Pre-Diabetes: The Big Wake-Up Call

Not many diseases give you a tap on the shoulder and warn you they’re coming. But when it comes to pre-diabetes, you get a second chance – if you’re smart writes Rachel Smith.

If you’ve sat in a doctor’s office and been told you had insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome or blood glucose levels that are too high, there’s a good chance you heard the words pre-diabetes at the same time.

Hopefully, your doctor also said things along the lines of ‘wake-up call’, ‘this is serious’ and ‘last chance saloon’. Because that’s what pre-diabetes is: a final opportunity to knuckle down, start losing weight and make healthier lifestyle choices – or risk the very real possibility of developing type 2 diabetes.

Statistically, a whopping one in four Australians over the age of 25 has either type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. It’s the most common form of diabetes, striking 85 per cent of people with the condition (around 10-15 per cent have type 1 diabetes, an auto-immune condition that’s completely different to type 2). One person in Australia is diagnosed every five minutes.

The Moment of Truth

In a nutshell, type 2 diabetes is a condition that messes with the body’s ability to handle insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and its job is to convert the food we eat into energy. But when you have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, the pancreas can’t produce insulin in the correct amounts, sending glucose levels soaring.

“With pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels aren’t normal but they aren’t as high as one would need for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes,” says Lissa Kirkpatrick, diabetes educator at the Australian Diabetes Council. “Doctors often do a random blood glucose finger prick test. If that’s up over a certain limit one could still diagnose that person as having pre-diabetes without having to go for the fasting glucose test, but it’s up to your GP.”

If you are sent for a fasting glucose test, you’ll be asked to fast overnight and then front up to the lab in the morning for a blood sample. The results of that determine your fasting glucose levels. The second part of the test involves drinking a very sugary drink, resting for two hours and then providing another blood sample. If that glucose level is elevated, you have what’s called impaired glucose tolerance. If both tests are very high you’ve got type 2 diabetes. If test results are a bit elevated but not high enough for a type 2 diagnosis, you’ve got pre-diabetes.

What’s Your Risk?

Your risk is higher if you have a family history. A sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and a spare tyre around the middle are also big red flags.

“As we age, we’re more prone to developing diabetes. The closer the relative, the greater the risk. It’s estimated that people with one parent with diabetes have double the risk, while both parents increase the risk up to six times. Ethnicity is a big factor, and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome or who’ve had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are also at risk,” says Lissa.

A lot of people may have subtle symptoms that they put down to getting older – but if you have any of the risk factors above, don’t put off getting tested. You can check your risk of type 2 diabetes using this online tool:

Four Big Changes to Make Today to Avoid Diabetes

“Prevention is far better than cure – and with pre-diabetes, all is not lost,” says Lissa. “Very small changes can make enormous differences for people sitting on that precipice. When you have diabetes, you’ve gone over that precipice and there’s no going back.”

Here are some quick lifestyle tweaks you can make right now – and in doing these four things, you can reduce your risk of developing diabetes by up to 60 per cent.

  1. Lose Weight
    Studies show that losing just 5-10 per cent of your body weight can make a huge difference. “Obesity leads to insulin resistance, affects your blood glucose, and your blood pressure and cholesterol, making you a sitting duck for heart attack or stroke,” says Lissa.
  2. Overhaul Your Diet
    It’s never too late to start eating a more balanced diet. Start by swapping junk food, fatty meats, sugary treats, takeaways and processed foods for a diet high in fibre, low-GI carbs, legumes, fruit and vegetables.
  3. Move More
    Commit to minimum of 45 minutes of activity on most days of the week. “It doesn’t have to be a lot – a walk at lunch time, taking the stairs instead of the lift, getting up every hour from your desk,” says Lissa. “It’s really tragic but we’re dying because of our chairs.”
  4. Quit Smoking
    It can help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as lowering your risk of developing other major health problems such as heart disease and stroke.

Want proof that you can turn your health around? Read our four amazing 12WBT case studies. These ladies all managed to reverse their pre-diabetes diagnosis after doing the 12 Week Body Transformation.


“In 12 weeks, I reversed my pre-diabetes diagnosis to normal. At first, my doctor didn’t believe me!” Kristine 

“I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes in 2011. I wasn’t hugely overweight – about 10 kilos more than I’d been pre-children – but I ate pre-packaged foods and exercise was non-existent. Being diagnosed was a huge wake-up call. I was also told I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I was only 39, and very scared.

I knew a little about diabetes but not much. There was shock, tears and a whole lot of ‘poor me’, but I decided to do something about it. That’s when I joined 12WBT.

In those 12 weeks, I reached my goal weight and went back for follow-up tests. My doctor actually accused me of falsifying results because all of them – cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose – had dropped so dramatically! I’ve avoided the need for medication entirely.

That was two years ago, and I’m about to start my fifth round of 12WBT. I’m in the best shape of my life. My advice to others who’ve just been diagnosed with pre-diabetes is don’t panic. You CAN fix this. Doing a program like 12WBT gave me the structure I needed to change my eating and exercise habits. It’s worth it to have control of your life back.”


“With two family members living with diabetes, I definitely felt my pre-diabetes diagnosis was a now-or-never moment” Rachel 

Both my mum and my sister have diabetes. We’re Maori, so we have a higher risk – similar as it would be for Aboriginal people in Australia. When I was tested I had a high reading of blood glucose and diagnosed as pre-diabetes. It did scare me to think that I could be heading down the same track as my mum, who has uncontrolled diabetes and almost lost her legs in the early 1990s due to lack of circulation. She lives in constant pain.

My pre-diabetes diagnosis was definitely a ‘now or never’ moment. It took me a few months to decide that I really could make a change and that’s when I came across the 12WBT program on Facebook. I began 12WBT weighing 85.4kg and lost 4.5kg just in the Warm Up! Overall it took me 10 weeks to reach my healthy BMI weight range.

My last glucose reading was better, so I’m on my way to below the pre-diabetes range. So far, diet and exercise are the only known ways of correcting pre-diabetes. Some people want the easy way out but really it’s got to be a lifestyle change initiated by YOU.


“I was never officially diagnosed but I had symptoms that scared me and I know what diabetes can mean.” Helen 

I have been overweight most of my life. I’ve tried every diet, but I think I was a lazy, non-committed dieter and it showed. My mother has type 2 diabetes and had a minor heart attack but that still hasn’t been enough for her to change.

I was visiting her in Brisbane when she did a prick test on me and discovered my blood glucose level was high. I also had symptoms such as thirst, lots of toilet breaks, tiredness, pins and needles, pains in my right leg and swelling. The chance I might have diabetes was enough to scare me into action.

I was 96kg at this point and given my symptoms, my doctor referred me for an impaired glucose tolerance test. The thought frightened me so much that I didn’t go. Instead, I started 12WBT. I knew my weight, eating habits and lack of exercise were to blame. I’m now 80kg and the symptoms have all but disappeared. I have a way to go; I’m hoping to get as close to 65kg as possible.

I’d also like to do the Advanced Lean & Strong program and complete a Half Marathon. I have plans to go back and be tested for diabetes. I’m sure my doctor will be very pleased with my weight loss progress.

I’d suggest to anyone with pre-diabetes or the kinds of symptoms I had to make health your utmost priority. You really need to be ready to change your life forever.


“When the doctor informed me that I had pre-diabetes I was absolutely beside myself.” Maria 

I went to have a check-up because I was putting on weight – even though I live an active life, don’t eat junk food, and avoid alcohol and soft drink. I know about diabetes, because I’m a psychologist and have worked with people who’ve been diagnosed. For me, I wanted to do anything I could to avoid developing diabetes.

I realised through doing the 12WBT that I was eating too much. I was also finding excuses not to exercise. The program and the motivational videos were all vital to me. Since starting, I’ve lost just shy of 10kg and 10cm off my waist. I have another 10kg to lose and I have full confidence in myself that I’ll do it.

I’m turning 57 in two weeks and I feel wonderful. I’m a bit anxious about my next blood test but I’m hoping it’ll be more promising. If there is anyone out there in my position I would recommend this program. It’s about lifestyle changes, understanding what we eat, when we eat and how – and you don’t need to be a health freak to do it. It’s basic, there’s help if you need it and you’ll get there.

You too can turn your lifestyle – and potentially your pre-diabetes diagnosis around. Join 12WBT today and regain control of your health!

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