In 2012, when a blood sugar test revealed that Lucia Grimaldo Shiffer was pre-diabetic, her doctor recommended she lose weight. At 5’1” and 172 pounds, Shiffer knew he was right, so she focused on eating veggies and low-fat protein—and dropped nearly 25 pounds in the process. “But my glucose wasn’t improving,” says 55-year-old Shiffer, a retired rehab counselor in San Jose, Calif. The normal range for fasting blood sugar is between 70 and 100, but Shiffer’s was registering at 300. Then, in April 2014, she received the news she’d dreaded: She officially had diabetes. “I was terrified because I’d watched my mom struggle with it my whole life,” Shiffer says. “She went to the ER numerous times because of low blood sugar, and one time wound up in a diabetic coma. She didn’t do a good job of managing her illness, and I knew how dangerous that could be.” Shiffer’s doctor gave her the standard lecture about diet: no chocolate, no fast food, no soda. “I got really mad,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I can’t tell you the last time I had fast food.’ In hindsight, getting upset was a good thing because I felt challenged to prove him wrong.”
So Shiffer enlisted the help of a nutritionist, who asked her to track her diet for a week, enabling her to identify a surprising problem. “She told me I needed to eat more regularly throughout the day. For instance, I was eating dinner at 5 and going to bed at 11—I was going too long without food,” Shiffer says. “So I started eating a handful of nuts at 8, which helped my blood glucose stay on an even keel.” Shiffer also began doing yoga and walking two miles most days of the week. These healthy moves, combined with her new diet and medication, helped her lose another 16 pounds. “I feel strong now—and I look good, too,” she says. Since her diagnosis, Shiffer has learned that several family members have diabetes. “No one ever talked about it [in my family],” she says. “Diabetes is scary, but you have a choice: Manage your disease or let it manage you. If you control it, it doesn’t have to govern your life.” “If it weren’t for diabetes, I don’t think I’d feel as good as I do today. It took a health scare to get me to see that what I thought was healthy wasn’t.” If it weren’t for diabetes, I don’t think I’d feel as good as I do today. It took a health scare to get me to see that what I thought was healthy wasn’t.