Bill Firbi has learned to control his diabetes through nutrition and walking. Last year, to help set goals, he signed up to walk in the Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes, an ADA fundraising event in Dallas. With Alert Day around the corner, Bill Firbi is urging people to know their risk and to sign up for Step Out. Staff at the ADA interviewed Firbi about his diabetes. Here is his story:
I was diagnosed in an emergency room while being treated for a back spasm. The ER doctor decided to check my kidneys “just in case” and found my blood glucose level at 263. Can’t say it was a huge surprise. I weighed 302 pounds, had a few relatives with the big D, and really had not taken care of myself for a long time. It was still shocking and scary.
How has walking helped you?
A big part of the changes I made was exercise. I’m a veteran, so at one point in my life my fitness levels were very high. Of course that was decades ago! There was no way I could go into a full aerobic exercise program cold turkey. Walking was easily available, required no money, and could be done at any time. So I started walking around my neighborhood. The first time I barely made it down my street and back! It was a Texas summer so I walked every afternoon, increasing my distance a bit every time. Because it was low impact, it did not feel like it was working, but then the soreness and weight-drop started. Walking also gave me time to clear my head and work on my change plan. My wife of 30 years also joined me and kept me company so it turned into quality time.
How were you able to lose so much weight?
An obvious step to my lifestyle change was changing the way I ate. But this time it could not be like one of the dozens of diets I had tried over the years. This time, it could NEVER change back to the way it was. At home I went through all of our food, packaged what was salvageable for the food bank, and placed everything else in a large trash bag. And out it went! The next step was studying and planning how to eat. Initially I web-searched and made a basic list of foods I selected to eat, went to the store and purchased one week’s worth of “changed” food. I continued studying and adjusting my meal plan and exercise became a daily effort. This change in diet and the frequent exercise soon resulted in pounds melting off. Initially I lost 3-4 pounds a week; later it slowed down. Now I only lose 3-4 pounds a month.
Why did you participate Step Out : Walk to Stop Diabetes last year and what did it meant to you?
One of the key drivers of change success is motivation. In my case I decided to find a program that offered encouragement and help me set goals. Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes did that. The goal was to be ready to walk the three miles in three months. I became active on the website while working on my online fundraising. It was amazing to feel the support of my co-workers, friends, and family as they found out about this quest. They sent notes and encouragement as they contributed donations. My family decided to form a team. They became “Bill’s Minions”, yellow hats and all! We successfully completed the walk and had a great time!
Why are you starting early this year for Step Out and striving to be a Champion?
In 2013 I raised just over $1000. This year I want to beat that number. I have also learned through the ADA community that many people with big D have a natural desire, even a need, to share what they know with others affected by the disease. By raising funds through the walk, I do my small part to enable the guidance, priceless information, and emotional support the ADA provides to others as it has provided me during the very scary first days I was diagnosed.