Diabetes and exercise: A powerful combination

The biggest factor for me in taking control of my Type 2 diabetes has been making moderate physical exercise – primarily walking – a part of my daily life. While changing what I eat has certainly helped that effort along – it takes less effort for my body to burn off smaller amounts of food than it did when I used to binge eat with every meal – it’s the regular exercise that has made the biggest difference. Alongside eating less, getting exercise in daily makes it easier for my body to metabolize food without boosting my blood glucose levels in response.

This video describes an annual public service campaign aimed at increasing both blood glucose testing and short amounts of daily activity for diabetics of all kinds, including Type 2. Next month, November, is National Diabetes Month and diabetics of all kinds, from all around the world will participate in the Big Blue Test to prove – to themselves, their followers, and the folks who love them.

If you or a loved one are diabetic, please see this link for more information about how you can take part.

Exercising for diabetes control: Doing something scary

This time last year, I was dealing with pre-race jitters and preparing for my first duathlon. Tomorrow morning, I’ll complete my second duathlon and, while my preparation has been lackluster at best, I’m in a very different place than last year.

I remember being absolutely terrified that I either wouldn’t finish the event or would finish dead last. This year I have some of those same thoughts but they dissipate when I focus on what’s really important.

What’s important:

  1. My health & happiness – my blood work is amazing, my endocrinologist doesn’t want to see me again unless something changes, I’m being fitted for my permanent dentures next week because the dentist is finally satisfied that we’ve saved my remaining teeth, my life is generally filled with things that interest and energize me, and I have so much energy that even a really tough day at work doesn’t leave me wanting to bury myself in a hole and sleep for a week.
  2. My family – TCB and I have never been happier, I spend plenty of time with my mom and dad, and all five of the kids are doing well for themselves.

What’s not important:

  • The opinions of 899 women I’ve never met and who have no idea who I am, where I’ve come from, or how fabulous my life is.

So, if I have to walk more of the second running leg than I’d planned, who cares? If I’m the last person into the Transition area after the run and the last one back in after the bike, who cares? TCB and Candace will be at the finish line, waiting for me, and there will be yummy brioche French toast and Deep Stretch yoga class afterwards. It’s approximately 90 minutes of my life and I will survive – how else should a 47 year old with a full-time job, a husband, five kids, two grandkids, laundry to fold, and a house to clean look at an endurance event on a single day in the middle of an amazingly happy life?

A 3-mile morning walk – not a bad way to start my 48th year! #HappyHealthyMe

A post shared by Denise Elliott (@lottalatte) on

Happy Sunday (by the time you read this), friends!

Not an athlete

I was in a Weight Watchers meeting this morning when I had one of those annoying “a-ha” moments. It wasn’t my normal, early Saturday morning meeting because I walk/jogged a 4 mile event to honor Pat Tillman, an American football player who quit the NFL to enlist in the Army after the events of September 11, 2001. I was feeling pretty good because I was down just over 5 pounds from two weeks prior when I weighed in and I gained weight the two weeks prior to that.

The meeting leader, Marie – who also leads my normal meeting, started the class off by recognizing two women who walked their first 5K event the week prior, then turned to me and asked what event I’d participated in earlier. I told her about the Tillman run and then she turned to the group and said, “I knew she’d been at an event this morning because Denise is so athletic – she even plans her vacations around different outdoor events she wants to participate in.” I couldn’t help myself: I laughed out loud.

Me, an athlete? The girl who was always picked last for every sport in Phys Ed in school? The one who has to find exceptionally flat routes to ride my bike because my legs are so weak that my bike barely moves at all when I have to go up a hill? I can’t even manage to run an entire 5K nor plank on my toes – I am hardly an athlete!

Marie saw my incredulity and said, “Why don’t you tell everyone why you’re laughing, and while you’re at it, tell them what you’ve accomplished since last February?” And I was instantly transported back 15 months in my head, to the day I started on Project: Happy/Healthy Me in earnest.

  • It was uncomfortable to walk 15 minutes on the treadmill at the gym even though my speed was so slow that I was able to read an electronic book at the same time
  • I hadn’t been on my bike in over a year
  • I drove my car everywhere and got angry with TCB if he ever dared suggest that we might walk to the nearby shopping center because I knew it was uphill from our house and I didn’t want to get sweaty

I shared a little of that with the class, then listed some of the things I’ve done since then:

  • Walk for 60 minutes most mornings, usually covering 3 miles, over a very hilly route
  • Finished a Sprint Duathlon last October, including a 12 mile bike ride sandwiched between two running sessions
  • Completed a 5K event every month, either in person or virtually
  • Started taking twice-weekly Pilates Reformer classes and progressed from being able to do approximately 25% of the moves without modification to doing about 70% as outlined by the instructor
  • Formed a walking group at work that covers 1-2 miles a day
  • Began taking the stairs at work, even when my destination is 4 floors above me
  • Choose a local shopping center to walk around every week with TCB
  • Carry reusable bags and walk to do all of our grocery shopping; we also walk to dinner every night

As I spoke I realized that, while I’ll never be at the front of the pack in any of the events I participate in, I can definitely be accurately described as a physically active person, and that feels amazing.

this is what active looks like
this is what active looks like

Project Me: December and 2013 reviewed

My only goal for December was to make an appointment with my therapist to deal with my anxiety and the binge eating, binge shopping, and horrible obsessive/compulsive behaviors that accompany it. I saw my therapist at the beginning of December and just talking to her made things inside my head a lot more calm. She asked me to keep track of my moods, particularly when I’m feeling more anxious than usual, so that we can isolate any common triggers. We also talked about letting things just be and challenging my constant need for order with the thought, “What would happen if I just left that mess over there? Will anyone be hurt? Why do I care what others think?” I’m doing more of both of those behaviors and definitely feel less anxious than I was before our appointment. I’d like to follow up with her next month but my work schedule is a little insane in January, so we’ll have to see.

This being the last day of the year, I’m also going to take this opportunity to review how I did with my goals for 2013, which were:

  • fasting blood sugar reading below 130 mg/dL – done and dusted; my fasting blood sugar readings this time last year were hovering near 200 (very dangerous) and now they are consistently below 100 and usually closer to 90. [Clinical recommendation for diabetics is fasting/pre-meal readings between 70 and 130, so I’m right in the middle.]
  • triglycerides reading less than 150 mg/dL – done; last time I had blood work done, my triglycerides were below 100 without any medication, so I’m thrilled by that. [Clinical recommendation for diabetics is triglycerides of under 100, so I’m in the clear here.]
  • body weight at or below 169 pounds (putting me into the Overweight category on BMI scale)  – as of this morning, I weigh 167 pounds with 37% body fat, for a BMI of 29.6, officially Overweight. I weighed in on February 1st of this year at 244 with 49% body fat and a BMI of 43.2, officially Morbidly Obese. [I still have 27 pounds to lose in order to be within the Normal weight range for my height.]
  • waist measurement of not more than 39 inches – this was the goal I was most concerned about. At the beginning of the month I still had 1-1/2 inches to go and that just didn’t seem achievable to me. I wrapped the tape measure around me this morning and told myself it would be OK if it wasn’t 39 inches or less. I mean, seriously, look at eveyrthing I’ve achieved this year, so if I miss on one out of five, that’s not too bad. I checked in the mirror to make sure the tape was straight, squeezed my eyes shut while I exhaled deeply, then looked down to see the tape end directly below the big “39”, and I cried – I hit it perfectly. I have lost 14 inches from my waist since February. I know it shouldn’t matter so much to me, but it does. It really, really does. So damn proud. [Clinical recommendation for a healthy woman is a waistline measurement of less than 32-1/2 inches, so I’ve got quite a way to go to get there but I am SO MUCH CLOSER than this time last year.]
  • an improved quality of life as perceived by me – this was my “wild card” goal for the year. There is no quantitative measure to show how much my life overall has improved but here are some important (to me) data points:
    • I’ve made it a point to schedule time with my parents every other month in 2013 and have already set up monthly get-togethers for the first four months of 2014. My life is better when I stay connected with my family.
    • TCB and I have taken more vacations together this year than in any previous year of our relationship. While it’s nice to be able to travel on my own, when we do things together, everything just feels more “right”. We have both scaled back on our volunteer obligations and spend more time together being active every day instead of running around like crazy people trying to fit everything and everyone else in. If it doesn’t tie back to our goal of making and maintaining a happy, healthy family then it goes to the bottom of the list. (And we’re OK when we don’t get anywhere close to the bottom of the list most weeks.) We have subscriptions to two local theater companies and have attended five live productions since October, including one last Sunday.
    • I still fight with my depression but not as much as in the past. I recognize it when it comes much faster than I used to so that I can start to deal with it, and once that’s happened it’s well on its way out.
    • I stopped ignoring my dental problems, had 15 teeth extracted (that’s half of them), and am now on a schedule of regular dental exams and cleanings.
    • I walk a 5K before breakfast, five days a week. I take Pilates Reformer classes twice a week. This year I completed a Sprint Duathlon, Couch to 5K, at least one 5K event every month, and I started a group at work that walks two miles every afternoon.
This is the face of a happy, healthy woman!
This is the face of a happy, healthy woman!

Twenty-thirteen has been an amazing year of becoming happier and growing stronger, and for the first time since 1998 I won’t start the new year with dread and the knowledge that I still need to do something about my weight. It’s funny: once I stopped worrying about the weight and put the focus on my health, everything in my life improved.

I’m going to get off of the computer very soon until next year, so I’ll share my Project Me goals for 2014 in a separate post. Tell me, though, how did you do in 2013 with your healthy living goals and what will you do more of or differently in 2014?

Workout Wednesday: December 11

Exercising with Good Housekeeping by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

My newest exercise obsession is mall walking. TCB and I head to one of our many large, local shopping malls after breakfast on Sunday and walk at least one lap of every square inch. We sometimes stop at stores that catch our eye and sometimes not. (We usually do, especially this time of year.) It makes a really nice change from solitary power walking and is something both of us enjoy, so it contributes to our happy marriage, too. Bonuses!

What did I do this week?
Wednesday – 2.9 mile walk around the neighborhood (15,162 steps)
Thursday – 2.92 mile walk around the neighborhood in the morning plus four laps on the walking path at work (18,491 steps)
Friday – Four laps on the walking path at work, plus Pilates Reformer class (15,961 steps)
Saturday – An hour on the treadmill at the gym and nothing else (11,911 steps)
Sunday – 2.68 mile walk in the neighborhood, mall walking, plus Pilates Reformer class (16,437 steps)
Monday – Four laps on the walking path at work (11,833 steps)
Tuesday – 3.49 mile walk in the neighborhood plus three laps on the walking path at work (20,501 steps)

Another contributing factor to my increased step count is that I’ve got Outlook reminders set for 55 minutes after every hour that I’m at work, to remind me to get up and walk a lap on the inside of our building. On a good day, that’s at least eight laps. Not only is it good for my physical fitness but I’m sure it will help with the eye strain I sometimes get when we get crazy at work and I never, ever leave my desk and laptop.

What is your favorite way to get some healthy exercise in during the hectic holidays?

Workout Wednesday: December 4 (late)

Exercising with Good Housekeeping by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

It’s sort of crazy to me how natural it is for me to get up and walk for a hour in the mornings now – I don’t really think about it, I just do it. Same with my afternoon walks at work. When did I become such an active person? I’m still planning to give jogging another try in the new year but at least in the meantime I’m burning plenty of calories (and, more importantly, glucose) through exercise!

What did I do this week?
Wednesday – 2.11 mile walk around the neighborhood (15,263 steps)
Thursday – 5K Thank You walk in the morning and not a whole lot more all day! (11,675 steps)
Friday – 3.18 and 4.09 mile walks in the neighborhood plus Pilates Reformer class (24,001 steps)
Saturday – 7.23 mile bike ride and 2.77 mile walk in the neighborhood (18,476 steps)
Sunday – 3.13 mile walk in the neighborhood, five rounds of mall walking, plus Pilates Reformer class (21,053 steps)
Monday – 3.18 mile walk in the neighborhood plus four laps on the walking path at work (22,530 steps)
Tuesday – 3.06 mile walk in the neighborhood plus three laps on the walking path at work (17,006 steps)

I didn’t get in as much activity on Thanksgiving Day as I’d planned but I’m still really pleased with my exercise for the week. I started the year off happy if I hit 7,000 steps a day and now I’m averaging over 18,000 steps a day, which is a huge part of keeping my blood sugar under control. I’ve found that while eating less is important for my weight loss efforts, it’s my daily commitment to being active that plays the biggest role to improve my health as a diabetic. Not sure if that’s true for everyone but that’s what works for me.

If you are in the United States, how did your Thanksgiving Day work out? If you’re outside the US, what are you doing to make the holidays both happy and healthy this year?

Workout Wednesday: November 20

Exercising with Good Housekeeping by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

This week was a strange one for me, activity-wise. Our walking program at work kicked off a challenge that required participants to increase their step count by 7,000 from their prior week’s total. That’s only 1,000 more steps a day, so not too bad. For me, though, I’d just kicked off a pretty serious increase in my walking so my base level was already higher than my normal and adding 7,000 more steps was no easy feat. (Prior week’s step count was ~130,000 and my goal for the past week was therefore ~137,000.) It felt as though I was constantly walking or figuring out how to get more steps in during the day. I had a flare up of Plantar Fasciitis midway through the week, too, so the temptation to bag it was strong, but I didn’t – I persevered and succeeded. (And am a little sore but not in an incapacitating way, to be honest.)

Oh, and what was the prize for all of that effort? Two hundred fifty points in a yearly contest that I am trying to win where I earn ~100 points a day and I need 36,000 points in a fiscal year (August 1-July 31), so 250 points is the equivalent of a day and a half of being able to slack off. Slacking off is a good thing, people, and I never appreciated that enough until I started working out every blessed day!

What did I do this week?
Wednesday – 2.4 mile walk on the treadmill, 30 minutes/11 miles on the stationary bike, plus 4 laps on the walking path at work (21,459 steps)
Thursday – 3.1 mile walk around the neighborhood plus 2 laps on the walking path at work (20,224 steps)
Friday – 3.2 mile walk in the neighborhood (19,910 steps)
Saturday – 2.7 mile walk in the neighborhood plus 45 minute walk on the treadmill (23,387 steps)
Sunday – 3.75 mile walk in the neighborhood, 3 laps around local shopping mall, plus Pilates Reformer class (19,686 steps)
Monday – 2.72 mile walk in the neighborhood plus 3 laps on the walking path at work (18,332 steps)
Tuesday – 2.64 mile walk in the neighborhood plus 4 laps on the walking path at work (18959 steps)

For the audience participation portion of our program, tell me about the craziest thing you’ve ever done to win a prize. Please, someone tell me they’re as crazy-competitive as I am!

Workout Wednesday: November 13

Exercising with Good Housekeeping by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

I’m actually enjoying just walking plus my Barre and Pilates Reformer classes. In lieu of adding additional intensity by running, I’m increasing my walking mileage and duration instead. Hopefully all of this activity will help make the transition back to running in 2014 a little easier and less painful. I picked up the Weight Watchers Pilates DVD and circle of pain so that I can squeeze in another session of pain each week, too.

What did I do this week?
Wednesday – 3.05 mile walk in the neighborhood plus 4 laps on the walking path at work (21,186 steps)
Thursday – 2.67 mile walk in the neighborhood plus 4 laps on the walking path at work (19,382 steps)
Friday – 3.2 mile walk in the neighborhood, 4 laps on the walking path at work, and 25 minutes on the stationary bike (24,917 steps)
Saturday – 2 mile walk on the treadmill (15,550 steps)
Sunday – 3.2 mile walk in the neighborhood plus Pilates Reformer class (15,556 steps)
Monday – 3.2 mile walk in the neighborhood (16,968 steps)
Tuesday – 3 mile walk in the neighborhood plus 4 laps on the walking path at work (18,859 steps)

OK, your turn. I need inspiration, so tell me: what are you doing for exercise this week?

Workout Wednesday: November 6

Exercising with Good Housekeeping by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

The IT band problems went away briefly and were much-improved by a 90 minute massage Friday night. Then I decided to jog on the treadmill for a couple of miles on Saturday and woke up Sunday with the horrible pain again. I have finally learned my lesson and will not even attempt to jog until after New Year’s so that I can let my body heal fully and just focus on enjoying my morning walks (perhaps a short, flat bike ride or two, too).

So, what DID I do this week?

Wednesday – 3 laps on the walking path at work (13,444 steps)

Thursday – 2 laps on the walking path at work (1 mile total) (22,735 steps)

Friday – 2.39 mile walk in the neighborhood (15,594 steps)

Saturday – 50 minutes jogging/walking on the treadmill (13,873 steps)

Sunday – Pilates Reformer class plus 3.31 mile walk in the neighborhood (14,860 steps)

Monday – 4 laps on the walking path at work (13,559 steps)

Tuesday – 2.29 mile walk in the neighborhood plus 3 laps on the walking path at work (16,477 steps

I’m going to focus on enjoying the everyday moments of my life and walking helps me do that beautifully. I won’t promise not to have moments of “what if?” between now and January 1, but I will not give in to them because I’ve finally realized that short-term ego trips are not worth long-term pain.

Workout Wednesday: October 30

Exercising with Good Housekeeping by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

I’m still dealing with the same IT band issues I talked about last week. I haven’t done any running or cycling in over a week and still I have pain down my hips and just above my knees. I use the foam roller in the morning and at night. I stretch after my warmup and before I start the fast walking that is now my only form of cardiovascular exercise. I had acupuncture and a 60 minute deep tissue massage to try to break up the lactic acid and huge boulder-sized knots in my legs. And still, the pain. This has got to be one of those Life Lesson things that’s supposed to teach me patience! (I’m not-so-patiently learning to be patient, I promise.)

So, what DID I do this week?

Wednesday – 3 laps on the walking path at work (10,663 steps)

Thursday – 1.85 mile walk in the neighborhood plus 2 laps on the walking path at work (1 mile total) (15,090 steps)

Friday – 3 laps on walking path at work (10.977 steps)

Saturday – 3.46 mile walk in the neighborhood (13,442 steps)

Sunday – Step Out 5K to cure diabetes, picnic in the park with my new Meetup group, plus mall walking! (17,192 steps)

Monday – 3 laps on the walking path at work (10,410 steps)

Tuesday – 2.92 mile walk in the neighborhood (11,918 steps)

My blood sugar readings are good, weight is still coming off (albeit a little slower), and I know that not being able to run or bike isn’t having a bad effect on my physical health, but mentally it’s driving me crazy. If you’d told me in January of this year that my inability to run or bike would be the toughest thing in my life in October, I would have laughed in your face. What a difference nine months can make!