and my energy levels are actually normal with a low carb diet.

    Stacey wrote on April 25th, 2014
    • Oh wow Stacey! My son has type 1 and he was also told by a diabetic dietitian that he could eat anything he wants, even McDonalds. Do your own research I always say. Low carbing is essential if you have diabetes. Everything you say is a common theme amongst diabetes “experts”. I was yelled at when I told my son’s educator that I had started low carbing.

      Lisa wrote on June 22nd, 2014
  8. Great story. I am a long term diabetic, now on an OmniPod pump. I to am on the 280-350 gms of carbs a day diet. My A1C has been under 5.8 for 30 years. Then another autoimmune disease. Microscopic colitis. I have struggled with this for 10 years. I now have a new diabetic Dr and a new gastroenterologist. They have suggested the Paleo diet. Being a good daibetic I research everything. I am always fighting lows and this diet sounds like a way out. I have been cutting back on carbs and more protein but still eating grains. A trip to the market and Monday I am starting on breakfast for a week then lunch. I am excited but afraid how to raise my BG when low. Guess it will be glucose tabs and fruit. Any help would be appreciated

    Dennis Burkholder wrote on June 22nd, 2014
    • Hi Dennis,

      I strongly recommend that you immediately stop eating grains. The gliadin protein in wheat is a known cause of type 1 and celiac disease and can instigate other autoimmune diseases. You need to stop your immune system from attacking your body. Grains are basically glucose so diabetics should not eat them (nor anyone else for that matter) Grains are grasses and grass should only be eaten by animals with a rumen in their digestive system such as cow. Humans are not ruminant animals. If you are on a pump, you can instantly change your basal rate. You should have LESS lows on a low carb diet because you will be injecting less insulin for boluses and therefore the chance of injecting too much is greatly reduced. Glucose tablets are good for lows, but I really think your BGs will be much more stable on low carb. My son has type 1 and is on a pump. He eats low carb and has excellent control and HbA1c of 5.5 with normal blood lipids. Don’t eat too much protein, as it can be converted to glucose. You can eat lots of healthy fats (not margarine or canola etc) and your body can convert to a fat burner rather than a sugar burner. Have you read Diabetes Solution by Dr Richard Bernstein? I highly recommend it as he will tell you so many things about diabetes control that no mainstream doctor knows about, such as blousing for protein and fiber. Good luck – you will do great!

      Lisa wrote on June 22nd, 2014

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