Transforming Tobi: A Story About Fitness + Mental Health
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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
We hear from many people in the Beyond Type 2 community that they had very little knowledge about type 2 diabetes when they were diagnosed. Tobi Ditmore, a Beyond Type 2 community member, is no different. Diagnosed just under six months ago, Tobi learned quickly that type 2 diabetes (T2D) goes much deeper than the surface.
She began prioritizing her health through nutrition, daily walks with her dog Gus, group fitness classes, focusing on her mental health and documenting her journey on Instagram.
Tobi chatted with us to discuss her diagnosis story, her transition from insulin to no insulin, and the importance of mental health when living with diabetes.
BT2: Hi Tobi! Thanks so much for speaking with us. Can you tell us about your type 2 diabetes diagnosis? What medications or other changes to your routine did your doctor recommend for you?
Tobi: I was diagnosed last September. I had been a prediabetic from a physical exam in 2016 and got into great shape and became really healthy. I went to the doctor last September to get a prescription for high blood pressure because I knew I had that. I had a complete physical and from that, I found out that I had type 2 diabetes.
So it was a really bad experience because it was overwhelming. If you don’t have friends or have people in your life who are open about their diabetes, you’re not very knowledgeable about it. As a result of that lab work, I was called by a nurse, who said, we’d like to schedule a follow-up appointment, so you can come in and talk to your doctor about your diabetes.
That was how I found out I had type 2 diabetes. So, it wasn’t a great way to start off this new chapter in my life. Based on what my A1C was at the time of diagnosis, 12.7 percent, I was put on long-acting insulin (Levemir FlexTouch) and metformin. In addition to being told I had type 2 diabetes, I was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and stage 2 hypertension, so I was prescribed medicines for these as well. That was all in one visit that I was given that information and I was also referred to a diabetes educator.
What were some of the symptoms you had when you were diagnosed? Did you have any?
I didn’t know that they were symptoms, but one of the reasons my doctor requested full lab work was because I had been rattling off things that were occurring with me. I was dehydrated all the time and had frequent urination overnight. I actually knew that was a diabetes symptom, but I still didn’t think that I had it. I also had wounds on my hands that would take a really long time to heal.
Was this diagnosis overwhelming?
It was overwhelming, especially the insulin, which was particularly upsetting having to give myself injections. My husband and I talked a lot about it. He always did not feel like this was the best course of action for me. It was just his gut feeling. I started doing research and I would say to him, well, I’m reading on the internet, this is what people do. He just said we’re very privileged that we get to have insurance, so he really would feel better if I had a healthcare team that included an endocrinologist. But I didn’t even know to do that. He has a friend, who has type 2, and saw an endocrinologist. Deciding to see one was the best decision that I’ve made so far in this journey, was going to see an endocrinologist.
What is something you wish you knew when you were first diagnosed?
I wish I knew that I had an option to see a specialist. I am very fortunate that I’m in my forties and I’ve not had medical conditions in the past where I’ve had to go see specialists. So, I didn’t know that I had that option. I also didn’t know that an endocrinologist was a diabetes doctor. I just wasn’t informed, and I’m not a person who doesn’t want to be informed. It was just so overwhelming, especially as high as my A1C was, and here I am thinking I’m the worst type of diabetic. I’ve got to get this down and take everything the doctor tells me to.
I stopped taking insulin after two and a half weeks because I became uncomfortable with the course of action my primary care physician (PCP) prescribed as I learned what an endocrinologist does and decided I would wait to take insulin until I met with them. At that first visit with my endocrinologist , I provided five weeks of finger stick fasting readings (two and a half weeks on insulin and two and a half weeks off), and based on those numbers she said that she didn’t think I needed to be on insulin and that we’d revisit it at my three-month follow-up. There’s so much that I wish that I knew, but I think you just have to find the best way to get the information you need, whether you need a lot of it at once, and then you pick it apart or whether you want it just parsed out to you, which is how I prefer.
What was it like for you to be put on insulin suddenly and then be taken off of it at the endocrinologist?
I definitely just thought I just need to do what I am being told to do by a doctor at that moment. It was only a 30-day period. As I previously mentioned, I went to see an endocrinologist 30 days after my diagnosis. Though I was originally put on insulin, I personally didn’t believe the stigmas about having type 2 diabetes. I didn’t think people who have type 2 diabetes are lazy or affected a specific type of person. I knew that it had to do with insulin and the pancreas. So, being put on insulin, I was more upset that my A1C was so high, but I didn’t really think I did anything wrong. I just thought my body was not cooperating, so what can I do to get it to cooperate?
How important is staying active to you?
Even before nutrition, being active is most important because it covers two components of my life and how I am prepared to deal with being a diabetic, and that’s my physical and mental well-being. I have been an active person since 2016 but with the pandemic, I slowed down a little bit because I wasn’t going to group classes. I started exercising at home but not really with any consistency. When I was diagnosed, I wanted to make sure that exercise actually contributed to helping manage diabetes, maybe even helping to improve it. So, I read a lot of articles about how workouts and specific types of workouts could impact my blood sugar. I knew that overall staying active was going to be good for me anyway.
I’m really focused on strength training in addition to cardio work. But I just love going to work out because it takes my mind off of everything. I get to unplug and recharge and then I get to come back a little bit stronger physically and mentally every time. It’s super important to me.
How has your FreeStyle Libre helped you with that?
I love it. I experiment with it a lot. That’s the best part about it, is that you can see how everything affects your blood glucose levels. I will experiment with my blood sugars from day to day, for example, I’ll take a pre-workout supplement, and the next day I won’t, to see how my blood sugar is affected. I’ll just do a bike ride versus strength training and I like to compare them. It helps you make good food choices too. But for me, I definitely have enjoyed just looking at the data from it and how certain types of exercises affect my body, it’s super convenient.
It really was a game-changer for me, I wasn’t going to commit to using the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) at first, because I kept knocking it off of my arm. After the second time I just told my endocrinologist, you know what, I’m just going to continue with pricking my finger. About three days later, I was tired of pricking my finger five times each day, so I decided to stick with the CGM. I was really glad I finally did and now, I will tell anybody who will listen, that they should have this device.
Did your doctor explain to you when you started with the FreeStyle Libre about time-in-range or time-in-target and how that relates to your A1C?
She didn’t, but that was by request. So, as I said earlier, I told her, I specifically need information in small pieces and that could be to my detriment since I only see her every three months, but I’m not even six months in. I can’t get overwhelmed and it causes a stress cycle for me. So we have not discussed it but I read up on it. There was a recent post on Beyond Type 2 that did a really good job of explaining what that is. I will have some questions when I go back in and have some data I want to share with her. I feel more prepared to discuss this with her now.
Would you recommend the FreeStyle Libre or any CGM to other people living with diabetes?
Yeah, absolutely. I have a friend who has prediabetes and she asked me if she should ask her doctor to prescribe one for her. It’s an empowering tool. This is something that’s just very convenient. There was a time when people with diabetes didn’t have tools like this and we can make much better choices with the more information that we have, and to be honest, finger sticks are the worst. This is so much easier. Especially for being on the go if you feel a little off, you can check your blood glucose immediately, and you can see what’s going on with you. I would highly recommend it.
What advice do you have for people that have been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?
I think that you first need to sit with it for a little bit. I just can’t imagine it’s not overwhelming to anyone to get that diagnosis. But I think you just have to sit with it for a little bit, really figure out what your needs are. I have found tremendous support in the Beyond Type 2 community. I read things I’ve never heard before, and learn something new. I get to use the knowledge that I’ve gained. Even speaking about the CGMs and the adhesive someone posted the other day, how do I get this dang thing to stay on, I was able to contribute to that conversation, but that person saw the value in going there and asking the question, and it’s a place where you don’t even have to be brave.
The vulnerable are welcome and you go in there and ask questions. Support is going to be the biggest thing, your family members and your friends will support you, but if they’re not type 2 diabetics, they lack a little bit of context. It’s great to have support. It’s great to be in a community of people with who you have something in common, and it really helps take away some of the myths and the stigma that go around it and you’ll find all different kinds of topics that are covered. That’s probably my biggest advice, is find a community, find support, because you’re not alone. You’re not alone if you’re overwhelmed. So just go to the community.
Follow Tobi’s journey on Instagram.
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This content was sponsored by Abbott, the makers of FreeStyle Libre 2,—a Founding Partner of Beyond Type 2.