After enduring a harsh winter with record-breaking low temperatures earlier this year, I am so glad spring is finally here! I welcome the warmer weather and try to find any excuse to get outdoors. Many evenings and weekends, you’ll find me out for a walk or working in my yard. Someone else who enjoys time outside is travel agent Madeline Martinez. Read on to see how fresh air – and fresh produce – have helped improve her health.
In 2012, when Madeline was 48, she learned she lives with type 2 diabetes. “I was a little shocked because I wasn’t aware of any symptoms,” she said. “Then I said, ‘You know what? This is something that can be dealt with.’ I know other people that live with it and I felt like I could manage it. It was a wake-up call that I needed because I’ve been overweight for many years and it was the incentive to get healthier, and I did.”
Taking the news to heart, Madeline immediately set about revamping her lifestyle. “After my endocrinologist and I found out, she told me what we needed to do,” she said. “The moment I got home I started looking for a gym. Within a week I was going to the gym. I went through my pantry and refrigerator and I got rid of everything that I felt was bad. I just went cold turkey. I went straight to my local natural foods store and started buying fresh veggies and fruits. No more white rice for me. I stocked my refrigerator full of foods for healthier eating, and I just dove right into it.”
After several months of buying organic produce, Madeline decided to try her hand at growing her own. “If there’s one thing that I like to do, it’s work with my hands,” she said. “I love to do things and build things and put things together. My mom always loved to garden so I said, ‘Let me give it a crack.’”
To get started, Madeline found a local landscaper who manages an urban farm and asked him to build a raised garden bed for her. She also got her first starter plants from him: tomatoes, salad greens, kale and cabbage. Madeline rounded out her garden with radishes, carrots and broccoli rabe. “It was a great deal and it worked out well,” she said. “From there, I basically used common sense and online research to learn about gardening. I knew I wasn’t going to have the time to do a full-blown mini farm kind of thing because I work. I leave my house at 8:00 in the morning and I get home at 7:00 at night. So it’s a very small garden.”
In addition to the fresh vegetables, Madeline enjoys the physical activity of gardening. “I get some nice oxygen, sun and exercise,” she said. “It’s not easy clearing out a weed bed; it takes energy. I’m not sitting on a couch, watching television. I’m exercising because I have to use the shovel and the rake; I’m moving about. It’s great. I’m sweating and working hard, but at the end, I get a salad. It’s so much fun to be able to sit down and have a dish of something that I actually grew.”
To grow her vegetables, Madeline uses organic gardening practices. “I try to buy organic seeds from sustainable companies, like Sustainable Seed Company,” she said. “I use no pesticides. To kill weeds, I use a mixture of white vinegar, salt and a little bit of dish soap in a sprayer. I don’t want any chemicals on my food. I’d rather have three tomatoes from a plant I know is organic. That’s my philosophy.”
Eating natural foods is important to Madeline. “I try to buy all my food organic,” she said. “I try to avoid chemicals and genetically modified foods. I’ve eliminated fast foods. I haven’t gone to a fast food restaurant in a few years now. I don’t drink juices or sodas, not even diet sodas; the only thing I drink is water. Water’s my beverage of choice for any occasion. Giving all that up was a little tough, but once I started, I felt an incredible change in my body. Once I got used to it, I loved it. It’s been a matter of changing my lifestyle.”
Those lifestyle changes have paid off. “So far I have already lost 61 pounds and I went down from a size 26 to a size 18 in jeans,” she reported. “My A1C level went down. I think when I was first diagnosed, it was around 6.8 and now my A1C level is 5.9. I used to be tired all the time, but now I’ve got more energy and zeal. It’s changed my outlook on everything. I’m more self-confident now than I ever was before. I couldn’t be happier.”
One new food Madeline has discovered is quinoa. “I’ve been doing cross training and I feel like I need extra protein for all the intense exercises,” she explained. “Dishes that I would normally do with rice, now I substitute quinoa instead. The other day I made vegetable fried rice with quinoa and one of the vegetables I used was carrots from my garden.”
Madeline already has plans for her next crop. “I need stuff that’s easy to grow, easy to harvest and doesn’t require 24/7 attention from me because I have a pretty busy life,” she said. “For the summer, I’m going to grow tomatoes again, and my little back yard has an area for shade, which is where I grow my salad greens.”
To those considering starting a garden, Madeline offers encouragement. “Just do it,” she urged. “It’s such a rewarding experience, especially for people that work in an office all the time. It’s just a good chance to be outside and get some sun and to just breathe. Because you have to pay attention to what you’re doing, you can disconnect your mind from some worries or concerns you may have. When I’m gardening, I forget many problems in the world and I just concentrate on making my tomato plant grow.”
There’s something to be said for unplugging and reconnecting with the great outdoors. As Madeline said, it’s a chance to just breathe. What are some of your favorite ways to disconnect from the digital world? I’d love to hear in the comment section below. My thanks to Madeline for sharing her inspiring story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Madeline Martinez received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.