A Milestone

About five years ago, I went to the doctor for a regular check up. Since I’m male, I like to do those once every 30 years or so. This time, the results weren’t so great.

The doctor’s office called me about three hours after the blood test. They told me to come back immediately to have another blood test… Something wasn’t right. I arrived at the office and the doctor said that my blood sugar was high… nearly diabetic level high. Well that stands to reason. I was the fattest I’d ever been in my life. My diet was out of control and I didn’t much care for exercise. That was all compounded by the 12 hour workdays I was working as my company was in the middle of a multi-year building project.

So I ate on the go all the time. I kept a bunch of bad, but quick food in my office. It wasn’t uncommon to eat six Twinkies for lunch and wash them down with an awesome soda I had discovered called Sobe Mr Green. I continued to get fatter and I didn’t care. I was busy, burned out and honestly didn’t want to think about anything else other than finishing work projects. The problem is that junk food is like crack. It starts out with one Twinkie. Then it moves on to four Twinkies and 13 Cupcakes. Then you just eat a dozen donuts a day. Pretty soon you are looking at small children and puppies like they might be a quick meal… I kid.

But I was heading down a destructive path and these test results shook me up. The doctor did an A1C test and the results were that I was .1 points away from being diabetic. Yes that’s point one. In my best manly bravado, I pumped my fist and said “YES!! I’m not diabetic yet!!” The doctor just frowned at me and told me to make serious lifestyle changes and to see a nutritionist.

I went to the nutritionist and she gave me this elaborate diet plan. Did I mention that I’m male? So naturally, I am unlikely to follow that plan. It required a lot of food preparation and cooking for myself. I knew I wouldn’t do that. I lived by myself and worked 12 hours per day.

One of my friends suggested I try the Isagenix cleanse diet. So I did. It was expensive. I squeezed my budget for about four months and purchased the plan. It is very strict. No chemicals, no caffeine, no alcohol… The meal replacement shakes were tasty, but the one real meal you are allowed per day was rigid. The fat and fiber content had to match (or be very close). But I did it. I had my Isagenix shake for breakfast and for supper. For lunch I had Subway… every single day.

I also began doing cardio. I would ride a recumbant bike three times a week for about 20 minutes each time. It was a start.

Withing the span of four months, I lost 62 pounds. My doctor was elated! He ordered new blood work. I waited for the results with high hopes. When they came, I felt disappointment. They had improved, but I was still not out of the woods. In fact, I was still pre-diabetic.

The disappointment tore down a lot of my desire and discipline. I kept up the cardio but not the diet. I say that I kept up the cardio but that’s not quite true. I actually increased it. I was getting used to 20 minutes and I began to ramp it up so that I could feel that burn the next day. But the diet, was not good.

About that time I left the company I was working for and moved on to a smaller company. I had to join a gym because my previous company WAS a gym. At the new gym, I began using different cardio machines. My brother Chris started working out with me and we would do weight training. One day, I was doing chest presses and I heard a terrible pop. Pain drenched my left shoulder and I just knew I had done something bad. The shoulder ached for days and I stopped doing weight training altogether. I continued with cardio though.

You would think I’d have gone to the doctor about the shoulder. But no. I had my reasoning. I reasoned that if I saw the doctor, he would order blood work since it had been a year. In my male mind, I had worked out the whole diabetes thing. You see, if I don’t go to the doctor, I don’t get blood work. If I don’t get blood work, I don’t get results. If I don’t get results, I don’t have diabetes. I figured that if I was diabetic and heading for a death caused by it, I’d rather it suprise me one day than to dread it year after year.

So a year goes by. Yes, a year. My shoulder ached every single day. After that year I arrived at the point were I could barely lift my arm to put it in my coat sleeve. I knew something serious was wrong. So I began pondering how I could have it looked at while avoiding blood work. I know! I’ll go directly to an Orthopedic doctor. And that’s exactly what I did.

He ordered an MRI. The MRI showed a lot of inflammation. He needed to get that down so we could determine what was going on in there. So he tells me that he needs to schedule a steroid shot in my shoulder. But… He can’t give me that shot unless he knows that I’m not diabetic. The steroid spikes your blood sugar and will continue to spike it for about a month. Brutal.

I went home and told myself that I’ll just have to live with the shoulder pain. But I couldn’t. It just hurt too much. Reluctantly, I made an appointment to see my Primary Care Doctor. He scheduled the blood test. I just knew I was diabetic. My diet had not been good. But my exercise was very consistent. The results came back.

I was in the clear. What!? Fasting blood sugar was normal. A1C was NORMAL. How? What!? I was amazed. The doctor told me “congrats, you’ve exercised your way out of diabetes”.

I got the shot in my shoulder and within two days the pain was nearly gone. At this point I decided to start working with a personal trainer. So I signed up with Cory at Club Fitness. He was highly recommended because of his skill with sports injuries. I have narrowed disks in my lowered back and of course, something wrong with my shoulder.

Cory started me off by doing an all around strength training program that avoided stressing my back and shoulders. He was adept at getting in exercises. If one method hurt my back, he had five other ways to get it done so that it wouldn’t. I remember the first day I had to do squats. My how I hated them. I had to hold a 35 lb kettle bell and do six or seven squats. The next day my legs were so sore. It was amazing to me because by now I was doing 45 minutes on the elliptical with no trouble and no soreness.

This month, it’s been a year that I’ve been working with Cory. A lot has changed. The first thing is that I’m stronger than ever. I’ve still got about 30 pounds I want to lose. But I just had blood work done last week and everything is completely normal. Exercise is the key to warding off type II diabetes. I’m living proof. My diet isn’t perfect, but I don’t eat junk food, children or puppies like the days of old.

Earlier in the year I was able to find out what’s wrong with the shoulder. There’s a small cyst on my rotator cuff. When it gets irritated, everything gets irritated. So I got another shot and it felt better. At some point, they will have to remove it surgically. But…

I reached a milestone of sorts at the gym yesterday. No, it wasn’t a weight loss goal. It was a strength goal. I never thought I’d be able to build up much strength due to my 20+ year back issues. But yesterday I was able to squat my body weight. I’m not going to share what that number is here, but I will remind you that know me in person that I am somewhat of a fat guy. So squatting my body weight is monumental for me and maybe for most people.  I’m amazed that I went from squatting sets with 35 pounds in my hands to squatting sets with the equivalent of my body weight on my shoulders in just one year.

So I’m thankful to God for giving me good blood work results for three years now. And I’m thankful to Cory for finding ways to build my strength without injuring me!  I’m thankful to my pal Jamie for turning me on to cycling.  I’m hooked now and it’s great exercise!

The lesson is that it’s never too late to start exercising. Even starting out slow can be effective. With proper guidance, anyone can build their bodies up.