A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes motivated Mark House to get healthier than ever. Read his inspiring story.
When Mark House was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 45, he took it hard. After all, his mother had died of the condition at 65. “It was like history was repeating itself,” he says. “It was devastating.” Both Mark’s blood pressure and his A1C level (your average blood sugar over two to three months) were high. After his doctor’s appointment, the father of three went home and cried with his wife. “I felt I had just been given a death sentence of about 20 years.”
“I started slowly at the gym”
The thought of leaving his sons fatherless sent Mark to the gym for the first time in years—with his 14-year-old son, Cory, at his side. “I started slowly,” he says. First, he’d do 10 to 15 minutes on the stationary bike or the elliptical, and then a little light weight training. Having Cory along helped. When his son couldn’t be there, his wife would go.
After a year, Mark was down 30 pounds, to 267. “It was a good start, but there was so much more to go,” he says. For one, his A1C hadn’t moved much. “I was making progress, though,” he realized. “Slow and steady wins the race. I didn’t get obese overnight and I wasn’t going to get thin overnight.”
“I overhauled my diet”
With exercise a habit, Mark focused on his diet. BD (“before diabetes”), his idea of a typical breakfast was a cheese omelet with home fries and toast. Dinner was hoagies, cheesesteaks or pizza. And when he wanted to eat “healthy,” he’d “order a chicken salad. I didn’t realize how poorly I had been eating.” Mark’s wife started cooking diabetes-friendly recipes and began focusing meals around lean sources of protein and fresh vegetables. Egg whites started subbing for whole eggs. Portions were downsized, and Mark changed his snack habits, grabbing fruit or protein bars instead of chips and pretzels.
He also started tracking his diet each day on myfitnesspal.com, a site where he could add up his calories and nutrients (Mark stayed on top of his sodium intake, too). He began showing up more at the gym, where he pushed a little harder, adding more exercises and training with greater intensity. With all the upgrades to his regimen, the pounds and inches fell off.
“Now I’m doing—not sitting!”
By last July, Mark’s weight was down to 196, and his body fat was 17.5%—a drop of 101 pounds and 20.5% body fat. His A1C level and his blood pressure were finally normal. Best of all, the Disney vacation of his dreams is now within reach: Last trip there, he weighed nearly 300 pounds, and couldn’t keep up with his sons because knee and foot pain forced him to keep sitting down. Next trip, he says, “My sons will be the ones chasing me around!”
Get strong and toned like Mark!
Here are two gym workouts that hit your entire body. Talk with your doctor about performing the upper body workout on one day, the lower body workout on another. If time permits, perform each workout twice a week.
Upper body circuit workout
With this all-dumbbell circuit workout, you’ll move from one exercise to the next for a total of three circuits. On every exercise, perform 8 to 12 repetitions in a smooth, controlled fashion. (On a chest press, push the dumbbells away from your chest, then return them to your body—that’s one rep!) Rest 30 seconds between each exercise, or as long as it takes to set up for the next. After the entire circuit, rest one minute. Then repeat the circuit two more times, resting a minute between each circuit.
Chest: Dumbbell chest press
Back: One-arm dumbbell row (perform all of the reps on one side of your body, then switch sides)
Shoulders: Dumbbell shoulder press
Biceps: Alternating dumbbell curl
Triceps: Overhead dumbbell triceps extension
Lower body machine workout
Perform one or two warm-up sets of 15 to 20 reps on each exercise; increase the weight a bit and perform two to three more sets of 10-15 repetitions on each exercise.
Legs and glutes:
Abdominals: Machine crunches or crunches on a bench or mat on the floor