As a registered dietitian, I knew all about appropriate eating patterns and food's effect on health. As a college professor, I taught others every day about healthy eating. Yet I also loved to cook and loved to eat. Our family activities and interests always seemed to center on food.
Over the years, the extra pounds crept on. I bought clothes in bigger sizes and wore a lot of black to try to hide my increasingly bulging figure. I kidded myself into thinking I was OK, that the weight didn't matter. I was busy and tried to ignore the back problems, sore knees, and fatigue at the end of the day. I avoided seeing a doctor because I didn't want to hear what I knew he would tell me: Lose weight.
Finally, in the fall of 2006, I made that doctor's appointment. The diagnosis: diabetes. I was not surprised. Type 2 diabetes runs in my family, and I was 54 and obese. My knowledge about healthy eating had done me no good; I hadn't practiced what I preached.
I wasn't devastated and upset. I'm competitive by nature, and I wasn't going to let diabetes get the best of me. This diagnosis was the motivation I needed. I knew what to do and set out to do it. My doctor let me have a few months to see if I could get my blood glucose under control without medication.
"Walk more, eat less" became my mantra. Now I was doing all the things I'd always told patients to do. I checked my blood glucose regularly. Keeping it in control became a passion. I measured food portions and kept a faithful log of what and how much I ate and how many grams of carbohydrate it contained. I bought a pedometer to see how many steps I was taking in my sedentary life. I set goals to gradually increase the number to 10,000 a day.
All the things I knew would work, did. The weight began to come off. I felt better than I had in years. By Thanksgiving I'd lost 25 pounds, 38 by Christmas, and by Easter I was down 66 pounds. I'd never been athletic, yet time in the gym became my favorite part of the day. I walked between 12,000 and 16,000 steps daily.
It may sound odd, but being diagnosed with diabetes was one of the best things to ever happen to me! It gave me a whole new perspective on life and opened up activities I'd never thought possible. If I could control my diabetes with diet and exercise, I felt I could do anything.
In the past five years, I've enjoyed sightseeing on foot in Guatemala, Japan, and the Philippines. You see so many things that you'd miss if you just drove by. I've twice hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim, including an elevation climb of 7,000 feet from the canyon floor. Cresting the rim is a triumph impossible to describe. Yes, I'm thrilled with my new life with type 2 diabetes.
Artis Grady is a registered dietitian and associate professor of nutrition and food science at Southern Utah University.