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Taking a Healthier Lifestyle in Stride: My Journey with Type 2 Diabetes


Editorial Review Phoebe Stoye, A.B. in Neurobiology, Harvard College

Patrick Crisler, 55, loves a lot of things. He loves living in his beachside home in St. Pete Beach, Florida. He loves his furry companion, Zorro, his three-year-old rescue dog. He loves to travel and see new cultures. He loves playing pool, reading books, and hanging out with his friends. But one of his biggest loves is a good puzzle. It assists him in his job as an engineer for the Department of Defense, which sends him all over the country. But recently, in August, he found it as a way to compartmentalize how his Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis will fit into his life.

While the news was more of a reaffirmation than a overwhelming new diagnosis, it was still a hit. But, luckily, he had already started rebuilding his healthy habits after his first Type 2 scare two years earlier. Now, he finds his inquisitive nature inspires him in the kitchen with his limited vegan keto diet. Even in this early stage of his diagnosis, Patrick understands how diabetes can ripple throughout someone's whole life, and he wants nothing more than to solve how to navigate the maze of roadblocks he's encountered thus far. Here's his story.

Tell us about your experience receiving your diagnosis. What have you learned or wish you knew?

Originally, like I said, it was like a wake up call. I changed my diet from what I was typically eating to a mostly low carb, no carb type diet–basically a keto diet. So that adjusted some of my ways of thinking. It's just been like a super wake up call.

I switched back to a keto diet and I even went vegan. It's challenging, trying to do both at the same time, because typically a lot of plant based proteins and other meals incorporate carbohydrates. But it's also opened up different avenues of cooking more for myself. I'm thinking more about what I'm eating, what I'm doing, when I'm drinking. I'm finding different resources for cooking healthy meals and cooking Keto friendly meals and even vegan keto friendly meals. It's been fun. Being an engineer, I like to figure things out.

Like right now, I'm playing with a keto garlic bread recipe and trying to make it vegan keto. It's challenging trying to use vegan cheese, because it's just a bunch of solidified oils. So when you cook them, they unsolidify, and the garlic bread turns into more of a garlic spread rather than a bread. So, I'm trying to figure out the best way to keep it from turning into a mess.

What was it like adapting to your condition? What challenges have arisen?

One of the things that is super disappointing for me is I used to live in Germany, and Oktoberfest is a huge, joyful time for me, because I can go get good things. Oktoberfest beer and I can do this, do that. And now I can't partake in pretty much any of Oktoberfest.

What have you learned through having Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes is all about balance. It's all about what makes you healthy and what makes you happy as well. I don't consider it a one-size-fits-all type of a situation. For me, I've always been inquisitive, so I'm familiar with researching things. It's not as foreign to me, whereas other people may just be like, "Oh no, my world is ending." So it just depends on your attitude and how intent you are on finding out what you can do to be helpful.

(Editor's Note: Type 2 Diabetes can be overwhelming and stressful for your emotional health, but you are not alone. Find resources & support on Caretalk's emotional health page.)

Do you feel like this experience has made you a stronger person?

I'm not sure if 'stronger' is the right word. It's given me more focus. I used to smoke cigarettes and when I stopped doing that, you know, you have to have really laser focus and tell yourself you're not going to smoke. I'm not going to give into those types of behaviors that lead me to having a cigarette. It's the same type of thing. A lot of it's mental. So, in that way, yes, it has helped to make me more resilient or stronger.

Type 2 Diabetes is not the end of the world. It's a part of life. You just have to realize that yes, you can change your diet. Yes, you can affect your health however you want to affect your health. In the last four weeks, I've lost 23 pounds. I think realizing that that can occur, then you feel like it's not going to be impossible.

Anything you want to add?

It'll be interesting to see, I mean, the first 23 pounds have been–I don't want to say easy–but it'll be interesting to see where the next two months go, and whether or not it continues to be as productive.


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