Did you know nearly 10% of the US population has Diabetes, including 25% of seniors? If trends continue, 1 in 3 American adults will have the disease by 2050. Look to the person on your left. Now to the person on your right. One of you will be diabetic.
Most of us know someone with diabetes, but we may not realize how serious and dangerous it is. Diabetes contributes to the death of 231,404 Americans each year. If you’re not familiar with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, click here for a quick recap.
In 2008, I had just left my doctor’s office and I was afraid. The message was clear: I was in real danger. Why? Because my body was not using insulin properly and I had just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. While I was completely “freaked,” and quite frankly embarrassed, I realized I needed to make some significant life changes. I live by the motto: "You can't change your past, but you can learn from it and use it to guide your future".
The following 4 steps are exactly what I did to make the changes necessary to reverse the effects that my poor eating habits and lack of exercise had done to my health. I’ll tell you the end of the story first: within 10 months, I was able to come off all diabetic drugs and felt better than I had in years. That was 5 years ago!
1. I made health a priority.
I was very focused on other aspects of my life. I loved work, it was like a good book that I couldn’t put down. However, a heavy work schedule and friend/family commitments were often put before my own health – I knew that had to change immediately. It’s not rocket science - I started prioritizing my health. I learned about what’s good for me and what isn’t, planned my meals and made time for exercise.
2. I cut my sugar intake.
Ok, this seems obvious, but I would have told you that I didn’t really eat much sugar. What I didn’t realize is the many hidden sources of sugar: fast foods, processed food, cereals, breads, baked goods, juices, fruit and soda. I needed a real food education! I took a nutrition class offered by my employer, researched online and read many books. Then I applied what I learned: I made a plan and stuck to it. It’s not that easy and I constantly fight my love for “comfort” food, but I now understand that my choices have real consequences.
3. I started moving.
Sure, I would walk, do an exercise video and ride my bike on occasion, but this wake-up call really made me take exercise seriously. I HAD to exercise so I could burn sugar naturally. A friend asked me to join an organization called Team in Training. This was the perfect opportunity to learn to make running part of my life. It was a great motivator because I was helping others by raising funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I also met new friends with similar interests. This, coupled with other activities that I also enjoy, helped improve my love for exercise over the years. Click here for an article I wrote about my tips for becoming a runner.
4. I took my vitamins.
It seems so simple, right? But, are you taking your vitamins? I was not. Everything I learned - from the nutritionist to my running coach - was that vitamins were a very important step to staying healthy. Of course, the best source of vitamins is real food and good fruits and vegetables. But circumstances may prevent you from eating optimally every day (virtually impossible, if you’re human). The main reason to take supplements is for insurance against gaps in my diet.
If you read my list and thought to yourself, “Wow, that takes a lot of time, effort and money,” remember this: people with diabetes have health care costs 2.3 times higher than those without it AND the disease kills more Americans every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined. The way I feel today vs. the day I walked out of that doctor’s office is worth all the time, effort and money.
Now, it’s your turn to tell your story! Do you have diabetes? Have you made life changes that are helping?