I am too fat to exercise.

Disneyland. Circa 2004. I was close to 350 pounds. Exhausted form all the standing and walking.

I was convinced I was too fat to exercise. 

When I talk with people facing mega-weight loss this topic always emerges as one of their core frustrations, embarrassments and concerns. It was one of my core concerns, for more than a decade.

I will tackle the physical barriers in another blog.  But, in my opinion, the MENTAL hurdles are just as fearsome.

So how do you get your mind to quiet down enough so that you can get your butt to the gym to get started??!

It seems to be a radically different tipping point for everyone. 

My tipping point?!  When I finally understood that food alone was not going to get me where I was trying to go. If I was going to control T2 diabetes, exercise had to be added.

I had to get moving.

From the point where I knew I HAD to add exercise to where I set foot in the gym?  Six months. I spent six months battling the demons in my head. (List below.)

When you are obese and totally out of shape and you finally take the big, brave step to join the world of the physically active you feel VULNERABLE beyond belief.

I felt ragged and mentally exhausted before I even set foot in the ‘gym’.

(Gym?! I use the word generically to mean any place where you are going to make an effort and will BE SEEN. Walking down your street, classes at a community center, hitting your city pool.)

So what kind of thoughts were zinging around in my head for 10+ years? Here are my “I am too fat to be seen trying to exercise” thoughts:

  1. Fat people don’t belong in the world of fit and thin people. We are not welcome and do not belong.
  2. I am desperately afraid someone is going to mock me, laugh at me or be mean.
  3. It will be UGLY. I am not a pretty crier. I am not a pretty ‘sweat’er.
  4. I am beyond help.  I don’t know where to start.  Why bother at this point?
  5. Thin people are disgusted by fat people. I do NOT want to see the look of pity or disgust when I wind up next to them on a treadmill at the gym.
  6. I will have to shower after working out. Which means I have to be naked. The likelihood of having the locker room all to myself is about ZERO. Which means… Kill me now.
  7. Did I mention I was afraid people were going to laugh at me?

Having just shared my fears… I must confess that one of my fears did play out early in my gym-going career.

Humiliating story, but I share it because the experience wound up providing me with clarity and motivation.

I had been going to the gym about a month. I was probably 325+ pounds. There were two guys on the mats near me. One guy stage-whispered to his friend; “Dude, why is she even trying? It’s not like it’s going to make a difference.”

I froze. I was the only other person around. They were talking about me. I was wounded. Mortified. Humiliated. I tried hard NOT to cry… Failed. I laid on the mats and cried once they walked away. It stung deeply for at least a week.

I had been worried people were thinking that EXACT thing about me. Someone had just proven me right.

But eventually it made me mad.

It ultimately made me more determined.

Why?!  When I stopped to really think about it, I had already seen progress in the four short weeks I had been going to the gym. Almost every other person had been nice to me. My blood sugars were better than they had ever been. My pants were fitting looser. I could walk more laps on the track.

belonged there as much as he did.

As much as anyone did.

I may have been fat, but he was a jackass.

I’m now healthy, but I bet he’s still a mean jerk.

The rest of my experiences with going to the gym?  Routine.

Don’t get me wrong; The work was (still is!) hard. LOTS of sweat. Learning was scary. I had some physical challenges. I still felt totally intimidated. But really… The fears I kept rattling around in my head; were all just that. In my head.

No one cared that I was there.  Really.

No one laughed, mocked or made fun of me. OK. One guy, one incident. The rest of the time?People kindly asked me if I needed help if I stood staring at a machine.

No one cared that I was fat and in ‘their space’.  Seriously NO ONE was even looking at me or anyone else for that matter.

Do you want to know what happened the very FIRST time I went to the gym?

I walked into the locker room with my gym bag, looking like I was either going to cry or bolt. I am sure it was both. A woman saw my distress, waved at me and said ‘Hey – do you need help finding your locker? I did when I started here…”

She assumed I belonged. She offered to help and was friendly.  Not a hint of judgement. She instantly smashed some of my long held fears to smithereens.

It cost her nothing to be kind. I valued it deeply.

Have I had bad moments, met mean people, had pointed comments made to me? YES.  But the life-truth is that there are mean, ignorant people in the world, well beyond the walls of a gym. Are you going to let them stop you?!

Have I felt dumb and ill-equipped and out of my league?  I have fallen off of a stationary bike.  Twice. 🙂  This is where having a sense of humor and being able to laugh at yourself is KEY.

Have I wanted to quit? More times than I can count. BUT I was determined to win the war against T2 diabetes. I made friends who held me accountable and expected me to show up.  FRIENDS and staying focused on your goal are key in the ‘not quitting’ process.

I thought I was too fat to exercise, but I started anyway.

(What was your tipping point?  I would love to hear your success story!)

Hannah and I at the gym. Yes, this breaks some rules of civility to take selfies in the gym. It TOTALLY breaks the rules Spencer (running coach) has for us. We’re rebels. 🙂

‘Do you know Betsy Hartley?’ — Guest Blog

I can talk Jeff into almost anything. And I know it. Even when it involves handing my phone to a homeless person and convincing Jeff to jump off of a wall for the sake of a picture. 🙂

Meet Jeff Sherman.

Jeff is my friend, work colleague and a trusted running partner.

He started running with me simply because he didn’t like that I was running alone in the dark, early morning.  He doesn’t consider himself a runner. (He is.)  The first run or two (or 10) were a true testament of our friendship.  Let’s just say that he wasn’t a big fan of running and he found ways to express his opinion using creative language. 🙂

We have run together a ton this past year. Jeff has patiently taken the time to teach me a few important life skills. Among the most useful skills for running?  Snot rockets and spitting WITH the wind. (There is at least one other thing you should do WITH the wind as well…)  🙂

He’s like the brother I never had and have ALWAYS wanted.  He tells me the truth, even when I really don’t want to hear it. He always helps me out and only sometimes does it include a lecture.

He is also one of a very small handful of people who knew me at my heaviest and who RUNS with me now. He has seen the transformation over the years. He knew me as a full-blown diabetic. He knows how hard I have worked – first to manage the disease and then finally to reverse it. He’s heard the questions I get asked, the comments that get made. He has seen me when I am struggling to learn something new. And he has been there at more than a few finish lines/special life moments where I was on top of the WORLD!

Take it away Jeff…

When Betsy said, “would you write a blog?” My first comment was sarcastic…

‘My thoughts already work like a blog— words in disarray with pictures. PERFECT!’

The truth is—this is harder than it looks, but I am so proud of Betsy for putting her journey out to the world. So, of course I am so excited to contribute.

And, it’s a blog—so obviously the grammar is not perfect and my ideas are not based on research! I love this.

For context, a few points about our friendship, because I hear all the time, “You know Betsy Hartley?:

  1. I do know Betsy! She began working in higher education when I began as a true freshman in College (2005).
  2. She can (and will) talk me into anything. See #3.
  3. I did not like running when I began RUNNING with Betsy. We have been running together for a year.
  4. She is my inspiration for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a positive outlook on life.

Betsy and I (and the friends/family around us) are genuinely happy people. We know that everyone has baggage and crap, but I am specifically going to write about the things we do to keep the positivity flowing:

  1. Smile and laugh. A lot.

Smiling is easy (flex those cheeks… 🙂 ) and laughter is CONTAGIOUS. Notice the picture below? We laugh all the time.

So much so that we are avoided by one particular person at the gym who can’t stand happy people. (If I was typing on my iPhone I would add a shrugging emoji icon).

No matter where we have been in our life journeys, fitness, other struggles, etc. The smiles are the genuine.

Smile more. Just try it. 🙂

2009. Genuine smiles and happy times.

2. Be awesome and find the awesome in others

Betsy is awesome for MANY reasons. But, I think the most central awesomeness component, is that she genuinely cares about people.

I will give an example: newcomers in the gym generally feel overwhelmed, especially if they are alone (see point 4), she will be the person who goes out of her way to introduce herself, smile, and learn the person’s name.

An upcoming blog from Betsy will have more about her journey in the gym.

It costs nothing to be nice to people.

  1. Try to avoid comparing your journey with someone else’s.  (Or, in Betsy language: eat your own damn elephant).

Once I realized I would never be a six foot tall Men’s Health Magazine Cover model, it made working out more fun. And, there is a whole lot less pressure.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” –Betsy Hartley

  1. Find an activity AND PEOPLE you like – get moving!

Honestly, being active with friends is the most fun for me.

Like I said before, Betsy is my motivation to stay active, and she keeps me accountable. Find friends like that.

Also, if you are newer to fitness: I have found the buddy system makes me more relaxed in the gym, feel safer trail-running (especially in the dark-ass mornings that Betsy runs), and provide a supportive environment to ask the tough questions about life in general.

Hopefully, this short little extroverted ramble was helpful for someone.

In closing: smile more, sit less, encourage others, and find great people to be active with!

Happy Holidays!

Hannah, Bets and Jeff. All smiles.

Cinnamon gum and a plan.

Size 28 pants. They don’t fit anymore. And I plan to keep it that way. 🙂

“How do you get through the holidays and not gain weight?”

I have been asked this question more than a dozen times this past week alone.

The Thanksgiving Holiday is the official start of an entire eating season. 🙂 

This is my fourth Thanksgiving (roughly 1,200+ days) with my new eating habits. So what is my strategy for staying active and eating healthy during our food-obssessed Holiday season?

I create and stick to a plan. 

My plan for this Holiday season is not very sexy/cool/fun. It’s simple and straight forward. If you have ever gone on a diet of any kind, you’ve heard most of the tips I now rely on.

The specific strategies aren’t the point. The point is that I have a plan.  And I follow the plan to the best of my ability.

So, what is my plan for Thanksgiving?

Activity. I am going for a run. I will work up a sweat. No, I am NOT exercising SO I can eat more. I am exercising to be healthy and live a balanced life. Exercise is a habit and a choice. I don’t skip it just because it’s a Holiday.

I wear snug, bordering on uncomfortably tight clothing to the meal. NOT gonna feel like over-eating if my pants are already cutting me in half.

I take along foods I know I want to eat, and that fit with my food lifestyle.

Good conversations, games, distractions. It should never be all about food.

I keep a flavored/favorite water on hand and TANK ON IT.

Eat a normal breakfast.

Load my plate with veggies and salad and fill up on that FIRST.

This is NOT the only meal of the day. NOT the only meal of the year. It’s not like I couldn’t make/get ANY of this stuff, ANY time. Don’t let perceived scarcity/specialness lure me into eating more than I intended.

Fruit for dessert.

When I am done eating, but I am tempted to graze? I chew sugar free cinnamon gum. Kills the taste buds. (I chew a LOT of cinnamon gum.)

I told you; nothing earth-shattering in my plan. Probably all things you have heard before.

HAVING a plan and sticking to it is really the point. (And having a pack of SF cinnamon gum. Don’t forget the gum.)

Happy Thanksgiving.

A has-been.

Sums up the feeling I had on the first day of NO SHOTS. 🙂

‘How did you reverse T2 Diabetes?’

July 2011 marked the start of a MAJOR life change to reverse type 2 diabetes.

I weighed 285. I was taking 3 shots a day, 7 oral meds.  I was considered well-controlled in the world of T2 diabetics.

This part of the story is hard to write simply because it was so wild.

I had a basic goal, but no real, detailed plan. I didn’t care. I was learning as I moved forward. If I waited for a concrete plan, for the moment I was totally comfortable with all of the details, I never would have started.

To the casual observer, my journey had to have looked like a total shit show.

But it was MY shit show.

The next 3+ years would be a frantic, chaotic, successful, mess.

I was finally ready to do the work needed to make changes. A much different feeling than the forced enthusiasm and hope that were present when I usually started a new diet.

This was different.

Entirely different. This was soul-deep and relentless and essential. This time I was not driven by fear or despair or guilt.

My desire to LIVE was finally bigger than my fears.

My only goal was to reverse T2 diabetes.

Focused on that thought alone, I picked ideas that provoked and energized me:

  • Reverse T2 diabetes. Get RID of it.
  • Choice between managing blood sugar or losing weight? Blood sugar. Every time.
  • I was not doing this to please anyone. This was about saving my own life.
  • No excuses. None. I was going to OWN my journey.
  • No whining.
  • Give 100% effort.
  • Stay open-minded about solutions.
  • Think long-term lifestyle shift. New habits, not quick fixes.

Then I spent 3+ years learning all I could about food, exercise and myself.

I eventually got down to a handful of ideas that continue to work;

  • Let true belly-hunger be my guide.
  • Keep working to have a peaceful relationship with and around food.
  • Exercise will be a habit and a priority in my life.
  • Stay focused on the healthiest, smartest food choices for my needs and goals.
  • I have a small handful of people in my life to whom I remain accountable. They have unconditional permission to remind me to get back on track.
  • Food is fuel. Not a reward.
  • Say no to social situations where food will be an issue for me.

‘You have come too far to take orders from a cookie.’

I needed to share this background with you. This was the foundation that had to be built if I was going to be successful in reversing T2. I absolutely HAD to cement lifestyle changes for this to work long-term.

“HOW did I reverse T2?”

I talked to my doc and told her my plan; I was going to get off insulin and reverse T2 by eating less and moving more.

She sent me away for 3 months to lose weight, learn how to move more. I KNOW full well she was genuinely skeptical that I would stick with it.  I never had before.

I worked hard and then showed her proof of my commitment.

I went back to see her with improved numbers, weighing less, signed up for a 10K with my friend Hannah. I showed her my food journals.

I wasn’t screwing around. I wanted off insulin. She could help me or I would figure it out myself. I told her that, in those exact words. Then I asked her what the plan was.

 ‘OK. You really are serious. Here’s our plan…”

Getting off of all meds would take close to 2 years.

We decreased insulin in small increments weekly over many months.  It was NOT a fast process. I would decrease the daily bolus then we would watch my daily fasting numbers for 10 days or so. IF my numbers stayed steady I could decrease the bolus again… Repeat process.

There were periods of 25+ days where I could not decrease the dosage. I wasn’t losing weight, my diet wasn’t tight enough,  I had been sick or maybe I wasn’t exercising consistently. I would figure out the issue, work to get it corrected and we would start the process of decreasing dosages again.

At one point it finally dawned on me that I was trading one drug (Lantus, Metformin, Byetta) for another (food and exercise).

STAYING off diabetes meds would rely TOTALLY on ME maintaining serious lifestyle changes.

At the same time that I was eating better and working my way off of insulin, I started MOVING more. I was a hot, sweaty, mess. All the time. I didn’t care what I looked like working out, or what anyone thought of me.  I was starting to see the scale and my glucose readings drop. Seeing results strengthened my resolve and dedication.

I started learning to run. I bought a bike. I met the Gums.  I started lifting weights. I met Spencer, my running coach. I was buying REAL running shoes and then actually running in them. 🙂

And then the days I had been working for finally began to arrive…

February 2012 I was OFF insulin.

May 2013 I was off of all meds.

This past October my Doc said the most incredible words…

You are no longer diabetic. 

She gave me a hug. Told me I could put my glucose testing kit in a drawer. I weighed 164 and BMI was ‘normal’.

My HgbA1c was the lowest it had ever been. We were both proudest of that single number; it was ALL because of diet and exercise.  It reflected my lifestyle change. I had chased a low HgbA1c for over a decade and FINALLY caught it.

I left her office and went out to my car.

Bawled for about 10 minutes.

The odds had been against me. BIG time. I had purposely ignored that fact for several years.  It was finally hitting me.

But the BEST feeling of all???  Knowing I had developed solid habits that I could use to keep healthy and active for the rest of my life.

I got home. Hugged and chatted with my dad. Ate a healthy dinner. Got up early the next morning to go for a run with Hannah and Spencer.

Story continued…

(You thought this was THE END?  Hell no! I am JUST getting started.)

Learning to live with T2.

May 2011. 280 pounds, 3 shots a day, well controlled diabetic. Head shot by Hannah O’Leary. http://www.hannaholearyphoto.com

‘How did you learn to live with T2 diabetes?’

Diabetes and I settled into an early, uneasy truce.

The truce would last for about 10 years.

Anger, fear, grief, frustration, confusion, embarrassment, panic. LOTS of emotions. All battling it out daily. The best words I have for the first 6 – 12 months of being a diabetic were confused and intense. A lot to learn. A lot to change. All happening at once. I was not a fun person to be around for that first year.

The meds started working pretty quickly and were clearing my brain of the cloudiness you get with high and sustained glucose levels.

I slowly started to see and understand what had happened. Later I would tell people that I started to see and understand what I HAD LET happen… It sounded harsh. But it’s the truth.

I had NOT stopped the disease when I had the chance.

Now I would have to manage it.

I couldn’t re-write history.  But I could sure as hell write a new ending. I held the pen(needle). Sorry. Diabetic pun. 🙂

I eventually accepted the idea that I had a couple of choices to make.

  • I could survive OR thrive.
  • I could learn about the disease and how to manage it OR stay ignorant and let the doctors tell me what to do.
  • I could accept that this disease owned me OR I could fight for my life.

Thrive, learn and fight.

 (These three words still mean the world to me.)

I immediately made diet adjustments. I hated the changes. But I was too scared NOT to change. EVERY single bite of food had to be considered. It was a whole new level of mental fatigue, laced liberally with fear.

About 4-6 weeks in, with the help of meds, I started to feel better. Less sleepy. Less ravenously hungry.  More clear-brained. I started to see the results of my work at eating ‘better’ show up in my daily glucose tests. Motivation to try to get those glucose numbers to drop was an incentive that worked well for me. I used it.

I quickly learned that life as a T2 diabetic, if you are actively trying to manage the disease, takes serious and relentless work.

So what exactly did my life as a T2 diabetic look like?

I had to learn to count carbohydrates. And not eat too many over the course of the day. Carbs were my favorite. This was seriously unpleasant work for a very long time. LOTS of temper tantrums on this nasty little learning curve.

Sugar free is NOT carb free. BONUS? Artificial sweeteners used in sugar free food products can cause side effects.  ‘Excessive consumption may cause laxative effect.’  Save yourself. Just trust me on this one.

I had to find sugar in my diet and GET RID OF IT! Overt and hidden. I STILL play this game.

I had to learn to stick my finger each morning for a glucose reading. And try not to bleed all over my clothes or leave the counter looking like a crime scene.

I had to manage medicines, needles and Sharps containers. I was taking 3 shots a day and 7 oral meds.

I had to learn to read and understand nutrition labels. And learn that SERVING sizes matter.

I had to learn to give myself shots. Cussing; fluent and abundant and creative. Lots of bruises and bent needles as I tried to figure out how to stab myself in the stomach.

I started to learn about being physically active. I started SMALL. Parking my car further away. Taking stairs. Drinking more water so I had to get up from my desk to pee more often.

I had to learn how to manage T2 when I was sick. Rampaging and nonsensical numbers, dehydration, questionable judgement from a foggy brain, drug adjustments.

I had to learn to manage side effects from meds. When the warning label says ‘may cause severe gastric distress’, it will. You do not want witnesses. It will be an issue every single day.

I also began to slowly, cautiously acknowledge my messed-up relationship with food.

I had to learn to count calories and track food. All of the calories. All of the food.

No hiding or lying or cheating or excuses.

This was the hardest thing to learn.

I mean, I could lie to myself all I wanted, make any excuse I wanted, but my blood work would eventually rat me out and reveal whether I was doing the work that was necessary. I was eating a LOT of food, for the wrong reasons, and all of the wrong kinds of food. Wrong for diabetes AND wrong for life.

Being honest about what I was eating, why I was eating was humbling, humiliating and brutal.

SO much learning and changing and fighting. And it never really let up.  And just to keep things entertaining and interesting – there were plenty of failures, tears, scares. I hit stumbling blocks, bad attitudes and plateaus.  I had bad numbers and crappy weeks and major set backs.  Details and stories for later days.

But giving up was NOT an option even on the worst of days. Even a small amount of progress was still progress and not a step backwards.  I had to keep reminding myself of that fact.

Thrive, Learn and Fight. Remember those words? I had promised myself that I was going to live by those words.

I forged a solid coexistence with Diabetes. We got along quite well for about a decade.  I worked to get my numbers stable. I worked to lose weight. I was working on building a better relationship with food. My doctor was happy that I was holding my own against T2. It was good enough for a long time.

And then one day…

One day ‘good enough’ was no longer good enough. Comfortable and coexisting was no longer working.

I was starting to feel restless and eager and brave…  Odd combination, I know. But I finally recognized that what was emerging was the feeling of being DONE.


I was DONE with diabetes. Done with shots. Done with being fat. Done with ACCEPTING that this was going to be the ‘story’ of my life.  I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t depressed.  It was just that good enough was NOT enough anymore. Never would be again.

I was resolute and determined.

I wanted to LIVE.

Diabetes and I were headed for a show down.

Story continued…

‘You have Diabetes…’

My trusty sidekick for many, many years. Glucose monitoring kit.

My diabetes story has 3 distinct parts.

I was pre-diabetic.

I was full-blown T2 diabetic.

I reversed it.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I first heard the words pre-diabetic as early as 1996. I was 28. I remember thinking ‘pre’ meant I had time.

I really wish I could have understood what was coming…

The doctors didn’t seem concerned. Why should I worry about it? They said ‘This means you could get diabetes at some point. Eat better and lose some weight. We’ll keep an eye on things.”

Knowing what I know now… I wish they would have said ‘You have ONE LAST CHANCE to avoid a devastating disease. Listen up! This is in YOUR hands. You are running out of time to STOP this.”

As much as I would love to be able to blame anyone but myself, I can’t blame the doctors. I was NOT ready to listen.

I was playing ostrich.

If I buried my head in the sand, maybe this would just ALL GO AWAY…

Diabetes would mean I had to change what/when/how I ate. Food was an ISSUE for me. This was going to get messy and scary and NOT fun. Life was going to suck. So… I was only pre-diabetic. I could put off dealing with it.  Right?! They had said ‘could’ get diabetes. Maybe I wouldn’t get it at all…

I was flirting with a deadly disease and my messed up relationship with food had me in a complete choke-hold. I was not paralyzed by the facts…

I was totally refusing to accept them.

In early 2000’s I saw my gynecologist. She was reviewing my lab reports and asked me what medicines I was taking for diabetes. I said none, ‘I’m only pre-diabetic’. She said:


You are full blown type 2 diabetic.

There’s no more of this ‘pre’ crap.

You are actually VERY sick.’

She made sure I had an appointment with a diabetes doc the very next day.

Being an ostrich had NOT worked.

At all. Not for even a moment. 

I was not Type 1 (T1).  T1 is an autoimmune disease. Beta cells in the pancreas do NOT work. Beta cells produce insulin. T1’s have to take insulin or die. Period.

I was Type 2 (T2). T2 is largely a lifestyle disease. I have a working pancreas. I produce insulin, but my body couldn’t use it very well; I was also called insulin resistant. There are genetic factors to consider, but most of us T2s have done it to ourselves. Inactivity, carrying too much weight (specifically belly fat) and not making good food choices.

How did they figure out I was diabetic? A blood test called the Hemoglobin A1c (HgbA1c) and a finger stick. The HgbA1c measures how well you manage your blood glucose over a 3-month period.The finger stick tests your fasting blood sugar and is essentially a real-time reading.

BOTH my fasting and my HgbA1c were high. Really high.

How high!??

My HgbA1c should have been somewhere in the 4.8 – 7.0 range. It was 11.2. ‘Dangerous’.

My fasting numbers should have been between 80-120.  It was 340. “Whoa. That can’t be right. We’ll check it again.”  342.

I had symptoms, serious symptoms that I was ignoring. Well, ignoring AND I thought it was just because I was fat.  I didn’t realize the problems were tied to diabetes. Over the years I had adapted and accepted my reduced quality of life as just part of being obese.

So what were my symptoms?

Sores would not heal. A blister on my foot wouldn’t heal for over 6 months, so I was referred to a wound care specialist.  He talked about cutting off my toes and portions of my foot as a means of treating the infection. THAT kind of not healing.

I could NOT sleep enough. I was BARELY getting through the day. Not just sleepy; groggy and foggy all the time. Would sleep for 10 – 12  hours a day. Fell asleep in meetings, while driving my car and on phone calls. I would sleep 15 – 18 hours a day on weekends.

I could not get enough to eat. I could eat until I was physically over-full, stuffed and yet still feel hungry.  All at the same time. T2 makes it so that your body just can’t use ‘fuel’ efficiently. ‘It was like putting diesel in a gas engine.’  I could consume 5,000 calories a day and be hungry. Sugar. I wanted sugar.

Anyone watching from the outside knew something was going wrong for at least 3 years.

Again, I figured these symptoms were the price you paid for being obese.

I was not ready to fight. I did not want to make changes. As crappy as things were, it was something I had grown to understand and be comfortable with. Sad and implausible for some to believe, I’m sure. I was in bad physical shape and yet willing to stay there because the thought of what it would take to make things different was utterly overwhelming.

You accept and allow what you think you are worth.

Being diagnosed as a full blown T2 diabetic threw everything I knew and loved out the nearest window. Just as I feared it would.

I heard the diagnosis and spent about 4 months grieving. Deeply.  I was put on meds for depression. I totally cut myself off from friends and the outside world. I threw an epic pity party.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.  I was moving through the stages of grief in my own order. I had been in deep denial. I had bargained to no avail.  I was depressed.  Acceptance would take a while to find…

Then I finally started to get angry.

I was angry at myself. At the situation. At what I had allowed to happen.

I actually do some of my best work when I am angry. Always have.  I get focused and productive and persistent. Anger was very much the companion I needed by my side for a while.

I knew I HAD to make changes. I had to start to face my food issues. I had to make a serious effort to try to gain control of this disease while I still had my toes…

So how did I learn to live with T2?

To be continued…


Worm Walks.

‘I hate to exercise’

Sometimes it’s said off-handedly. Sometimes with intense emotion. Usually with some kind of tone of apology or plea for sympathy.

Followed quickly by ‘So, how did you learn to like running…?’

I have this conversation weekly.  No lie.

It comes up when I admit that in the process of finding a healthy life I discovered that I love running.

I think that the real question or comment hanging in the air is ‘HOW can I learn to like being physically active?’ or ‘I’m too fat, too out of shape.” (We’ll tackle the ‘too fat’ topic in another blog. I keep working on that blog post and setting it aside. It’s a tough one.)

I used to hate exercise too. ‘Run when chased’ and even then if I stood any kind of chance I would much rather stop and fight back.  I had no desire to run or take classes or lift weights. I had no fitness. I hated to sweat.

Times have changed.  

More importantly times CAN change. 

It obviously took some serious baby steps to change things.

I was 392 pounds and inactive. Now I’m 160 pounds and I love to run.  HOW did THAT happen?! How did I learn to love running?  How did I learn to make exercise a priority and habit?

The honest answer is boring.

I learned to love running by walking.

I started walking with my friend Hannah 8+ years ago. Long before I began my lifestyle overhaul.

Hannah is a runner. (Qualified for Boston Marathon in 2015!) She is one of my best friends. She has solidly healthy habits and is someone I have looked up to for years. She has been by my side on this journey almost every step of the way. Literally. (Not hyperbole.)  She’s an artist, a world-class photographer and one of the toughest women I know.

Meet Hannah! One of my favorite pictures. Story for another day. Suffice it to say I talked her into a race I knew nothing about… But it had a great shirt. 🙂

Our early walks were a labor of love. And a time to chat. We would meet at the Oregon State campus in the morning, several days a week and walk. Slowly. Short distances. She would encourage and push me to walk just a little further each time we met.

Over the years these became the famous ‘Worm Walks’.

Worm Walks?

Yes… It rains a lot in Oregon. Worms are strewn all over the sidewalks and paths. When you are grossly overweight and out of shape, the act of pretending to save each and every worm you encounter is a brief, welcomed REST period. Trust me. It was a horrible, obvious stalling tactic. She knew what I was doing. I pretended otherwise.

We joke now about those early Worm Walks. Getting in a mile was a 30 minute endeavor and thousands of worms were saved.

With Hannah’s help, being active became a consistent endeavor. A daily walk with my friend slowly became a habit I truly enjoyed and looked forward to.

I started to measure and observe things after a few months of walking…

  • How much further could we go?
  • How fast were we going?
  • How many miles had we covered in a week?
  • My blood sugars are better on the days we walk…
  • ‘Hey – I can walk AND talk to you without gasping for air…!’

I had no idea that the Worm Walks were the beginning of a lifestyle change.

With my lifestyle overhaul in full swing, Hannah and I signed up for a race January 1, 2012. We picked one where I could walk. It had generous time limits. Hannah knew that having a race to look forward to was important and would keep me focused on staying active. I hadn’t figured that out yet. I just knew that having an event to train for kept things FUN. Fun is important when you are doing hard, repetitive work. And we got free t-shirts. Win. Win. 🙂

I walked the first race; a 10K. I was the last person to finish. I was SORE for days. But I felt invincible. I had DONE it!

So I signed up for a marathon.

Logical reaction to completing your first-ever 10K – dontcha think?

The marathon was the SECOND event I ever signed up for. I planned to walk the whole thing. I remember when I told Hannah. Conversation went sort of like this;

 ‘Ummm… You signed up for a Marathon in 11 months??!!”


“Bets, you have not yet even done a HALF marathon…”

“I know. I am going to walk it. You’ll train with me. I can do this!”

“Yes. Yes you can! We really have to get training.”

THAT, my friends, THAT is a living example of unwavering support and friendship.

If she ever had any thoughts other than those of pure support and encouragement, I never knew it. She helped me pull training plans and understand them. She made sure I had good shoes. I got lectured about NOT wearing cotton. (Chafing.)  I couldn’t have done it without her. I know that. She knows that. Maui Marathon, including the months of training was an incredible experience.

Night before the marathon. 🙂

Some of the best changes in our lives can happen because we simply choose to face our fears.

Signing up for a marathon was facing my fears.  A friend walking by my side made facing my fears possible.

And it changed everything.

Maui Marathon, 2013.

Having a friend who was as eager to celebrate my goals and successes as she was her own. Slogging out the long, slow miles in happy, cheery companionship. Keeping me focused on learning and developing walking and running as a safe and life-long habit. Someone who understood the DAILY balance I was trying to find between fear and reason.

Someone who let me stop and pick-up worms.

Thousands of worms. 🙂

You have to walk before you can run.

#runhappy, #Lifeisgood

Ignore the shortcut.

Out for a run. On trails. Typical these days. Gratefully, thankfully, will-not-take-it-for-granted typical. 🙂

Meet Josh and Wendie Gum!

We met three years ago. These two were the first people I met that had lost weight the exact same way I was approaching it. They had made sweeping changes.  They embraced and were loving their healthy lifestyle. It was like MAGIC to find these two! I felt profound relief, an overwhelming rush of gratitude. Dumb luck or fate? Who cares!? I had JUST stumbled into a new set of friends who GOT what I was trying to do! They had information, ideas, energy, passion and were 100% supportive.

As I got to know them I realized not only had they adopted the lifestyle I was chasing, BUT they also happened to be optimistic, compassionate, generous, fabulous human beings on top of it all…

I asked Josh if he would write about the journey he and Wendie have been on. Please read on to learn more about the dynamic duo I am blessed to call friends.

My way is not the shortcut, and the journey has been worth every bit the effort. – Josh Gum

It seems that from nearly every angle you’ll be told there are easier ways, you can take a pill, or follow a specific diet, and in a few short weeks you’ll have lost all that unwanted fat! Well that sounds simple.. why wouldn’t you jump right on board and get started?! I did. I did this many times, and failed to reach my ultimate goal every single time. Before I figured out what works for me, I failed at every shortcut that I could find.. and I regained my initial weight plus interest.

One of the most laughable shortcuts I ever took was a pill that supposedly bound to the fat in the food you eat, and helped to “pass it through” your body before it could be stored on your body. Some point after having taken the pill, at a moments notice I would need to be no less than 25 yards from the nearest bathroom. Sounds ridiculous? It was. I took a shortcut once that was a “cookie diet”.. that’s no joke. You buy this product with some prepackaged cookies, and you eat them for nearly every meal. These were not cheap cookies, either. I remember they left me satisfied for maybe a week or two.. but after the novelty wore off, they started to taste horrible and ultimately I added another tick on the failure scoreboard.

While a lot of people find success with Weight Watchers, it still turned out to be somewhat of a shortcut for me. I got very good at calculating points, and eating much less food than I should, because the type of food I wanted to eat would account for a bulk of my daily allowance. I sabotaged my day before it was even half over. Over time, one thing would lead to another and I found myself grazing through the candy bowls in the office, or picking up fast food on my way home after work.

Thorough my twenties I was quite successful at eliminating as much physical activity as I could on a daily basis. I’d guess that my weight didn’t climb as fast as it could have because of the weekend hikes that my wife, Wendie, and I would take at Silver Falls State Park. Despite our efforts, as the years went by, my pants crept up past size 42. Sometime near the end of 2009, the highest weight I remember seeing on the scale was 325lbs. At a routine appointment with my doctor, I remember him telling me, again, that I need to take my health and weight seriously. He was ready to diagnose me as hypertensive and to put me on blood pressure medicine. I was told, point blank, that this is not a diagnosis that he wants to put on my records and that it would follow me around forever. I had been living with chronic pain for several years, I had a back surgery to repair a bulging lumbar disc, and I was battling with depression related to it all. My twenties were kicking my ass, and for all the wrong reasons.

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. – Beverly Sills

On my Thirtieth birthday, I stated to my wife that I was going to make a change and that my thirties were going to be the time that I finally became healthy. Three months passed, and a I finally took the hardest step.. the first one. Wendie joined in, and this time we were going to ignore every shortcut that had lead to failure in the past. This time we were going old-school; we were going to eat healthy foods and exercise on a daily basis. A super simple concept, and yet, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Over the past five years, I’ve maintained a weight loss of 110lbs, and Wendie has lost 80lbs! With our new lease on life, and our remodeled fitness we’ve been training for and completing many athletic goals that neither of us would have ever dreamt of otherwise.

For weight loss, shortcuts tend to set people up for failure and dependency on a particular regimen or product. Long term success in managing my weight was the result of educating myself on what a healthy diet is, and the hard work of consistently making the right choices.

How to eat an elephant.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time. 

I love this truism. Fabulous reminder that to accomplish fantastically big things, you simply break them down into a bunch of LITTLE pieces.

That is how you clean your house. Plan for a big event. Earn a college degree.

And it’s exactly how you would go about eating an elephant.

Triple digit weight loss staring you in the face… Desperate to reverse a disease that has had you in a stranglehold for 10+ years… You have to THINK small, start small. The big picture can quickly overwhelm you into submission before you even get started.

I remember the intense anxiety and fledgling bravado I felt when I finally decided to own the idea that I was going to lose 200+ pounds and tackle T2 diabetes. I was desperately tired of being fat. I wanted OFF of insulin. And I knew, had been told multiple times, had dug up the research; odds were overwhelmingly against me being successful with either endeavor.

A freaking elephant was charging straight for me.

I remember thinking panicky, repetitive, self-defeating thoughts when I was trying to make the mental leap to start fighting for my life;

  1. No way in hell is this actually going to happen. BUT I have to start. T2 diabetes is going to kill me. Start or die. Those are my choices. Damn. My choices suck.
  2. I don’t think I even weighed less than 160 pounds when I was born. (Sorry mom.) That’s my ‘goal weight’?!
  3. I have to lose more than what MOST people ever weigh.
  4. This will take YEARS.
  5. I have to change everything. EVERY SINGLE THING.
  6. What if I can’t beat diabetes?  What if I have done too much damage to my body?
  7. What if it is TRUE that once you go on injectable insulin you are screwed? It’s all over. You can never lose weight.
  8. Do I know anyone who has lost a huge amount of weight and kept it off? Anyone?(Crickets.)
  9. Do I know anyone who has reversed T2 diabetes? (Crickets. Again.)
  10. No one understands how hard this is going to be. NO ONE. HOLY CRAP.  I am alone.
  11. Food. Oh no… Food. Why does this have to involve food?
  12. Exercise? Are you freaking kidding me?! Wear Spandex in front of PEOPLE?  No way… That alone WILL kill me.
  13. WHERE do I even begin?  (Panic. Tears. Shame.)
  14. Once I get started I can never, ever, stop… This is for the REST OF MY LIFE.

Repeat cycle. Re-inforce negative thinking. Talk yourself out of taking action because you can’t really do this…

THEN…  Then I went to lunch with my friend Jennifer Vina.

I was at the point where the idea of mega-weight loss and abolishing diabetes and getting healthy was fighting hard to become stronger than my list of fears.  (Or if I am being a drama queen, sappy, happy my reflection on that time is that my desire to LIVE was finally becoming stronger than my fear of dying…)

Anyway, I remember verbally vomiting all over Jennifer. Confiding in her what I really wanted to do in an unorganized, frantic, tear-filled fashion. I was finally saying this out loud to another person. She listened to it all. Then she made me write everything down.  How much I weighed.  What I wanted to lose.  How long it would take. Precise dates. What would happen if I lost a pound a week? No fears allowed. No hedging. Unwavering encouragement. She gently, but pointedly, forced me to think about what I wanted and exactly how to get there.

She SHOWED me how to eat the elephant.

I left with my plan written down on a napkin. And a huge life-gift.  She had convinced me I could do it. I could do ANYTHING. I just had to break it down… It was the first time I felt that this might all be possible. My confidence would come and go, many, many times. Still does to be honest. BUT this first hint of confidence was amazing!

‘You just have to start. Then don’t stop. Just don’t stop.’  (Her simple encouragement has morphed into one of my consistent running mantras when things get tough.)

Jennifer and her first-born in her arms. First time I got to meet the little one!

Everyone’s start and progress and success looks different – even if we are trying to eat the same weight loss/T2 diabetes elephant.

PLEASE take a moment to acknowledge that idea.

The biggest tensions I have had with people about my journey is that they think that’s what theirs should look like. That is NOT how this works. NOT at all.

YOU have to own your own journey and success and work. Don’t compare. I learned the hard way that comparisons are useless, painful and demoralizing. Own your journey. This has to be about finding what works for you.

Eat your own damn elephant. 🙂

If you want to try someone’s idea or habit to see if it will fit/work for you? Solid idea! I do it all the time. COMPARING? Not good. Not at all.  Just to be clear.

In case one of these ideas seems like something you might want to try ‘on’ for yourself to see if it might work, this is how I got started:

  1. Wrote down the facts, goals, roughed-out plans.  Writing it down made it real and made it not so danged scary.
  2. I told a handful of good friends. I reached out to the people who had watched me try and fail repeatedly and loved me anyway. I called them and said ‘I’m doing this – I’m serious…” Wade, Hannah, Liz, Deb, Anneke.  I asked them to stick with me. I asked for permission to check in. Gave them permission to check in with me. I promised to not be defensive.
  3. I got approval from my doctor.  I was morbidly obese and a T2 diabetic. Turns out when a patient expresses a firm desire and has a plan of action to try to get their health back; docs are SUPER supportive.
  4. I picked ONE thing at a time to work on.  Small things. Drinking more water. Writing down my food. Going for a walk each day. I picked one healthy habit and worked on it until I was comfortable that it wouldn’t go away. Then I picked a new one to learn.

One last story or caveat… 🙂 When tackling lifestyle changes, do NOT try to make a ton of changes all at the same time. I tried that. Gung-ho, ready to fight and change my life.  But making ALL of the sweeping changes at one time was a TOTAL disaster. It was simply TOO much change, too shocking.  I had a major, epic, short-lived meltdown. Wade took my frantic call and STRONGLY suggested that maybe we should focus on just ONE thing at a time...  ‘Let’s just take one concrete, healthy thing at a time.  And freaking BREATHE Bets.  Just breathe.’ 🙂

ONE bite at a time. Just one, small bite at a time…

THAT is how I learned to eat an elephant.

You have lost weight! What is your secret?!

‘What is your secret to losing weight and reversing type 2 diabetes?’

One of the top 5 question I get asked. Right up there with ‘Do you wear underwear with your bike shorts?’ (No, BTW… More in another post.)

I hate to be the killjoy… But there is no secret to losing weight.


No one seems to want to hear the honest answer.  They think they do until I tell them. Then they typically shake their head, cross their arms and tell me why it can not work for them…

Eat less. Move more. 

This honest, simple answer is NOT the sexy, cool, fun, easy answer people are hoping to hear. But it IS the answer.

I looked for the ‘secret’ for years.  I tried everything I could to avoid the answer I knew was looming there all along…


What do I think about this pill, commercial programs complete with packaged food, or elimination of entire food groups? They are all gimmicks or lies or at best, half-truths. Sorry. Marketers and businesses are savvy and they know people desperately want promises of lasting success with very little work needed. Magic sells a whole hell of a lot better than hard work.

I also get asked for my thoughts on gastric bypass surgery. My doctor pushed me to consider it. My BMI was 61. I was the ideal candidate physically. In the process of learning more about it, I began to understand surgery was not going to solve my problem. Surgery could not really fix WHY I got fat. If I was going to lose weight and KEEP IT OFF, I  had to start with changing my brain and life-long habits. Surgery was not for me.

My complete overhaul started in July 2011. I started eating less and making smarter food choices. Ditched fast food. Measured portions. Counted calories. Wrote down everything I ate. Sweets were banned. (It remains a trigger for me; this continues to be a self-imposed restriction.) Leaner cuts of meat. Quit eating in my car. Being intentional and mindful about my eating experiences. Then, when the weight started to come off, I started walking. Walking. Walking.  Basic stuff.

All of this becomes vastly more complicated when you include T2 diabetes in the mix.

While working to lose weight, get off of insulin and cement new habits I still had lows or highs that HAD to be adjusted. We were being VERY careful with the ‘exit plan’ for getting off of insulin, but I had been warned ‘wild’ blood sugars were going to happen. The adjustments I needed to make sometimes threw my entire eating and activity plan for the day out the window.  It was intensely frustrating and confusing at times. Going back to my old ways was a seriously appealing idea on more than a few occasions. Not gonna lie.

I remember trying to run one time when I was low.  I didn’t want to eat the carbs/calories I needed to adjust my blood sugar. In my mind, I hadn’t ‘saved’ enough calories for even a handful of jelly beans that day. I refused to skip the run; I was starting to really love running. And I really, really didn’t want to have to explain all of this to Spencer, my brand-new running coach.

I showed up cranky and disoriented and argumentative. My running partners, Josh and Joe, quickly figured out I was low. The way I remember the incident is that they threatened to shove jelly beans somewhere jelly beans didn’t belong if I did not immediately and voluntarily eat some sugar. The jelly beans put me over my calorie allotment for the day.  I was pissed at my predicament and slightly pissed at them for making me correct it. I was worried about calories and weight loss which is the last thing I, the diabetic, should have been worried about with out-of-whack blood glucose.  They were right.  I was wrong.  I am extremely lucky they were looking out for me.

It turned out to be a really, really good lesson in diabetes management and friendship.

Joe Van V., Tour de Cure 2014 for Diabetes. Joe was my training partner for  an endurance Tri/Duathlon and Century. (100 mile bike ride!) He’s a FREAKING Ironman!
Josh Gum, the man who put the idea of an Ultra in my head close to 3 years ago. Ironman and badass ultra runner. Josh and his wife Wendie have each lost a lot of weight, kept it off and embraced an entirely new, healthy lifestyle and mind set in the process.

Managing all of these pieces is hard to do. No doubt about it. Eat less. Move more. Manage blood sugar. There are NO secrets or shortcuts. While that kind of sucks — it’s also a form of freedom if you choose to view it that way…

There no absolutes about what life and a path to success looks like on a daily basis with diabetes in the mix. That’s OK! Stay focused on getting it as right as you can, as often as you can with what works best FOR YOU.

I was upset at having to correct a bad low in the middle of the night with soda and candy early on my journey to get off of insulin. I saw this as a total defeat in my effort to revamp my eating. Even though all I was doing was adjusting a low… (Low blood sugar brain can be really mean and snarky!) Once my blood sugar was normal and my brain was working again my dad told me:

“Get this as right as you, as often as you can. You’ll make progress. Re-focus on the very next step you need to take to reach your bigger goal. You are doing all the right things. Your body just has to figure out how to work with you now that you are getting healthy.”

There is no secret. I’m really sorry to burst your bubble.

This business of losing weight and cementing the habits needed to keep it off is some of the hardest work you will ever do.

And as it turns out, some of the best, most rewarding work you will ever do.