Diabetes Journey

One Woman's Journey with Diabetes

Diabetes can be looked at as a journey. As with all journeys, it can be difficult to live with day to day. But you can choose to view your diabetes journey as a way to live a healthier life. Here is a story about one person who made this choice.


Denise is a teacher at a local college who was interested in learning more about her diabetes. She was diagnosed during a visit with her primary care physician several years ago and was advised to lose some weight. But she hadn’t taken it seriously until her most recent visit, when she discovered that the levels of her A1C and lipids (fats in the blood) had increased.stk65059cor

One year ago, Denise took a positive first step by calling her health care provider’s office. She asked for a diet to help her lose some weight. Her hope was that with an over-the-phone consultation and an outline of a weight loss plan, she would not need to go on diabetes medication. As you can guess, it was not that easy. An outline of a diet is helpful, but if it is not tailored for you and doesn’t include the foods that you like to cook and eat, it probably won’t work for the long term.


Denise then visited with a diabetes educator. Together, they talked about her history of overeating, weight gain and lack of activity. The diabetes educator helped by asking Denise her thoughts about diabetes and how it was affecting her life. She asked Denise about what she thought would work for her and offered information and resources. As they talked, Denise began to come up with a plan. She felt sure that she could actually use this plan. One of the reasons she felt this way was that she was coming up with her own goals. She was taking charge instead of waiting for someone else to do it for her.

Her goals were to lose weight and get more exercise, while still being able to eat out—an activity she and her husband enjoyed. She had lost weight in the past and found that writing down what she ate was helpful. Her short-term plan included:

  • Keeping a food diary
  • Keeping a blood glucose log book (several tests per day, including before breakfast and two hours after her biggest meal of the day)
  • Attending a diabetes education program, with tips for healthy eating and increasing activity

Her long-term plan included committing to becoming more active. Denise felt sure this plan was realistic and doable for her. Her educator told her that making a plan works better if it is RUMBA: Realistic, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral and Achievable.


In time, Denise attended a series of diabetes classes, including a class about medications for diabetes. She began to keep records of the food she ate and the time she spent walking or doing other physical activities. She also tried to eat about the same amount of carbohydrates at breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.

Over the next several months, Denise had begun to lose some weight, yet not as much as she wanted. In fact, her A1C increased to 7.7 percent (goal of under 7); her blood pressure was still high (162/80—goal of 130/80), and her weight was still more than 200 pounds on her 5’4″ frame.

One of the reasons for Denise’s lack of progress was that she had decided not to join a gym, because she didn’t know when she would find the time to exercise. She found it very hard to use her meal plan, especially when she was visiting friends and family and during the holidays. So, instead of giving up she decided to use the concept of “maintaining” at those times—choosing to maintain rather than lose weight.


It is now one year later and Denise has made good progress. She has lost 31 pounds. In addition, her blood glucose is 112-140 and her blood pressure is 128/80 (both in target range).

Denise has not yet reached her final goals, but continues to work toward them. Because these changes were not enough to lower her blood glucose and blood pressure into her target range, she has started taking a pill for her diabetes. Her educator helped her to understand that taking medication doesn’t mean that she failed—it just means that her body needs more help to keep her blood glucose where she wants it.

Denise has become more active on the “10,000 Steps” program (see page 44 for more information). This is easier for Denise than joining a gym, given her work and family schedule. She now walks more often, adding extra steps into her day whenever possible.


Here are some things you can do to stay on track even if, like Denise, you face ongoing challenges reaching your goals:

  • Attend classes or support groups to get the most up-to-date information on diabetes care. You can also get this information from web sites, local community organizations and your health care team.
  • Build a strong diabetes education and medical care team (nurse and nutrition educators, pharmacist, physicians and others). Ask for recommendations from others who have diabetes.
  • Make a plan that fits into your life and offers choices, and know how to adjust it.
  • Keep trying. Even when the plan doesn’t work, you have the chance to learn about diabetes and yourself.

Education, effort and ownership were Denise’s strengths. Her diabetes team was always ready to help at any point. Your pharmacist is part of your diabetes team and can help you reach your diabetes care goals. The most important thing Denise learned is to look at diabetes as a journey and not as a destination. You can do the very same.

Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD

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Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN—an award-winning RD, certified diabetes educator, and past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, which received the Favorably Reviewed designation from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.

Dr. Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, CLC, the best-selling author of “Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! and leading health and weight loss expert, is also known as “The Inflammation Terminator.” She has made it her mission to educate the public on the toxic effects of certain foods and lifestyle choices and how they create inflammation in the body. She is a leading authority on inflammation and its role in weight loss, preventing disease and optimizing health.

Rebecca Bitzer – MS, RD/LD, CEDRD is an award-winning Registered Dietitian, writer, speaker, blogger, and REBEL Dietitian business owner. Rebecca and her team of six Registered Dietitians have counseled thousands of clients struggling with diabetes for over twenty-five years. They work closely with each other along with internists, endocrinologists, therapists, and families.

Maureen Sullivan – RN, CDE has worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, most of them in emergency and trauma services. She is a Certified Emergency Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator, and the former manager of a hospital stroke program. Maureen’s wealth of knowledge, passion for nursing and education, and ability to engage people makes her an excellent teacher and a captivating lecturer. Recently, Maureen has been concentrating on writing, speaking and teaching, as well as working on her award-winning weekly podcast, “The Health and Humor Show.”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN is a nutrition communications specialist, registered dietitian in private practice, social media consultant, speaker, spokesperson and corporate consultant. She is currently the owner of Nutrition Starring YOU, LLC and www.NutritionStarringYOU.com. Lauren strongly believes that we should “Think Healthy, not Skinny”, and “EveryBODY is unique, your diet should be too”. Lauren was co-host of the Family Food Experts Kitchen radio show, available for listening on iHeart Radio and iTunes. Also known as one of the “NutritionBabes”, Lauren co-founded NutritionBabes.com, a popular Health and Wellness website in 2009. NutritionBabes.com was voted one of Healthline’s Top 100 Health Blogs in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE is a clinical health psychologist and the director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH). In addition to treating patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Dr. Heyman provides training for health care providers on how to identify and address the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes in their patients. He also works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies to help them understand these issues and incorporate this information into their sales, marketing, and patient education materials. He is particularly interested in empirically supported behavioral interventions that promote behavior change and improve physical and mental health in people with diabetes.

Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and author with an expertise in nutrition communications and curriculum development. She is the co-author of “Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing” (McGraw Hill, 2014) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California San Francisco and University of San Diego’s graduate schools of nursing.

Dr. Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE (aka “Dr. Bev”) is a clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator, author and speaker. She specializes treating the emotional issues of people with diabetes. In her private practice, she provides individual, family and/or group therapy utilizing a cognitive behavior therapy orientation, combined with a spiritual approach. Her goal is to empower her patients to manage their diabetes.

Dr. Bev is the author of two self-help diabetes books. She has written numerous articles which are published in print and online – always focused on diabetes from the emotional perspective. She also speaks to audiences of people living with diabetes, as well as, to audiences of healthcare professionals and diabetes educators. Dr. Bev, herself, has been living successfully with type 1 diabetes for 40+ years.

In August 2016, Dr. Bev was honored to receive the “CDE Entrepreneur of the Year” Award from her Metropolitan NY Association of Diabetes Educators.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert with more than two decades experience. Through writing, speaking and one-on-one coaching, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health. She has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is known for her practical approach and caring attitude. Her no-nonsense strategies to eating well include foods that both taste good and are good for you.

Marlene Koch (pronounced ‘cook’) is a nationally recognized nutritionist, popular TV personality and New York Times bestselling author. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science. She is a registered dietitian and one of a select group of dietitians to hold an advanced certificate in Child and Adolescent Weight Management from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

Marlene has taught professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation the principles of healthy cooking and eating. She has been adjunct Nutrition professor and cooking instructor for Columbus State College and the Columbus State Culinary Academy, and she is a nationally recognized expert in weight loss, diabetes, child and adolescent nutrition, and sugar substitutes.

Marlene has sold over one million cookbooks, and is a regular guest on QVC.

Barbara Ruhs – MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Neighborhood Nutrition LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing solutions to help food companies and supermarkets improve consumer health & wellness. She’s a former supermarket dietitian and has run a successful business for 17 years. A leader in the field of nutrition, her mission is to help people by impacting the way food is produced, marketed and sold. She’s a strong advocate for supermarket dietitians and believes the retail food industry has the greatest potential to impact public health.

Cheryl Orlansky has over 25 years of experience in health promotion and chronic disease prevention and management. Her first career as a registered dental hygienist led her towards a path of wellness and nutrition! Her expertise is in diabetes, weight management and cardiovascular disease for individuals and groups. She works in a large private practice including endocrinology, internal medicine, rheumatology, neurology and sleep medicine. She is an award winning dietitian with current leadership positions in state and local dietetics organizations.

She has been interviewed and quoted in media outlets for WebMD, Atlanta Sports and Fitness, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. She has partnered with V-103 Radio to lead supermarket tours as part of a community outreach during National Nutrition Month.

Cheryl helps her clients reach balance through lifestyle choices: cooking and eating, activity and purpose in life.

Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and classically-trained chef. With a passion for helping people (including her father) with diabetes, she’s author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook: The Flexible Approach to Flavorful Diabetes Cooking and the award-winning The All‐Natural Diabetes Cookbook, both published by the American Diabetes Association. Jackie is also author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes and Big Green Cookbook. Her next book, The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook—2nd Edition, was published in 2015.

Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH is the author of the best-selling book, The One One One Diet. She holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is also a Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

OmnichannelHealth Media, publisher of DiabetesDigest.com, does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.