Editor’s Letter: Confessions of a peanut butter addict

Then and Now: At my heaviest with comedian and actress Mary Lynn Rajskub two years ago (left) and in November with poet and friend Amy Pence at the Stevie Nicks concert.

By Collin Kelley

Last spring, I wrote about my sudden hospitalization thanks to a nasty throat infection. What I didn’t mention was that while I was hospitalized, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. My A1C level was 8.1, far above the normal level of 5.7. I had skipped right over “pre-diabetes” and went full-blown into what my southern grandma called “the sugars.”

My doctor (hi, Dr. Haller!) immediately put me on metformin, a twice-daily pill that helps control blood sugar levels. I had to start pricking my fingers twice a day to monitor myself and learning to use a glucose meter and test strips. I also had to immediately go on a diet and lose weight. I weighed a shocking 300 pounds. It was going to be a spring and summer of serious life changes. My father passed away three years ago from complications due to diabetes and I was determined not to follow in his footsteps.

Since my diagnosis in April, I have lost more than 60 pounds, become an avid walker and completely changed my diet. It is by far one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but the results are obvious. I’ve gone from a size 46 in jeans down to a 40 (and those are getting baggy), I’ve got more energy than I’ve had in years and I feel great. I’ve also started wearing a FitBit and might be more than a little obsessed with tracking my steps each day – usually 12,000, which is more than five miles.

At my last doctor visit in November, my A1C level had dropped to 5.2. Dr. Haller was so stunned, he just kept looking at the lab report and grinning. I had put my diabetes in remission in a little over six months.

The drastic change wasn’t easy. It was frustrating, nerve-racking and more than once left me in tears. Usually in the supermarket trying to figure out what I was going to eat for the rest of my life. I love southern food, anything fried, burgers, chocolate and peanut butter (JIF creamy – just hand me a spoon and I could finish off a jar in a day). My doctor warned me not to go cold turkey on the food I loved or my diet would fail. So, I slowly weaned myself off peanut butter and I’ve seriously cut back on the other food I grew up with. Learning to eat three healthy meals a day, figuring out how to make fruits and vegetables more palatable, and limiting portions of the things I love was trial and error. It was also expensive. It’s true that eating healthy costs more money, and I’ve got the receipts to prove it.

I am lucky enough to live on the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine. You can usually find me there on a daily basis. It’s literally been a life-saver. I hate gyms (even the under-used one in my building). The idea of being in a confined space robotically going through the motions on some machine was never going to work for me; I needed fresh air and open space to roam. My daily step count before my diabetes diagnosis was usually less than a 1,000 steps a day. I set a goal to do 3,000 steps a day. Then upped it to 5,000, then 8,000 and finally 10,000. I huffed and puffed my way through the summer until one day I noticed it was no longer taxing my body. It felt good to walk, and now if I don’t get up and move on a regular basis, I get antsy.

I still don’t own a scale. They don’t motivate me. I’ve kept track of my weight loss by how I look in the mirror, how my clothes fit (replacing an entire wardrobe is fun, but stressful) and by how I feel. My goal is to lose 50 more pounds by April and then get toward my goal weight of being under 200 pounds. Then, I’ll begin figuring out to maintain and not slip back into old habits.

I also don’t do new year’s resolutions, but I’ve promised myself to keep this diet and exercise routine on track. I’ll keep you posted on my results. And maybe I’ll see you out on the BeltLine in the new year.