FITNESS OR FATNESS – THAT IS THE QUESTION

By Terry Carter, Editor

I have weighed more than 200 pounds for about 25 years now, topping out at a mountainous 262 pounds about 3 years ago. As a chronic, Type 1 diabetic with a recently disabled knee at the time, my recovery prognosis for the knee was debateable. 

After surgery and about six months of rehabilitation three days a week, the doctor said I was permanently disabled, would always walk with a limp and may never run again. At this weight and an average diabetic diet that included fast food, taking more insulin to compensate for my sugar cravings and sodas, I was nearing 50 years old and losing a life-long health battle that began when I was 11 years old.

Back then I played 5-6 sports – including baseball, golf, tennis, wrestling and football – and led most teams I played on due to good hand-eye coordination, strength, flexibility and some athletic ability. After a baseball all-star game in June 1976, my mom bought me four Cokes, and I guzzled each one while eating two hotdogs. Then I asked for a fifth Coke.

As a registered nurse, she recognized this much sugar was a bad sign for my health. Two days later, I suffered through a 5-hour, glucose tolerance test and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. 

Thirty days in the hospital was the rule back then. So this hyper, athletic 11 year old bounced up and down the hospital halls in a wheelchair. It was the nurse’s way of preventing my blood sugar from falling due to extra exercise. Thus began the complicated daily adjustments in insulin, diet, exercise and even shoes that changed my life for the better.

Better, you say? How so? Well, the doctor was matter-of-fact and told me early on that if I listened and did everything he suggested, I may live to be 60 years old. We didn’t discuss the alternative.


So for more than 35 years, I had analyzed blood sugars, adjusted insulin doses, eaten OK and stayed semi-active as our three children grew up. But dietary knowledge and fitness gurus improved the system while I was preoccupied as many of us are today. Calories didn’t matter as much as Carbs. And cardio and cross-training became the fitness trends.

When I fell and hurt my knee, the Meniscus tore. And I was forced to walk like Festus in the old TV series Gunsmoke, kind of dragging my right knee behind me because the knee would no longer bend to lift it off the ground. Some of that was caused by the knee injury; some of the limp came from the hard scar tissue after the surgery.

So after the rehab doctor tells me I will likely never run again and am permanently disabled, my inner athlete chose to challenge those findings immediately. First I signed up for several seasons of slow-pitch softball. The first season, no one let me run. The second season, I ran the bases slow but steady after spending almost six months jogging sprints and trying not to fall on my face..

And the third season, I batted exclusively from the left side to get closer to first base, and I ran hard… for an old guy with one leg. On infield grounders, I forced myself all out to first base, and I beat a handful of throws. Playing infield was good training for the legs too because I simply didn’t give up.

Back to today: I walk about 30 miles a week and go running 3-4 times weekly. With my injury, I am forced to consciously take every step carefully and precisely to prevent stumbling on hilly terrain and stairs. I still fall, but I get back up and move on. As part of this rehab mission, I have always become a 3-day-a-week regular at my gym. It’s like CHEERS: They wave to me when I enter.

I have made good progress on the weights, treadmill and swimming once a week. I am not concerned about sweating hard and growling during my last 2-3 repetitions on a challenging weight. And I am now leg pressing as much as the machine can handle, and that leg press is the best rehab exercise for my knees, bar none.


As I mentioned earlier, I weighted 262 about 2.5-3 years ago after the surgery. Now I am 224 pounds, a 38-pound drop based on taking known weaknesses and focusing on them – intently! I never ran cross country or sprints. So my 5K runs for practice and in competition are new stimulus to my body. Your body and mine alike dislike the same excercises over and over. I mix long walks with pure sprints with quarter-mile jogs, but the running itself is my body’s best cardio workout.

It may be different for you. And 224 pounds is the lightest I have weighed in more than 20 years. I could not have imagined that after I reached 35 or 40 years old. It’s incredible to be moving down in weight while eating well and taking all-natural supplements from Plexus. The combination of eating healthier, exercising consistently and taking vitamins and the right supplements is a rare combination that gave me more energy, endurance, focus and better results.

I cannot tell you how happy I am with the strength, quickness, flexibility and overall health I am feeling right now. Also I take less than 50 percent of the insulin I injected three years ago. To all of you real runners out there, I’m not Clydesdale size yet, but my goal of 205-210 is within sight. Then I will bust that 35-minute barrier in a 5K race.

And if a 51-year-old man with a chronic disease and one knee can do that, I’m sure you can at least walk 15-30 minutes after you get home from work. How about it? Are you willing to join me?