Something that has served me well in my life is being open to trying something new. I have never been one to shy from ordering an interesting dish on the menu or taking the road less traveled. And as the poet Robert Frost wrote, “…that has made all the difference.” When I talked with Joslin Medalist Prudence Barry, I recognized a similar philosophy. Latin American History professor Deborah Kanter also seems to be someone who embraces new experiences, and I’m pleased to share her story with you today.
Green Lights Ahead
“I look at a lot of friends and family members around my age, who really seem stuck in a rut with things they think they can do,” Deborah said. “Personally, I like learning about things, trying new things, discovering what new things work well for me. I’m definitely getting a little older, but I don’t see any red lights at this point. I just see green lights with possibilities.”
One green light with possibilities Deborah sees is with new foods, particularly vegetables. She frequents farmers’ markets, where she was enticed into trying – and enjoying – arugula. “I saw this big bag of arugula and thought maybe I would like arugula salad; maybe I could cook with it. Now I sometimes have arugula with my eggs for breakfast.” Deborah also participates in a community garden, where she grows a variety of foods like peppers, tomatoes, beets, kale, carrots and leeks.
With a mom and brother who live with type 2 diabetes, the risk factors for developing type 2 have long been on Deborah’s radar. A number of years ago, she joined Weight Watchers® and lost 30 pounds. She began exercising – swimming, hiking, walking and strength training – most days of the week and practiced portion control in her eating. “I felt really well and I thought, ‘Okay that’s it, I’m not going to be getting diabetes,’” she recalled.
Then at age 48 in July 2010, Deborah started losing more weight without trying, and experienced increased thirst and frequent urination. Given her family history of type 2 diabetes, she asked her doctor for a fasting blood glucose test. “Actually my healthcare provider did not want to give me the test,” said Deborah. “She told me, ‘Oh, look at you, you’re so healthy. You don’t need this. You’re fine.’ I insisted and the test showed that my A1C was 14 percent at the time.”
Like many, Deborah questioned her prognosis. “I asked my doctor, ‘If I improve my diet and exercise, can I turn this around?’” Deborah remembered. “The doctor responded, ‘Well, no, you have diabetes. You could try to live better with it.’ That’s when I realized that this is a condition that I would have forever, so I learned about diet, exercise and stress relief, and really tried to put those things front and center in terms of taking care of myself. I feel probably healthier now than I ever thought I could.”
To educate herself, Deborah often turned to A Sweet Life diabetes blog, where she was encouraged by examples of people traveling internationally, cooking exotic foods and running marathons, while living with diabetes. “That was helpful in thinking about possibilities,” she said. “It became apparent to me that you could be a person with diabetes and still do all kinds of things. I wanted to be the diabetic who could travel and who was physically active and may live for decades. So I decided to do that.”
In the Swim of Things
When Deborah was 18, she lived in Israel and was lured into swimming in a beautiful pool with year-round access in the desert sun. She has continued swimming for exercise through the years, striving to improve her strokes. “Every summer I get in the pool and my goal is to see how quickly I can get up to swimming a mile,” she said. “For me, it’s a great, full body workout and it’s relaxing. I feel very encouraged that I have been able to maintain this level of swimming as I get older. It’s my athletic point of pride.”
Now living in Michigan, Deborah has also participated in an open water lake swim every July for the past six years with about 30 other people. “It’s really a lot of fun, getting out there on a sunny day and swimming half mile across the lake and back,” she said. “Even though I know I can do the distance, it always feels like a small challenge.”
The summer of her type 2 diabetes diagnosis, Deborah was concerned about exercise and blood sugar level, so she tested after getting out of the pool each time, and made sure she had snacks handy. She learned that, for her, swimming doesn’t bring her blood sugar down quickly, so for longer swims, she just makes sure she has a small and healthful snack before swimming.
On the Move
Deborah makes getting regular exercise a priority. Prior to her diagnosis, she frequently exercised five to six days a week. “Now my default is that I am going to try and get in some physical activity every day,” she said. “I just keep looking for new things that I enjoy doing.” On any given day, you may find Deborah hiking with a friend, biking around town or strength training at the gym. Deborah’s teenage son also sometimes joins her at the gym.
I found Deborah’s adventurous attitude refreshing. It was interesting to hear about the variety of things she’s tried since her diagnosis, and how she makes physical activity a regular part of her life. She made me want to hop in the pool myself! What is something new you’ve tried recently? I’d love to hear in the comment section below. My thanks to Deborah for sharing her story.
All the best,
Disclosures: Deborah Kanter 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.
Weight Watchers is a registered service mark of Weight Watchers International, Inc.