Michelle Forst, a busy working mom, stopped letting type 2 diabetes stand in her way and started living life to the fullest.
“There were times I couldn’t get my daughter a glass of milk from the fridge,” remembers 34-year-old Michelle Forst, an interior designer in Mesa, AZ. “I was so tired, I didn’t have a clue how I’d be able to drive to my appointments. That fatigue really got me down!” Being at the mercy of extreme blood sugar swings was taking a physical and emotional toll—and a few extra pounds weren’t helping.
Michelle hated the way she looked and felt…every day. “I don’t know how I’m going to go through another 30 years of my life like this,” she confided in a friend. The exhaustion wasn’t new; Michelle’s debilitating energy dips had only gotten worse since her diagnosis of gestational diabetes in 2006. During her pregnancy, Michelle was continually ravenous. “I craved food all the time—breads, potatoes, pizza and cupcakes.” So it didn’t come as a surprise when she failed two one-hour glucose challenge tests.
After her daughter Hallie’s birth, Michelle hoped her blood sugar would return to normal. It dropped only a little. “That’s where my journey with type 2 diabetes began,” she says. Unfortunately, her hectic lifestyle didn’t help matters. Like many busy moms with a home and a career to manage, Michelle took shortcuts. She relied on frozen entrées and sometimes skipped meals. “I wasn’t putting healthy foods into my body,” she admits, and the numbers on the scale crept up. As for exercise, well, that was on an “as needed” basis. Despite taking medication, Michelle’s blood sugar constantly swung from high to low. “My A1C was going higher and higher!”
Something had to change. “I have a beautiful, healthy child,” Michelle reflected back then. “Yet [she has] an unhealthy mother.” She was terrified of the potential consequences of diabetes—heart, nerves, eye and kidney damage. “I was also embarrassed, I was sad, I was angry.” The time had come for Michelle to take a committed, active part in her diabetes-management plan.
She started reading everything she could find about nutrition and diabetes. Something about The Eat-Clean Diet, by Tosca Reno, with its emphasis on mini-meals of unprocessed foods combined with weight training and cardiovascular exercise, appealed to her. The goal? Well, it wasn’t just about “looking” better—but about getting healthy, energized and fit, too. “I am not fighting for my skinny jeans, my summer bikini or a size 0 life,” Michelle declared. “I am fighting for my longevity, a life minus health complications, and to see my future grandchildren.” And because she knew she couldn’t go it alone, Michelle told her husband, Nicholas, and the rest of her family she needed their support.
Focusing on energy foods
Michelle stocked her kitchen with lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. She kept a tray of raw veggies in her fridge on a regular basis, along with hummus or homemade ranch dressing (using Greek yogurt). And so she wouldn’t be caught without a healthy option during on-the-go workdays, she filled her purse with snack bags of almonds, pistachios and peanuts and identified the supermarkets and convenience stores that stocked ready-to-drink, low-carb protein shakes.
One pleasant surprise? “I [found I] could eat more food [without gaining weight]!” Gone were the days of calorie counting—Michelle simply focused on eating reasonable portions of unprocessed foods in small meals throughout the day, and her energy levels began to rise while her blood sugar stabilized.
Discovering a passion for pumping iron
When she realized that increasing her muscle mass could help improve her blood sugar levels, Michelle decided to try strength training. That included working with weights and doing resistance exercises using her own body weight. “My first goal was to do a push-up,” says Michelle. After mastering those, she focused on pull-ups. Before she knew it, she was hooked on circuit-training sessions (see “What’s circuit training?”). Within weeks, the muscles she never knew she had started becoming sculpted and more defined. She lost a pants size and 9.5% body fat. And best of all, “I have enormous amounts of energy now,” she says. “It’s night and day from how I felt before!”
To keep her goals top of mind, Michelle took progress pictures each month, documented her progress on an online site, and created a scrapbook of healthy recipes and exercises on the virtual pinboard site, Pinterest.
Developing good habits
In addition to eating right and exercising, Michelle is faithful to her medication regimen and checks her blood sugar frequently, adjusting her carb intake according to the intensity of that day’s workout. She also sees her healthcare team regularly. “I feel like a fighter, like an athlete and a healthy person!” And when the time comes, she’s confident she’ll be the most active grandma on the block.