Monday, August 8, 2016

Conquering diabetes: This is not about losing weight

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Erika Kerekes hiking in the Santa Monica mountains - not to lose weight, but because exercise makes me healthier
I go hiking because I love it and it's making me healthier - not to lose weight

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I have spent the past year changing my life to battle my diabetes and improve my health.

I've changed the way I eat. I've made a commitment to daily exercise.

But most important, I've changed the way I think about food, exercise and my health.

When I decided last year to make these changes, I set a goal.

Unlike all the health-related goals I had set in the past, this goal was not about losing weight. This one had nothing to do with a number on a scale.

What do I really want?

That day in August 2015 when my doctor called to tell me that I had diabetes, I thought about what I really wanted for the rest of my life, however long that is.

I realized I want two things.

I want to be healthy. And I want to be happy.

Everything else matters less.

I hate dieting. And dieting doesn't work for me.

I know I'm not the only one who hates the word "diet."

Here's what goes through my brain when I think about dieting:

Deprivation. Longing. Missing out. Spartan. Measuring. Boring. Strict. Rigid. Proscribed. Negative. Irritable. Temporary.


If I want to stay healthy for the rest of my life, my new way of eating can't be temporary. It has to be permanent.

No wonder dieting never worked for me in the past.

Pan-seared wild salmon with pesto and blistered cherry tomatoes
I don't use the word "diet" anymore. Food can make me sick, or it can make me healthy.

Retraining my brain

Every change I have made this year has been about getting healthier, not about losing weight.

A year ago, when I was trying to figure out what and how to eat, I decided I would look at food and ask one question:

Is this going to make me healthier, or is this going to make me sicker?

Making the right decisions instantly got easier.

But not only easier. Happier. Choosing foods that would make me healthier felt good. Being in control felt good. And knowing that I was doing something to change my life for the better made me happy.

Being happy made it easier for me to continue to make the right choices for my health.

This journey is not about losing weight.

Three months after my doctor's fateful call, I went in to see him again.

In three months, the changes I had made dropped all the worrisome blood sugar numbers back into safe territory. I was no longer sick.

As it happened, I had also lost weight. But that wasn't what put the smile on my face. That wasn't what was making me happy that day.

I love my doctor very much. He's supportive, gentle and eminently reasonable. But I had to change the way he thought about my health, too.

"What's your goal?" he asked me at that three-month checkup.

"My goal is not to be sick," I answered.

"No," he responded, "I meant, what's your weight loss goal?"

"My weight loss goal is not to be sick," I said. "If I never lose another pound in my entire life, and my blood tests and other exams tell us that I'm healthy, then I will have reached my goal."

Few changes truly happen overnight.

Next time I see him, my doctor will probably ask me again about my weight loss goal. And I will probably have to remind him that, for me, this is not about losing weight.

My brain is still in transition mode, too. Sometimes I catch myself looking at my body sideways in the mirror, thinking "Why is my stomach still so huge? If I'm doing all the right things every single day, why haven't I lost more weight? Why aren't I smaller yet?"

And then I think about what I want. What I really, really want.

And I realize that I'm getting there.

And I step away from the mirror.


Valentina said...

This is awesome! Happy & healthy - best goal ever. Good going!

Mardi Michels said...

You are an inspiration! I love your take on "goals". Go you!

Sunchowder said...

I love this Erika, you are so right on so many levels, this really resonates with me.

caren magill said...

Well done, Erika. I love your mindset about not wanting to diet. If I could, I'd challenge you to go from a goal of "not being sick" to "amazing health and happiness". But it looks like you're well on your way there. Thanks for sharing your story. It's an important one!

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