Dr Ketan Rahalkar talks about how he manages his Diabetes and how yoga and meditation have made him strong willed and focussed person. He shares his story with Sunila Kelkar.

Name: Dr Ketan Rahalkar

Age: 59 years

Profession: General surgeon

The journey so far…

I'm born and brought up in Mumbai. I have come up the hard way to be where I'm today. I have worked for NHS in England for 30 years. I returned to my hometown in 2022 and currently I am working in Mumbai.

I also got into spirituality and meditation that really helped me stabilise my hands as I used to have hand tremors. I have done various other courses that have helped me stay positive and more focussed in life. I also do Yoga every day for the last 15 years. Yoga and meditation have really helped me stay positive and fit in life.

Before my diagnosis

I have a sweet tooth and I used to consume sugar in excess. I would smear my chapattis with sugar and ghee. Jalebi, sweets and milk product were my weaknesses. My mother also had Diabetes and she was diagnosed at the age of 60. I was diagnosed with Diabetes five years ago at the age of 54. Every year I used to do a routine check-up. Maybe I was a

pre-diabetic at the time because my fasting was 110 mg/dl but I think that was considered normal back then. Once I was diagnosed with Diabetes I left sugar completely. Also I use to feel tired but never focussed on it much as work commitments kept me on my toes. So I could never pinpoint that I may have Diabetes.

Vikram Raghuvanshi

Dealing with the diagnosis

On being diagnosed with Diabetes it did have an impact on my family, especially my daughter who kept worrying that she has got all my genes and will eventually get Diabetes in the future. She also has a sweet tooth. But I have told her many times that as eating too much salt may cause blood pressure eating excess sugar very likely can cause Diabetes especially with positive family history. After my diagnosis, my family and I have really modified our lifestyle and diet habits to stay fit. In addition, we do Yoga every day for physical and mental health.

I also had to take special efforts in altering my lifestyle completely. Giving up sweets was the most difficult thing to do. Also giving up my favourite fruits like mangoes, grapes, banana, chickoo and pineapple was tough. But I substituted it with apples, pear, peach, guava and plum. I also have dry fruits. Raisins (dried and fresh) are something I like so I have them regularly. I ensure that I have at least two fruits day. I was on treatment when I was diagnosed 2 years ago and for the next year and half I took my medicine regularly. My blood sugar level post meal was more than 160 and fasting used to be around 120. But by following a strict diet and fitness regime I was able to go off medicine; and for the past 6 months I have been able to manage my blood sugar levels with diet and exercise only. My fasting sugar now is 80 and the post lunch is 140. My Hb1ac level is 6.2.

My fitness regime

Despite my busy schedule I work out on the treadmill (speed 5.5.-6) every alternate day for half an hour. After my workout I have 2 glasses of water followed by a glass of coconut water. On other days, I do Yoga, Pranayama, Bhastrika and Om chanting, sudarshan kriya and few other yogic exercise. I also do abdominal exercises for 20 minutes every day and these exercises have become a part of my daily routine.

My diet

I need only 4 hours sleep at night. I wake up at 4.30 am and have two glasses of warm water. I do meditation for one hour. I have my breakfast at 8.30 am. My breakfast includes eggs thrice a week because I need something filling in the morning. On the remaining days I have a bowl of diet Kellogg, which is meant for people with Diabetes or chappati and sabzi. I also have a cup of tea without sugar. Till my lunch time which at 1.00 pm I don't eat anything in between, I only have 4 glasses of water. I usually prefer not to snack between meal times as I lose my appetite before the next meal. So I refrain from eating or drinking (tea or coffee) before lunch. Also, at times my colleagues force me to snack in between but I refrain from doing so. My lunch time is fixed (1.00 pm), unless I'm busy attending patients, and consists of small portion of brown rice, one bowl of sabzi which is usually a green leafy vegetable, a bowl of vegetable salad (onion, tomato, cucumber) and 1 cup curd. My wife uses olive oil for cooking and has been using the same since past 5 years. I eat equal amount of everything so that I don't consume excess rice. In short, I eat a balanced meal. By 4.00 pm I have cup of tea without sugar with a toast or 4 biscuits. My dinner is by 8.30 pm and I have 2 chapattis a bowl of vegetable and a cup of coffee to wind up my day.

My inspiration

My wife really takes a lot of effort with regards to my diet. So seeing her dedication towards my well-being makes me conscious of what I should eat and what I should not. Even when I go for conferences she keeps reminding me to watch my diet and not eat any sweets. Also, I have always taken my life seriously since childhood. I cannot live like a kite which  has no direction. I value my life and I have come to this position that I'm in today, the hard way. So I want to continue being  active so that I can look after myself first. Only when I achieve that I can look after my family well as well as my patients.

I firmly believe that this life that we live is god's gift to us and we should value it. I don't want to be handicapped by frequent illnesses; and I pray each day that I don't suffer from a paralytic stroke or a heart attack and be dependable on people. Living a pitiable life is something I fear; as long as I live I want to live well and be independent. Having a good quality of life is my major driving force to stay healthy.

My Advice

Despite having a sweet tooth I stopped my medications six months back. I just check my fasting, post prandial (after meal) every week; and for the last 6 months my blood sugar levels have been completely normal. So the first thing I feel that is absolutely essential is strict diet control. Diet control does not imply that you have to punish yourself, I personally feel that if you can manage to resist temptation for 90 days then you really never feel that you are missing out on something. People only have a problem when they cannot resist the temptation for a continuous period. As a result of which their cycle breaks and their diet goes for a toss. The second thing is regular exercise. Your fitness regime should be such that you push your limits. A stroll in the park does not qualify as an exercise. You need to burn more calories than you consume. Finally, practising Yoga and meditation is important as it controls stress level, which is one of major risk factors for Diabetes. So in short, diet control, exercise and Yoga are main the pillars in managing your Diabetes well.

Also, Diabetes is not a disease which is dangerous or life-threatening if you look after yourself well. The only way to conquer Diabetes is to be strict in terms of diet and exercise. Most people have a lax attitude and eat sweets and then defend themselves by saying that their anti-diabetic medication will help them manage their sugar. That's not correct. If you can manage your Diabetes just on diet and exercise, then you have won half the battle. Yes, it is necessary to take medications if diet and exercise alone don't work. But if you are strict then I think you can go off medication gradually. Medicine should help you control your blood glucose levels and not be used as a resort to indulge in your favourite food.

Vikram Raghuvanshi
Diabetes Health Magazine