How I Changed My Life to Better Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Sarah Bryant shares her story

This article is part of Health Divide: Type 2 Diabetes in People of Color, a destination in our Health Divide series.

Sarah Bryant

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Bryant / Designed by Zoe Hansen

Meet the Author

Sarah Bryant is a type 2 diabetes advocate living in South Carolina. After losing her husband to heart complications from type 2 diabetes, she vowed to live a whole and healthy life. Sarah loves to travel, exercise, and cook: all things that helped her manage her diabetes better.

I first saw the consequences of uncontrolled diabetes when my husband had a stroke, leaving me as his primary caregiver. He later passed away due to his condition, but I still struggled with my diet. True, I knew I was probably eating more fat than I should, and sugar had always been my ultimate weakness, but I had a hard time making any lasting change. I would go through periods of eating well, only to fall off the wagon and binge on bread or sweets. The same went for exercising: I would get into a routine for a couple of months and then gradually lose motivation. I didn’t understand what adopting a healthier lifestyle truly meant.

My Encounter With Diabetes

It wasn’t until late 2019 that I noticed something was wrong. I started experiencing extreme fatigue that would last all day, no matter how much sleep I got. I could hardly function. After this had gone on for a month, I started to wonder if I had an iron deficiency, so I finally went to my healthcare provider. She ran some tests and later told me my blood sugar was in the diabetic range.

I was shocked by this news, but something else shocked me even more: when I looked back at my previous years’ lab results, I realized that I had been in the prediabetic range for a long time. It was right there, but my healthcare provider had never told me. Many healthcare providers fail to warn you when your blood sugar is too high. When you develop diabetes, they prescribe you medication to manage it, but then they send you on your way without teaching you how to modify your lifestyle.

Sarah Bryant

That was when I realized that if I wanted to get this disease under control, I couldn't rely on other people to tell me what to do.

— Sarah Bryant

I didn’t want to depend on medication, so the healthcare provider’s office referred me to a diabetes education class. At the orientation, the nurse said the goal was to keep my A1C at 7.0. The only problem? My A1C was only at 6.5, which was already interfering with my life.

That was when I realized that if I wanted to get this disease under control, I couldn't rely on other people to tell me what to do. I would need to advocate for myself and take matters into my own hands.

Creating New (Better) Habits

The thing about making a lifestyle change is that you need to be able to stick to it. A diet may be a temporary fix, but you risk returning to your old eating habits when it’s over.

After my diagnosis, I started exploring different ways of controlling my blood sugar. I tried the keto diet, but I was miserable. It wasn’t sustainable. I needed something I could see myself doing long-term without falling off the wagon and undoing my progress.

I found a Facebook group dedicated to a plant-based, whole food, oil-free diet. It allowed me to have fruits, vegetables, and whole grains without feeling I was depriving myself. I also started focusing on reducing processed foods and avoiding sodium. By paying more attention to ingredient lists, I could make informed decisions about what I put in my body and cut out excess salt and sugar.

Around the same time, I also discovered the rebounder, a mini trampoline you can use for exercise. I fell in love with it. It was a fun way to be physically active, but it also helped with many of my other aches and pains. It didn’t feel like exercise, making it easy to add to my routine. I now jump on it every day, in addition to walking on a treadmill, and I’ve never felt better.

Finding My “Why”

What this journey has taught me is the importance of becoming your own best healthcare advocate. No one knows your body better than you do—not even your healthcare provider. If something is wrong, you owe it to yourself to give it the attention it deserves and to speak up when you have questions. And that was what I did. By making these sustainable lifestyle changes, I was able to lose 50 pounds and bring my A1C down to the normal range without medication. I can even indulge in the occasional fried dish or sweet treat without sliding back into old habits.

Since that day in 2019, I’ve had many people see my changes and say things like, “I wish I could eat like you.” I always tell them the same thing: when your “why” becomes big enough, you will. For me, that “why” was seeing what diabetes had done to my husband and knowing that I could prevent the same thing from happening to me. When you have something powerful enough to motivate you, you can take the necessary steps to make a change.

By Sarah Bryant
Sarah Bryant is a type 2 diabetes advocate.