1st Person

A Good Lifestyle Won’t Protect you from Diabetes

Your Family History Matters a Lot

Hiking in the California Redwoods

We were a ‘Normal’ Family

As two working parents, we had a busy life filled with constant sports and activities with our two young boys, weekend community events and keeping up with the usual housework.

We moved from Chicago to Northern California in 2012 to follow my career, which came with the opportunity to have a more active and outdoor life that our whole family enjoys.  We were generally healthy, or so we believed. We were eating well and getting regular exercise whenever we could.

But Then It Came

A Type 2 diagnosis wasn’t completely out of the blue. Derek’s father had passed away at the young age of 47 from complications of diabetes, and many of his siblings had experienced the same.  

We thought that our lifestyle would keep diabetes away.  

We were wrong.  

Derek and I were on a trip to Mexico when he started feeling signs that we were not going to escape Type 2 — tingly feet, declining eyesight and feeling uncomfortable overall.  

As soon as we got home, Derek got his blood work done and there it was — advanced Type 2 Diabetes.  

It was Truly Terrifying

I had no experience with Type 2 and Derek had the worst kind of experience because his father died from it.  

We were scared.  

Would he be injecting himself all the time?  What does it mean to go ‘hypo’? What are the risks to our young boys?  What did we do wrong?

Crying Came First; Then Determination

After a few days of crying, we both went into full-on action mode.  We were going to beat this disease, we are fighters!

Derek immediately changed his diet and exercise routine.  He eliminated carbohydrates altogether, immediately. He started working out differently, including much more cardio into his routine.  

We also made a big decision that he would step back from working to reduce stress as much as possible.  

The impact on Derek’s numbers was incredible and underscored the importance of a low carb diet, exercise and reduced stress.  

Everyday is Different as you Learn the Disease

Some days were great.  Derek would test his blood and he didn’t need any insulin. But other days he spiked up or down and we were always surprised and frustrated at how little it took to move his numbers way up or down.  

Derek has a situation where his numbers actually go up at night, instead of down like most people with Type 2.  Because of this, it took us months to figure out the right level of insulin he needed to go to sleep, in order to wake up at a normal hour at a normal level.  

Even so, some nights he would wake up sweating, while I often worried that he would go hypo and I wouldn’t be awake to help.  I felt scared and worried all the time. I didn’t know what to do to help.

That period of time, learning the disease and trying to create stability was definitely rough for us as a couple, and we were determined not to let it affect the boys.

Food Research Helped Me Cope

I am the cook of the household and so I started researching everything I could about how to cook without carbs and sugar.  I’d spend an hour at the grocery store reading every label on every package that we were used to having as staples in our home.  

We discovered that food we thought was healthy was quite literally hurting us.  We tore through our pantry and threw out so much food, it was such a surprise!

I turned to Pinterest quite a bit and found as many bloggers as I could to help.  Some were great and are now a regular inspiration for me to keep it interesting for our meals.  

I was shocked at how much bad advice we received.  

I had pushed to get a referral for a nutritionist a couple of months after the diagnosis and we were able to finally get an appointment.  When we came in, I was shocked by the advice she gave us.

She shared that she was herself pre-diabetic and after handing us a sheet that outlined all the nutrition facts on foods (that is available easily on the internet), she basically told Derek not to deprive himself too much and to take insulin whenever he needed it.  

This was not helpful to us.  

We were not interested in injections for the rest of our lives, we were going to beat this thing.  

About six months later we started our own blog, just to try and help create some tips and recipes for other people as they go through this experience.  It helped me to record how we felt and how to modify recipes in order to keep them tasting as good as possible, but minimizing the carbs and sugars. We also have great friends and family that jumped in and committed to baking and cooking with little sugar and carbs when we were gathering so that Derek didn’t feel so isolated.

Derek, Anna, and their sons this past Christmas

We are Stronger

Now that we’re a few years in, our life is much more manageable and ‘normal’.  It feels less odd to ask for a low carb/low sugar meal when we’re traveling with groups, maybe because sugar has become a bit more of a bad guy these days.  

I’m so proud of our boys.  They read every label and are aware of sugar in their diets.  While we don’t deprive them, we have a dessert night every other night, we still do try and limit their daily sugar as much as possible.  

We all know how difficult it is in schools and sports when every treat and snack is loaded with a days’ worth of sugar, but our sons are aware and we’re hopeful that this will translate into a longer life for them without this disease.  

I know that we are stronger and more connected as a family.  We know that time is precious and that each moment counts. That’s why we take opportunities to have fun, make time together and enjoy life.  


Anna is a mom, wife, full time executive, part time amateur cook and loves to be creative whenever she can. Originally from Kiev, Ukraine, Anna moved to the United States at the age of 4 and grew up in and around the Chicago area. She holds an undergraduate business degree from Indiana University in Finance and French and an MBA from the University of Chicago in both Finance and Marketing. Her career has spanned both domestic and global roles in a variety of companies and industries. She now is a Vice President of marketing at a large consumer goods company and runs her own blog and small business, Moxy Kitchen (www.moxykitchen.com). Moxy Kitchen is dedicated to creating recipes, tips and ideas for anyone looking to live a low sugar, low carbohydrate lifestyle. Anna and her family live in the central valley of California with their 3 year old boxer, Lola. They spend a lot of time playing sports, swimming, and enjoying the outdoors.

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