I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when I was 35 -- I’m 40 now -- and I have a strong family history of the disease. My late mom had it. Her sister and my two brothers have it, and my brothers have had extensive complications from diabetes.
Hearing what they’ve gone through is scary. After I was diagnosed, I thought: "How can I gain control? How can I keep complications to a minimum?"
During that first year or so, I didn’t have good control of my A1c. I didn’t exercise. I wasn’t active because I thought a pill was going to take care of it. And I was so focused on my A1c, but I didn’t realize the small steps that would help bring that down.
Eventually I met with a diabetes educator, and she really helped me. One of the things that you hear so often is that walking during your lunch breaks or after a meal will bring your blood sugar level down. And I thought, "Let me test and see how true that is." Sure enough, if I got up and walked during my lunch break-- especially since my job involves a lot of sitting-- or walked after work, my blood sugar levels were lower.
So I started walking when I got home. It was not easy. After about 10 minutes, I’d say, "Whew, I’m tired." I live on a long block, and eventually I’d be able to circle the block for 15 or 20 minutes. Then I’d do that a couple of times. Gradually, I worked up to 3 miles a day.
I also started doing 5Ks. I’d speed-walk. The first time, I did it with my oldest daughter. Then my youngest joined in. They are 18 and 16, and are always supporting me and keeping me accountable. It was more like a family event. Now my 16-year-old goes to the gym with me and keeps me motivated. Today I go to the gym three to four times a week and do about 2 and a half miles on the treadmill -- alternating walking and jogging. I also lift weights for about 30 minutes, and I like doing the StairMaster.
I eventually lost weight by eating healthy, watching carbs, and being more active. I still have the last 20 pounds to go, but I’m maintaining my healthy eating and enjoying life.
My A1c is about 6 now, down from 8.7. It took a lot of work to bring it down. And it probably took about 2 years after being diagnosed for me to really commit to being more active, but now it’s part of my lifestyle. I don’t want my daughters to get diabetes. I think about that, and want to show them you have to maintain being active. That’s the key.
It’s really important to start with small, achievable goals. One of mine was just getting out and walking 10 minutes.
I’d look at changes in a 30-day span. If I stuck with it for 30 days, I’d think,
"What’s another small change that’s achievable for me that I can add?" Eventually, all the small changes become part of your normal life.
Get the support of friends. I reached out to my coworkers, and they were all very supportive. Even though they don’t have diabetes, we’re all trying to motivate each other to stay active.
Working with a diabetes educator and a nutritionist really does help, because there are so many pieces to managing diabetes.
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