Insulin Gave Me a Fighting Chance!

At nearly 300 pounds, 38-year-old Kevin Wertman was heading for an early grave. It took a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes to get him into the best shape of his life.

Kathleen Engel
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Type 2 Diabetes, Weight Loss, Nutrition, Physical activity, Medication

Jumping jacks. Running in place. Sit-ups. Push-ups. If you’d told Orlando software engineer Kevin Wertman just two years ago that he’d become addicted to exercise, he’d have laughed in your face. If you’d told him that he’d actually become fit and energetic, he’d have smirked…and then gone back to staring at his computer screen—working on the next great video game—and dipping into a bag of chips.

But then again, he couldn’t have known that just a few months later he’d wind up in the hospital with a severe bout of pancreatitis, a life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas, or that he’d instantly need four insulin injections a day: Blood work during his hospitalization revealed he had type 2 diabetes—and it was out of control.

“Finding out I had diabetes wasn’t entirely a shock,” admits Kevin. After all, he weighed nearly 300 pounds, and just about the only exercise he got was pushing his chair away from his desk. Still, he was stunned to learn the diabetes was as advanced as it was. “Some people get diagnosed and start taking oral medications. For me, it was right to insulin injections.”

Kevin realized he owed it not just to himself, but also to his family—his wife, Jessica, and his 16-year-old daughter, Sabrina—to get healthy. Not even 40, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d said yes when Jessica asked him to go to the beach or Sabrina asked him to go to the park. They deserved more.

“I knew how important it was for me to get my blood sugar under control. If diabetes took away my sight, for example, I wouldn’t be able to take care of my family. I had to do something, and I was dedicated.” So he embraced insulin as the medication that would help him get his health back, rev his energy and allow him to start changing his habits. The result: Within seven months, he’d lost 60 pounds. Within a year, he’d lost 105!

Here, he shares his top tips:

Take a team approach. Kevin immediately decided to use all the tools at his disposal, including an expert medical team. He met regularly with his endocrinologist and a certified diabetes educator (CDE), who taught him the basics, like portion control, and created a custom plan for him: “They helped me figure out a healthy diet that would match my blood sugar levels and insulin dosages and taught me how to read food labels,” says Kevin.

Drive past the drive-through. “I used to hit McDonald’s daily,” says Kevin. But instead, he “began to plan and cook more meals and eat at home. Lots of fish, chicken and vegetables.” The chips and junk food he once downed by the bagful? “We just stopped buying them!”

Step up your fitness...Kevin didn’t start exercising until he hit a weight-loss plateau six months after revamping his diet. Stuck at 230 pounds, he began with walking and jumping jacks—exercises he could do right at home. Plus, his program cost nothing!

Then take it to the next level! Once Kevin got into the fitness groove, he set another goal—to enter a “turkey trot” (a 5K fun run) over Thanksgiving—five months away. “At first, I couldn’t even make it to the end of my street without stopping—it was very discouraging. But each day, I’d pick a point a little farther down the sidewalk and made sure I didn’t stop until I got there. Jessica was always there to give me the push I needed to get out and run the next day.”

Find the right reward system. For Kevin, a video gamer who likes bells and whistles, a few techie apps that tracked his activities and calorie counts kept him stoked. “They tie into that reward mechanism; I’d get nearly constant feedback that I was making improvement”—things like losing another pound, doing another five push-ups, jogging an extra half mile, running a little faster.

Today, with his blood sugar under control, a determined Kevin says, “I feel fantastic—I’ll never see ‘200’ on the scale again!

“When I’m exercising every morning and running three times a week I feel I’m at my happiest—things that used to seem like a big deal are really just small annoyances now. Plus, I have more energy and I’m able to accomplish more day to day.” 

And Kevin’s wife, Jessica? She’s thrilled! “Kevin has really gotten back into doing family activities with us since his diagnosis,” she says. “We now do a family day every Sunday, he and I go on weekly dates, and we do fun outdoor activities as a family. He is like the Kevin I met 19 years ago.”

March 2014