Can diet, exercise cure Type 2 diabetes? How one woman beat it

As President Joe Biden noted on the steps of the White House when he proclaimed November National Diabetes Month, the disease — particularly Type 2 diabetes — is an American problem that isn’t going away.

According to statistics from the American Diabetes Association, nearly 5,000 people are diagnosed with Type 2 every day, adding up to 34 million Americans — about 1 in 10 — who are currently battling the disease.

“I call on all Americans to join in activities that raise diabetes awareness and help prevent, treat, and manage this disease,” urged the president.

Or, in Jody’s case, reverse it.

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Jody Reid, a mother of three who reversed her Type 2 diabetes through exercise and diet, right, runs with daughter Kaylyn,13, during a fitness class at Roy CrossFit in Roy on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Jody Reid is a 36-year-old mother of three with many diabetic relatives, a sweet tooth, a desk job at the IRS — and a membership to the Roy CrossFit workout gym.

All these factors contribute to her story. One that begins in despair and ends in her joining a rare club of people who once were diabetic, and now aren’t.

Unbeknown to her, Jody’s battle with diabetes began when she was born. A long line of aunts, uncles, grandparents, on both sides, had contracted Type 2 diabetes before her, suggesting a strong genetic disposition to the disease.

Then there’s her affection for sweets. As she puts it, given a choice between kale and a KitKat, “I’ll take the KitKat every time.”

Add in the job she’s held at the IRS since 2006 that requires sitting at a desk for eight hours a day.

If that sounds like a recipe looking for a diabetes diagnosis … well, it was in Jody’s case.

She was just 31 when the doctors warned her she was prediabetic — a danger zone where your sugar level numbers are trending in the wrong direction (it’s estimated 94 million Americans are prediabetic).

In response, Jody joined a gym. She chose a crossfit gym near her home — CrossFit workouts feature high intensity interval training, usually in groups — because her sister, Jenny, had joined a CrossFit gym and “lost a bunch of weight.”

“I thought I’d be able to exercise my way out of it,” Jody says. Plus she’d drop some pounds in the process.

Instead, just the opposite occurred.

Based on someone mistakenly advising her, “If you’re CrossFitting you can eat whatever you want,” before and after workouts she continued to inhale the candy and chocolates she kept stashed in her car’s console.

She gained weight.

Worse, at the beginning of 2019 her blood work revealed she had crossed the line from prediabetic to full-fledged Type 2 diabetes. The doctor sent her home with Metformin, the starter medication often given to new diabetics.

She came to the gym that day sobbing. She found plenty of sympathy, but she also found a stern warning from her coach, Van Aston, who is also a physician’s assistant.

“I get emotional talking about it,” says Jody, “but he just looked at me and he said, ‘You have to take this seriously. This disease kills people every day.’

“That scared me. Nobody had put it that harshly, and I needed it to rock my world. I’d been in denial, avoiding the truth, because it was hard to swallow the pill that I was doing it to myself.”

Shortly after that, the gym sponsored a nutrition challenge. Jody signed up. She was committed with a capital C. She cut out the junk food, she educated herself about proper nutrition and added healthy food to her diet. She drank 100 ounces of water a day. She put in her 10,000 steps. She attended CrossFit classes six days a week.

Her weight plummeted to 160 pounds (she’d been 220 when she joined the gym two years earlier). Her energy returned. She could tie her shoes without having to take a break. When she got in the car there was a big gap between her stomach and the steering wheel.

And those were just the hors d’oeuvres.

In July she went back to the doctor for her six-month checkup.

“They take your blood work and tell you they’ll call the next day if there’s anything to report,” she explains.

The next day her phone rang.

“This cute little nurse said, ‘Your numbers are awesome. You have reversed the Type 2 diabetes. They are so good you’re not even prediabetic any more.’”

After celebrating with her husband and kids, Jody was back at the gym, sobbing again. But this time, instead of sympathy, she received “high-fives, hugs, tears.” The same people who commiserated with her in January celebrated with her in July.

“We did the happy dance,” remembers gym owner Kevin Lundell. “It was a big freakin’ deal.”

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Jody Reid, a mother of three who reversed her Type 2 diabetes through exercise and diet, participates in a fitness class at Roy CrossFit in Roy on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Three years have come and gone since Jody reversed her diabetes. She continues to eat better. She admits she has her lapses. “I’m still addicted to sweets,” she says, confessing to what she calls “a bender” she went on during the holidays last year.

She was relieved when her blood work numbers were still OK after that. “I thought I was doing awful but I think overall my habits are significantly better than the behavior that led to the Type 2 diabetes. The changes and choices I made then influence the choices I make today.

“I’m not perfect, but now I know about nutrition and what I need to do to stay healthy. It’s hard work. It’s not always uphill, it’s not always downhill, but it’s never a straight line.”

Her CrossFit classes remain a daily staple.

“How awesome this CrossFit community is,” she says, “to be surrounded by people who want to be healthier, who want you to be healthier, who cheer you on to do hard things. I’m way healthier in my 30s than I was in my 20s, and happier. It’s easier to live life when you’re feeling better.”

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Jody Reid, a mother of three who reversed her Type 2 diabetes through exercise and diet, is pictured at Roy CrossFit in Roy on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News