I knew going into 2016 that it would be a year of big changes. My wife and I had just had our first son, we moved to Atlanta to be closer to family and I was starting a new career. Stressful as they are, I welcomed every one of those changes. Between stepping into the craziness of being a first-time dad and moving away from my whole life as a Bostonian, everything was in a constant state of motion. It was a roller coaster, but one that I loved riding. One change was not planned and it brought the whole ride to a stop. At 35, after a lifetime of perfect health, pushing myself as an endurance athlete, and barely seeing a doctor for any reason, I found out that I am a diabetic.
Before leaving Boston I noticed that I had started losing weight. I’ve been lifting for over 15 years and know my body and metabolism pretty well, but I still didn’t think much of it. Once we were settled in Atlanta I found a new position at a local hospital. During my pre-employment screening more red flags popped up. When I left Boston I was 224 pounds. I weighed in at 201! I didn’t think anything of it when they did a blood screen, figuring it was pretty routine. I also didn’t give it a second thought when the nurse asked if I felt okay, what I ate for breakfast, or if my daily life had changed dramatically. After all the questioning, I wanted to know what my blood results were showing. The nurse told me my blood sugar was at 390 (keep in mind the average person is around 80 to 130). There was no way that my sugar was that high. The nurse instructed me to get one of those over the counter glucometers and do a 12 hour fast and check my levels. I can remember sitting in my car in the driveway staring skeptically at this thing. I did what the nurse told me and when I checked my levels I was at 271. I contacted the nurse to give her the results and she told me I needed to see an endocrine doctor ASAP. After seeing a doctor I was officially diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.
This last year has been all about learning. Everything from learning how to do the math on insulin to the new products coming on the market, every experience was brand new. The biggest change came with my diet. I used to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or chocolate chip cookies without a second thought. Now some of my favorite foods are reserved for very special occasions. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is how extremely lucky I am. My wife made a great meal plan that had dramatic effects on my blood sugar levels. Type-1 Diabetics check their A1C levels by comparing scores every three months. My level started at an 11.5 (well above the 5.5 of the average, non-diabetic person). My amazing wife put together a meal plan that was heavy on healthy, fresh foods and eliminated processed junk. In less than a year my A1C level was down to 5.8!
The year opened with many changes, some expected and some not. A change that was even more unexpected than my diagnosis was that type-1 diabetes would push my fitness to the next level. I have been lifting since high school and have pushed myself in triathlons and in functional style workouts. I have seen a steady increase in the past year to things I wouldn’t have dreamed of just a few years ago. This year I broke huge personal milestones with a 400 lb. squat and a 320 lb. front squat.
Being diagnosed with diabetes made me change my diet, refocus my lifting, and served as a big challenge to push myself farther and harder than ever.
I'll be sharing some of my best tips for eating well, pre and post- workout nutrition and more this month as a part of National Diabetes Awareness Month. Be sure to subscribe!