Fitness was always part of Sneha Vachhney’s life. She was one among those who ensured a few workouts every week and led an active life. Despite that, in 2009 when her physical trainer asked her to get some blood tests done, the results took her by surprise.
“I found out I had an autoimmune thyroid disease. It turned out that this condition was left undiagnosed for several years, which was also the reason why I continued to be on the heavier side, despite being active and conscious of my lifestyle,” Sneha says.
That was the first time she understood that she would have to deal with her body differently. “That first diagnosis came when I was 24. I looked at it as a disease that was treatable with medicines. I did not realise that it required lifestyle changes. I diligently worked out and started eating right for a brief period,” says the 37-year-old. But the problem was the lack of education or resources to understand the disease. Sneha adds that she had to just go by what she was told.
Ten years passed and Sneha was doing reasonably well until a mall visit in July 2019 took an ugly turn.
In July 2019, two days before her 10th wedding anniversary, she was all excited for her Alaskan cruise when she visited a mall. “I found it difficult to read the signage on the boards there. Even the letters in bold were difficult for me to read and that was the trigger,” she says. She decided to get her blood tests done to figure out what was happening. She says there were other signals her body was giving her, which she chose to attribute to other things.
Sneha recollects the moment the blood reports were sent to her inbox. “I was sitting with my parents when I received the email. I was casually reading out the numbers when I read out my sugar levels and my father was shocked. He asked me to read it out again because the number I read almost frightened him.”
“I was diagnosed with diabetes over the weekend and we had to wait until Monday morning to meet the doctor and discuss it further. The 10th anniversary holiday that I had planned did not happen and instead we dived into understanding the diagnosis and treatment,” she says.
Thereafter, everyone sprang into action – calling doctors, seeking appointments, understanding the treatment protocol, etc.
From checking her sugar levels five times a day to avoiding hypoglycemia to eating by the clock – it was a 360° turn for Sneha. “Like everyone else, I remember Googling the reports and trying to understand my diagnosis. I was worried about whether I would have to stay on insulin for the rest of my life but surprisingly I remained rather calm with everything happening with me and around me,” she adds.
Sneha’s HbA1C (hemoglobin test that measures the amount of blood sugar or glucose) was at 13.5 and her sugar levels were upwards of 500.
“There was so much Ketosis happening in my body, I could have slipped into a coma or collapsed any moment,” she says.
Her doctor was very alarmed at these numbers and at that moment, Sneha says that life, as she knew it, changed. She was immediately put on injectable insulin and various medications were added to her daily intake list.
This entire episode made Sneha look at things very differently and she says it helped ground her. “I did not question my doctor and followed everything that was said to me to the ‘T’. I refrained from doing my own research on Google as well, despite how difficult that was,” she says.
“With a broad guideline from my endocrinologist on what I could and could not eat, I embarked on my ‘getting fit’ journey. My food and sleep habits underwent a complete overhaul. I was asked to put away my phone a certain time before I went to bed and had to ensure that I got at least seven hours of a good night’s rest,” she says. She also incorporated small tweaks to her food habits – gave up on wheat and white rice, started including more vegetables and proteins and most importantly ate by the clock.
Sneha never starved herself through the nine months, but she always ate nutritious food.
“Nine months later, in April 2020, I got my blood tests done and was pleasantly surprised to see a HbA1C reading of 5.7. I was happy and proud of what I had achieved,” she says.
She had also lost 25 kg.
Here’s what worked for Sneha:
· Understand the diagnosis:
Sneha says that it is imperative for one to understand their diagnosis before they can proceed further. “Understand how the disease will impact your body. Do some reliable research on what you can do to take care of yourself. Remember, only you can decide what is best for your body, so act accordingly,” she asserts.
· Ensure you eat well:
“Do not fall for any gimmicks or try out any diet that does not suit your body. Speak to your doctor or nutritionist and understand what plan will work best for you. I was eating close to 1,200 calories a day and maintained that for a long time,” she says. Sneha adds that she did not deprive herself of any particular food type.
· Make walking your go-to activity:
“If there are restrictions on what kind of exercise you can and cannot do, remember that just regular walks are great. It does wonders. Ensure that you get a minimum of 10,000 steps each day,” says Sneha. The trick is to start with an achievable target and move towards the 10,000 mark. Sneha also shares her own schedule and says that she would ensure she hit her steps target each day, even if it meant getting out for a walk post dinner.
· Do not hold back on seeking support:
“Build your support circle and don’t be scared to seek help. Create a group of like-minded people with whom you can exercise, walk, discuss your issues and learn from. You could consider learning to cook and exchange recipe ideas with your support group as well,” says Sneha. If you’d prefer being in an online support group, you will find many on social media platforms.
· Only follow your doctor’s advice:
While the internet is filled with material on weight loss and diabetes management, please be sure to only follow your doctor’s advice. “Get regular health check-ups and stay away from obsessively checking your weight. It is one thing that never helps. Just keep your head down and give yourself one year at the least to get on track. There are no shortcuts to this so just keep going,” says Sneha. She adds, “It’s possible to reverse diabetes without killing yourself. If I can, you can too.”
While the weight drop in Sneha’s case was also significant, where she went from 86 kg to 61 kg in a span of seven months, she reiterates that the weight loss is incidental, the most important point is getting all the vital parameters under control.
In conclusion, she says, “Fitness is not just about losing some weight and getting to an ideal number on the weighing scale. In my journey, the one thing that I have understood is that fitness is about feeling a certain way, ensuring that your vital parameters remain healthy and being happy.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)