By: Carolyn Leonard
I remember the call from the doctor’s office two weeks after a long overdue annual physical. I sat in the examining room expecting to hear the usual “lose weight” diagnosis. I had been feeling tired and had been making more than a few daily trips to the bathroom. But in spite of the fact that my grandmother, father, cousin, and brother all suffered from type 2 diabetes, I was not prepared for my doctor’s stern warning: My sugar had been totally out of control for several months. I needed to adjust my diet and lifestyle immediately. I was a 40-year-old chocoholic and totally calorie clueless. I also weighed 255 pounds. The doctor prescribed an oral medication and told me that monthly visits for testing would now be required. I thought, OK, I can do this.
My father and grandmother were definitely not the greatest role models. Their idea of compliance was to eat anything and everything and simply take an extra pill. I followed in their footsteps and did not change my diet or add exercise.
Eventually, a second oral medication was added, and that was quickly followed by a blood pressure medication. My lifestyle was affecting my health, but it didn’t bother my husband, Richard, so it didn’t bother me.
My grandmother and cousin both lost their eyesight and my father suffered kidney damage. In the end, diabetes contributed to their deaths. I continued to wear blinders, however, and ignored all of the signs that my health was deteriorating. Walking became painful, so we added a fourth medication to my daily “fix it” pharmaceutical therapy.
In April 2005, Richard and I decided to lose weight. He was not feeling well, so we started walking and reading labels. By October 1st, he had lost 30 pounds and I had lost 25 pounds. We prepared to go on vacation to celebrate his birthday and our 35th wedding anniversary.
On the morning of October 6, 2005, as Richard prepared to leave for work, he turned to tell me that he loved me. I responded and then heard him fall. He died in my arms before the paramedics arrived. He had suffered a massive heart attack. Our unhealthy lifestyle had contributed to his untimely death.
I spent three months in a fog. I carried two post-it notes that read “breathe in and out” and “brush hair and teeth.”
Then I decided that I needed to continue with what we had called our “new menu.” I read labels and cut out junk foods. I also kept walking. I was never a fan of gyms, and at the age of 55, I did not want to start an exercise program that I could not continue.
Today, I’m 58 years old and I weigh 152 pounds. I have lost the weight through proper nutrition and walking, without special foods or expensive equipment. I walk 30 minutes per day. When I go shopping, I park at the back of the lot or at the end of the mall opposite from my favorite store. My daily calorie intake averages 1200 even though I DO indulge in a “treat” once or twice a week. With all of the sugar-free and healthy options available, it is easy to do.
The hard part is getting started and doing it. The best part is that I’ve been off all medications for over a year, and my blood sugar and blood pressure are within normal range. My doctor calls me her poster child. When I’m asked “What size do you want to be?” I tell people that I am not focused on a size on a clothing label, but I am focused on the numbers on the blood glucose monitor and the blood pressure cuff.
It took the death of my husband to convince me to make the change. Don’t wait for the death of a loved one to be your catalyst-just do it.