Warning, you could be the next diabetic! Simple steps to prevent, manage and even reverse diabetes

Published: November 28, 2017 at 10:19 am

Last Updated on

Warning, you could be the next diabetic and chances are that you are a pre-diabetic and do not know it yet. Worse, our children could get it while they are still children! It is no secret that India is the diabetic capital of the world. Here are some simple steps to prevent diabetes, manage the conditionco and even reverse diabetes depending on your health. Before I tell you my story, here is an astonishing fact.

In April 2017, the IndianExpress reported:

The number of diabetes patients in the country is likely to go up to 120 million in next 20 years as against the current 70 million, an official of Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH) has said

This is the reason why it makes sense to invest in the cause (avoid sugar and buy sugar stocks) and invest in the cure (minimise drugs and invest in pharma & healthcare stocks). Pardon the lame attempt at humour, but that is the cold reality of the times that we live. Just ask yourself how many of your relatives or how many of your colleagues have diabetes.

Two weeks ago (Nov 14) we “observed” World Diabetes Day. It is meant to create awareness about the condition. We need quite a bit of awareness – that Diabetes is a lifestyle condition and it is easily manageable and in some cases reversible with the proper lifestyle and even without medication. First, permit me to share my story.

My struggle with weight and tryst with diabetes

I have been obese (85- 90 Kgs) for a good part of my 20s. For a brief period around my marriage I had lost some weight, but quickly gained it all back. When my wife was pregnant, I started my second attempt to lose weight and it was far more successful and long lasting, I was also fitter. At the height of my fitness levels (I was 38 but felt 20ish), I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder known as Myasthenia Gravis.

I have explained what it does and how it affected my life (it still does, as it not curable but also not degenerative) before.

How I lost weight, gained it all back and lost it again

Weight Loss and Long-Term Investing

In the present context what matters is that I was under very heavy steroid medication for short periods in the last 5 + years and heavy to moderate dosage for the most part. Steroids come with a host of side-effects, the most pleasant of which is good hair growth 🙂 . Unfortunately, diabetes (among others) is a common side effect.

Although steroid-induced diabetes is, in principle reversible, that is it will reduce when the drug is withdrawn, considering our lifestyles, the diabetes stays often stays back. This was threatening to occur in my case.

HbA1c is a blood test that gives an indication of how well blood sugar was regulated in the past ~ 90 days. There is no uniformity about what a normal HbA1c value is. It is a not wrong assumption that a value < “6%” is considered reasonably normal. On the safer side, people take  < 5.5% instead of <6%.

With steroid intake, my HbA1c shot up to 6.9% within in a short period and my fasting blood sugar went from pre-diabetic to diabetic levels. I realised this was a wake-call and cut down all forms of direct sugar. I am blessed (cursed) with a constitution that reacts fast to positive (and negative) lifestyle changes.

With a month of cutting direct sugar to zero, I could feel the weight loss. This time, I decided to never use a weighing scale. Checking weight from time to time (read daily) is no different than an inexperienced mutual fund investor checking his portfolio daily.

Around this time, I was in an FB authors group learning book marketing techniques. In response to my post, a member referred to the business model of dietdoctor.com and linked this video which changed my lifestyle.

Let me reproduce the video description below:

It starts with a truck driver getting arrested for smuggling… butter. Why? Perhaps it has something to do with why the whole world started getting obese and diabetic in 1984. And why these epidemics keep getting worse all the time, with new records broken every year. Could people get lose weight and reverse diabetes type 2 by ignoring the dietary guidelines and doing the opposite instead? Eating delicious foods? In this 2016 talk Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt talks about how to empower people everywhere to revolutionize their health – before it’s too late.

It is here I learnt that eating more fat is good for health. It will keep our sugar levels more stable, we will feel less hungry and we would lose weight. I had shared this video in a previous post where I had provided details of my diet:

Want To Lose Weight? Eat More Fat!

From 80-ish Kgs, I went to 65-67 Kgs within a year. The pain and freezing of my knees disappeared to a large extent. When I then exercised the knee, it became much better. My HbA1c is now 5.9 – 5.7. I do not feel like I am “dieting”. I am eating plenty of tasty and healthy food and recently swapped my 4-idly breakfast to a south Indian version of “butter coffee” (details below).

What I do is not an extreme diet like Paleo or Keto. Those names and the people who practice them give me the creeps like they are part of a cult. It is a form of low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet. To be exact it is, lower-carb, higher-fat diet. If you are interested, I list some simple ways to get started below.

Pattu: Before (June 2015)

Pattu: after (Nov 2017)

My old pants fully buttoned up would slip right through my waist if I did not wear a belt. I started counting weight loss in terms of how many holes I add to my belt and which one is used for fastening.

Before I get to getting-started, let me also add a couple of more videos ( I had shared these before as well). Trust me, take the time to watch this with an open mind and try small changes in your lifestyle with an open mind and expecting no miracles, you will not be disappointed. I understand this is the middle of the week. So there is a short summary below.

Reversing Type 2 diabetes starts with ignoring the guidelines

This is a fantastic introduction to diabetes too! Do not miss!

Sugar the bitter truth (shorter version)

This is a video suggested by Subra(money.com). There is a longer version as well which I recommend. Watch to understand why our children are in danger.

Type 2 Diabetes Is “Processed Food Disease”

“Sugar is toxic, It proffers a set of biochemical alterations that are detrimental to human health—unrelated to its calories.” – Dr. Robert Lustig.


Summary: Sugar is toxic and carbs are unnecessary!

1: Sugar is toxic. The liver processes sugar and alcohol in the same way. So sugar has the same effect on the liver as alcohol.

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2: There is no need for carbohydrates! Our bodies do not need it. If we eat more of it (and most of us do), we are going to get fat.

3: Stay fat for long enough and you get diabetes and cardio issues (among other things)

4: If you are non-diabetic (get rid of sugar and reduce carbs and all processed food.

5: If you are pre-diabetic (no such thing!), get rid of sugar and get of carbs (at least keep it to a bare minimum)

6: If you are a diabetic, gradually reduce carbs to as low as possible, gradually.

7: Carbs with high fibre is not bad for you.

Interested? Here are some simple getting started steps

Warning: Try one thing at a time and for a month to get used to it and to see if your body can handle it. The idea is to train your mind and body to gradually get used to change. Each human being is different and results will vary. You need to find out what works for you.

1: Do not wish to follow an XYZ-diet – be it Keto or Paleo or whatever. This is not a diet. This is a lifestyle. Meaning, you will have to change your ways of life. If you sit on a snail, the surroundings will appear to barely move. That is how a good diet should be – so slow that you do no shock your system. There is nothing wrong with those diets, but for a beginner, it feels like a cult.

2: Do not immediately join any community or Facebook group*. You will be overwhelmed. Start reading at your pace and start implementing at your own pace and then you will get a better understanding of what those groups are trying to do.

* I am not a member anywhere. I am simply too individualistic for those. The only group and group admin who will tolerate me is Asan Ideas for Wealth.

3: Start drinking plenty of water. I would recommend four litres a day of direct water.

4: Stop all forms of sugar. No sugar in coffee/tea. I would also avoid sugary fruits if possible. Do this for 1-3 months. Until you reach a stage that you can taste the natural sugar in food! Until you reach a stage where you do not crave for sugar. This is important. Oh yeah discipline, that is mandatory.

5: Once you no longer feel the need for sugar, reduce 25% of rice or wheat per meal and replace it with vegetables (preferably green) or protein (cheese or paneer, not dal) or fat( cheese or butter). Do this for 1-3 months. Until you feel that you will not back to more rice.

6: Now reduct another 25% of rice or wheat per meal (i. 50% less rice or wheat) in the same way. My guess is that most non-diabetic can work at this level. Even for pre-diabetics, this will work well. However, those with diabetes in the family, especially early onset diabetes should strive for more. Diabetics should aim for at least 75% reduction in carbs

7: Any source of carbohydrate with high fibre is fine for non-diabetics and pre-diabetics. Diabetics can indulge in moderation.

Does this sound?  If yes then how about this?

“Asset Allocation”

Just eat more protein and fat. Automatically this means lesser carbs (including sugar)

If this appears hard, at least first reduce carbs by 10% and sugar by 50%. Just like in equity, it is only when people see returns, they invest more.  I know, there could be crashes. Yes. any unhealthy get-rich-quick or get-thin-quick scheme is not likely to end well.

Butter Coffee breakfast: South India Version

Blending butter to coffee may sound repulsive to you (and me), but this is a breakfast that is getting popular fast and it works. This is the most recent change to my lifestyle (been at it for a little more than a month). Moving from my four idly breakfast to eating butter+ coffee for breakfast. This is the recipe. Thanks for inputs and suggestions from S R Srinivasan.

1: get up in the morning. Get back to sleep.

2: When you finally wake up, brush your teeth and drink your first dose of filter kapi (or tea) with no sugar.

3: Just when you start feeling hungry drink the “second dose” filter kapi and eat a small-medium sized chunk (say 20-30 gms) of cooking (unsalted) butter. This should last you easily for 2-3 hours. Vitamin A never tasted better.

Are you listening to your body? Is it saying it is time for a change?

Then be the change your body want to see.

If you are doing something bad, it will tell you.

The key to good health is to make our minds listen to our body

You don’t need to follow X or Y method. That sounds daunting. Try out small changes and see the effect. It is not about what you do, but how you do it – consistently with discipline.

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Share your story in the comments. How did you lose weight? How did you regulate your sugar levels?

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Pattabiraman editor freefincalM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. since Aug 2006. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin Pattabiraman has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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    1. sugary fruit here = those high on fructose. There are many low on fructose like Kiwi and other citrus fruits. Personally, I rarely eat fruit.

  1. Very informative post Professor. Thank you.
    I (aged 42 years) have a family history of diabetes from both sides of my parents. And I was overweight. When my annual medical checkup showed fatty liver about 10 years ago, I started exercising for 40-45 minutes a day (medium rigorous, mostly stretching, along with pushups). Unfortunately I developed low back pain that restricted my schedule, but I am now active as before. Recently I started the 5/2 diet, but instead of reducing calorie intake to 500 calories on 2 fasting days, I keep it to about 1000 calories. Has lost about 3 kg weight in about 3 months. But I have noted your point of cutting sugar from diet completely, which I think is very important. That alone can further reduce my calorie intake by 100 calories a day. A combination of diet and exercise has really helped me. Exercise, esp Surya Namaskar and stretching done in a brisk fashion is very helpful. Thankfully I am not diabetic as yet.

  2. Dear Mr.Pattu, In addition to all your routine diet, I may suggest you to listen to Healer Baskar’s speech (freely available in youtube) on health. He teaches how to practically change our life style, to allow our body to get cured by itself.
    I do follow few of his tips on eating style such as Chew well with closed lips, when you get sick allow body sometime to cure itself, follow non-allopathic medicines etc., I am fully health now.
    My father, and couple of my friends follow his tips and also by taking Kottakkal medicines, finally got rid of Diabetes..

  3. Thank you very much for writing this topic. it will enlighten my way to better health in my sunset years. though still i am not diabetic or not having any high pressure problem. but still afraid, as being fatty and my recent sugar ppbs 143 and HBA 1C 6.6. please keep writing sometime.

  4. Dear Pattu sir,

    A true gem of an article. Carbohydrates, especially the processed ones are the real culprits. Let me introduce myself first.

    I am a practising cardiac surgeon and have been in this field since 2003. I am presently based in Andhra Pradesh. Being in Andhra Pradesh we see patients coming for surgery from all walks of life. Believe me Cardiac disease is not a disease of the rich. Skinny people who are way less than their ideal weight also get cardiac disease like Coronary Artery Disease which were initially thought to be diseases of the rich because they were related to high fat diet, and fatty foods are costly ones. This is most probably due to a genetic disposition along with getting cheap Carbohydrate food like Rice etc under the different schemes of the govt.

    Around 2008 there came upon some researches showing that Cardiac diseases were seen more in people consuming processed foods high in carbs. And that some regions of the world like India were particularly prone for it. Its said that just being born in India is equivalent to being born in America plus having diabetes. And then the reverse diagnosis started. If you can read about Ancel Keys and how he manipulated the data obtained in those times, the bullying of the sugar industry, how the voice of Dr Yudkin was smothered (book: PURE WHITE AND DEADLY), who had pointed out the fallacies about fat restriction about 50-60 years back itself, you can understand where we went wrong

    There have been many diets which reduce the diabetes and cardiac diseases. Apart from Paleo and Keto (aka Atkin’s Diet) which you have mentioned, a Mediterranean diet is also said to be good.

    Regarding the fat intake also, some points are to be known. Among the proponents of High fat diet, there is still a fight between animal fat proponents and plant based oil proponents. The first group says we can eat as much as meat and chicken because it is loaded with just fat and protein with no carb at all. The second group says that plant based oils are better because the ratios of omega 3: omega 6 fatty acids are good in these (not all but some)

    But we should remember is whatever fat we use be it ghee/coconut oil/ other oils, we should use in moderation only and we should not reheat them as then they become transfats, These transfats are the main culprits for cardiac diseases.

    The method for shift, as you indicated should be steady or else there will be a rebound phenomenon which will be still difficult to tackle.

    One point where I would like to differ marginally is that the amount of water to be taken is not same for all. Four litres is high. Especially, if we do not know the kidney status and cardiac status of a person, high water intake can tilt the balance and lead to grave consequences. So before starting to venture into this high water intake system it would be better to get ones heart and kidney assessed

    My two cents.

    I can suggest more books if you want to read about this


    1. Thank you very much, sir, for your insights. The point on water intake is well taken. If you can spare the time to write your experiences as guest article, it would be great. If you are interested, please write to freefincal [at] gmail [dot] com.

  5. There are always pros and cons of avoiding or extreme consumption of any thing. I believe there are 2 situation where one can eat fruit without any fear.
    1. Within 30 mins of wake up
    2. After any workout

    Besides fructose, it contains , lot of multivitamin and minerals. even multivitamin pills might not replace fruits.

    Just my 2 cents

  6. Dear Pattu Sir,
    Sorry for the late reply. Thanks for your invitation for writing a guest article, but I don’t think I am the correct person for that. I have only a small amount of knowledge regarding this, diet and nutrition being a very vast topic. That too is very variable. Hence what is good for one may not be good for other. One rule suits all is not possible in case of nutrition. But I can say for sure that completely avoiding processed food and eating other food in moderation is the correct way. Whatever we eat must be preferably home cooked and less in amount. We really are eating a lot probably 2-3 times of what our body needs.


  7. Very timely article.India’s rapid rise as diabetes capital can be traced to cereal based diet,which is nothing but 70-80% carb.Surprisingly this important fact is hardly discussed when food or diet is discussed,More common advice is avoid oil,avoid masala – bullshit.Sir you have hit the nail on the head.Sadly this advice had to come from someone who is not from medical background.I had a similar experience and the only thing that worked for me when i reduced carb by removing sugar from tea and slashing rice/roti by 30%.The best thing about protein and fat is they have feedback i.e they make you feel full.It is almost impossible to have them in excess unlike carbs which are so easily digested that you don’t know when to stop.Whats more they are tasty.Being non veg i really don’t mind..

  8. Dear Sir, you suggested to eat 20-30g of butter along with the coffee for breakfast. Are you sure that it’s 20-30g really? I had 15g today and it itself was a huge chunk.

  9. @pattu sir: I wonder if u have a view on dairy products, though u seem to recommend eating butter. Can u clarify whether the butter is from milk obtained from cow/buffalo or through plant based products like almond, soya and similar products?

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