Ginger Vieira: PWD, Power Lifter, and Life Coach.
Ginger Vieira is a familiar face in the diabetes community, with her work at the HealthCentral DiabeTeens community and her incredible ability to lift ... well, just about anything. (Girl is a record-holding power lifter. So cool!!) Ginger has a realistic, yet upbeat, attitude about life with diabetes, and now she's using her knowledge and insight to help others live better lives with diabetes.
She's started a new business as a life coach - Living in Progress - for people with diabetes or any other chronic illness, and she's offered to share some of her story here on SUM.
Kerri: What's your diabetes story?
Ginger: I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease for 11 years. I actually diagnosed myself at a school health fair in the 7th grade. I told my parents and a couple of friends, “I think I have that thing called diabetes…” and no one believed me for like a week! You just don’t think it will happen to you or the people you love.
When I was diagnosed, I cried and cried, threw myself a little pity party, but then I remember thinking about all of my friends and my family, and the challenges they face every day. I realized diabetes is just one of my challenges, and everybody has something. If I know anything for sure about diabetes, it’s that I cannot be the “Perfect Diabetic,” but I know try my best.
Kerri: How did you get involved with the diabetes online crew?
Ginger: I’ve been a camp counselor for teens with diabetes for maybe four or five years now, and there’s nothing like putting a group of teens with diabetes in the same room…everyone just feels so relieved to be in a space where they don’t have to explain their burdens and their challenges. Everyone in that room knows what it feels like to live with diabetes. I wanted to help create a space like that on the internet so those kids had somewhere to go when camp was over. That’s how HealthCentral.com eventually developed DiabeTeens.
Kerri: You're a record-holding power lifter, (which makes you the most badass diabetic I know). What made you decide to tackle that challenging goal?
Ginger: Well, I grew up with 3 brothers! But really, I never intended to set any records in powerlifting! I started learning more about weightlifting with a trainer I hired about two years ago because I wanted to get in better shape, and I enjoyed it so much that I just really dedicated myself to it. After a year of consistent weightlifting, I had more than doubled my strength, and someone suggested that my trainer and I look into powerlifting. I fell in love with it! I feel like my body was made to pick up really, really heavy stuff.
Balancing diabetes around powerlifting was absolutely challenging and I spent my first year of training and competing really trying to figure how everything impacts my blood sugars. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple years trying to learn about this disease through a medical perspective, reading about the physiology of diabetes the way a doctor would. Trying to keep my blood sugar steady during a competition was probably the biggest challenge, but by the fourth one I finally had figured out all the science and physiology of what was going on in body and how to adjust my insulin doses accordingly.
But I never went into powerlifting thinking I was capable of setting records. I was soooo nervous at my first event. I just went into all of it simply thinking, “I really love doing this, and I’m going to do the best I can.”
Kerri: What inspires you to pursue good health?
Ginger: The obvious answer is, “my diabetes,” but it’s so much more complicated than that. In the past several years I really decided I wanted to be healthy. When I told my endocrinologist about two years ago that I was looking into powerlifting, he actually rolled his eyes at me and laughed! I was furious!
Diabetes makes health more challenging, for sure, but it’s not impossible. And the idea of someone telling me I can’t be healthy because I have diabetes…well, that makes me angry. Angry enough to make it a huge focus of my day. Do I eat perfectly every day? No. Are my blood sugars always perfect? No. But I try really, really hard to take care of myself. If you want something, go get it. Period.
And now you are starting your own business as a health and chronic illness life coach. What alerted you to that gap in resources, and how will your service help people with diabetes?
I’ve wanted to start something like www.living-in-progress.com for so long, and finally everything’s come together.
It’s easy to go to a doctor, get a prescription, a diet plan and be sent off to follow the rules. But life is so much more complicated than that! And managing an illness day in and day out is so much bigger than just taking your medicine. It impacts every single part of your life! So how can we expect to get everything we need from a doctor?
I strongly believe that the way we think about these challenges in our life is what will really end up shaping how well we take care of them. We need more than just a list of foods we should and shouldn’t eat, we need support in making those changes. Long before you start the diet or the new diabetes management plan, you need an opportunity to look at your thinking, at your habits, at what you really want for yourself.
I can help people through that process.
Kerri: Where did you get your professional training?
Ginger: My training is actually from a cognition-based program (similar to cognitive therapy) that was founded by David Rock. He is the corporate coach for a number of large companies, and he wrote “Your Brain At Work,” a guide that applies the latest in neuroscience research to help individuals overcome challenges in their everyday lives. I’ll be certified in the International Coach Federation in late 2010.
To make a very long story short, I’ve been trained in a method of conversation that allows me to help you look at the way you think and then help you develop new ways of thinking to get on a more individualized path towards your goals. I don’t want to say people can’t try to find their own path on their own, but if they’ve tried and haven’t been happy with their progress, or if they’re interested in looking at what they haven’t tried yet and looking at what their own brains haven’t thought about yet, that’s where I come in.
I knew from the details of the program that I could easily add my own twists and apply it to working with people who live with health and chronic illness challenges. In my training, my classmates and I actually coached each other through our own life goals, so the program has changed and shaped my life in many positive ways already.
Kerri: Diabetes is a full-time disease and can really take its toll on a person's emotional well-being. How much will life coaching affect that aspect of diabetes management?
Ginger: HUGELY! And in fact, that is where we start. Instead of just talking about insulin and blood sugars and diets, we slow down and really look at where you are right now. Instead of jumping right into a diet or a strict plan to check your blood sugar this many times a day, we look at the way you’re currently thinking about your diabetes or how you currently think about the food you eat. We look at where you want to be. And what you haven’t tried yet to get there.
The process is awesome, and I really believe in its ability to help you look at yourself before diving into action. For example, when we want to lose weight, most of us find a diet on the internet or from a friend, and try to follow it perfectly the very next day. Sometimes we’re missing all the knowledge we need, or sometimes the diet is really severe and hard to follow for long. Sometimes, also, the diet may be great but we’re asking ourselves to change our habits all of sudden, to change the way we think just like that **POOF!**
And people are much more complicated than that. There’s so much more to changing a habit than simply deciding to change it all of a sudden. That might work for some people, but for most, our habits have really been wired into us and into the way we think. So in this coaching process, we start by looking at how you think and feel about this major, major part of your life.
Kerri: How can someone get started with your services and find out more details?
Ginger: You can schedule a FREE, confidential, 30-minute consult with me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling me at 802-497-1854. Coaching can be done over the phone just as effectively as face-to-face, so it doesn’t matter where you live. All you need is a little bit of courage and the desire to improve your life.
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Thanks for hanging out with me today, Ginger!