Maggie Crawford

Case Study: Eliminating Insulin Resistance in a Newly Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetic

I’d like to take a moment and highlight the accomplishment of one of my clients who was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  An avid ultramarathon runner, surfer, cyclist and rock climber, Maggie Crawford was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 24.  I’ve had the pleasure of being friends with Maggie for many years, and when I received a phone call a few months ago in which she said the words, “I just got diagnosed with type 1 diabetes,” I was flabbergasted.

The reason why I was so amazed is simple.  Maggie is an athletic machine.  And she has been that way since she was a young girl – running, jumping, and climbing on everything she sees.

Maggie is training to set the California Fourteeners Speed Ascent Record— which consists of climbing all fifteen of California’s mountains that are a minimum of 14,000 feet.  The record has been described as requiring “the aerobic output of running twenty marathons, combined with free-soloing at 14,000 feet.”

Maggie estimates that she can complete the trek in five days, barring unforeseen circumstances similar to what she experienced in 2012, when, after training for many months, she aggressively charged up the first ten peaks before being overcome with nausea, dehydration, and severe fatigue.

Against her will, she abandoned ship early, and was subsequently diagnosed with giardia, a water-borne infectious bacteria with severe consequences.

September 2013: Diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes

Fast forward to September 2013.  In the middle of leading an outdoor expedition for NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), Maggie was overcome with a severely acidic body and extreme weight loss.  After evacuating the wilderness and returning home, her general practitioner diagnosed her with type 1 diabetes, after measuring a blood sugar of 500 mg/dL (5 times higher than normal) and an A1c of 15.3 (3 times higher than normal).

Maggie sought my help for managing her new diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.  When we first started working together, Maggie’s blood glucose values were volatile, and it was not uncommon to record blood glucose values in excess of 400 mg/dL.

Maggie was instructed to do the following:

  • Refrain from exercise. Her medical staff was afraid that exercise could cause her blood sugar to fall dangerously low.
  • Limit her intake of carbohydrates. This is common practice for a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic, as an introduction into “carbohydrate counting.”
  • Eat foods high in protein and fat. By limiting carbohydrate intake, her intake of protein and fat would increase.

Following these instructions, Maggie grew increasingly frustrated and  confused.  She was unable to maintain consistent blood glucose values, and had no control over her overall health.

More importantly, Maggie was uncomfortable with stringent dietary restrictions, and was not convinced that carbohydrate counting was helping her maintain consistent blood sugar values.

When Maggie told me that she was afraid to exercise, I knew something was terribly wrong.

I explained to Maggie that our objective was to reverse the root cause of her erratic blood glucose readings – insulin resistance.  I told her that the most effective method of controlling blood glucose was a two-pronged system which included:

  • Eating a diet low in dietary fat and high in REAL carbohydrates
  • Using exercise as a substitute for insulin

Maggie immediately put this advice into practice.  In the first 3 weeks of working together, Maggie’s blood glucose readings dropped considerably, and landed in the target range of 70-130 mg/dL more than 60% of the time.

Maggie Daily Blood Glucose Bar BEFORE

Maggie Daily Blood Glucose Bar AFTER

Maggie Blood Glucose Before After

Maggie considered herself a pseudo-vegan before we started working together.  This was great news, because the nutrient value of the foods she was eating was very high.

By reducing her intake of foods like peanut butter and mixed nuts, she increased her consumption of foods high in REAL carbohydrates, resulting in a diet with over 15 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

During the day, Maggie subsisted mainly on fruits because they are energy-dense, and in the evening she ate meals containing her favorite vegetables.

In addition, Maggie reduced her consumption of alcohol, and became acutely aware of the effect that drinking even a single glass of beer or wine had on her blood sugar.

An Overview of an Exercise Regimen That Reversed Insulin Resistance

“I knew that something was wrong when I was told that I shouldn’t exercise.  I’m an athlete, and being active is not only part of my lifestyle, it’s part of my well-being.”

I advised Maggie to return to physical activity immediately, as a powerful addition to her diet that could help reverse insulin resistance quickly.  Maggie returned to running short distances, armed with a blood glucose meter and dried fruit.  On her first outing, she jogged around the block.  On her second outing she jogged half of a mile.  By the end of the first week, Maggie was running 3+ miles, at a normal pace.

When she returned home after each run, her blood sugar values were in the target zone, and remained in the target zone for up to 24 hours afterwards.  In a short period of time, frequent exercise was helping Maggie control her blood sugar values almost effortlessly.

In combination with a diet high in REAL carbohydrates and low in fat, Maggie returned to her usual high-energy state in less than one week.

“Understanding the connection between insulin resistance, diet and exercise helped me understand how to control my blood sugar easily.  I had no idea what insulin resistance was until I understood how my muscle tissue worked.  Once I learned that, I developed a way of eating that, along with frequent exercise, kept my blood sugar under consistent control.   My life as a diabetic became MUCH easier.”

Maggie’s ability to take control of her blood sugar is a prime example of how quickly the right lifestyle modification can take effect.  It took less than one week for Maggie’s fasting blood sugar readings to drop, and within two weeks she was back to one hour trail runs, 7 days a week.

“When I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I was terrified. It was the first time in my life that I felt uncomfortable around food, and afraid to eat.  Learning to eliminate insulin resistance helped me develop a better understanding of how different foods affect my blood sugar. It didn’t take long to see the results of this information – stable blood glucose and consistent, high energy levels all day long.”

“The best part about working with Cyrus is that he put the knowledge in MY hands, and provided support to me through this huge life change.  Instead of being told what to do, he forced me to think about the why so that I could make the changes for myself.  I urge everyone with type 1 diabetes to turn to Cyrus for dietary advice. It is amazing what a little bit of commitment and support can do to improve your life, and your confidence in your health!”

Maggie CrawfordClick here to read Maggie’s blog Speed in the Sierras for more information on setting the California Fourteeners Speed Ascent world record, which chronicles her love affair with the mountains, altitude, and testing the limits of human performance.

About The Author

Cyrus Khambatta

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 22, I have spent over a decade learning the fundamentals of nutrition at the doctorate level. My goal is to share my knowledge of practical nutrition and fitness with people with prediabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is an OPPORTUNITY to attain excellent health. Reversing the effects of insulin resistance can be a fun and enjoyable process if the right system is in place. That's why I've spent over 10 years developing a rock solid system that can minimize blood glucose variability and insulin resistance.

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