Bret Love Before and After Diabetes Diagnosis

(Left) In March, Before My Diagnosis; (Right) Today, 6 Weeks Later

The Secret I’m Ashamed To Tell You

Living With Diabetes

Today is my birthday.

I am 44. The number itself doesn’t really mean much to me, as I’ve never let my age dictate my actions or attitude. But this birthday has a special significance, because I recently got a bad diagnosis from my doctor that has made me more determined than I’ve ever been in my life.

 

I’ve always been a big guy. When I was a kid, playing soccer (or, as it’s called everywhere but the U.S., football), my teammates nicknamed me “Bulldozer” because I had a tendency to go right through obstacles rather than seeking a way around them. I was younger than all my classmates by nearly two years due to skipping a grade, but size-wise you’d never have known it. My mom had to get my jeans from the Husky section, and I remember in high school being extremely embarrassed because we had to buy my pants for my performance in the One Act Play at a different store from all the other guys. At age 15, I was already a size 38 waist.

 

My grandfather was a big man, cut from hardy Scottish stock. My father seemed enormous to me, like a moving mountain. So, while I battled to keep my weight in check for most of my life, I never worried too much about it. The ladies seemed to like me, my size never held me back from going on amazing travel adventures, and my doctors never issued any cause for major alarm, even when I developed high blood pressure and high cholesterol a few years ago.

 

But in late April, that all changed when my doctor told me I have diabetes. I wasn’t completely surprised, as I knew I had some blood sugar issues and had been making subtle adjustments, using Splenda rather than sugar, cutting back on alcohol, and eating more fruits and veggies. But it wasn’t enough. In our efforts to build GGT, I’d become a total workaholic, and the combination of stress, lack of exercise, and sitting at a computer 12 hours a day had broken down my system. I was sick, and being told that if I didn’t make some changes I could lose a leg, my eyesight, or even my life whipped my ass into gear.

I’m ashamed of the person I became, not just out of shape but completely out of touch with the work/play balance in my life. But I’m working my butt off to make changes. I’m working out 5-6 days a week now, varying between playing basketball, swimming and lifting weights to turn my fat into muscle. I’ve cut carbs almost completely out of my diet, painful though it was, and satisfy my sweet tooth with sugar free treats. I’ve still got a long way to go to look and feel like the man I’ve always wanted to be, but I’m proud of my progress so far.

 

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want you to know that, no matter what obstacle you may have in your life, you can overcome it! I  believe that miracles happen every day, and many begin with one simple thing: Faith. Whether it’s faith in a higher power or simply faith in yourself, there’s no greater magic than the power of positivity, and that’s what keeps me going when I want to give up.

 

With GGT, Mary and I are finally realizing our dream, and I’d like to think we’re doing our best to help others along the way. And that– as well as my deep love for Mary, my daughter, my friends and family– gives me something to live for, and makes me want to strive harder every day. Thanks for reading, and for being a part of our dream come true!

Fondly,

Bret  

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Whale Watching Cruise in Dominica

On A Whale Watching Cruise in Dominica

Stories You Might Have Missed

We understand that it’s difficult to keep up with everything that’s going on around the Internet on a day-to-day basis. So, just in case you missed it, here are links to some of the stories we posted this month:

10 Unbelievable Mountains For Your World Travel Bucket List

10 Uncrowded National Parks For Your World Travel Bucket List

BERMUDA Photo Gallery

CouchSurfing 101: Facts & Fiction About Travel’s Fastest-Growing Community

DESTINATIONS: Conquering 27 Waterfalls in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

DESTINATIONS: A Green Guide to Greensboro, North Carolina

DESTINATIONS: South Africa Safari- Londolozi Private Game Reserve

DOMINICA Photo Gallery 1 – Whales, Waterfalls & Mountains

DOMINICA Photo Gallery 2- Kalinago Territory & Cassava Bread Bakery

ECO NEWS: Alaska’s Rat Island Eradicates Vermin, Gets New Name

ECO NEWS: Global Sustainable Tourism Council Announces Trailblazing Travel Destinations

ECO NEWS: World’s First Underground Park Plans Announced

ENDANGERED SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: Greater Bamboo Lemur

ENDANGERED SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: Red Wolf

ENDANGERED SPECIES SPOTLIGHT- Saola (a.k.a. Asian Unicorn)

GLOBAL CUISINE: Manti (Turkey)

GO GREEN TIP #92: Green Gifts For Father’s Day

GO GREEN TIP #93: Attract Hummingbirds To Your Garden 

How To Avoid The Downsides Of Frequent Travel

INTERVIEW: The Incredible Story of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars

INTERVIEW: Paula Deen on Southern Cuisine

VIDEO: Amazon River Boat Party With Peruvian Music

 

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Photo Of The Month

Nesting Leatherback Turtle at Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica

Nesting Leatherback Turtle at Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica

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63 Responses to The Secret I’m Ashamed To Tell You (Living With Diabetes)

  • Happy Bday.

    My dad has diabetes, and he’s a very thin man, which maybe more serious than what you have, I think. I don’t really know. He’s had it for 20 years.

    What does NOT work is the diet, he loves his carbs and wine, and after that is sick and is a horrible mood.

    Not many people tell you about the moods of diabetics, just about the other stuff like amputation. But trust me, the moods can be some of the worst!

    He becomes horrible after not taking care of himself, which than makes it unfair for the rest of us.

    So definitely take care of yourself, people who take good care of themselves with diabetes live a very long healthy life!

  • happy birthday! and i am so glad you’re taking care of yourself – you can only go up from here. bravo – it’s hard! ed has been walking so much – this exercise changes lives. i am proud of you.

  • First of all, Happy Birthday. And secondly, I want you to know that I’m really glad to hear about your desire to kick it in the butt and get healthy :)

    I’m no stranger to health issues. I haven’t written about it yet for Marginal Boundaries or The Expat Guidebook, but you can read about my own journey at my Mediterranean Diet website.

    Long story short….I used to have chronic sinus infections that were so bad I went through 12 rounds of antibiotics one winter. I had chronic tendinitis and a cyst in my ankle. After I moved to Bulgaria and started eating The Mediterranean Diet…everything went away. I haven’t had a cold, a sniffle, a cough or anything in almost 5 years now. My sinus infections disappeared. Cyst disappeared. Tendinitis went away. And I lost over 50 pounds in 2 years and then another 10 up until early 2012, when I started doing P90X to bulk up with muscle as I had turned into a scrawny (albeit healthy) traveling beast :)

    Whole foods and regular exercise are the key, man. It’s awesome that you are taking the right steps. Sorry to hear about your diabetes, but thankfully it’s an entirely curable issue that just needs the right combination of foods and healthy living/regular fitness. The body is an incredible self-healing mechanism!

  • Well said, bro. When you initially told me about your condition, it startled me just a pinch. But when I looked in your eyes and saw that you were going to fight it head on, I knew it would be all right. If times get tough, though, know that you and Mary can lean on me and Zee for support. Always… Oh, and Happy Birthday!

  • Abi says:

    Please don’t feel ashamed. Every one of us has something that makes us feel less than perfect. It’s part of being human. If you knew more people’s secrets, you might be amazed. Huge congratulations for facing up to this and making the necessary changes. And for writing this post.

    And, of course, Happy Birthday!

  • Tiffany says:

    Happy Birthday Bret!! And glad to see nothing is letting you give up on your dreams! It’s a very fast paced world out there and taking care of our body is not always the first thing to come to mind. It must have been hard hearing the news and now sharing it with all your readers but I know you will inspire quite a few during your journey as well as rise above in great health. I wish you the best of health this year and the best of birthdays!

  • Michael says:

    Bret, Happy Birthday! Were all with you in the battle with life and yeah, age keeps throwing new stuff at us all to rise up and meet the challenge. It’s good to see you are doing just that. I work in the medical field and see a lot of diabetic patients say “I’ll do what I want and eat what I want”. They take the “I’m not going to acknowledge it approach” but you have to and you have to work at it because it will acknowledge you. It catches up to them, so keep eating healthy and exercising with some type of consistency, stay motivated!

    One cool thing is you can take your smart phone and while you spend an hour doing cardio on a treadmill you can look at some tweets, scan the global bloggers network for info, etc. I do this all the time and It keeps my mind occupied so the time flies by.

  • Abby says:

    Happy birthday, Bret! This was an excellent message. I’ve all but stopped working out in recent months, have been told I have high cholesterol, and even that my body type is prone to diabetes. Great kick in the butt to get myself back on gear!

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Abby! Glad the post was meaningful for you. If it inspires you to become even hotter than you already are, then I would call that a win-win!

  • Molly says:

    You’re looking GREAT and what an inspirational post. So true that attitude – or faith – makes such a difference in how someone can view life and their experiences in life, I have to work hard at it as had serious episodes of depression so know of what you speak all too well :) Have a wonderful b-day.

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Molly! I have friends and family members who battle depression, so I understand how tough that can be. I was severely depressed as a teen and have written a post about the suicidal thoughts I used to have, but mine was situational rather than clinical. Now, I always tend to focus on the positive.

  • Jim says:

    Many of my clients have diabetes and have particular shoe requirements.
    But a couple who went on weight reduction programs have found their diabetes has disappeared and are now living a good life.
    So you’re doing the right things, paying attention to diet and exercise!
    Best wishes for you Bret!
    And with your Scottish heritage you’ve got the right body to win every caber tossing event at the Highland games!

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Jim! It’s nice that my metabolism is such that I’m already seeing results, which makes me that much more determined to push on.

  • Hey Bret,

    My father was diagnosed with Diabetes several years ago. It ended up being one of the best things that has ever happened to him. He got on a serious fitness regime and ended up losing all of the excess weight he had been carrying for years. He eliminated bad habits such as over-eating and eating the wrong foods. Within just a couple of years he was no longer needing to take any medications and the doctor actually cleared him of having it. His blood sugar is now completely normal. Maybe you’ll have a similar story to tell in the not too distant future. Best wishes!

  • Laurence says:

    Hey Bret! Sounds like you’re tackling this thing head on, well done! Sometimes it takes a major bump in the road to help us get motivated on a new and exciting path, and you don’t seem like the sort of person to take bumps lying down :) Keep smiling :D

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Laurence! As a friend recently said on my FB page, I’m definitely the sort of strong-willed person who tends to get things done, so I feel confident I can beat it. I just hate that I let my health deteriorate so much before waking up to it. Oh well, live and learn…

  • Firstly, Happy Birthday! There’s lots of things in life that make you have to stop, think and take control of your life. Many people stumble and let the situation hold it back… so good on you for making changes and not letting it affect your ambitions and your future. The fighting spirit and determination always triumpths, and you seem to have that in droves!

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Becki! I definitely am a fighter, though there are days when I wish I didn’t have to fight so hard all the time. Hopefully things will settle down a bit soon now that I’m finding the work/play/exercise balance.

  • Ayngelina says:

    FIrst of all Happy Birthday Bret! I think the story you shared about yourself is SO important because so many people just accept life for however it turned out but you are proof that if you really want to change things you can.

    I

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Ayngelina! I’ve never been very good about accepting things as they are, but hopefully as I get older I’m getting better about learning the lessons of the “Serenity Prayer” and accepting the things I cannot change. In this case, I know there’s a simple formula for beating all of my health issues, and I just have to find the time and energy to do it. It hasn’t been easy, but the overall improvement in my health is definitely worth it. Can’t wait to see where I’ll be a few months from now…

  • Happy Birthday Bret! Glad that travel has given you the life you have at the moment and good luck with the future as you continue staying healthy.

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Cole! I actually ended up working out twice on my birthday, doing some weight training in the morning (right before the photo, LOL) and swimming some laps at the lake last night. I feel myself getting stronger every day.

  • First of all “Happy birthday!” I know birthdays may not mean much but it’s always nice for people to acknowledge you.

    I grew up a really skinny kid – quite the opposite of you. Heading into my senior year of high school, I was 5’10 135 lbs. I “bulked up” to 145 and now I weigh around 180 (if you’ve seen photos of me, I’ve not fat at all but not the intimidating physical specimen I once was) :) With that said, I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes a couple of years ago. My grandmother has it and I wouldn’t be surprised if my parents get it. It’s just a hereditary thing for me.

    Exercise is HUGE so I commend you for working hard and getting in shape. I completely understand the workaholic thing because I do it as well. However, balance and exercise are key. Here’s hoping you stay on track and beat this to live a long, healthy life!

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks for the birthday wishes, Jeremy. The funny is that I actually do enjoy being active and getting exercise, I just wasn’t doing it over the winter because we were so incredibly busy trying to build GGT quickly. We’d been supporting a family of three on a freelancer’s salary for two years, and I was really only working at the writing gig part-time because GGT took so much of our time and energy to grow. I’m glad we did it, but I’m also glad we’re at a place now where we can breathe a little and strive for more balance. But I’m still a workaholic… :-P

  • Arianwen says:

    Congratulations! It sounds like you’ve made some really positive life changes and I hope you continue to see the effects. I used to work on a number of diabetes-related scientific journals so I know only too well about the side effects. There was one whole magazine called ‘The Diabetic Foot’! No joke. The great thing about travel is that it offers so many exciting opportunities to stay active. The downside is all the tempting foreign food! Stay strong and keep up the hard work. :)

  • Congrats on getting healthy, Bret! We also spend way too much time on our computers, and it’s starting to affect our energy levels and sense of well-being. So we’ve just made the commitment as well to be more active and eat foods that are super delicious AND healthy. It feels great to finally make that a priority.

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Christy! It’s funny how these things can get away from us, when they’re so important to our overall sense of well-being. It just feels as if there are so many things constantly competing for our attention, we barely have time to breathe! Best of luck with your new commitment.

  • miss*mason says:

    way to go, baby!

    i recently went back to weight watchers and started exercising much more… hula hooping (it’s a sneaky/fun workout!), cycling, walking/jogging, and swimming. i’m down 10 pounds and feel amazing.

    i didn’t want to go to the doctor and have them tell me any bad news, so I got the jump on those suckahs!

    keep doing what you do… we’d like to know you’ll be around for a long while!

    • Bret Love says:

      Kudos to you for taking the bull by the horns, Miss Mason! With Mary, Alex, great friends like you and the adventures I get to have through GGT, I certainly have PLENTY of reasons to stick around for as long as possible.

  • AvaApollo says:

    I love posts like this that are from the heart. It shows that all kinds of people travel and everyone has things to worry about. Good for you for making changes to get healthy! It’s definitely gratifying to lose weight and the endorphins from working out are the cherry on top.

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Ava. We don’t talk about our personal lives all that often on GGT, but hopefully through the monthly newsletter we’ll be able to pull back the curtains a little bit on the people who make GGT tick.

  • Happy Birthday, Bret! It’s so easy to get caught up in life that we forget to take care of ourselves. Glad that you even went to the doc to learn the diagnosis. Now you can continue doing what you are doing and work on getting healthy! :)

    • Bret Love says:

      I was honestly very slack about my health until I turned 40. But once i hit that milestone, I got self-employment insurance and began going for regular check-ups. There’s too much history of heart disease, cancer, etc. in my family not to. Now, I go every 3 months so they can monitor my progress… Thanks for the bday wishes!

  • You’ve got two guys in Seattle (at least some of the time) rooting for you. In fact, one of us was a cheerleader in high school…

  • Jennifer says:

    Happy birthday, Bret. Sounds like you already gave yourself the best present you could have, this year.

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Jen! I’m certainly trying to treat myself better at 44 than I did at 43. I think sometimes I just get so busy that I forget how old I am, and that my body works differently than it did at 24 (which is about how old I feel most days).

  • Mary says:

    Bret, Thank you for sharing. You (and Mary) are very inspiring and I am so happy you get to pursue your dreams and do so many amazing things. I especially love what you wrote about faith & positivity. I absolutely believe that, too. All the best to you & Happy Birthday!

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Mary!I’m really enjoying getting to see the joy you and Jim take in Eli. He’s blessed to have such wonderful parents. Miss you guys!

  • JP says:

    I’m so glad that you didn’t do what so many self employed people do, which is to ignore their health. I’m glad that you caught this early while it is still manageable. Just fact that you continually strive to strike a balance between work and play is probably going to serve you well. I love your attitude! I think everything is going to turn out just fine. If you haven’t already begun, you should start reading Dr. Andrew Weil. He’s brilliant and my hippie ex-wife (diabetes nurse) had all of her patients reading his stuff. Happy birthday, Bret!

  • First of all HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope you are having an amazing day:) Also, I just want to congratulate you on what you have accomplished. You are doing so well and have been so successful with your blog, and as I read, all other aspects of your life. Keep up the good work!

  • Happy Belated Birthday and thanks for sharing your struggle. The fact that you’re making goals to improve your health and actually reaching those goals is an inspiration. I was told I have borderline high-cholesterol a few weeks ago and it totally freaked me out. I, too, have been overwhelmed with life lately.

    I’ve been making changes similar to you like eating more veggies and cutting out alcohol (agh!) and am beginning to feel a difference. We all think it can’t happen to us. I do triathlons, have always been healthy and athletic and am a medic in the Army, but if you don’t take care of your body on the inside it doesn’t make a bit of difference. I wish you the best of luck!

  • Linda says:

    Firstly – a very happy birthday, and may your personal new year be healthy, happy & successful. Secondly – well done for sharing this. Sharing personal stuff doesn’t come easily to many of us, and I admire your courage in talking about this, so thank you. It will help others in the telling. Thirdly, congratulations on your attitude and positivity, which are inspiring, to say the least.

    I’m 65 now, so health tends to be on one’s mind more than when one is younger, and I see folk all around me suffering some consequence or other of not taking proper care of themselves when younger. People I’ve known most of my life are beginning to pay the ultimate price for that too. The attitude was “I’ll stop smoking/do more exercise/eat less fats & sugar/whatever when it begins to affect me,” sadly what some have found is that once they feel the affects, it’s too late.

    On a brighter note, my aunt was diagnosed some years back with diabetes and by sticking strictly to diet & exercise, she saved her own life last year when she had a slight stroke. Had she not been so fit (now 88 and still yoga every morning, and dancing as much as she can – before the stroke it was 3 ore 4 times a week!) the stroke would have killed her. Some of the fittest people I know are, actually, diabetic because they are conscious of everything they put into their bodies.

    Thanks again, congratulations again and lots of luck (if you like good food it’s not easy!),.

  • Inspiring post Bret. I’m still quite a bit younger than you, but have often wondered if this sort of thing is out on the horizon and coming closer for myself. Actually, I don’t wonder…I know it. Thanks for kicking me in the pants…time to start running again…

  • Bret–Happy Birthday and thanks for your profound gift of honesty. We have FAITH that you will BULLDOZE your way to a healthier balance in your life. Your progress toward that goal in such a short time is inspiring. I am now going to get off my ass and go have a swim.

  • Congratulations on kicking it into high gear and getting healthy – and not letting any of this stop you from living life your way!

  • I’m so sorry the doctor had bad news for you, but I have to say I love your outlook! Already you can see a difference, and with that kind of attitude, it sounds like you’ll even end up healthier than the average person despite the diabetes.

  • Adam Costa says:

    Hey Bret,

    Sorry to hear about that – I know a lot of people with diabetes, and it really depends on your outlook. Some just say “Screw it” and keep doing what they’re doing, while others make a complete lifestyle change and it actually becomes a good thing.

    I sense you’re the latter ;)

    Keep on keeping on!

  • Angela says:

    Diabetes is totally manageable, I know many people who have it, even severe cases who lead a completely normal life. This being said, never quit a healthy lifestyle, exercise and be careful about everything in your diet. Sadly, I have a bad case of diabetes in my family totally caused by self-negligence, and I can tell you that losing a leg and eyesight is the very beginning. I’ve cut refined sugar and other dangerous substances present in many of the products on the market, many people call me paranoid (and I probably am!), but once I got used, it’s not that difficult anymore and I actually enjoy my new lifestyle ;)

  • Turtle says:

    Happy birthday! And good on you for taking control of your health. The best thing about a good diet and regular exercise is that it improves so many elements of your life. Hopefully you’ll look back at this one day and see your diagnosis as a blessing in disguise! Good luck to you!

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Michael! I already feel a million times better than I did back in February/March, when I was REALLY feeling unhealthy. My goal is to drop a couple inches more by the end of the summer.

  • Victoria says:

    What a wonderful inspiring post. I read another post today on Family on Bikes about travelling with disabilities. It’s great to see that this hurdles don’t stop people from realising their dreams. Thanks you for sharing, and happy birthday!

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Victoria! I see stuff like this more as a challenge than an obstacle. Even yesterday, on vacation with my family, I amde time to work out for over an hour at a local pool.

  • Hi Bret,

    Happy birthday (again)! You are a water sign — like me, I’m a Pisces — which apparently means you can change and adapt better than most. It’s great that you changed in response to the wake-up call, and I hope you keep “going with the flow” of being in tune with yourself and endeavouring to lead a healthy life.

  • Laurel says:

    Happy belated birthday. Sorry to hear about your diagnosis, but love your take charge attitude. You will be an inspiration for a lot of people.

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Laurel. I mainly just want to live a long time for my daughter and Mary, because we have an awful lot of things we want to see and do and places we want to explore. Life’s too short!

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  • Arti says:

    Sorry to know about your diagnosis but its heartening to read that you have not been de-sprited by it.
    Hope all goes well for you, it will definitely because as you said faith cures even the incurable!! And yeah, belated Birthday Wishes:)

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