It’s not that Eric Magill never considered he’d face down type 2 diabetes. After all, the well-known daddy blogger and stay-at-home father of one (so far) watched as generation after generation of his family added the diabetes diagnosis to their lives. He just didn’t think he’d face it quite so soon.
And now his goal is not just to keep type 2 diabetes in check for himself; it’s also to help his child grow up with habits and food preferences that will help him avoid an early diagnosis. In other words, he doesn’t want his story repeated.
Blogger and dad Eric Magill
When he first moved out of his parent’s home as a young adult, Magill lived a “just do it” life: eating pizza and pasta at all hours, exercising seldom if ever, lounging around, and playing video games. His weight climbed to over 300 pounds, and since his family tree is riddled with type 2 diabetes, he “knew” it was coming his way. “I was pretty sure – in fact I was expecting – that I’d get it in my late forties,” said Magill.
But when the diagnosis hit him at just twenty-seven years old, Magill felt blindsided. Despite the family history, the signs, and the habits that could help it along, he never ever thought it would happen that soon.
But what Magill learned from his diagnosis, and has done with it to this day, may serve as an example to others. Once he shook off the dread and fear – “I was scared,” he said, “when I looked at what I had to do with my life, it was beyond daunting” – Magill began a journey toward improving his health, a journey that he hopes to continue in the years to come.
His first step happened organically, as he began to focus on what was important in his life. For him, it was family. Magill’s lifetime goal was to be a stay-at-home dad and writer. Before type 2, he just thought it would happen. With type 2 diabetes on board, he realized all that could be at risk.
“If I wanted to be a father and a husband, and be there for my family both in current time and for a long time, I had to change things,” he said.
The second was more literal: working slowly toward a better way of eating (notice he does not say “diet”) and a more active lifestyle (note he does not say “workout routine”). Since he was doing all of nothing for exercise and eating in an unthoughtful way, Magill knew he had a long way to go. But in the end, he realized that baby steps are still steps; steps toward living his dream of being a healthy stay-at-home dad for his family.
Magill’s first step was to get “real” support. Besides a good health care team and his loving wife, his mother moved in with them for a short time to help oversee changes he needed to make and help the couple adjust to life with diabetes. She helped him take the simple steps of cutting out soda and most foods with added sugar, and getting his meds adjusted. Magill saw immediate results.
“In the first few months, I lost a lot of weight,” he said. “Cutting out sugar will do that. But I knew it had to be more; that I had some big changes to make.” Then his mom moved back out, and Magill had to adjust again. He realized he had to take this “one step at a time.” Literally.
“Since I was now a stay-at-home dad, I didn’t have a simple schedule where you could just fit workouts in and plan meals exactly,” he said. “My life is about raising my son, and that means flexibility. However, over time, I realized that did not mean I could not make getting out and moving, as well as eating well, a priority.”
He found ways to make it work. Long walks with his son. Running around the yard. Swimming when it was warm enough; just making sure that each and every day, he and his son got up and moved. At the same time, he worked on what a plate should look like at a meal, introducing his wife, son, and his own palate to healthier choices. “Before, there was never anything green on my plate,” he said. “Now that’s changed. I’ve grown to like salads – I mean it; like them! And if you told me years ago I’d like broccoli, I’d have told you that you were crazy. But I do.”
And he developed a new skill, one all need. It’s called patience. “Once the initial weight came off, I hit a wall,” he said. “But I knew I could not give up. I had to go slow; give it time; change my life for real.”
It’s been five years now since he began taking steps toward these changes, and as he sits now, healthy, in much better control of his blood sugar, and feeling great (as well as a looking forward to adding to his family), Magill realizes it’s good that it took time.
“As a kid, I watched my mom try every fad diet and fail,” he said. “I just knew in my heart this had to be about a slow, steady, and sensible change.”
The feeling good part is a great reward. So is not fearing his future as much. “It’s not as difficult as it seems, if you just take it one step at a time,” he said.
But the biggest gift of all, he said, is looking at his son and knowing he’s modeling a better way of living for his boy.
“I think about that a lot,” he said. “And just the fact that my wife and I are eating right, and helping him grow up as a person who moves around every day, well, we’re teaching him a better way. We are modeling the way life should be for him. And it’s a great life.”
Adds Magill: “You know, I believe most of us know deep down how to eat right and live right; we just don’t do it. In this way, type 2 diabetes has been a blessing for me – and for my family. We’re living a full life and doing it a healthy way. That just makes me feel great as a dad.”
Moira McCarthy is an acclaimed writer, author, and public speaker who has shared her story – and lessons – on raising a child living with type 1 diabetes in the media, through books, and on her popular blog, despitediabetes.com. McCarthy has appeared on CNN Live, Good Morning America, and Fox News. She was recently recognized as the JDRF International Volunteer of the Year. Her six books include the top-selling The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children With Juvenile Diabetes and the upcoming Raising Teens With Diabetes: A Survival Guide For Parents. McCarthy is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience