How I Lost 100 Pounds After a Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis

Irma Flores, 43, of Vista, Calif., was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2003 after a lifetime of overeating. Although she knew she was at risk of the disease because of her family history, she never took it seriously. She now calls herself a "diabetes crusader" and dropped from 250 to 149 pounds. For the first time in her life, she feels she has a healthy relationship with food, and she's helping her two children to make healthy choices too.


irma-flores
Irma Flores tries to walk at least 3 miles a day.
(VICTOR HA/IRMA FLORES)
I was born in Mexico, and my family came to the United States when I was six months old. When I was a small girl, my mother would boast that it was wonderful to live in a country where there was so much food. For breakfast she'd serve me a plate of four eggs, and I'd eat them all.

When I was a teenager, I would dream about waking up thin, but I never did. I still ate as if I should make full use of this bounty of food surrounding me. I'm 5'4" tall and eventually my weight reached 250 pounds. Sugar and fat were my best friends. Every day I'd eat between 3,000 and 4,000 calories, with a daily liter of regular Coke and lots of junk food. I couldn't walk 10 steps without breaking a sweat.

I was too embarrassed to go to a gym
In 1998, I developed gestational diabetes for a second time. After giving birth, my doctor told me that I had at least an 80% chance of developing type 2 diabetes if I didn't lose weight and change my diet and exercise habits. My father died of complications of the disease, my mother has had it for 15 years, both of my brothers and my sister have it, and my grandmother had it. As a Hispanic American, I knew my ethnic heritage put me at higher risk of the disease.

What's more, I'm the director of medical staff services at a large hospital, so every day I see the results of people's unhealthy decisions. I knew what I needed to do. I just didn't do it.

I once went to a gym, but I was so embarrassed even walking into this room filled with lean, fit people that I didn't return. "Maybe tomorrow," I kept telling myself. "Maybe tomorrow."

Then one of those tomorrows became the day of my diagnosis: Oct. 23, 2003.

I'd been very thirsty and so hungry, and I was getting up over and over at night to use the bathroom. I was also dealing with a yeast infection that stubbornly refused to go away. My gynecologist considered these symptoms and suggested that we test my blood sugar.

It was 295 mg/dl—way too high. A normal level would be 180 mg/dl after eating a meal. And a test of my long-term blood sugar, the hemoglobin A1C, was 15%, about twice as high as it should be. Most healthy people have a hemoglobin A1C of 4.5% to 6% and people with diabetes should have a hemoglobin A1C of 7% or below, according to the American Diabetes Association.

I had type 2 diabetes.

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As told to: Eric Metcalf
Last Updated: April 11, 2008

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