“I Went From Couch Potato to 10K Competitor!"

Today, Susan Ito runs 5ks, 10ks and half marathons—and credits her type 2 diabetes with motivating her to get into shape! Here’s her story.

Susan Amoruso
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Type 2 Diabetes, Exercise, 10K

In 2009, physical therapist Susan Ito came back to her office after eating a teriyaki lunch with white rice and promptly fell asleep at her desk. Harmless? Not to Susan, who suspected the sudden fatigue was a sign of postprandial hyperglycemia (a blood sugar spike following meals), something she had often heard her physician-husband talk about. “I got very afraid and got tested—and I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.”

Susan’s first visit to her endocrinologist wasn’t easy: “I was so freaked out and bawling,” she recalls. Together they developed a treatment plan that included medication and lifestyle changes. And just three months later, she’d completed her first 5k! Susan built upon her early success, stayed consistent and today her A1C hovers around 5.9.

What’s her secret? Taking it (small) step by (small) step. She signed up for Couch-to-K, a gradual running plan for self-proclaimed couch potatoes. “I was as sedentary as one could be. I couldn’t even run a minute!” she says. “So when I finished my first 5k, I felt like I’d won the Olympics!” To date, she has run four half marathons, two triathlons, about 15 5ks and 10ks—and doesn’t plan to stop.

Susan also joined Weight Watchers, which helped her pare 35 pounds within six months. And to ensure she’d keep them off, she became a group leader. Staff members are required to weigh in once a month and stay within two pounds of their goal weight or have an active plan to get there.

Here, she shares her steps for staying happy, healthy and motivated with type 2 diabetes:

Move after you eat. Shortly after her diagnosis, Susan took part in the Big Blue Test on World Diabetes Day (Nov. 14), where thousands of people with diabetes test their blood sugar, do 14 minutes of exercise, test again and then share their results online. “My blood sugar came down 64 points in 14 minutes,” she says. “Now if I’m going to have pumpkin pie, I make sure I go for a walk afterward.”

Take it one choice at a time! “People make something like 300 food choices per day—what time am I going to eat, what am I going to eat, when am I going to stop eating,” explains Susan. “Try to make the best choice as often as possible.”

And don’t think that means depriving yourself. For instance, Susan hasn’t given up sweets; she now has two or three a week instead of three a day. She also says sugar-free Werther’s Originals satisfy her sweet tooth.

Get a support system. Susan began her blog “FoodFoodBodyBody” as a way to “understand and befriend my long-neglected body,” she explains. Today she has nearly 5,000 followers and turns to her virtual community for ongoing support. “If I’m having a bad day about my body, weight, food, health, I can put out a blog, FB post, tweet—and immediately I have all of these people encouraging me.”

Learn to love healthy food. Susan is always looking for new ways to make good-for-you foods delicious. Her latest obsession: Brussels sprouts roasted with olive oil: “I used to eat them boiled, and they were repulsive!”

Go from goal to goal. Signing up for races gives Susan something to mark on her calendar and strive toward. She celebrated her fifth “healthaversary” (five years since her type 2 diagnosis) by running the Hot Chocolate 5k in San Francisco.

June 2014