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Making Changes That Stick

Mark Abbott has found the key to adopting healthier habits for good: Do the things that work for you.

Mark Abbott
Age: 57
Hometown: suburbs of St. Louis, MO
Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: 2000

Five years after his diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, Mark Abbott had a revelation that changed his life. “My blood sugar was really high. I realized that I couldn’t control it with drugs alone,” he says. “It was time to do something significant about my diet, my weight, my exercise.” Two years later, he’d lost 75 pounds and brought his A1C (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) down remarkably. Behind his success: support from his wife and his diabetes care team—and a down-to-earth determination to make healthy changes that fit his lifestyle.

There’s Motivation in the Morning News

Despite a passion for golf and fly-fishing, Mark wasn’t getting enough regular exercise. Walking didn’t work—“I have some arthritis in my knee.” Neither did using a fitness center—“I have a long commute, so there was no time to add a trip to the gym.” The solution? He put a recumbent exercise bike in his rec room and rides it for 30 to 40 minutes during the early-morning TV news. “I watch the news anyway, so it’s a great use of my time. And the recumbent bike is perfect because it puts less stress on my knees.”

Brown Is a Smart Color

Instead of eating out or ordering in, Mark began bringing his own lunch to the office. In his bag: lean lunchmeat (chicken, ham, or turkey), on high fiber, whole grain bread, paired with fruit and an oatmeal-raisin granola bar. “I think it’s a guy thing in our culture to feel embarrassed about packing lunch, but I’m taking care of my health. There’s nothing to feel self-conscious about.”

Snacks Aren’t Forbidden

A frequent business traveler, Mark brings snacks along on trips. “I keep granola bars in my desk, my car, my golf bag, even my tackle box,” says Mark. And that’s smart—snacking can help you eat better the rest of the day (if you make smart choices) and help you get through if a meal is delayed.

Snack idea: Try a piece of fruit or a handful of almonds.

Logging Makes Sense

“I keep a record of my daily blood sugar tests and my A1C levels, so that my doctor and I can track my progress over time and make adjustments in my diet, exercise, and medication,” Mark says.

Saying Yes Feels Good

“I’ve learned to say ‘thanks but no thanks’ when someone at work offers me a doughnut,” says Mark. “But when my niece got married recently, you better believe I had a small slice of wedding cake, without much icing. And I enjoyed every bite—without letting it throw me off track.”

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