Radio Star Mike Golic Talks About His Type 2 Diabetes
Mike Golic understood his body. He had to. For nine years he played defensive tackle for the Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Miami Dolphins—and that required a mastery of his own physique. So he fine-tuned it like a machine, trained hard, and pushed himself on the field.
It remained predictable even after he retired from the National Football League and joined cohost Mike Greenberg on what is now their nationally syndicated radio show and ESPN talk show, Mike & Mike in the Morning. Then, when he was 42 years old, things changed.
A routine blood test led to a type 2 diabetes diagnosis—and a body that suddenly felt out of whack. Instead of floundering, Golic learned as much about his diabetes as he could. Now 48, he has a handle on his diabetes and wants to make sure other people with the disease do, too. Diabetes Forecast chatted with Golic about his family history of diabetes, how he overhauled his lifestyle, and the low blood glucose episode that changed his perspective on diabetes.
Tell me about your diagnosis.
In my post-football career in the media, I started having yearly checkups. About half a decade ago, I'm at the doctor getting the blood work done and he says, "You know, you have type 2 diabetes." I had none of the warning signs: the tiredness, the frequent urination, all that. When I was diagnosed, I was a little surprised because while I was heavy and overweight for what I should have been, I wasn't 400 pounds. I had the misconception, like maybe some other people do, to think that it's only for people who are 400-some pounds, unbelievably obese, [who] get this. All of a sudden, when you're diagnosed with it, you really start to find out, get yourself educated on it.
When you were diagnosed, were you familiar with diabetes because your father also has it?
My dad came from an era where there weren't a lot [of medical problems] talked about. It's certainly different now, because with my kids we talk about everything. But that was the way it kind of was back then. We knew he had it, but he had his routine. He checked his blood, he did his insulin. He did what he had to do and he did it all by himself. It wasn't really broadcast in the family, but we knew it was always there.
Have you taken the same approach as your father, or do you talk about your diabetes?
My way was to be very open about it. I have two boys that are large football players as well, so it's about the education process at this point. . . . They know exactly what [medications] I'm taking. They know what the deal is. They understand it, as much as a 21- and a 20-year-old are going to. But they know what Dad has and they know Dad's dealing with it. And they know their grandpa had it. They know it may be in their future as well. They're smart kids. Since this is the age of instant access and instant information, they know how to get knowledgeable about something as well.
I'm happy I have a forum for four hours every day, which is a sports show, obviously. But our lives come into play on this sports show as well. I get to talk about my life, and this is part of it.
What was your initial reaction to your diabetes diagnosis?
It was just like when I was playing [football]. You had to be disciplined to play at the highest level, which was the NFL, which I was fortunate enough to be in. That's the first thing I told my doctor when I was diagnosed with this. I said, "Tell me what I need to do. Tell me what I need to do to manage this. Tell me what I need to do to [get] where I can cut back on my medication. Tell me what I need to do to be successful." And he told me, and I did it. Now, that doesn't mean that every single visit I have to my doctor is perfect. Sometimes the numbers are a little worse. The last time I went the numbers were fantastic. So it is about changing up. And it was what I ate, when I ate it. And it was [exercising].
What was your lifestyle like before the diagnosis?
I had been out of the game for a while.
I'm a man, so when I finished playing I was probably between 290 and 300 pounds. I basically said, "When I'm done playing, I'm done working out," because I was so tired of working out. So I really stopped any physical activity. I ate very poorly. And I ballooned up a lot.
How do your eating habits now differ from what they used to be?
Quite honestly, I ate a lot of what I was eating when I was playing. Not so much what I was eating, but how much. You have a bowl of cereal; I'd have two. If you had a sandwich for lunch, I'd have two. And it just got away from me to now where it's not only how much I'm eating but what I'm eating.
My wife has a lot of vegetables around the house. A lot of different things: a lot of grains that we eat, the spinach, the asparagus, the peppers. We do a lot of the chicken and fish.
Listen, I can't sit here and say I have the perfect eating habits. I don't. You know, every now and then, I'm not going to lie, I enjoy a doughnut and I'm going to eat it. It's football season, what goes along with that? Buffalo wings. But instead of having 15 of them, I'll have a few of them. It's more moderation.
Not only did you go on metformin and improve your diet, but you got more exercise. How did you add more of that to your day?
That's the one thing I was good at because I'd done it all my life. But what I did a lot was weight lifting. Now, I still do some of that, but I don't need to lift as heavy as I did. I'll lift lighter and more reps to kind of get a little cardio in there as well. Instead of heavy weights for a few reps and take a break in between, I'll go quicker through a weight workout to get my heart pumping as well. And I do more running. That's a little tougher. My body's been beat up football-wise, but as I'm losing weight the running obviously comes easier. It's less stress on my knees. My wife is very active and she gets my butt out there and working, so the cardio part of it has really picked up a lot.
Being a professional athlete you were always in tune with your body. What was it like to have it acting uncharacteristically or in an unexplainable way?
It was odd because your body is your temple, and my body was my livelihood. Here I am, working out, running so I'm in tip-top shape to play football, which is my job. This is what's putting food on the table for my family. [Diabetes is] obviously hereditary with my father some, but [with] me slacking off with the food and the weight gain, I did some of this to myself. [I said to myself], "Now you need to find out what you need to do to manage this." But for a life of using my body for my craft, it's very hard to see your body have something that you now have to deal with.
Is there a time when you felt most unsure of your body?
You associate certain things with diabetes. With diabetes, I associate high blood sugar. It was, "OK, you have diabetes, lose weight, get in shape." So I go into athlete mode, and there I am in the gym and I didn't eat because I'm trying to lose weight—dumb—and then I'm working out like crazy. All of a sudden, I'm getting the shakes, the sweats, heart rate's going up. I'm like, "What the heck's going on?"
The athlete in me kicked in and said, "Push through it. Push through pain like you did when you played. Just push through this. It's nothing." And the symptoms got worse, and I realized I had low blood sugar. So I had to sit and eat something and relax until everything kind of came back. I immediately went to the doctor to talk about that. He told me that excessive workouts [and] medications can cause it. He told me about not eating or eating at the right time can cause it.
How'd you react to that low blood glucose episode?
After the low blood sugar incident, I make sure I've eaten. I make sure I'm fueled. Again, it was a dumb move on my part, not eating. You've got to have fuel in your body. Just like a ca
I can't lift the weights or the way I lifted when I was playing, and when you first get out of football you think you can still do all that. So there has to be the realization: I can't do that anymore. I need to be smarter about it. I need to be fueled. I need to work out hard, but be careful and keep an eye on how I feel as I'm working out. There's definitely more thought process than before I was diagnosed, when you grab a gym bag and you go destroy yourself in the weight room.r needs gas, your body needs the fuel.
You're a proponent of people with diabetes taking time to learn about their disease. Why's it so important?
I remember when I went through my low blood sugar episode. I realized I don't know enough about this. I was trying to read about it and certainly I had my doctor. Sometimes you think you know more than you really know. And I didn't know enough. . . . I leaned on my doctor for education, about what to look for, how to go about eating, working out and all of that.
I became educated and that was then, and that's why now I wanted to get involved in the Blood Sugar Basics program. I'm talking about it to educated people. I think that's the biggest thing you can do now is educate yourself on what's going on. You get books, you know, Diabetes for Dummies. Whatever those books are. You try and get yourself educated on it as best you can. But we're in the age now of the Internet. We're in the age now of instant access to things, so I think people today have such a great aid in their hands.
Blood Sugar Basics, the program you're supporting alongside the American College of Endocrinology and Merck, focuses on education. What is it and why is it important?
With the Blood Sugar Basics program, it's just that: blood sugar basics. It gives you the basics. You can go to this website and you can understand what you're reading. Understanding is the key. It's just like studying for a test. The more prepared you are, the better you're going to do on a test. I don't mean to make it that simplistic, but knowledge is key. I didn't have it and I didn't use it enough to my advantage. And now here's a tool that people can use.
What's one of the most important things you've learned over the past six years with diabetes?
I think it's getting the relationship with your doctor. It can be heady. You're told you have this, and there are so many things [to understand], from the sugar levels to cholesterol to different numbers. All of a sudden they're talking about we need this number here, this number here, this number here. At first your head is swimming, saying, "Wow, this is a lot to know." It's having that relationship with your doctor who can put it to you. And, I think, talk to your doctor and say, "Doc, give it to me in layman's terms. Tell me what I need to do. Tell me what this means." Make sure before you leave that office you understand everything he said or she said about what needs to be done. To me, that's one of the biggest things—that relationship. And then get all of the information you can.