Avital: Do you have any stories that illustrate such a shift in somebody, comparing what would typically happen in a situation handled by the medical industry and the success you were able to achieve?
Coach Ruben: Certainly. One of my favorite stories is about Angela. I met her when she was fifteen years old and I was her swimming coach. I coached swimmers professionally for thirty years, and she was one of my outstanding swimmers.
When we first met, she was disillusioned, unhappy, and frustrated. Her previous coaches had told her that because she had gotten heavy she was never going to make it at the big-time level. But she started swimming with me, and within a short time I was able to see her potential. I told her, “I see what’s possible for you. If you’re willing to be coachable, we can get somewhere in this sport. I really believe in you.” That’s what she needed—somebody to believe in her. As a result, six months later she qualified within the top 1 percent of championship swimmers in the United States.
By the time she finished swimming with me, in her senior year of high school, she ended up with a full scholarship in swimming and academics to an excellent university. In university, once again, she was an outstanding student and an accomplished athlete. As a collegiate athlete she trained two to two and a half hours a day. But then she graduated.
In the background for her were her family’s dietary patterns. Her father was diabetic, and her mother had a stroke shortly after Angela graduated from college. Angela had a background of eating a particular way. By the time she was twenty-three, she noticed that her blood sugar was going up over 100. When she was twenty-five, she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and put on insulin injections to manage her blood sugar. Now this is a very bright, capable, and intelligent woman who read the literature and worked with her doctors, but the complications increased.
By the time she was thirty-two, in 2012, she had a long list of complications, including peripheral neuropathy. Her vision was deteriorating. She had blood pressure problems, cholesterol issues, and heart palpitations. She couldn’t even swim anymore because it was too painful.
Her doctor told her, “Your A1C is 10 percent, and your blood sugar is over 200, which is double what it should be.We’re going to have to put you on another medication. I don’t know what else we can do.” She began looking at her blood sugar values and interpreting them. She realized that her kidneys were starting to fail, that within a short time she was going to have to be on dialysis, and that if things continued the way they were going she would probably not live much longer.
Out of desperation Angela called me and said, “Ruben, I’ve looked at everything, and I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m wondering if you can help me.”
I responded, “Angela, we’re going to beat this diabetes if it’s the last thing we do. But are you willing to be as coachable as you were when you swam with me? It’s going to take that.”
She replied, “Yes, I am.”
So we went to work. I had her read Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, the best material available on a nutritional approach to diabetes. I told her to set up an appointment with her doctor. On September 10, 2012, we measured her blood sugar: it was 196, and her A1C was 10 percent. We started measuring her blood glucose level three times a day, and she followed the program to the letter.
Four days later her blood sugar was down to 123, so she didn’t have to take an injection—for the first time in seven years! Seven days later her blood sugar was down to 93; this was the first time her blood sugar was under 100 in nine years! Ten days after that her blood sugar was down to72, which is below the normal range. I worked with her doctor, and we instituted a protocol to reduce medications and get her off them gradually so that she would not become hypoglycemic with the low blood sugar.
Although we focused only on nutritional and stress management work, she continued to make progress. Ten months later Angela was off all medications. The doctor could hardly believe it, at which point we gave him a copy of Barnard’s book. The doctor exclaimed, “This is phenomenal. Youdon’t need medications, and you don’t need to see me anymore.” She hasn’t had to have an injection since, and it’s been almost four years.
The most important thing to me was that when Angela called me she was wondering who to bequeath her belongings and life insurance policy to because she knew she was probably not going to be alive more than a few years yet she had developed a new lease on life, literally. She is now completing a doctorate degree, which by its nature will help people avoid the challenges she faced. Isn’t that fabulous?
Avital: That is! It’s amazing to consider this woman’s potential, the level of risk she experienced, and then the way you turned her life around—twice. I think people will be curious about the key factors involved in helping her.
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*The names of some people in the book have been altered to protect their privacy. Everything else is true.