Hollywood is currently a-twitter with the news that Price Is Right star Drew Carey ran away (literally!) from Type 2 diabetes and is now “a new man.”
“I’m not diabetic anymore. No medication needed,” Carey crowed recently. And my, how the entertainment blogs are having a field day with the story.
Blogosphere rants are saying things like: “He’s a goddamn liar, because there’s no cure for diabetes!”
Most doctors maintain there’s no cure, as well.
But here’s Drew Carey nonetheless.
- Symptoms gone.
- Completely off medications.
What more do you need in order to call him cured?
Critics claim he’s not really cured. That he’s just “managing his symptoms without drugs.”(That’s the prevailing medical belief, too.)
The only way he’d really be cured, they feel, is if he was able to pig-out on his old diet of donuts, KFC and Big Slurpee’s — the one that gave diabetes in the first place.
This is crazy. Why should he have immunity to the junky foods that are giving thousands of people Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes every single day? That’s not a cure; that’s a miracle. Our definition of a cure would be anything that returns a diabetic’s metabolic functions to normal without the ongoing need for drugs.
In short, a second chance.
Which is what Drew Carey achieved
Now that he’s done it, maybe the medical community — and the 80 million Americans with Type 2 and prediabetes — will see that the solution to today’s diabetes epidemic is right under our nose.
And my own success with diabetes patients over the years demonstrates beyond a doubt that Type 2 absolutely can be reversed. Type 2 patients can indeed get off all of their diabetes-related meds. (And most are on quite a few.) They don’t have to monitor their blood sugar — or stick themselves with needles around the clock. Or live in fear of going to sleep and not waking up because their blood sugar dropped too low. Or wondering when they’ll lose their eyesight or have limbs chopped off.
We’ve even seen Type 1 diabetics reduce their insulin doses dramatically (in some cases, by up to 80%!). And most Type 2s can achieve these results much easier than Carey did. His approach was definitely the hard way.
“The Price Was Wrong”
In order to reverse his diabetes, the 52-year-old comic lost 80 pounds, going from a size 44 waist to a 34 in about seven months.
His secret? “Lots of cardio,” he said. “At least 45 minutes of cardio, six days a week.” He also worked with a personal trainer who watched over him, providing regular advice and motivation.
Then there was his diet. He cut out carbohydrates (although he admits he cheated a few times) and gave up crackers, bread, pizza, corn, beans, and all starches.
Instead, he eats lots of egg whites, fruit, and Greek yogurt. His sole beverage is water. A typical dinner consists of grilled chicken and steamed non-starchy vegetables, accompanied by a glass of water.
He also told a reporter he was using a “custom-made appetite suppressant administered by a Hollywood nutritionist.”
See why do I call it “the hard way”?
Hats off to Carey for sticking with such a Draconian regimen for seven months. (We wouldn’t want to – and neither would most people.)
It’s easy to see why the Hollywood crowd is now engaged in “The Drew Carey Watch.” They’re waiting for the paparazzi snapshots that document his re-blimping. This already may have begun.
Of his cardio program, Carey recently said: “I’ve been kind of lazy lately, so I’m not doing it six days a week, but I will be for this next month.”
Man does not live by egg whites and water alone. So our bet is that someone with a lifelong love of food and eating like Carey has, won’t stick to this Gulag-like menu much longer.
Drew, dude: There’s an easier, more pleasurable way!
If we had his ear, the first thing we’d suggest to Carey is to fire the guy that’s coaching him. For one thing, weight loss isn’t the road to reversing Type 2 diabetes; it’s just a signpost along the way.
When a diabetic stops eating the sugary foods and fast carbs that pump up his blood sugar levels and trigger insulin surges, weight loss occurs naturally. That’s because insulin’s main job is to turn all that blood sugar (called glucose) into fat (technically, triglycerides) and store it in the fat cells around your waist, hips and everywhere else.
By reducing glucose and insulin, your metabolism will start burning your stored body fat for fuel.
Result? Your body starts to shed pounds automatically.
Now, mix in a little moderate physical activity
Climbing off the couch definitely will enhance this process. But 45 minutes of intense cardio is extreme and unnecessary — unless you just love running. If you don’t (and we only know a few folks past 50 who do), a daily 20-minute walk – or some yoga, dance lessons, gardening, stationary cycling, swimming, etc. — is sufficient to stoke your metabolic furnace.
Drew’s six-days-a-week of cardio will knock pounds off of him, all right. But after the water weight is shed, a percentage of those lost pounds will be muscle. And at 52, he can’t afford that.
You see, we naturally lose five to seven pounds of muscle tissue each decade of our adult lives beginning at age 30. Unless we actively offset this loss through resistance training (a fancy way to say “lifting weights”), the average person has minimal muscle mass by middle age. And here’s why this puts us in a double-bind…
First, the more muscle we have, the greater our basal metabolic rate (this means the number of calories we burn at rest). Second, muscle cells are much more sensitive to insulin than fat cells, so they require less of the hormone to get glucose inside where it can be burned for fuel. In a nutshell, more muscle means less glucose in the blood – and a reduced need for insulin.
Here’s our point: By spending three of those cardio days adding muscle to his frame, Carey could have turned his body into a lean, mean calorie-burning machine that slimmed him as he slept. And since adding muscle would have lowered his glucose levels and his insulin demand, he could have reversing his diabetes in a way that that would have a lasting effect. And by putting most of his effort into cardio exercise, Carey missed a bigger opportunity: His diet.
Which is the second mistake Carey made…
Study after study shows that exercise by itself is a pretty poor way to lose weight. What you eat and don’t eat is far more important. Cutting out the crackers, chips, fried foods and sodas was a smart move because these are the foods that make your blood sugar and insulin levels rise like the Mississippi River after a torrential downpour.
But unless you replace these fast carbs and bad fats with their wholesome, healthful cousins, you’re just asking for hunger pangs all day and night. That’s because fast carbs quickly turn into glucose and are then whisked out of the bloodstream by a jolt of insulin. Their exit creates a craving for more carbs, as in “I need a snack.”
Instead of subsisting on egg whites and water, Carey would have been much happier (and healthier) by building his diet around slow carb foods, free-range meat products and omega-3 seafood. His choice of yogurt was smart (a lucky guess?) because several studies show that it’s natural calcium inhibits appetite, while the beneficial bacteria teeming in it convert sugar into lactic acid, thus by-passing the glucose-insulin cycle entirely.
Trashing the egg yolk was bone-headed, though. Research at St. Louis University found that people who chose eggs for breakfast ate fewer total calories at lunch and dinner because eggs (and protein foods in general) satisfy hunger longer.
And axing beans and corn was just plain dumb. That’s because both are “resistant starches” which bypass the small intestine (where other carbs are broken down into glucose) and, instead, are digested in the large intestine by bacteria. This results in a negligible rise in blood sugar and insulin – and sometimes none at all.
Beans are the #1 diabetes-fighting food on earth!
Here’s medical proof: Type 2 diabetes patients who consumed a mere one-cup serving of beans improved their blood sugar enough to reduce their medication dosage, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. James Anderson demonstrated that Type 1s who add beans to their diet were able to reduce their dosage of injectable insulin by a whopping 38%! In some cases, this allowed Type 2s to completely eliminate their need for supplemental insulin!
And researchers at the University of Southern California found that overweight Latino children (a population with a much greater incidence of diabetes in the US) lost weight and showed significant improvements in their insulin response simply by substituting a half-cup of beans for one daily soda.
Veggies are a diabetic’s best friend
But Drew could have lost all that weight (and even more!) without starving and driving himself like Sylvester Stallone did to get ready for those beefcake scenes in his new movie, The Expendables.
You see carbohydrates are not the evil foods most people think they are, a misconception popularized by Dr. Robert Atkins. Instead, there are good carbs and bad carbs – and it’s the bad ones (sugar, sweeteners, sodas, candy and refined wheat products such as bread, baked goods, chips, and French fries) that should be shunned.
Good carbs like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are a diabetic’s best friends because they contain lots of fiber, which slows their conversion into blood sugar. Since they take longer to digest, they satisfy hunger better so you wind up eating less.
Consuming a little high-quality protein (fish; free-range meat and eggs; artisan cheese and other dairy products) with these “slow carbs” quells your hunger even longer and adds variety to one’s diet. And variety is key. After all, food is about both pleasure and health. If Drew has any hope of maintaining his new weight, he’d find a diet that will satisfy both.
Good food: The cure for obesity and diabetes
Today’s health statistics are dismal – and while it was probably unintentional, Drew Carey is the high-profile embodiment of our current obesity/weight loss dilemma.
More than 70% of the American population is either overweight or morbidly obese. Nearly 30% of us already have some form of diabetes or on the threshold of developing it.
How’d we get here? Bad food choices.
The food industry suckered us into getting hooked on all manner of junk that made them a fortune – and made us sick. All those convenience foods made it easy for us satisfy our advertising-driven cravings, while never considering the consequences of our non-stop, unconscious nibbling and noshing.
But now we must…
Because the consequences are too serious to ignore…
Having diabetes adds 15 years to your appearance (due to accelerated oxidation) and subtracts 20 years from the patient’s lifespan. And it’s not a pretty way to go. A diabetic’s odds of heart attack are 400% higher than the general population. In fact, 75% of all diabetes-related deaths are from cardiac failure.
Then there are the inevitable complications, such as…
- vision loss,
- painful neuropathy
- and limb amputation.
And diabetes drugs can’t protect against these complications. Neither does aggressive glucose lowering. Studies confirm that you can have perfect blood sugar and still succumb to complications and premature death.
The only true solution is to reverse this disease now if you have Type 2 – or dramatically lower your insulin dose if you’re Type 1. And both can only be achieved by modifying your diet and lifestyle.
It’s time for our own “Drew Carey moment”
“I was sick of being fat on the camera. Really, I just got sick of it,” he told reporters. “It sucks being fat.”
It usually takes an “a-ha!” moment like this to trigger a turnaround in a person’s condition. Tragically, this never comes for the vast majority of people with life-threatening medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, or obesity. It’s just too easy to remain in denial. Or entertain blind hope that you’ll be one of the lucky ones who beat the odds without lifting a finger to improve your chances.
But a small percentage of people like Drew Carey actually see the writing on the wall and decide to make a change. He may not have done it perfectly – or he could have taken an easier route. But what counts is that he did it. He got sick and tired of his situation and he changed it. He’s an example and inspiration us all. At least, we hope he will be.