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The DX Diabetes Dish: Peter Nerothin

Insulindependence founder on optimism and living with T1

The DX regularly features The DX Diabetes Dish, a profile about life and life with diabetes. This month, we dish with Peter Nerothin, president and founder of Insulindependence, an organization that inspires people living with diabetes to set fitness goals, educates them through hands-on experience, and equips them to explore their individual capacities. Nerothin, an endurance athlete who lives with type 1 diabetes, has created an organization that empowers people to improve their lives with diabetes through active living, what he calls experiential diabetes education.

What is your state of mind today?

Optimistic. I work very hard to surround myself with positive people who share my vision for a better world. It’s a great place to be.

What three words would you use to describe who you are?

Blessed, blessed, and blessed.

How does diabetes change – or not change – who you are?

Diabetes has taught me discipline and organization. For this and other reasons, I’ll always consider my diagnosis to be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve developed a great sense of purpose and life direction over the past twelve years – I’m not sure if I’d be able to say that if I didn’t have diabetes.

What inspires you to do what you do?

I’m driven by an enormous sense of responsibility to the people Insulindependence serves each day. I could work 100 lifetimes and not have enough time to pay forward the gifts of hope and inspiration that my diabetes mentors and role models continue to offer me.

What do you appreciate most in your friends?

Sometimes I get trapped in overdrive at work. My best friends are the ones who challenge me to break free to take personal time, but also understand that my work is my passion and sometimes feels like therapy for me. It’s a very fine line that only a few people understand. These people I treasure.

What would you pack for your favorite vacation?

Running shoes and a few good books. Not e-books, but the ones with pages that smell better and better as years go by. I’d pass on anything that plugs in, with the exception of my meter charger.

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

Diet Coke1, I suppose. Honestly, I’m on the “airport diet” at the moment since this is a high travel month. During these stretches, I try to hunt for healthy snack options between lunch and dinner meetings. This can be challenging for someone with diabetes, but I’ve learned to adapt.

What is your favorite way to relieve stress?

I’ve found that exercise is not only the best way for me to relieve stress – it’s also the best way for me to prevent stress. Endurance sports are a great fit because it generally takes me at least forty-five minutes into a workout to really clear my mind. After that, I’m in a sacred place and everything always seems to level out.

What is your idea of happiness?

French press coffee in the morning with a good book, followed by a long bike ride and a nap. Especially if it’s a Saturday, and I know I can do it all over again in a few hours.

What do you most dislike?

Lines (or “queues” for those of you from the British Commonwealth). I’m as patient as Job when I’m in control of my situation. Unfortunately, I can’t control how many drink customizations are going to slow me down in the line at the coffee shop. The smartphone has significantly increased my quality of life in recent years.

What’s your favorite diabetes management tip?

They’re just numbers. High readings used to make me especially anxious. Then I realized that life isn’t perfect, and diabetes will win some battles. But with a good attitude and a bit of patience, I will win the war.

What words do you try to live by?

Hakuna matata. I’m naturally inspired and driven, so this philosophy keeps things in perspective. I live with surfers in Southern California, so they’re quick to hold me accountable.

What is your greatest fear?

I have one great fear – mediocrity. It works out well because I’m always swinging for the fences and never too discouraged when I experience failures.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Lately I’m a glutton for frequent flyer miles. I find myself giving away award tickets because using them would mean sacrificing a faster track to increased status. These airline people are clever.

On what occasion do you lie?

I lie to myself every night when I set the alarm. I’m terrible at waking up in the morning, and I curse the person who invented the snooze bar.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

My mom carries a lot of guilt and stress about my brother and me both having diabetes. I wish she wouldn’t. This condition isn’t a life sentence, which is what my work is about. Hopefully she and other d-moms can see that.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Michael Jordan and Yvon Chouinard. Michael is the embodiment of perfection through vision and tireless dedication. Yvon is the founder of Patagonia®. His business philosophy is something I aspire toward as a young entrepreneur. Each new Insulindependence staff member receives a copy of his book, Let My People Go Surfing.

What would you choose for your last meal?

A breakfast burrito with bacon, avocado, and hot sauce. No question about it. I confess that this is often my “last meal.” (Best when eaten after a long surf session followed by a hot shower.)

What are you looking forward to right now?

I recently discovered the Cleveland National Forest in Southern California. I can’t wait to go back for my next long weekend of camping, biking, and trail running. I feel ashamed that it took me so long to discover it, and have already decided it will be one of my favorite getaway sanctuaries.

1Diet Coke is a registered trademark of The Coca-Cola Company.

All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the interviewee and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2012 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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