Diabetes runs in Ebony Simone McMillan’s family. McMillan’s grandmother Connie lived with type 2 diabetes but “did not really take care of herself,” McMillan recalls. Growing up, McMillan, now 31, watched as her grandmother struggled to follow up with her diabetes care team. She also remembers her grandmother trying to keep the diagnosis hidden from her employers – so much so that she did not properly store her insulin.
So, by the time McMillan received her own diagnosis of type 2 diabetes at the age of 26, she had already experienced firsthand the challenges that may sometimes accompany life with diabetes. Although she was initially daunted by the changes she knew she needed to make, McMillan now successfully manages her diabetes. (If you are considering making any changes to your own lifestyle, remember to check with your health care team first.)
At the time of her diagnosis, McMillan “was used to eating like a college student – a lot of eating out and junk food,” she says. “I knew diabetes would mean I’d have to change my diet, and I didn’t think that I could change my eating habits.”
But she did. She says she thought about her own family – her husband, Darnell, and their three children. “I would not say that I had an ‘a-ha’ moment,” she says. “My inspiration has always been my children.”
Over time, McMillan made small changes that led to a big difference. These included finding time to be active throughout the day: She began dancing with her kids and getting on the floor to play with them. She incorporated walking into her routine by taking her middle son to school on foot rather than riding the bus. (Read more tips on getting started walking.)
She decided to re-think her diet by making sure to eat three meals a day and reading nutrition labels at the grocery store. (Find out more here about understanding food labels.) She began counting carbs. “I have started paying a lot more attention to the foods and drinks that I put into my body,” McMillan says.
As well, she has found support in her husband, Darnell, who “has been amazing,” says McMillan. She adds that he has also changed his own eating habits out of support for his wife.
The result: “My lifestyle has changed dramatically,” says McMillan. She has lost weight, lowered her A1C, and checks in regularly with her diabetes care team.
“I have learned to take one day at a time. Also, I’ve learned to make the best out of what I have. I have stopped complaining about the little troubles in life. I enjoy each day and am very thankful for what I have.”
Her advice for others living with type 2 diabetes? “It is a wake-up call to change your life for the better,” she says. “Try to embrace it and live with it.”
Jessica Apple is the co-founder and editor in chief of the online diabetes lifestyle magazine A Sweet Life. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Financial Times Magazine, The Southern Review, The Bellevue Literary Review, and Tablet Magazine. Apple is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience