Charlotte Kattegatsiak was determined not to let her diet ruin her health when she tested positive for diabetes this past May in Chesterfield Inlet.
Five months later, Kattegatsiak, 50, is no longer affected by the disease.
Kattegatsiak, who works with Kivalliq Counselling and Support Services, said she had not been feeling her best for a good while before testing positive for diabetes.
She said she felt tired a lot and no amount of rest seemed to rejuvenate her.
“I actually thanked them when I got the news because I had been having problems with certain foods that I ate, especially white flour and now I knew why and what I had to do to get better,” said Kattegatsiak.
“I researched diabetes – how to diet, what to drink and what to do – and then I went on a very aggressive diet.”
Kattegatsiak said she totally cut herself off from white flour, sugar and salt when she changed her eating habits.
She said she was very happy when her follow-up tests came back negative for diabetes.
‘The mental challenge’
“I had told my husband I thought I got rid of it (diabetes) about two months ago because I wasn’t suffering from any of the symptoms anymore and, when I saw Dr. Ron Aspinall, I told him the same thing.
“He wanted to do more blood work and when I sat there with him about two weeks ago, he looked at me and said I don’t have diabetes anymore,” said Kattegatsiak. “The mental challenge of sticking to the diet is the hardest part, especially during the first six weeks, but I’m sticking with it because I don’t want to go back to the way I was struggling before.”
“Our local Co-op store manager Yvonne Scala has really supported me by bringing in what I need to stick with my diet,” she added. “And I’m determined to continue eating right because it does work and I don’t want to risk what can happen with diabetes, such as losing your toes or your eyesight and having heart problems.”
Aspinall said one marker of diabetes is to check one’s blood sugar level, while the other is a HbA1c test (hemoglobin) which shows a three-month average of the level.
He said anything above 6.1 is diabetes and Kattegatsiak was at 6.4 when she was diagnosed.
“When she came back she was at 5.6, which is well down in the normal range,” said Aspinall.
“So she went from definitely diabetes to definitely not diabetes during a three-month period.
“This is relatively rare because most people don’t follow the diet recommendations and just keep on doing what they want so the diabetes slowly gets worse and they need more-and-more medicine as time goes on.”
Dangers of sugar
Aspinall, who is now in his twelfth year in the Kivalliq between Arviat, Chesterfield Inlet and Coral Harbour, said health professionals now know one of the worst culprits in a weak diet is food that turns to sugar fast, such as processed foods like pasta, bread and breakfast cereals.
He said the effect is almost as bad as pouring sugar down one’s throat.
“Rice is another that turns to sugar very quickly and rice cakes are even worse because you’re dealing with processed rice.
“Most people are loathe to change their diet … but Charlotte (Kattegatsiak) was astute enough to understand and want to do something about it, so she told me she’d do whatever I told her.
“She was absolutely thrilled when I gave her the results of her second HbA1C test.”
When Aspinall is doing nutritional counselling, he often recommends people eat foods such as oatmeal, carrots, broccoli and tomatoes.
“Charlotte will remain diabetes-free if she maintains her current diet, but it’s not just people with diabetes that need to watch their diet, but, rather, it’s everybody at every age, said Aspinall. “We’ve found that blasts of sugar is the number-one disease generator.
“Studies show that if you look at all the problems alcohol and tobacco have, sugar (fast carbs) beats them both.”
“Those in the food industry have hidden sugar in all sorts of foods because they know people will buy them more,” he said.
“And, while there are different theories as to why, Inuit are very, very heavy on sugar and starchy foods.”
Aspinall said when speaking about nutrition, he doesn’t like using words like good, bad, properly or even healthier.
He said he prefers to use the terms eating strong and eating weak.
“Saying if you eat strong foods you’re going to have a stronger body than if you eat weak foods, basically tends to stigmatize it in a less judgmental way than healthy or unhealthy, or good or bad,” said Aspinall. “If you eat junk food it takes away your appetite for real food.”
“All this also plays a role in food insecurity in that the money going to junk food and tobacco is substantial and it’s precious money taken away from the food budget,” he said.
“The evidence against sugar is huge and the public needs to know that sugar and starchy foods are a lot more harmful than people realize.”