I've written in the past about how type II diabetes can be cured. That's not a popular thing to say in some circles and others prefer to use the word “go into remission” instead. Any way you look at it, I know that giving the facts about diabetes can only help so much so I would like to present this interview with Yolanda Bowles, cured her type II diabetes. Yolanda not only had type II diabetes, it ran in her family too! Here, Yolanda takes us from the very first day she was diagnosed with type II diabetes, through her decision to say “no more” and the steps she took to cure herself of diabetes. My hope is that others with type II diabetes will read her story and be inspired. After reading this, also read my post, It Pays To Be a Type II Diabetic.
JC. When did you first get diagnosed with type II diabetes?
YB. I was first diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes in 1999 which is typical for a mother to have during her pregnancy. My doctor told me that there may be a strong possibility that I maybe a diabetic because of my family history. My father had diabetes as well as his sisters and it seemed like it was going to be my turn too.
JC. What do you think led to your type II diabetes diagnosis?
YB. I was an emotional eater and instead of dealing with my problems head on, I would turn to food for comfort or to try to solve my problem with food. I would eat various types of foods and large portions. I was also in an very unhealthy relationship which caused a lot of stress. Also, lack of exercise didn't help either. All this combined caused my weight gain and my diabetes.
JC. Can you tell me how your doctor told you about your diabetes?
YB. I remember going in for a physical and the doctor seeing my family history, asking for blood samples and urine, and that is when he told me I was a diabetic. It was very cold. I remember sitting on the edge of the patient table and thinking to myself “This is like having cancer” — and I will never be cured. He explained to me the medication I needed to take and what equipment I needed to monitor my sugar and sent me on my way.
JC. Did your doctor tell you about the importance of exercise, nutrition and weight loss?
YB. My doctor didn't explain to me how to keep my sugar levels down but rather just gave me a number to keep it under. I remember seeing my dad looking at labels and I tried to adapt to what he did. The doctor said for me to keep my numbers low to keep from taking insulin and nothing else.
JC. Did your doctor mention the word “cure” when they talked to you?
YB. According to my family doctor there wasn't a cure. I could “control it” but not cure it. He used my father has an example. He said that my father died from cancer but if he had lived he probably would have died from diabetes no matter what he did.
JC. How did your family or friends react when you told them?
YB. My family wasn't surprised, considering the health risks on my father's side of the family. It just seemed right that I get it. My friends were shocked because I didn't look sick (whatever that meant). I found that once I told them, they were telling me how to look at “sugars” which was totally wrong and denied me a lot foods that were better for me than the foods they were trying to give me.
I was definitely treated differently. I was constantly reminded of taking my sugars, bringing my pills and later insulin. If I tried to eat a certain food, I was reminded of my disease and that it wasn't healthy.
JC. How did your family respond when you beat diabetes? Have you inspired them?
YB. Well, my father passed away in 2011, but he would have been proud of me and I know he would have jumped on the wagon with me. My mother was shocked because I wasn't disciplined and for me to do that was proof that I could do anything.
My relatives want my help now because many of them have diabetes or may be potential candidates. My sister who I love dearly tells me every day that I am “half a person” —because of how much weight I lost — and stood by me while I was going through all this. My mother still watches over me a little, but not as much, and I think she always will; that is what mothers do…LOL. I have helped some of my relatives change, especially a cousin of mine whom I talk to on facebook quite often and he is doing great!
JC. Did you immediately start to change your life or did you wait for it to sink in?
YB. I was in denial for awhile, to the point that I went from taking pills to taking two different types of insulin. I was taking insulin 3 times a day and one more time if my sugar number was out of whack before I went to bed.
I started to feel tingling in my hands and feet on numerous occasions. I would go into a carb overload where my body couldn't use the carbs and it would spike my blood sugar anywhere between 230 to 395 which is almost a diabetic coma.
I would sleep the majority of the day and urinate quite often because of the diabetes. After a while, the denial led me to begin to lose feeling in my hands and I started to have poor circulation. My doctor recommended putting me on heart and cholesterol medication, “just in case”
The severity of my diabetes really didn't sink in until one day when I was sitting on the edge of the bed with daughter trying to find a site on my body to monitor my blood sugar. I couldn't! Every finger hurt to even prick it —and I couldn't give myself insulin unless I knew my blood sugar number.
At that point, I looked at my daughter and said “Mommy, can't do this any longer” and started to research and find out more about diabetes and if I could do anything about it.
JC. How did you first start to change your life to help your diabetes?
YB. First, I got rid of my husband….LOL… and then came to the realization that being 150 pounds overweight was not good for my body frame and wasn't healthy. I had to rid my life of many stresses which I later found out can contribute to insulin spikes as well.
I remember going to my first gym. It was a bunch of overweight women who exercised in a circle. I started to look at food labels and learned that diabetes feeds off of carbs —not necessarily sugar.
I was also a vegetarian that helped me cope with the disease for three years. It also taught me to eat in a different way and see food differently. I also kept a food diary which made me accountable for preparing and eating certain meals at a given time. I limited myself to a number of carbs per day and kept it that way.
I learned that “sugar-free” isn't really sugar-free, and foods labeled “for diabetics” were the worst.
This also allowed me to lose the weight as well.
JC. Your first gym where they worked out in a circle —was it Curves?
YB. Yes, it was Curves and I loved that place!! People laugh about this gym but it is a great starter gym for those who are very self conscious. I enjoyed Curves and it made me work harder until I outgrew the gym.
JC. Did you make any mistakes at the gym?
YB. The only mistake I made was not doing it sooner. I also made the mistake of taking the word of my family doctor —who had treated everyone in my family —as my sole gospel. Diabetes is something you don't have to live with and my doctor — gave me a death sentence.
JC. Do you remember your first day at the gym? What was that like?
YB. I have never been shy about going to new places. The only discomfort I felt was how the machines worked and would I be able to get through workout like I use to now that I am 150 pounds heavier.
JC. What do you think was most important —exercise or diet —in diabetes management?
YB. Both; diabetes is a cardiovascular disease so you have to get moving and keep moving. Diet is important because it controls the workings of what is going on in your body. It doesn't do any good to exercise and still eat what you want and eat foods that shouldn't be eaten by a diabetic who don't have their numbers under control.
JC. Did you work out before you were diagnosed with type II diabetes?
YB. I used to work out quite often when I was younger up until the point that I met my husband and life really kicked into overdrive. I used to workout but I was like everyone else —do it just enough to look good in the summer and then quit.
JC. When did you decide to be a personal trainer?
YB. I would say it was around 2009 when I thought about it but everything didn't happen until 2011.
This is definitely a story because I really didn't think about it until now. People watch people no matter where they are and for some reason I was always approached and asked if I was a trainer or if I was competing for a fitness competition because people saw me with a gym bag or a huge lunch bag with a thousand containers. I would laugh and say, “No, it's just my everyday routine,” —and at that time it was.
One day I was with my daughter at a gym and I was showing her how to do an exercise and several people that day asked me if I was a trainer. Of course, my answer was no. It seemed no matter where I went people asked me that question.
I didn't want to be a trainer because I didn't think I had what it took to teach someone, but my biggest fan (my daughter) told me “Mommy, you can help a lot of people and tell them how you did it because there are too many people who need you.”
A good friend of mine who I shared all my thoughts with told me I should try it too, but at the time money wasn't right and as much as I wanted to do it I thought of it as another dream going down the tubes. I owe this woman my life because one day out of nowhere she handed me the tuition money to attend your class and she said “God told me to give you this money.” At that moment, I felt like I was on a crusade for her. Not for me!
I love being a personal trainer and I love seeing the progress in others. I have several people now that I love to train because they have the same passion and drive. That makes my journey worthwhile. I have a story to tell and I share it with everyone who talks about losing weight; If you want to check me out, click here for my website.
JC. Is there anything you'd like personal trainers to know about diabetes?
YB. Make sure that their clients monitor their blood sugars before and after they exercise. To the client, to be aware and make sure that diabetes medication is with them or they have taken it already. To always have some type of simple carb to give the client just in case their sugar drops.
When I was a diabetic, I would bring glucose tablets and keep them in my locker just in case. Many diabetics don't do this but should.
I would ask personal trainers to definitely monitor circulation and motion of the client. Lack of circulation can cause a diabetic client injury.
JC. Any tips for people who want to join a gym —what to do or not do?
YB. First, don't be afraid. We are all there to do one thing…get in shape.
I would sign up for a free pass so you can see the facility. Ask the front desk staff what their busiest time is so you can go back and see if the gym can accommodate such a large group of people with the equipment they supply.
Ask about family discounts and group classes too. Also ask how long the instructors have been teaching. Be open to the idea that a person who may be personal training you (if you get a trainer) is of the opposite sex.
See if the trainers workout as well. Just because they look the part doesn’t mean they live it. I would also ask about their closing policy for bad weather days. Will there be a nearby facility that can be used by their members with no cost?
Travel passes. Are there facilities outside of the state that can be used? Nutrition counselors and weight loss challenges to keep everyone motivated. I would also ask their trainers if they have ever dealt with special class people (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) before.
JC. How long after starting to get healthy did you go back to your doctor? What did they say when you did?
YB. Once I told my family doctor that I was not taking insulin anymore. He told me he would meet me with a toe tag. At that moment, I never saw him again and began seeing another doctor who took me through several counseling steps about what I can do and what I should do.
As a patient, I shared with him what I knew and what I was doing. At first my new doctor was scared, because he never heard of a patient just all of sudden stop taking their insulin and jump on the exercise wagon. He sat me down and advised me he didn't like it but he trusted that I knew what I was doing. A year later, I went back to him 150 pounds lighter and happier.
When he came in the room, he didn't realize it was me until he looked at me again. He said “Yolanda, oh my god!” He just stood there speechless like he saw a ghost. I just smiled and said “Let's take the A1C levels” and laughed. He kept looking at me and smiling while he took blood samples, blood pressure, you name it—he was taking it.
Once my A1C level came back 6.2 (which is considered normal), he said “I get so frustrated with patients with diabetes that don't want to help themselves and I look at you and you have made this fight worth it.”
He said “I don't know what you are doing but keep up the great work. See you next year” So now I go every year just to prove to him that there are people who take this seriously and I am one of them.
JC. What's your nutrition like now? Do you still keep a food journal? What do you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
YB. I am a little obsessed with my eating to the part that I can look at food and know exactly the micronutrients in it. People find that amazing but when you have lived your life this way for so many years, you begin to know what to eat, how to eat, and when to eat it. I often take time to prepare my meals and decide how to split up my carbs, my fats, and protein for the day.
I have been keeping a food journal for the last three years and live by it because I know that all it takes is one bad day to have a slip up. I can easily bounce back but I allow myself a cheat day that is well deserved after a week of discipline.
I can't really pinpoint what I eat for my meals but I do have my favorite oatmeal in the morning —of course, steel oats and a banana.
Most of my snacks consist of nuts, and my main course (lunch and dinner) would be a meat of 3 to 4 oz, veggies, and complex carb (I love yams and it also offsets insulin spikes).
I love bananas, so I make sure for one of my snacks to have a banana. I love fruits but fruits can hurt a diabetic if consumed too much. For example, a small apple is 23 grams of carbs and then if you pair that with other fruits, you have basically sent your sugar level sky high.
I normally stay away from pasta, white rice, bread and white potatoes because they are not only high in carbs but they definitely aren't good for diabetics.
JC. What you do now for exercise (cardio and strength)? How many days per week, minutes in the gym etc.
YB. When I first started working out, I was going twice a day and was doing strictly cardio but began to realize that I was losing the weight but my body was looking loose and flat. I then incorporated weights into the routine, doing cardio three days a week and weights two days a week. It felt so good to pick up weights that I started added more into my routine. I would work out in the morning doing cardio or weights and then in the afternoon ending the same way. It really worked for me and weight was coming off. I would exercise 3 days and then one day off and then two days and another day off. Making it a total of 5 days a week and two days off.
I am now strength training a lot so I am more on the weight side but I still love my cardio and still get it in as much as possible. High resistance and high level cardio. If not on cardio machines.
I am jump roping, running laps, and using kettle bells to change the routine a little. I train early in the (5am) and then if I can't do cardio after pushing and pulling on weights, I will go back that day or at lunch and do cardio. I know that aerobic exercise is what is keeping my diabetes under control besides my eating habits. I tell everyone I have to get it in because I know what awaits me on the other side and I don't want to go down that road again.
JC. How can people contact you?
What do you think?