I love interviewing different people who inspire me! One of those people is my friend Danie Williams -Rivera. The first time we met we were at a fitting in New York and as we were getting measured we began talking about body image, weight, health and healing. Her story about having Type 1 Diabetes was a real eye opener for me so today I am hoping this interview helps you to feel inspired, motivated and informed a little more about Diabetes.
What started you on your fitness journey?
Ha! That’s a loaded question, I could probably write a whole book on where my fitness journey started and started again… but, I won’t put you all through that, here is the abridged version: I’ve always been athletic. I played a ton of sports and was very active throughout High School and College – Cheerleading, Volleyball, Softball, Dancing, etc. Though I was athletic, I wouldn’t say I was healthy and I definitely had a warped sense of self. My journey took a really big hit when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2007, right after I moved to NYC. I had lost a severe amount of weight (I could honestly say I was SKINNY for the first time in my life), but I was dying… literally. Thankfully, we were able to get on insulin and start getting my blood sugars stable again, but I had a huge realization of how important my body actually is… and how terribly I had been treating it, speaking to it, and feeding it (or not feeding it) over the years.
As my blood sugar stabilized, I started to gain back some of the weight and muscle I had lost. I was very stable and at an extremely healthy weight for several years, then I had some bad reaction to some of the medication I’ve been on for Diabetes and ballooned about 60 lbs in just a year and some change. Fighting against insulin (a fat building hormone) can make staying fit and at a healthy weight extremely difficult. I got on my current fitness journey with Beachbody while trying to combat the effects of my disease and the medicine that is saving my life.
What does being healthy and fit look like to YOU?
One of the FIRST things I had to do was stop associating healthy and fit with a number on the scale or the size of an article of clothing. Knowing the difficulties I was having with weight, because of the insulin, I had to pick an ideal of healthy that was achievable… hopefully, this would affect the scale in the long run, but I wasn’t going to focus on that. So, I decided that healthy and fit looks like someone who takes care of their body by staying active and eating well. For me, this means a minimum of 30 minutes of strenuous activity a day and eating food that I can name the ingredients of. (If it comes in a box and I don’t know what that word in the ingredients list is, I don’t want to be eating it). I also wear my Fitbit and work towards 10,000 steps a day (in addition to the 30 minutes, though they both usually contribute to each other) so that I remember to get up and move while sitting at my desk.
What are some things you do regularly to keep you motivated and committed?
I believe that the ultimate secret of success (especially fitness) is to not leave things to chance or to my own inspiration. I was having a hard time working out at night, because there was ALWAYS a reason to not work out, so Daniel (my husband) and I decided to work out in the morning. I am NOT a morning person, but being healthy is important to me, so we made a lot of changes a little at a time and now we’ve been getting up at 4:30am to work out, because that is the only time I KNOW that I will get up and do it. (I mean, what else will I be doing at 4:30, right?)
Sometimes, I will go to bed in my workout clothes… then I know when I wake up it will motivate me. I make sure I have EVERYTHING ready to go for the morning, so I can’t find an excuse to not do it. Sometimes, when I’m really struggling to be motivated I give myself a pep talk… “you may be tired today, but you will be SO HAPPY this afternoon!” “It’s going to be so amazing when you have this done right away!” “You owe this to your body”… that sort of thing. Another BIG motivation are my Beachbody Challengers. We’ve made a commitment to each other, we’re going to see this through together, I can’t very well help and coach others when I’m not willing to take my own advice and do the work myself!
My commitment is in honoring this blessing that God gave me – this beautiful body that wakes up every day and experiences all the amazing things life has to offer. If I don’t honor and take care of this gift, what kind of Thank You is that?
What have you learned MOST about your body: mind-body and soul on this journey?
God doesn’t have a physical beauty standard. If I put my identity in Him, then I need to know that He finds me beautiful… and who else matters? If GOD can find me beautiful, then why can’t I find myself beautiful, even if I’m not at the fitness goal I’m trying to reach? It’s all about the journey and finding ways to love each moment of it. Every time I turn down sweets or get up and work out even though I’m tired, I give myself a high-five! The small encouragements and rewards along the way are SO IMPORTANT to your mental health… which ultimately leads to your physical health. Self abuse only leads to an unhealthy downward spiral… the ONLY way to be healthy is to start with the mind. That really is the biggest thing I’ve learned.
What things can you share with us from your experience on how to properly manage Diabetes or look out for it?
The 3 biggest tips I could give are:
1.) Coming from a Diabetic… watch out for hidden sugar. It’s in EVERYTHING, it’s highly addictive, and as much as we all LOVE sugar… it is just not good for you. It can lead to so many other problems. I believe in portion control, but if you aren’t at a place where you can have just a little bit, or just a bite of that, then it’s best to avoid it until the addiction passes.
2.) Food Logs are EVERYTHING! Seriously, they will make or break a fitness goal. It’s
amazing how much we eat and don’t even realize it. Get a food log and write everything down. A good app: My Fitness Pal. Otherwise, a notebook will do. I am also coming out with a Diabetic Food Log in the next month or two that will be focused also on keeping track of medication, insulin dosages and blood sugar levels.
3.)Ask and research. This is another crucial step for wellness success. If you don’t know if something is good for you or not, ask someone or look it up. If you want some new workout ideas, ask. If you want a workout buddy, ask around or find an online community. There are so many people who are on this journey with you, you are not alone and it’s so important to help each other live a healthy life – mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Thank you Danie for taking the time to share with us your story, your journey and tips to better health and wellness!
You can follow Danie’s Blog at letter2self.com
Photographer Stanley Debas (First 3 photos)
Paz y Amor