Growing up Filipino American, I assumed meals always included something fried, something fatty, or a nice tasty combination of both. So when I was diagnosed in my mid-30’s with high cholesterol, I had a choice. Change the way I eat and move my body, or take a pill? It was an easy decision for me. Why give up fried chicken or pork lechon when I could take a pill instead?
For the past ten years I ate foods that I craved. Garlic french fries? Yes! Pecan Pie? Double yes! Anything with bacon? Triple yes! All I needed to do was pop a cholesterol-reducing pill into my mouth every night, and I would be fine.
Or so I thought.
Last fall, I switched to a new doctor and went in for a physical. He told me that he wanted to take me off the cholesterol medication, and he ordered some lab work to assess my cholesterol and my sugar levels. He also suggested I could lose a few pounds. A few days after getting my blood drawn, I received the results.
Even with my medication, I had high cholesterol levels that surpassed the healthy range. Not only that, but my blood sugar levels marked me on the higher end of being pre-diabetic, right on the cusp of borderline diabetes.
That’s when something inside me clicked.
"My pre-diabetes diagnosis woke me up to the realization that I was letting my health run on autopilot to habits that weren’t serving me."
I made a declaration to myself in that moment that I needed to take back control of my health. My pre-diabetes diagnosis woke me up to the realization that I was letting my health run on autopilot to habits that weren’t serving me.
If there were a way that I could prevent myself from becoming diabetic, I would figure it out and do it.
And that’s what I did.
It’s been seven months since I’ve received that diagnosis, and here are the results so far. I’ve been losing weight steadily, to the point where I’ve lost roughly 20 pounds to date. Without taking any medication, my cholesterol levels have reduced to well within the healthy range. And although I’m still technically pre-diabetic, my blood sugar levels have dropped dramatically.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned and applied on this journey to health. What’s great is that you can apply these same lessons to any area of your life.
- There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. I knew that others had already paved the way and that I didn’t need to start from scratch. After I received my diagnosis, I asked my doctor if he knew of a class where I could learn more about preventing diabetes. He referred me to a class where I learned not only about the biology of pre-diabetes and diabetes, but also behaviors and practices to preventing diabetes.
- Find a community of support and accountability. After taking this one class, I ran across a flyer at my local YMCA that advertised a year-long Diabetes Prevention Program. I reached out to the coordinator. Within a couple months, I began meeting weekly with other people who had been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. We’ve gained tools and information to begin shifting our health habits. We report regularly our successes and challenges, and turn in a weekly tracking of the foods we eat and our fitness activities. Having a supportive group cheering you on and helping you stay focused and on track is invaluable.
- Greater awareness leads to choice. The Diabetes Prevention Program found that one of the most effective tools was having people write down what they eat and drink every day, and to capture the fat grams for each item. Before this program, I barely understood nutrition labels and how to apply the information to my food choices. There’s a power in raising your awareness. When you realize how much one thing may help you or hinder you, you open to the idea that you can make different choices. I gained a greater understanding of what I was putting into my body and I made different choices based on what I learned.
- Create an environment that supports you. One thing I learned about myself is that I love to snack. Usually, I’ll snack on whatever I happen to have around me. I used to buy potato chips, chocolates and mixed nuts as regular snacks. What’s challenging for me is that it’s hard to eat only a few chips or a handful of nuts. Once I start eating, I keep on eating. Before I know it, half the bag of chips is gone. I’ll admit that I still eat these once in a while, but now I don’t buy any of these kinds of snacks to bring into the home. Instead, I have baby carrots and celery readily available. When you look at your environment around you, see what you have that supports you and what doesn’t support you in your goals and intentions, and make appropriate changes.
- Start with a vision and commit to being the person you are called to be. When I began this journey to reclaim my health, I created a vision board with a picture of a fit and healthy body that I envisioned for myself. I had a clear mental picture in my mind, and I embraced the idea that I was equal to that picture becoming a reality. When you are clear with your vision and you embrace the idea that you are equal to that vision, you are sparked with possibilities. You’re not only committing to that vision, but you’re also committing to your own greatness.
"Five Questions to Get You Focused and On Track."
The other week, I shared my results with my Diabetes Prevention Program group, and one person commented, “What a great story! I want to have a story like that.”
I replied, “You can have a story like that. Each of us has it within us to create the stories we want for our lives.”
Throughout this journey, I’ve become clear that my pre-diabetes diagnosis was a catalyst for change.
Here’s the overall lesson I learned: Life presents you with opportunities that are sometimes masked as problems.
Perhaps you may be experiencing challenges that seem insurmountable, whether they’re in the areas of health, home, finances, career, business, relationships or life in general.
But what if these difficulties are serving as an alarm going off, urging you to wake up? Where in your life are you being called to wake up?
If there’s one thing I’m taking away from this experience, it’s the knowing that you and I are capable of far more than we might realize. There’s a spark of greatness in you waiting to emerge. Maybe it’s calling you out. All you have to do is wake up, show up, and embrace the truth of the greater you that you already are.
Abundant Blessings and Namaste.