When type 2 diabetes caught actor Rufus Dorsey by surprise, he vowed to control the disease—rather than let it control him!
A high school athlete who excelled in football, basketball and baseball, actor Rufus Dorsey—you’ve seen him in everything from Rise of the Planet of the Apes to Showtime’s The L Word—was shocked when he left a routine physical with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes (later discovered to be type 2 diabetes).
Just 17 years old at the time, he had attributed his symptoms—excessive thirst, a voracious appetite and fatigue—to his active lifestyle. He never realized these could be signs of diabetes.
“I started learning everything I could about the condition. I wanted to have a plan and control my diabetes rather than allow it to control me,” Rufus says.
Now an actor, producer and personal trainer in Los Angeles, Rufus, 42, has a singular mission: “I want to help others with diabetes turn their diagnosis into an opportunity to live healthy,” says Rufus. “I can honestly say I’m now in the best shape of my life.”
With an upcoming movie, Gimme Shelter, and a screenplay in the works, Rufus took a break from his schedule to share tips from the strategy he calls D-FORCE for Life:
Face your diabetes. “When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I thought my life was over,” Rufus admits. “After I got past the denial, I wanted to turn my diagnosis into something positive.” Rufus credits his late mother, Elsie, with giving him the support and motivation he needed to accept his condition.
Try this: Lean on others. When diabetes patients with high blood sugar levels buddied up, they were more successful at remembering to take medications, following a diet and keeping up with lifestyle changes, says a study in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Own your health. “Doctors give us information and tools to help maintain good health, but ultimately we’re responsible for managing our diabetes,” Rufus says.
Try this: Make small, healthy changes every day. Over time, they’ll add up to big improvements in your overall health. Take a 15-minute walk after lunch. Experiment with brown rice instead of refined grains. Or try paring just 5% to 10% of your total weight to help lower your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Remember to check blood sugar regularly. “I check my blood sugar the minute I wake up each morning and this helps me determine what I eat,” Rufus says.
Try this: Consider using a mobile app. Checking blood sugar before and after meals can help determine if what you’re eating could be raising your blood sugar. Busy schedule? Easily distracted? A mobile app can remind you to test and get you back on track. Researchers have found that free apps, such as Diabetes Pal and Glucose Buddy, help people successfully monitor their blood sugar levels, even while on the go.
Change the way you eat.
“I used to eat a lot of fried and sugary foods when I was younger,” admits Rufus. “After I was diagnosed, I began eating more balanced meals and looking more closely at my carb, fat and liquid intake.”
Try this: Keep a log of your meals and snacks to help you stay accountable. What’s more, keeping a food log will help with your blood sugar control—you’ll note how foods affect your levels and how to alter your diet to avoid spikes. Also, use measuring cups and bowls; before long, you’ll be able to eyeball what a healthy portion is.
Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Rufus is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor in Los Angeles, so he’s used to making workouts a priority. But, he empathizes, “The hardest part of exercising is getting started. I see this with students in my classes all the time. Once they begin exercising regularly, they feel better and have more energy.”
Try this: Find an activity you enjoy. Exercise doesn’t need to feel like work. Taking a dance class, swimming, even gardening—these all count. If you’re new to exercise, gradually work up to 30 minutes a day, even if you break it up into three 10-minute increments. Added bonus: A 15-minute, moderate-speed walk about 30 minutes after eating helps control blood sugar spikes, according to a recent study published in Diabetes Care.