MDAE E50 – How To Turn Diabetes Into Your Superpower

Article written and reviewed by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD and Robby Barbaro, MPH
Published January 1, 2019

Podcast Transcript

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Welcome to the Mastering Diabetes Audio Experience, where we teach you how to sit in the driver's seat of your diabetes health for the rest of your life. We'll teach you how to reverse insulin resistance, achieve your ideal body weight, gain energy and get your best A1c following more than 85 years of evidence-based research in the Mastering Diabetes Program.

Robby Barbaro: Our program teaches you how to reverse prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and how to simplify your life with type 1 diabetes by maximizing your insulin sensitivity, using food as medicine.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: We're on a bold mission to reverse insulin resistance in 1 million people. We're glad to have you joining us.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Today is New Year's Day, 2019. It's the first day of the year, and there's a lot of incredible content that Mastering Diabetes is going to be putting out this upcoming year to really continue to move the low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition game to the next level.

Now, rather than talk directly about the nuts and bolts of nutrition and exercise on today's Podcast, I thought of take a moment to zoom out, and talk about the bigger picture, because a lot of the times when we do our Podcast episodes we’re either interviewing people, other experts in the field, or we're interviewing people who have experienced tremendous benefit from low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition, and a lot of the time the conversation can become quite technical.

But today I want to kind of step back one step, and really think about the bigger picture here, and get you to start thinking about diabetes in a whole new light. And the reason for this is because at the beginning of the year, every year, I personally like to take some time to reflect on what happened over the previous year, and then also create some goals for the upcoming year.

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Now, when I was first diagnosed with diabetes in 2002, which is at this point 16 years ago, I remember struggling with many, many things. My life was a bit of a disaster at that time. And diabetes was a brand new diagnosis, which to be perfectly honest, it didn't feel good at the time because I didn't really know that much information, and I was scared, I was nervous, and my health was totally out of control.

In case you've never heard my story, I'll give you the quick version of it right now. I was diagnosed at the age of 22, so I was a senior in college. I was studying at Stanford University, studying Mechanical Engineering. And in finals, during the winter, I felt terrible. I had very low energy, I was urinating something like 17 to 20 times per day, I was so thirsty it was unbelievable. It was like, I would take a sip of water, and put the glass down, and I would stare at the glass and I would say, “Yeah, I'm thirstier”, then I would drink a glass of water again, and then I put it down and I'd say, “Yeah, I'm thirstier.” And I kept on going on day, after day, after day.

I was trying to study for finals and I just couldn't muster up the mental energy to do anything. And so, after a couple of days of this I picked up the phone, and I called my sister Shanaz. And she is a family practice Doctor of Osteopathy, who's based out of Davis California. So, I picked up the phone and I called her, and I explained my symptoms to her, and she immediately started crying.

Now, Shanaz is normally very, very cool under pressure, very critical thinker, she's able to put a lot of information together in a short period of time, literally one of the smartest doctors I have ever met. And as soon as I started to explain all the symptoms that I was experiencing, she knew immediately, within three seconds, that I was likely experiencing the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. And because I was her brother, she was overcome with emotion right off the bat. So, she started crying. And she said, “Cyrus, please, please, please, please, please just go straight to the health center. What you're explaining to me, is that you're living with type 1 diabetes. And somehow that happened to you. I don't have time to explain exactly what's happening. Just go to the health center.”

And, you know, at that time, I didn't know anything about diabetes. Here I am, 22, just a happy go lucky kid, just trying to get out of college. In return, I was like, “Shanaz, I don't have diabetes”, because the only thing that I knew about diabetes at that time in my life, was that it had something to do with old people and cake. That was it.

And so, she tells me that, you know, I may have type 1 diabetes. I don't know what type 1 is, I don't know what type 2 is, nothing like that. And she said, “Cyrus, just stop. Just go to the health center. Just go.” So, I said “Fine.”

So, I show up at the health center, they checked my blood glucose. I nearly passed out while I'm in the health center, and my blood glucose was alarmingly high. It was 680, I believe was the number. Six times, almost seven times higher than it needed to be. So, they rushed me to the hospital, they put an IV of saline into one arm, they start irrigating me with insulin in the other arm, and then they start controlling my diet. And over the course of the next 24 hours, boom, all of a sudden, I went from being a normal kid, to a guy now living with a chronic disease.

My family came and visited me, my friends came and visited me, my sister came and visited me and, you know, it was really touching to see everybody there at the hospital. And I had no idea. Nobody had any answers at that time. Why do you have type 1 diabetes, Cyrus? I have no idea. What were you doing incorrectly? I don't know, I don't even know what this thing is. I can't answer any of these questions.

So, the medical team at that time was very interested in my story, because as they were piecing together the pieces of my medical history, they started to recognize that I was living with not one, not two, but three autoimmune diseases.

So, the first one was, Hashimoto’s Hyperthyroidism, which is an autoimmune attack of your thyroid gland, which decreases your thyroid hormone output.

The second one is Alopecia Universalis, which is just a fancy, super nerd way of saying, Cyrus lost his hair all over his body. So, I don't have hair on my head, I don't have eyebrows, I don't have eyelashes, I don't have ear hair, I don't have nose hair, I don't have armpit hair, I don't have chest hair, none of that.

I used to have it all. I used to be a medium hairy guy, and over the course of about, I don’t know, maybe three or four months, I started developing bald spots on my head that then got bigger, and bigger. And then those bald spots moved to my chest. And then they moved to my legs. And before I knew it, all of the hair on my body was gone.

Finally, I show up to the hospital with Type 1 Diabetes, which is the third of three autoimmune conditions. And the doctors turned to me and said, “Cyrus, we have literally never seen anybody that has presented with these three autoimmune conditions. You are fascinating. Can we talk about you at our next meeting?” And I said, “Okay, sure, go for it. You can use me as your experiment. I'm totally cool with that.”

Doctors left the room, and I started to cry. Why? Well, because it's not very confidence building when you hear somebody say, “This is the first time I've ever seen this”, especially when you're dealing with a life threatening chronic disease, that doesn't seem to have any answers right off the bat.

So yeah, type 1 diabetes is something that they had seen before, and something that they likely know how to manage, but not knowing why I was developing not one, not two, but three autoimmune conditions at such a young age was very alarming to them, and it was alarming to me.

So, I ended up leaving the hospital within 24 hours. I get checked out the next day. I leave the hospital. I have a prescription for two types of insulin. I have syringes. I have a blood glucose meter. I have test strips. I have a book that teaches me how to count carbohydrates. I have about seven or eight doctor’s appointments lined up over the course of the next month. I remember walking away from the hospital thinking, “What the heck just happened to me? Yesterday when I checked myself in I was, quote unquote, a normal guy, and now I'm dealing with a chronic disease that's potentially life threatening. Oh my God, I am not ready to handle this.”

It was tough. I was very, very frustrated at the time. I wanted answers. I wanted to know, how can I get rid of this? How can I be done? Why are there so many autoimmune diseases that are taking over my body? What did I do wrong? Am I eating something wrong? Am I not exercising enough? Am I stressing out too much? Like, what is it that I'm doing? Somebody please give me some answers. But there were really no answers to be found.

So, for the first year of living with diabetes, I was listening to the advice that I was getting from my medical team, which was to eat a low carbohydrate diet. So, that meant more meat, more cheese, more fish, more eggs, more turkey, more peanut butter, and less fruits, less rice, less bread, less pasta, and you know, eat your vegetables, everyone always tells you to eat your vegetables. So, fine, I did it. I mean, this is my medical team after all, they're telling me what to do. These are the people that are supposed to save my life. I understand, I'm going to follow your advice.

So, I did. So, I followed exactly what they told me to do. I reduce my carbohydrate intake from all sources, and I ate more meat, more cheese, more dairy, more oil, more peanut butter, and I gotta tell you, I felt terrible. I felt terrible. I was already low energy to begin with, but my energy levels kept on going down, and down, and down to a point where it was really challenging to exercise, and if you haven't heard me say this already, I am flat out addicted to exercise. I love it. I will do exercise for multiple hours every single day, if I had the time to do it. I exercise as it is, for at least one hour a day, every single day. It's part of my regular routine. On days that I don't exercise, it's very challenging for me. It's very challenging mentally and physically.

And having grown up as an athlete, having played so many different sports, soccer, baseball, swimming, running, hiking, biking, you name it, getting to a point in my early 20s, where it was challenging to move my body because I didn't have enough energy, and where my muscles were hurting, and my joints were hurting, it felt terrible.

And so, as a result of that, I became moderately depressed. I became very anxious. My blood glucose was a nightmare. It didn't matter what time of the day I checked my blood glucose, it was either a 45 or 345, and, you know, being an engineer who had learned how to try and control complex systems by breaking them down into smaller pieces, I was trying to learn how to control this system of mine, this biological system, this machine in which I was trapped, and I could figure it out. I could not figure it out for the life of me.

And so naturally, that frustrated me. But then there was also that little thing of fear in the back of my mind, that kept on saying to me, “Cyrus, if you don't figure this out, your long term health can be severely, severely compromised. You're only 23… 22, 23 at this point. If you don't figure this out, you might live fewer days on this planet. If you don't figure this out, you might feel terrible for a long period of time.”

And so, there was these voices in the back of my head that were, in one part, sort of imparting fear into me, but then on the other part, on the other side of things, they were imparting a desire and a motivation to want to actually make things better, to learn more, to gather knowledge so that I could actually start experimenting with my body, and finding a way to make myself feel better, and to have a more controlled blood glucose using less insulin.

So, that was really a point where I started to get motivated, even though I was nervous, and that seemed to be a turning point in my entire life living with diabetes.

So, long story short, I started looking for a new way to be. I said, “Okay, this low carbohydrate philosophy, maybe it works for some people, but it doesn't work for me. This is not working. I feel terrible. Blood glucose is a nightmare. I'm using more and more insulin every single day, even though I'm eating less and less carbohydrate. What the heck is going on? This doesn't make any sense.”

So, I started talking to people, I started watching movies online about nutrition, I started listening to the voice in the back of my head that said, “Cyrus, learn how to eat. You don't understand nutrition. Don't pretend like you do, you never learned how to eat. You only put food in your body based off of what other people are telling you to do. Learn the science. Figure it out. Once you do, your life is going to be significantly improved.” So I listened to that voice.

I started searching everywhere I could. And I got put in touch with a guy named Dr. Doug Graham. And Dr. Doug Graham, he went on to write a book called The 80/10/10 book, in which he teaches people how to adopt a raw food diet, that is 80% carbohydrate, approximately 10% fat, and approximately 10% protein. So, under his guidance, I went to a retreat, and I stayed with him for seven days with a whole collection of other people, as we learned about the raw food philosophy, we learned about plant-based nutrition, we learned about how you can use a raw food, plant-based diet to overcome a number of many different medical conditions, diabetes just happening to be one of the ones that you can either reverse, if you're living with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, or that you could control beautifully for living with type 1.

I was skeptical, very skeptical at the time, because I mean, this is the first time I'd ever heard anything about plant-based nutrition, and it was the first time that somebody was telling me that I could eat a lot of carbohydrate, and that I don't have to worry about this low carbohydrate philosophy, because it's flawed from the get go.

So, I was intrigued, for sure. But I was also nervous that if I were to do it, and start to eat a lot of fruit and carbohydrate energy in total, that my insulin use would skyrocket, and it would go higher than it already was, because like I said earlier, it was creeping up, but I was nervous that it would go higher, and higher, and higher. But since I was in the mood to experiment, and since I was under the guidance of an expert, I said, “I'm going to do it.”

So, Doug showed me every single meal, how to construct it to perfection, so that I could gain energy, feel like a million bucks, control my blood glucose with precision, and reduce my insulin use. And guess what? It worked like a charm. The man knew exactly what he was talking about. He showed me how to construct these massive meals containing things like figs, and dates, and bananas, and papaya, and mangoes, and oranges, and eat these foods, but use less insulin. It didn't make any sense to me. I mean, I felt great, don't get me wrong, I was happy. But the math didn't seem to work out.

And so, excited by this new philosophy, I came back home to San Francisco, and I continue to experiment, and I continue to put every single ounce of effort into this, because this was the single most important thing in my life at that time, and nothing was going to stop me from continuing to improve my health.

So, after experimenting around for a couple of years, feeling better and better, using less insulin, cutting my insulin use by 40%, increasing my carbohydrate intake to something like 500, 600, 700 grams per day, I decided to put myself back to graduate school. I went to UC Berkeley, I studied insulin resistance for five years while there, and was able to write a thesis on the causes and the effects of insulin resistance, and how you can induce insulin resistance and diabetes in laboratory animals, as well as in humans, and how you can reverse it using nutrition, using intermittent fasting, using exercise.

One of the most incredible learning opportunities of my life. Five years where I was just in the books all day long, every single day, performing experiments, loving my life, having a great time, and learning some tremendously powerful things in the process.

Now, somewhere along the way, in this journey, I felt like I started to get the hang of living with diabetes, and controlling my blood glucose became real fun. I don't exactly remember at which point that was, but it was somewhere right after I returned home from the retreat with Doug Graham, this is in the year 2003, let's call it may be like a month after I made the transition to a completely plant-based diet under his supervision, and I felt like for the first time, you know, it had been about a year since I've been diagnosed with diabetes, I felt like “Oh my God, the system is actually much simpler controlled than I had given it credit for, I think I understand what's going on here. I can control my blood glucose with precision all of a sudden. When I check my blood glucose now, I'm seeing numbers that are in the double digits. I'm seeing 80s, 90s, 120s, 130s. I'm no longer seeing 266, 312, 194. I'm not seeing those large numbers anymore.”

So, I recognize right off the bat that diabetes was something that was really frustrating at the beginning, because I didn't have any control, and all of a sudden, it was much more fun. It was no longer a drag. I didn't get mad anymore, if at all. I found myself super excited to eat delicious food, and I'm telling you, delicious food. Just like I said, large plates of mangoes, papayas, peaches, pears, nectarines, dates, raisins, figs. I mean, I used to eat this stuff when I was a kid, but not really in any appreciable quantity, and now I was constructing entire meals out of that. Of course eating also lots of vegetables and absolutely loving it. My taste buds are having a party every single time I opened my mouth.

I was also really excited to be able to exercise in my new body, because not only can I perform exercise better, but I could recover from exercise even better than I had in my non-diabetic days. Before I was diagnosed at the age of 22.

What was really unexpected to me, was that I started to get excited to check my blood glucose. Who gets excited to check their blood glucose? That's weird, right? Not only that, I was excited to dose insulin. Who gets excited to dose insulin? Nobody. And that's just that's a weird thing to say, right? I don't know a single person that says, “Oh, I can't wait to check my blood glucose. I can't wait to get myself insulin.” But I remember feeling that way. And it was exciting to me because, clearly, I had control over a system that was seemingly uncontrollable to begin with, and as a result of that, this experiment became fun.

This was the first time in my life that I had complete control of diabetes. It didn't really take me that long. It took me realistically about, I'd say, three to six months after transitioning to a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet, to not only feel like I was in control, but to have complete control. When I say complete control, I mean, complete control. I mean, I could explain to you on a piece of paper, every single blood glucose value. If I was hypoglycemic, and I got a low value, I could tell you exactly why. If I was hyperglycemic, I could tell you why, like, 99% of the time, okay? There was, every once in a while, I would have these blood glucose values that were a little confusing, but that's okay. You know, I was in very, very good control my diabetes health, and it was very empowering.

Maybe you've also experienced that. Think back to a time in your life, when you were faced with a challenge, okay? When you were faced with a challenge that required that you learn a new skill, so that you could become more confident in facing that challenge. What was that? I'm sure it's happened to you many times in life. Was it learning math in middle school? Was it learning how to ski as a kid? Was it learning how to speak another language in college? Was it training for your first marathon? Think back to a time when you were faced with a challenge. You had to learn a new skill to overcome that challenge, and then as a result of learning that new skill, you became more confident. What was that?

Regardless of what that challenge is, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that the formula is the same. The formula is that you're faced with a challenge, you see something that's difficult, you see something that maybe you think you cannot do, you look at it and you say, “Oh, my God! Wow, that's a tall mountain. How am I going to get to the top of that?”, or “Oh my God, that's a really good score on your MCAT. How am I going to get that?”, right? You look at these challenges and you think to yourself, “Wow, I don't know if I can accomplish this”, right?

But in order to do so, in order to even take a stab at it, you decide, “I'm going to go learn a skill or a set of skills, and I'm going to chip away at this. I'm going to learn a little bit today. And then I'm going to practice, and then I’m going to practice again, and I'm going to practice again, and I'm going to learn, and I'm going to test, and I'm going to experiment, and I'm going to get better so that I can eventually overcome this challenge.”

And then at a certain point, you get to a point where you feel much more confident, you start to realize that putting in a little bit of effort today, and a little bit of effort tomorrow, and a little bit of effort the next day, makes it so that over the course of time, you've put in a lot effort. And as a result of that effort, you're now enjoying the challenge more, the challenge seems less daunting, it seems less intimidating, it seems less challenging, and you're more motivated to continue to move towards that challenge, to get to a point where, maybe, you can even do better than you originally thought, right?

The formula is simple you see the challenge, you develop a set of skills and then you overcome that challenge.

Now, the beauty here is that the enjoyment comes from learning, the enjoyment comes from experimenting, the enjoyment comes from becoming more skilled, and it's not something that is very hard to understand. I'm sure as you're listening to this, you're probably thinking, “Oh, yeah, that has happened to me 500 times in my life, 1000 times in my life. That's a true statement.” I'm sure it has, there's no question about that. But somehow when it comes to diabetes, when it comes to heart disease, when it comes to hypertension, or Alzheimer's disease, or any chronic disease that you could be experiencing, somehow the thought process changes. There's an element of fear, and anxiety that creeps in, that can become overwhelming, that can become really frustrating, and they can actually prevent you from making forward progress.

For me personally, diabetes at a certain point just became a game. It became a game because as I learned more, and as I was able to experiment more, I just had more fun. It was a game that became more fun, because my A1c improved. It was a game that became more fun, because my blood glucose control got better. It was a game that became more fun, because my energy levels improved. It was a game that became more fun, because I read more, and more about the molecular level details of super nerd biochemistry, and the more I learned, the more fascinated I became with human biology.

It was a game to me that became more fun as my athletic performance improved. It was a game that became more fun, because my athletic recovery improved. It was a game that became more fun, because my insulin use dropped considerably. It was a game that became more fun, because I realized how fortunate I was to be able to control my blood glucose with precision, something that a lot of people living with any form of diabetes, but especially type 1 diabetes, are unable to do, have not been able to accomplish for many, many, many years. Not their fault. Not their fault by any stretch of the imagination. But being able to learn how to control my blood glucose within a very short period of time was something that really, really motivated me and something that was very fun.

Diabetes to me was a game that became more fun, as my doctor was continually impressed at taking a look at my blood tests, and recognizing that what he or she was seeing were effectively non-diabetic values. Now, it's true if you took my blood tests, after living with diabetes for a couple years, and you took my name, you stripped it right off the top, and you took off the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, it would be very difficult to tell that the numbers that you're looking at came from a person living with type 1 diabetes. I'm not bragging by any stretch of the imagination. What I'm saying is that, the improvement to my overall health that low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition made was very noticeable.

And all of a sudden I went from having extremely high blood glucose, and higher cholesterol levels, and more inflammation in my body, to a point where my lipid panel was very low. It was very, very low. Total cholesterol was something like 120. My LDL cholesterol was in the 60s. My triglycerides were somewhere in the 70s. My HDL cholesterol was somewhere in the 40s. My lipid panel was brilliant. My A1c was consistently between 5.7 and 6.0. And my C-reactive protein level had dropped significantly below 1.

These are values that can be difficult to attain. And again, it's not because I'm magical, it's simply because I let low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition allow me to experience a form of health that I'd never experienced in the past.

Now, one thing I recognize right off the bat was that this game of diabetes was 1,000,000% founded upon the fact that I learned how to control my blood glucose well. In the days when I couldn't control my blood glucose, like I said earlier, my life sucked. I was frustrated, I was annoyed, I was confused, I was inflamed, I was continually let down by high blood glucose values. I was not confident that I knew what to eat, for either my short term health, or for my long term health, I was lost. The feeling of being out of control was terrible, absolutely terrible.

And now that I am well beyond that, I don't want to go back to that feeling, because I remember at the time it was not a fun place to be. But now that I have control of my blood glucose after having transitioned my diet, my life went from, with diabetes, went from being annoying and really frustrating, to being extremely fun.

And I know I've spoken about this with many people, I felt like I was in possession of this secret that the rest of the world simply did not know. I felt like I had information that could truly change the lives of millions of people around the planet, and yet most people thought that what I was doing was weird or dangerous, or some type of alternative hippie thing, that maybe would last for about six months or so, until I came to a realization, and I came to my senses, that eating a 100% low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet made me deficient in something like protein, or vitamin B12, or essential fatty acids, or some other surprise nutrient, right? I knew inside of my intuition that eating a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet was the answer. I just knew it. I just didn't have the words to be able to communicate that to the outside world, but that's okay, because it's something that I've tried to develop over the course of time.

I remember when I first transitioned, people kept asking me that “Oh, Cyrus, how long you going to do this? How long are you going to eat like this? When are you going to go back to eating some meat? When are you going to go back to eating some dairy products?” And I remember from the get go, I always thought that was a dumb question. And, you know, I would just tell people, I said, “You know what? I don't really know the answer that question.” And the truth is I didn't, I didn't know, because maybe it was true, maybe it was a possibility that I would change my diet at some point in the future, but what I did tell people was that, you know, I said, “Listen, there's no reason for me to change, until you present to me a compelling evidence-based reason. If you do, then I might consider changing from a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet into something else. But otherwise, until I get this really compelling, evidence-based reason I'm going to stay on this course, and I'm going to continue to produce non-diabetic blood tests. I’m going to continue to impress my doctor. And most importantly, even if my doctor is not impressed, I'm going to continue to feel like a million bucks. Is that okay? Am I allowed to do that? Because that's the way I feel right now. And there's no reason for me to change, if something that I'm doing is clearly working.”

So, at some point in this process, I realized that diabetes is actually the best thing that ever happened to me. I'll say that again. At some point in this game, I realized that diabetes is actually the best thing that ever happened to me.

And I know that may sound like a weird thing to say, or it may sound like I'm just making that up because I'm on a Podcast right now, and I'm trying to sound important. It's not the truth, okay? Who says that? How many people do you know, that you can walk up to, and say “Yeah, I feel like diabetes is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.” The truth is that most people with diabetes say the exact opposite. They say things like, “I don't want diabetes. I never asked for diabetes. Get this thing out of me, I'm done with it. I want to be, quote unquote, normal once again. I don't want to be different than everyone else around me. I don't want to have to worry about the food that I'm putting in my mouth. I don't want to have to worry about my blood glucose, multiple times per day.”

That's what most people living with diabetes say. And if you feel that way, that's okay, you are allowed to feel that way. But at some point in this process, I started to think to myself, “You know? I wonder if maybe I was actually supposed to get diabetes. Maybe this is just part of my experience as a human being on this planet, right?” Of course, I couldn't prove that, but I had this hunch inside of me that diabetes was actually scripted, and it was something that was predestined for me in some weird illogical way, and that I was living out the experience that I was supposed to live, even though again, I couldn't prove that on a piece of paper.

Now, one thing that I have absolutely learned in this process is that living with diabetes is an opportunity to turn an otherwise adverse diagnosis, a grim diagnosis, a life threatening diagnosis into a superpower.

And I'm not saying that it's a superpower, because I'm the smartest person on the planet when it comes to diabetes. Not at all. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not saying it's a superpower, because I'm in a competition to see who knows more about diabetes. I'm not saying it's a superpower, because I care about who's the smartest diabetes guru on the internet. No, no, no, no, I'm saying that diabetes is an opportunity to turn an otherwise adverse diagnosis, into a superpower, because this superpower is something that I'm passionate about.

I'm passionate about understanding the molecular level details of what causes insulin resistance, and how that affects all forms of diabetes, type 1 diabetes, type 1.5 diabetes, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes.

It's a superpower because I'm passionate about helping other people transform their diabetes health, from the inside out, using their food as medicine.

It's a superpower because I'm passionate about helping other people with all forms of diabetes, realize that there is a fundamental difference between eating to control your blood glucose in the short term, and eating to maximize your total body health in the short term, and in the long term. I will repeat that, there is a fundamental difference between eating to control your blood glucose in the short term, and eating to maximize your total body health, both in the short term and in the long term.

Low carbohydrate diets are founded upon the principle that if you eat a small amount of carbohydrate, you can control your blood glucose with precision, right here and right now. And guess what? It works. But the problem is that low carbohydrate diets increase your chronic disease risk over the course of time. So, they're short term solutions, but they are terrible long term solutions.

What I'm saying is that the low-fat, plant-based, whole-food philosophy is an excellent short term, and excellent long term strategy for maximizing your total body health, and getting to a point where you're so insulin sensitive that diabetes might actually just disappear.

Diabetes to me is a superpower because I'm able to share this, quote unquote, secret that I learned more than a decade ago, with thousands of other people around the world, and witness unbelievable transformations every single day of the year.

It's a superpower because when I go to bed at night, I know that the career choice that I've made is absolutely perfect for me. It's something that I'm born to do. It's something that I love doing, and it's something that is benefiting many people all around the world in search of better health.

I never thought that getting diagnosed with diabetes when I was 22 years old, would eventually become my superpower. If you would told me that, the day that I got diagnosed, I would have laughed at you, I would have told you that you have no idea what you're talking about, and that diabetes is a struggle, and that diabetes is unfortunate, and that diabetes is something that I didn't want.

But now, it's a completely different scenario. I didn't know what I didn't know back in the day. And now that I'm graced with the superpower, I feel like I'm in possession of knowledge that can really help millions of people around the planet. And I am more motivated than ever to try and get this information out to them, so that they can transform their lives.

Now, like I was saying earlier, I'm convinced that getting diagnosed with diabetes for me at the age of 22 was scripted. It was all part of the master plan. I remember thinking from the time I was a young boy, I remember looking at a plate of food and asking myself, “Why am I eating this stuff? Who says that this is the right food for me? What happens to this as soon as it goes inside of my body? How does my body uses for energy?” I'm literally a six year old kid, and I'm asking myself these questions, having no idea what the answer was.

But then when I started studying nutrition, later in life, it all started to come full circle. And I thought to myself, “Oh, wait a minute. I've literally been asking myself these questions from the time I was a young kid, maybe there's a reason for that.” Now, at this point, I'm fully convinced that, you know, I'm a puppet, and my goal is to just spread the message of low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition to the diabetes world. And you know what? I'm perfectly happy doing that, and it's something that I look forward to every single day of the year.

So here's my question to you, what has to happen for you to turn diabetes from something that annoys you, from something that frustrates you, from something that depresses you, into a thing that excites you, encourages you, and motivates you? Is that the acquisition of more knowledge? Is it applying low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition to your life, and seeing sustained progress? Is it something as simple as just losing weight? Is it gaining more energy? Is it gaining better control of your blood glucose? What needs to happen in order for you to turn diabetes into your superpower? That's my question to you.

If you don't know the answer right now, that's fine. Take some time to think about it. If you do know the answer right now, shout it out. This is the stuff that matters, because the nuts and bolts of low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition are important, don't get me wrong, but understanding why you're doing it, and what needs to happen in your life in order for you to fully, fully overcome the frustration, and the fear, and the anxiety that comes along with diabetes is something that is very hard to understand. And once you have a good feeling for it, it really can totally transform your mental, and emotional mindset.

Now, trust me when I say that, the moment that you feel encouraged, the moment you feel excited, the moment that you feel the difference that low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition can make in your life, that very moment is going to be something that's going to stick with you for a long period of time, and it may be hard to forget.

I remember exactly when I felt it, when I was at that retreat with Doug Graham, and I ate a couple of meals and my blood glucose started falling fast. I will never forget that moment. Do you know the moment when you started to feel it? If that's already happened to you? That moment, right there is precious. Hold on to that moment. And don't forget that moment, because if you think back to that moment over, and over, and over again, it's something that can motivate you to continue to make sustained progress, as time goes on.

If you feel like you're already there, and that diabetes is something that you can totally control, something that you can reverse, or maybe even something that you have reversed, something that you can communicate to other people. If you feel like that is something that you can do, then my hat goes off to you, because you've clearly put in the hard work, you've clearly put in the time, you've clearly put in the effort, and the experimentation to understand how low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition affects you, and how you can use that information to try and help other people at the same time.

If you're in that position, then great. Keep spreading the word and leading by example, because this movement is going to gain momentum, and it happens one person at a time.

But if you feel like you haven't felt it, that is okay. No problem at all. Keep applying the principles of low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition exactly the way that we explain, and reach out to our team. We have a team of experts, and we are more than happy to share our personal experience with you, and to share the knowledge that we have gained over the course of the last decade and beyond, to help you turn diabetes into a superpower. A superpower that you didn't even know that you had.

My point is very simple. Diabetes can be the greatest thing that ever happened to you. I want that for you. I know you can do it. And I'm fully convinced that it's possible. All you got to do is figure out exactly what’s stepping in the way. What is preventing you from developing the superpower that you didn't even know you had. Once you figure that out, let me tell you, your life will be transformed forever.

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About the author 

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD and Robby Barbaro, MPH

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, and Robby Barbaro, MPH are the coauthors of the New York Times bestselling book Mastering Diabetes: The Revolutionary Method to Reverse Insulin Resistance Permanently in Type 1, Type 1.5, Type 2, Prediabetes, and Gestational Diabetes. They are the cofounders of Mastering Diabetes, a coaching platform that teaches people how to reverse insulin resistance via low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition. Cyrus has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002, and has an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from UC Berkeley. Robby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000, and has been living a plant-based lifestyle since 2006. He worked at Forks Over Knives for 6 years, and earned a Master’s in Public Health in 2019.