MY DESIRE TO WIN THE BATTLE AGAINST DIABETES
Written by Jorge Villa
Ever walk out of a nurse’s office and catch eyes staring at you as if your shorts were at your ankles? Thoughts storming though your mind of, “What the fuck?” without actually uttering it.
That was me, the one that drew what I interpreted as negative attention. Kids looked at me as if I was different.
Frozen Snicker bars were the best! Especially when you ‘re 12 years old and convinced, by commercials, that they truly satisfy you! Then, you get surprised with a diagnosis of Diabetes, Type 1.
I was a fat kid, who loved to eat. And I ate damn good, authentic, grandma’s home-cooked Mexican food. Food was comforting, and in our house it is an expression of love. But after being diagnosed, I had to change my eating habits and learn how to enjoy being active. How could I when I was surrounded by the environment I was in?
My goal, then, was to get through middle and high school without anyone noticing. I didn’t want to be different, but had no choice. It ultimately affected how I saw myself and killed my physical confidence.
Like every other 9th grader, I wanted to join the freshmen football team. Since I was over 6 feet at age 14, my hopes were also set on volleyball. However, having struggled with managing my insulin and fearful of the adverse effects on my body, I stayed home on the first day of tryouts for both sports. In fact, I rarely involved myself with physical activity.
Instead, I found myself heavily involved in student leadership, looking for a job during the summer entering 11th grade, and ultimately being elected ASB president my senior year.
Apparently my outgoing personality won everyone else over, but myself.
Physically, I was left empty and always wondering what it could be like if I was normal. Oh, that summer job search landed me at Sea World San Diego, walking the parking lot picking up trash. Who’d a thought I’d spend the next 20 years working for a company that has given me so much, and ultimately changed my life.
I held many roles from Park Operations, to babysitting kids on overnight sleepovers, animal training, show performances, and most recently animal care. But that life changing experience… the benchmark swim test that Sea World fitness sets to ensure their animal trainers can physically complete their job duties. Ever since stepping foot in the Park, I was fascinated with the interaction between animals and trainers. Whatever it took, I was determined to make it happen.
I remember it as if it were yesterday, lying in bed on Saturday morning , 21 years old hung over from a night at Typhoon Salon when I made a commitment to myself to find a balance in managing my disease and being physically fit to pass that swim test! I already mentioned above how the story plays out, but it was the love and passion to train animals that made it happen.
That swim test happens every 3 months. My sole motivation to workout was to be conditioned enough to pass that quarterly test. It wasn’t easy, but it happened when I re-directed my negative mindset onto a tangible, realistic, short-term goal. I accepted my body how it was, and provided the insulin shots necessary to keep my blood sugars balanced for my workouts. My eating habits weren’t the best, and God knows my alcohol intake made managing my diabetes all the more difficult. But young and stupid, I did what I needed to do.
Fast-forwarding 15 years, it wasn’t until well into my mid-30s that a coworker at Sea World (P360’s own MJ Kafkas) introduced me to a gym that has taken me to a level of physical activity that I have never reached before. Having been a part of the this community for over a year and a half now, I honestly can say that my knowledge and understanding of my physical anatomy, nutrition needs, and exercise technique have reached their heights. My addiction to attend each workout is now driven intrinsically and my confidence and understanding of my physical body has skyrocketed.
What once required a tangible motivation swim test has morphed into my own personal desire to win the battle with diabetes.
For all you heath tech freaks out there, I now have better control of my blood sugar – the strategic battle for any diabetic. Prior to beginning my training, my hemoglobin A1c ranges were high 8’s. For people without diabetes, the normal range for the hemoglobin A1c is between 4% and 5.6%. Hemoglobin A1c levels between 5.7% and 6.4% indicate increased risk of diabetes, and levels of 6.5% or higher indicate diabetes. The goal for people with diabetes is a hemoglobin A1c less than 7%. The higher the hemoglobin A1c, the higher the risks of developing complications related to diabetes.
Ready for this…since training here and adopting a lifestyle of fitness, my A1c levels are ranging in the high 6’s to low 7’s.
This change makes all the difference in my world! Training constantly motivates me to step outside my comfort zone and explore what I am capable of, without judgment. I admire the coaches for their expertise, the members for their dedication, and our community for the environment we create.
I definitely haven’t reached the finish line, but I believe I’m well on my way to Becoming More.
Jorge Villa has been a member of Performance360 since December 2014.