“Diabetes has given me a better life”

Charmed actor Dorian Gregory reveals how diabetes has made him healthier and happier.

Deborah Pike Olsen
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Dorian Gregory, the former star of the hit television show Charmed and the former host of Soul Train, is serious about taking charge of his diabetes. But he knows when to lighten up. On any given day, you might find him playing a silly game with a friend or family member. “I’ll say, ‘Listen, I’m going to tell you three jokes,’ ” says the 44-year-old actor. “If I don’t make you laugh, then I have to drop and give you 20 pushups. That’s how I get my resistance training in.”

But don’t let the humor fool you—he’s serious about controlling his blood sugar. He uses an insulin pump and eats a diet heavy on salads and lean meats, as well as vegetables like corn, yams and sweet peas. He exercises at least four times a week, and if he doesn’t get eight hours of sleep, he works in a nap during the day.

“I aim for a better moment!”
That’s not to say he’s never fallen off the wagon. Until his early 30s, he rebelled against diabetes. “I wasn’t disciplined about how I was eating, and I stopped testing my blood sugar,” he admits. Ultimately, Dorian realized he had to go back to testing because the consequences of skipping it were too dire. “I’d been told all my life that I should try to avoid long-term complications,” he says. “But that was too far out of reach for me to process. What I realized was that low blood sugar was going to mess up my mood and my energy at any given moment. So my goal became to have a better moment.”

“I know I’m up to the challenge”
“I think diabetes challenges you in cycles,” continues Dorian. “The challenges don’t ever go away; they just redefine themselves. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to always like the long list of things I have to do. But when the challenges come, I know they’re going to pass because I’ve dealt with them before.”

Over time, Dorian realized that diabetes was actually a positive force in his life. “I’ve had to become conscious of what I’m eating, how often I’m exercising and my stress level,” he says. “A person without diabetes knows he or she needs to eat well and exercise, but I’m forced to. The result? I have a better body, better health and a better life.”

4 ways to take charge like Dorian

1. Be prepared. “Tupperware and Ziploc bags are my best friends,” says Dorian. Before he goes to work, he pre-packs his favorite veggies—celery sticks, carrots and cucumbers—as well as some carbs and protein. Dorian also carries a kit with diabetes-related supplies—plus a backup one, just in case he forgets the main kit. He has extra sensors for his glucometer, a reservoir, batteries and other supplies.

2. Stay on top of stress. Dorian enjoys walking on the beach, practicing yoga and going sailing. He also tries to meditate as often as possible. “I try to fit in at least three to four meditation sessions per week,” he says. “Meditation doesn’t take long, and it’s a lot simpler than people think. I try to do it at home when I first wake up and before bed. The beauty of meditation is that you can do it anywhere.”

Why it works: When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones that cause blood sugar levels to rise. Also, some people who are stressed may overeat or drink too much. When you’re relaxed, you can avoid stress-related spikes in blood sugar.

3. Let friends and family help you.
“Without my support system, diabetes would be a lot tougher,” says Dorian. “My friends get that I’m in an altered emotional state at times because my blood sugar levels are off. If you have people who understand, they can help you work through that.”

Why it works: People with diabetes who receive support from family members and spouses are more likely to control their blood sugar levels than those who don’t receive support, according to a recent study, which was published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion.

4. Have a good relationship with diabetes. “If you have diabetes, it’s part of your circle,” says Dorian. “So make an effort to have a good relationship with it. As with any relationship, there are things you will be asked to do to make it work. Look at the result of what you’re doing to keep your blood sugars in check. If you’re checking your sugars regularly, you’re going to have a good day.”

October 2015