CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A diagnosis isn’t a be-all end-all. Instead, it can be a new beginning. Just ask Jonna Bishop Bingham.
“I believe it that it was an answer to a prayer,” she says, “God was like, fine, I gave you everything you need to lose weight. So, here's a little push to get you started. And the diagnosis literally changed my life.”
Jonna was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2017. At the time, she weighed 315 lbs. and rarely got up from the couch.
Her average blood sugar level was 400. A healthy blood sugar level is less than 100. All she could do was blame herself.
“I felt like, I let myself go,” she says, “And then crazy enough, the thoughts of I never get to eat spaghetti again. It's just like, this the worst thing that could ever happen.”
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month.
Type 2 diabetes is when your blood glucose, or blood sugar, is too high. The food we eat is converted into glucose. Our pancreas makes a hormone called insulin, which pushes that glucose into our blood cells. Then, our cells use that glucose for energy.
“When you have type 2 diabetes, those working parts of your body are resistant to your body's own insulin. It can't get glucose into the cells. So, it stays in the bloodstream where it goes up. Likewise, the body is not making enough insulin to overcome that resistance. Those two factors together mean the glucose gets high,” says Dr. Adam Spitz, an endocrinologist with Novant Health.
When your blood sugar gets too high, it can damage your blood vessels. It can cause heart disease, stroke, kidney, vision and nerve problems. It isn't exactly clear what causes type 2 diabetes, but it is linked to being overweight and inactive.
So, Jonna made a promise to her son: she’d be healthy by the time she turned 50.
It started with her diet.
“The first thing I did, the only thing I could really think to do, was to switch soda to water,” she says, “Even that was like, could it get any worse? I mean, woe is me. Like, just no more Dr. Pepper? Just please put me out of my misery. But I did it and I had a headache for a couple of days, but I also managed to just knock off 20 pounds without even thinking about it.”
Then, she began cutting out white bread and pasta.
As she lost weight, she felt energized to take on a more active lifestyle.
So, she hit the track.
She started a couch to 5K group with a group of women from church, but in the beginning, she found herself dragging behind the rest of the pack.
“Oh, so painful. It was so painful, and I didn't go very far at all. I'm pretty sure that I could not go 30 seconds. I never realized how long one minute was in my life. One minute might as well been four days,” she says.
That first 15-minute jog was the most incredible feeling in her life.
Then, the jogs turned into 5Ks.
But, it took a lot of tears and accountability to reach that first finish line.
“One thing I did was put the whole thing up there on Facebook,” she says, “I had it in my head that if I don't do this or if somebody sees me out at Tony's ice cream, they're going to be like, didn't you just talk about your sugar level? It caught on, and it worked.”
The before and after pictures are proof. Since then, Jonna has lost 130 pounds.
She’s closing in on her 50th 5K this year, in honor of her 50th birthday. And she has reversed her diabetes.
“That's living proof that working hard at this really can make a difference and reverse the trend,” Dr. Spitz says.
Dr. Spitz says there’s no cure for diabetes, but you can reverse it through diet change and an active lifestyle.
Jonna’s blood sugar has dropped down to below 100.
“If you were to look at my blood work, there is nothing about it that says I'm diabetic. And I don't know if it'll come back if I just go completely, you know, off the diet wagon or whatever,” Jonna says.
She wants you to know, if she can do it - anyone can.
“I think it’s all in the way you look at things. You can either think, OK, I’m going to curl up on my couch and just wait until my turn to go, or I’m going to take charge finally and get yourself together. That’s what I did. I’m very grateful that I went in that direction.”
Jonna is running her 43rd race this weekend.