In January 2015, I was 286 pounds, living in Baku, Azerbaijan, and had just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
I was disappointed in myself and scared about what this meant for my family. I had a 4-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son who would soon be entering university. What would happen to them if I didn’t get this under control?
My doctor insisted I begin taking medication immediately to bring my blood sugar levels under control. I was reluctant to take insulin because I feared it would become a crutch, a way for me to avoid making the necessary lifestyle changes I had to make. And I knew that if I didn’t make these immediate changes, I was facing a very uncertain future with all of the horrible complications that diabetes can cause.
So many people suffer from illnesses over which they have no control. I really felt that type 2 diabetes was something that could be controlled through diet and exercise, but I had to do something because it was basically now or never. I gave myself three months to get my levels down through diet and exercise.
Truth be told, I began running because it was something I could do outside, early in the mornings, where no one could see me. I first gave it a shot in February 2015 with the goal of running 500 meters. Well, I ran perhaps 400 meters, stumbled the last 100, and nearly passed out. I spent the next 10 minutes on my hands and knee, and suffered the embarrassment of having a security guard in the park check on my wellbeing. I barely got home on my own.
Despite the rough start, I kept at it, and I was surprised at how much easier it got every day. By the middle of March, I was comfortably running an 8K at an easy 10:42 per mile pace.
I started an extremely low-carb diet, and with that, running, and yoga, I was shocked at my weight loss. In the first month, I lost 20 pounds, then another 20 the second month. By the third month, my blood sugar levels were down to a normal and I had lost 65 pounds.
By October of that year, I was down to 165 pounds when I participated in my first half marathon in Tblisi, Georgia. So in 10 months, I had lost 121 pounds.
But I did not feel healthy at that weight: My low-carb diet made running difficult. I gradually worked my way back up to 172, where I remain today, by eating a more balanced diet, including a reasonable amount of carbohydrates.
I feel so much better now that I am at a comfortable weight for my height and age. The things I remember from being my heaviest are the backaches, headaches, having to roll myself out of bed in the morning, and not being able to play on the floor with my daughter. I don’t ever want to go back to that.
Now, the backaches and headaches have gone, and I’m able to roll around and play with my daughter. My quality of life has changed dramatically.
For anyone who wants to go on this path, it won’t be easy. Honestly, everyone is different, and has to find their own path. However, I believe strongly in setting attainable, incremental goals. Stick to the goals as much as possible (while listening to your body) and reward yourself when you hit your targets. This was really something that has kept me moving forward.
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