I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of four when I registered an astounding blood sugar reading of 880 mg/dl. I spent 2 weeks in a coma after that, and I don’t remember anything from that hospital stay. After those two weeks, my family and I were packed up and sent home with a dietary chart and a blood glucose meter.
For 20 years afterwards, my blood sugar levels were erratic and my body was weak. One night, my wife came to me and told me we were going to be having a baby. At that moment, I decided to get better control of my Type 1 diabetes so I would be able to watch my child grow into adulthood.
I knew losing weight would help with blood glucose control, so I joined the local gym and worked with a personal trainer. I soon became fascinated by bodybuilding and immersed myself in it with the goal of trying to compete. In a short amount of time, I managed to go from a chunky 172 pounds to a proportioned 205 pounds and had dropped my body fat from 32% to 18%.
Bodybuilding favors certain body proportions I did not have, however, and I needed to shift gears to something else. I came into the gym one night and found a flyer for a powerlifting meet and decided to try it. With very little training, I competed at 210 lbs. and won 2nd place in the deadlift and 1st place in the bench press. I found out that I really enjoyed competing, and all the nutritional and physical training had greatly improved my blood sugar control. My body was fitter, stronger, and less prone to illness.
After a couple of injuries, I switched from powerlifting to strongman competitions. As I was learning how to deadlift cars, pull fire trucks, and press logs, I had to learn how to fuel my body and keep blood sugars stable through these grueling events. I’ve competed in eight different strongman competitions to date and have achieved good A1C goals.
As I’ve gotten older, I began to worry that there was a lack of community support for athletes with diabetes. Then I was invited to join a Facebook group called Type 1 Diabetic Athletes. Upon joining this group, I was thrilled to find several hundred athletes with diabetes who were involved in a wide range of sports and chasing their own ideals of fitness.
This year, I decided to put together a live event called “Bolus and Barbells” on June 11, 2016 in Austin, Texas. It will be a meetup for athletes with Type 1 diabetes and feature competitive events and speakers with Type 1. I have learned so much from lifting and my Type 1 self-care has improved because of it, so I am excited to give back to this sport and to the Type 1 community.
For more information on this event, click here.
This column has been edited for length and clarity.
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