“I get up at 3:30 every day in the morning and go on a 5-kilometer walk and that’s what helped me tackle my diabetes. My hbA1c level is now at 5.4 percent,” says Dr Jatinder Singh Dhaliwal (PhD), a 52-year-old resident of Ludhiana and a Professor of Horticulture at Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar. He was diagnosed with diabetes almost a decade back and he was on medication until six months back. Today, he assures that exercising and a healthy diet with strict calorie control are sure-shot ways to achieve diabetes reversal.
“I am from a family of agrarians and I know the relevance of physical activity and exercise when it comes to staying fit and healthy,” he says.
Dr Dhaliwal’s decision to take diabetes head-on with healthy living also transformed him from an academician to a marathon runner.
The first encounter with diabetes in West Africa
Dr Dhaliwal used to often get symptoms of diabetes like fatigue, blood pressure variations and a general sense of unease when he was working as a project manager with an agro-firm in Guinea in West Africa in 2012.
“Initially I used to think it was because of my work stress and heat. I used to take rest for a bit and then resume my work,” he adds.
Dhaliwal stayed there for another year and returned to India where he consulted a doctor who asked him to get a medical check-up and diabetes test done. Dr Dhaliwal recalls, “My fasting blood sugar level was high around 160-170 mg/dL and my Hba1c level was 7.1 at that time. I was immediately put on medication.”
The complications of diabetes
According to Dr Dhaliwal, the biggest complication that he had to face because of his fluctuating blood glucose was sudden fatigue, especially in the middle of his lectures at the university.
“If I took a class and spoke constantly for an hour, I’d start experiencing a lot of exhaustion. I had to sit and relax for some time,” adds Dr Dhaliwal.
Suffering from wounds or blisters on the feet might take time to heal due to diabetes and slow wound healing.
“I started to wear protective shoes all the time since my profession involved a lot of field trips with the students – so as to avoid any chances of getting a cut or bruise in my lower legs,” Dr Dhaliwal adds.
His wife supported him in his diabetes reversal journey and kept track of his diabetes management plan to remind him to follow his routine. “Spending time with my family relieves my stress level,” he adds.
Tackling diabetes with healthy lifestyle
Dr Dhaliwal tells Happiest Health that he follows a simple diet, particularly home-cooked food. He consumes 2 boiled eggs, milk or sometimes curd, along with some nuts like almonds and walnuts and soaked green gram for breakfast. During lunch, he only eats 2 chapatis with vegetable curry. Then, he drinks green tea in the evening. Then, he repeats the same meal of two chapatis and regular vegetable curry or dal for his dinner to tackling diabetes with healthy lifestyle.
He avoids white rice and potatoes and snacks in the evenings. Instead of having three large meals, Dr Dhaliwal opts for small and frequent meals throughout the day and makes sure to drink around 3 to 5 liters of water daily.
Morning walker to marathon runner
As he realized a balanced diet and exercise helped in diabetes reversal, Dr Dhaliwal started doing moderate exercises to stay healthy and tackle diabetes. Based on his doctor’s advice, he started going for a morning walk and slowly started to increase the intensity of the sessions.
“I wake up at 3:30 am every day and go for a morning walk and regular gym in the evening. I also indulge myself in stress-reducing activities such as meditation.”
He slowly intensified his workouts and diet control as he realized that he could reverse his condition if he stayed on track with his health regime.
“To reach my classes, I use the stairs to reach the 7th floor. These small but significant steps help me to stay on track,” says Dr Dhaliwal.
He then set his eyes on participating in a marathon and started training himself for it. Dr Dhaliwal also adds that he used to do weight training at the gym to ensure that he does not lose his muscle weight.
It had been six months since Dr Dhaliwal was taken off his medication.“My recent Hba1c levels are at 5.4 percent, but I still go to the gym, exercise and eat healthily,” he adds.
In August 2023, he participated in his first 5km marathon which he finished in 22 minutes. He has participated in two other 5km marathons since then.
“My next goal is to participate in a 10km marathon,” says Dr Dhaliwal.
Dr Jatinder Singh Dhaliwal (52), a horticulture professor from Punjab, was diagnosed with diabetes as he was a bit relaxed with his diabetes management and was always under the impression that he would not get diabetes because of what he thought was a healthy lifestyle while he was working on an year long project in West Africa. His HbA1c levels were as high as 7.1 percent and he decided to adopt a healthy diet and active lifestyle. In an attempt to bring down his blood glucose , he started waking up at 3:30 am and then going for a 5km walk and run every day. He also started traing at the gym and even discovered that marathon running was one of the best ways to burn calories. He not only took part in a 5K marathon but also managed to bring down his HbA1c levels to 5.4 as in August 2023. He is now training to take part in a 10K marathon in the coming months