The first steps on a long road

Except for the occasional kidney stone and headache, I’ve been blessed with good health during my half-century on the planet.

Although my diet has not always been the greatest, I have been physically active all my life. In my 20s, 30s and 40s I ran untold miles and even competed in seven marathons. In my late 40s and into my 50s, I switched from running on the roads to cycling on the roads and have completed many century (100-mile) rides.

So suffice it to say when my family doctor told me I had Type 2 diabetes, I was floored. No one in my family that we know has it, and my lifestyle was not prone to getting it. It’s a mystery, but the fact remains I’ve joined the 24 million other Americans who have diabetes. There are another 6 million who are undiagnosed, according to the American Diabetes Association.

I knew something wasn’t right, and now that I understand the symptoms of the disease, it’s clear what was going on. I had some blurred vision, terrible thirst and on bike rides, I would run out of gas, and I mean hit the wall hard, after about an hour. My hands would shake, and I would feel totally spent. My blood sugar was out of balance.

My doctor has given me three months to change the way I live and we hope to control the disease without medication. I know it’s going to be extremely hard; most diabetics end up on medication.

First off, my doctor says I have to get near my high-school weight and lose about 35 pounds. Secondly, I need a much more healthy diet; I have to stop eating the junk that probably put me in this position in the first place. No more fast food, no more skipping meals, no more sweet drinks and an increase in fruits, vegetables and fiber. Managing carbs is the key to diabetes management.

I read labels now when shopping and am surprised to find the amount of carbs that are in our diet that we are not aware of.

I’ve started monitoring my blood sugar and have discovered it varies greatly, mostly on the low end of the scale, throughout the day.

I’ve started an intense exercise routine with walking, biking on my inside trainer and even adding some Wii-Fit routines in the mix. So far, I’ve been able to drop 10 pounds, but it hasn’t been easy. I seem to be hungry most of the time. It’s like a vicious cycle – I exercise to burn calories and carbs to trim up around the middle and increase my hunger, yet I have to be careful to eat in extreme moderation.

I still have a lot to learn about a disease doctors say is one that requires daily attention.

I recently finished two classes offered by Beebe Medical Center about managing diabetes. The instructors were great and offered a greater understanding of how important proper medication, diet and exercise are to controlling a disease that has no cure.

It’s also important to set goals when managing the disease. My goal is to get myself in shape to ride a metric-century (63 miles) in May in the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure near Philadelphia.

I’ve ridden many metric-century and century rides over the past decade, but this one will be special. Go to tour.diabetes.org, click on donate and type in my name to make a donation.

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