We are thrilled to welcome Prof Gerda Reitsma to the FIRE Diabetes team. Gerda is a Health Professions Educator and Higher Education specialist. She was a full-time lecturer for over 30 years at Northwest University, Potchefstroom, South Africa. She also established the Centre for Health Professions Education in the Faculty of Health Sciences. She has a background in nutrition and food product development, and later developed mentorship programmes for lecturers in higher education. Gerda herself has completed the FIRE journey and it is her passion to help as many people as possible to get their health back.
She is currently an independent higher and health education consultant and has joined the FIRE team to add her expertise and support in developing and presenting the FIRE programme.
Gerda has two adult children, a daughter who is in her final year of food photography and chef training, and a son who is married to the best daughter-in-law a mother can wish for. They are both computer engineers and work as software developers – mom’s go-to for IT help.
We’ve asked Gerda to reflect on her FIRE Diabetes journey. Here is what she wrote:
What is wrong with me? That is a question I have been asking myself for over 30 years, struggling with weight gain and fatigue. I have been on every diet mentionable, torturing myself to lose weight, which I immediately picked up (and more) as soon as I started eating “normal” again. My late husband once jokingly mentioned that I am a miracle, as I hardly eat anything, and still gain weight – according to him I must have had the ability to photosynthesize, as that can be the only explanation.
Energy in = energy out. That was what we believed. So I increased my exercise. Running 10km every morning before work, weekends for 21km. If I stopped for even just a week, I picked up weight. I then joined the gym, nope, no weight loss. Then I started cycling – even completed the Argus. I lost some weight, but as soon as I stopped, the kg’s just crept back on.
What was also strange, and I just could not understand it at that time, was that I felt terrible after exercising. I felt fine for about three hours, but then I crashed. I could not function the rest of the day. These past few years, the tiredness increased. I was 50 but felt older than 80. Weekends were spent sleeping. I struggled to cope with work. I knew something was wrong, but what? Every now and then I will get blood tests done – everything normal, except slightly high cholesterol and fasting blood sugar level. I felt like a failure. What was wrong with me?
And then I saw Doc Stef’s Facebook post about the FIRE Diabetes programme. Diabetes?
I don’t have diabetes? The words that actually caught my attention were BRAIN FOG, LOW ENERGY, FATIGUE. Spot-on descriptions of how I felt. I knew Stef through our shared interest in Interprofessional Education, and I trusted him. I joined the FIRE Diabetes journey and finally got the answer to my question: What was wrong with me? INSULIN RESISTANCE.
The FIRE journey required a total paradigm shift. I had to unlearn everything I knew and believed about food and health. The principles and rules that I learned in my undergraduate nutrition courses were out of the door. In the beginning, I was very uncomfortable with the new approach to food choices and cooking, but I trusted the FIRE team. Once I understood the science behind the FIRE approach, there was no going back. I constantly had to defend the FIRE approach in conversations with family, friends, and colleagues. Nobody believed that it will work. I proved them wrong. The constant support and encouragement from the FIRE team and other participants played a huge role in keeping me motivated and on the right track.
It is now 14 months since I started with FIRE Diabetes. I got my life back. I feel 20 years younger, have tons of energy, lost 20kg, lowered my cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and am in control of my health again. The journey was not always easy, and it is still ongoing as I am not yet where I can say I am completely healthy. The FIRE way is a way of life. The FIRE family is my family. To anyone joining this programme – you made the best health-changing decision in your life.