Getting Serious About Diabetes

Jill’s type 2 diabetes diagnosis helped her turn her life around. Find out how she did it.

Health Monitor Staff
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At 37, six months after having her third child, Jill Knapp found out why she was always so exhausted: Her doctor told her she had type 2 diabetes, a diagnosis that would change her life forever. She knew she’d put on weight over the 10 years since her wedding—in fact, she topped out at 237!—but the diagnosis was still a shock. Growing up, she never had weight problems, but the pounds crept on when, as an adult, she turned to food for comfort. “It was chips, fast food and candy.” Jill knew it was time to get serious. So she worked with her diabetes healthcare team.

And while she had tried before without success, she vowed this time would be different. “I was like, game on!” she says. Here’s what worked for her.

Pare down your pantry
Jill threw out all the junk food in her pantry, stocked up on healthy fruits and vegetables, and ate those foods throughout the day.
Why it works:
Increasing your exposure to wholesome foods makes it more likely you’ll eat them. And Yale University researchers say that within weeks of eating, say, a banana and egg for breakfast instead of a muffin, you’ll start craving the healthy choice!

Step up your exercise—but slowly!
Jill’s husband, Ron, surprised her with an elliptical machine. She hopped on right away, starting with just a few minutes at first and worked her way to 45 minutes, five days a week. “Slowly but surely the weight came off.”
Why it works:
Setting small, attainable exercise goals and slowly increasing duration and intensity helps make fitness a part of your daily routine, according to American College of Sports Medicine guidelines.

Make your goals public
In 2009—two years later and a 100 pounds slimmer!—Jill was feeling like a new person and had gained control of her diabetes. But that wasn’t the only positive change—her confidence was soaring, too. It was so high she decided to take up the suggestion of her friend Alicia (who happened to work for the Mrs. Idaho pageant) that she compete for the title. Jill didn’t love the thought of being judged on her looks, but her friend explained this pageant was different. “She said, ‘They want you to have a platform, something you’re passionate about.’ ” Realizing her platform could be type 2 diabetes education, she decided, at age 41, to go for it.

To help polish her platform, she set up her website devoted to healthy living for diabetes, She also began working with a trainer who helped her to tone up a bit more. “A lot of the girls I competed with were in their 20s. I wanted to be in the best shape possible!” All the hard work paid off—she was third runner-up!

April 2013