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Kimberly Garrison | Take control

Diabetes can be managed through diet, exercise & medication

PRE-DIABETES and type 2 diabetes are the subjects today as I continue my series on the disease. But first I want to share an e-mail I received from George Walton, of Upper Darby, regarding last week's column on type I diabetes:

"I am 66 years old and have been a diabetic (type 1) since the age of 30. This is my story fighting diabetes all these years:

"While driving to and from North Carolina on a trip, I developed [an unquenchable] thirst, [with] urination and throwing up a lot. So I had a blood test done and my blood sugar was over 500. I was hospitalized and put on insulin.

"In 1997, I needed a kidney transplant. In 2000, I had a leg and a great toe amputated and had a leg bypass surgery . . . for blood flow to my foot. In 2005, I had four vertebrae fused, and eight screws and eight pieces of bone put in. I just had five operations on my right eye alone for pressure. Diabetes is nothing to fool with."

Without a doubt, George is absolutely right, and I thank him for candidly sharing his story. Perhaps those who are challenged with type 1 diabetes will read his remarks and get real about managing their health.

What is pre-diabetes?

The American Diabetes Association defines pre-diabetes as blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. There are 54 million people in the United States who have pre-diabetes, according to the ADA. Are you one of them?

Pre-diabetes is serious, but you can prevent, delay or reverse it by making the right changes in your diet and getting physically active.

After she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes a year ago, Claudia McGill, 49, of Wyncote, did a radical reconstruction on her lifestyle.

She saw a nutritionist, started working out regularly, lost a whopping 80 pounds - and she's no longer pre-diabetic.

"Initially, my husband and I went to the nutritionist together, but I was in denial about myself. I was very athletic when I was young and gradually gained weight over 25 years. I just thought my husband needed to lose weight," McGill recalled.

But a routine blood glucose test revealed McGill had pre-diabetes. After that diagnosis she slowly took some of the nutritionist's advice and began to exercise a little. She lost 10 percent of her body weight - 25 pounds - but was "shocked into reality" when her blood sugar levels continued to rise.

"I knew then I needed to get real with it, to get in better shape and eat differently," she said. "I realized I was going to have to work a lot harder, that I couldn't evade the truth any more . . . I wanted to be normal."

McGill got busy. She ditched the fried foods, rich casseroles, carb-heavy meals, sweets and snacks - and the huge portions she was accustomed to.

Her diet today consists primarily of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Her snacks are cottage cheese or a hard-boiled egg. Nearly every day, she goes to her local gym and does a combination of classes, cardio and weight training.

"I find working out pleasurable and I have a lot more energy," McGill said. That's not all.

Much to her surprise, the 5-foot-6-inch McGill is down to a svelte 130 pounds - leaner than she was when she got married! She has normal blood sugar, too.

What is type 2 diabetes?

On the rise, type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in the United States. According to the ADA, in type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. As a result, cells may be starved of necessary fuel, which ultimately leads to serious damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.

Left untreated, type 2 diabetes can be deadly. But with proper management, most people with type 2 diabetes can live long and relatively healthy lives. Unlike type I diabetes, which requires medication, type 2 can be controlled with diet and lifestyle changes.

Lisa Corbeil, of Philadelphia, changed her lifestyle after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes - and asthma - in November 2004.

"I had a complete meltdown in the doctor's office," Corbeil recalled.

She tried to eat right, but years of erratic, binge-and-starve dieting had taken a toll on her body and her psyche. The nearly $2,000 a year she faced for medication co-pays was daunting, too.

Then a chance meeting on a SEPTA bus changed her life.

"I met a stranger on the bus one day who had gastric bypass, and she inspired me," said Corbeil.

After doing research, Corbeil decided that gastric bypass was the way to go. She had the surgery about a year ago and has since lost an amazing 143 pounds.

"Now I feel I can do anything," she said. And she is.

Since her dramatic weight loss, she has participated in the Step Up to Fight Diabetes campaign, walking 10 miles and 1,000 stairs, a labor of love she performed in memory of her brother, John, who died at 41 from type 1 diabetes. She also joined a gym and has taken up swimming.

Declared Corbeil, "I thought I'd be dead in my 50s, but I've beaten diabetes, and that is the biggest victory for me, because this disease takes you piece by piece." *

Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (

E-mail her at Her column appears each Thursday in Yo! Chat with her on her Daily News weblog, the Girlfriends' Locker Room, at Her new podcast, "Philly Fitness and Health," is available for download every Thursday at