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Finish Line Vision: An Interview with Jay Hewitt

I remember watching Jay Hewitt speak at a Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference several years ago thinking, “Why do people do Ironman triathlons?  And also, if you do more than one, have they done Ironmans or Ironmen?”  Grammar quandary aside*, Jay is a physical force to be reckoned with and he’s done the whole Ironman journey with diabetes alongside him.

I’m proud to call this guy a friend.

Recently, Jay published his first book, Finish Line Vision, and he’s visiting here on SUM to talk about the writing process, the final product, and what it’s like to cross that finish line.

Kerri:  For friends who don’t know you, who are you and what is your connection to diabetes?

JH:  I’ve had type 1 for almost 27 years, diagnosed in February, 1991, when I was 23 years old in my first year of law school.  Since then I practiced law for over 20 years, raced Ironman triathlons and three years for the US National Long Distance Triathlon Team in Europe and Australia.  Now I’m a husband, dad, speaker, and business consultant on overcoming obstacles and achieving goals.

Kerri:  You have spent a lot of your time racing professionally as an IronMan triathlete are you still racing?

JH:  No, after fourteen Ironman and eighteen half Ironman triathlons, dozens of marathons and cycling to win the Race Across America, I was tired!  Ha!  I achieved everything I wanted to achieve racing.  One of the points in my book chapter on work-life balance is “to have the time of your life, make it the right time of our life.”  My priority now is racing around after my three young kids, and building my business.  But I still keep fit.

Kerri:  And you’ve also taken on a career as a motivational speaker.  What’s that been like?

JH:  Such a privilege, and a challenge.  I love it.  It’s a privilege to meet people and hear their stories, their struggles and their dreams.  And I can see it in their faces from the stage.  I don’t give rah-rah cheers or cheap platitudes.  It’s real stories and real emotion and advice that people can use.  People deserve substance.  They want to know, “How can I use this in my life?” and they want it delivered well.

It is a fun challenge to speak to a room of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people of all different ages, and to people with diabetes and health care professionals and medical companies.  Next month I’m the commencement speaker at a college graduation- the last time I wore cap and gown regalia was graduating from law school!  Each member of an audience has obstacles and goals that are unique to them.  I try to tap into their personal motivation.  I also speak to business groups that have no connection to diabetes, but I always weave in diabetes about overcoming obstacles.

Kerri:  But now you’re an author!  Congratulations!  What inspired you to put your story to paper?

JH:  I’d been speaking for years, and people kept asking me for more that I don’t have time to give on stage.  More information, more stories – the good and the bad, the real stuff we all struggle with – and solutions and advice.  They also wanted to share it with others.  People may not remember what I said in a speech, but they will remember how I made them feel.  A book is something permanent they can share and refer back to.

Kerri: Your book, Finish Line Vision, has been a labor of love for the last few years. What does it feel like to have crossed this particular finish line?

JH:  Like the joy finishing my first Ironman, just not as painful.  I don’t do something unless I can give it my best.  I knew a book would be permanent.  Once it’s in print it is out there and I can’t take it down or update it like an online post.  I can’t go to everybody’s house and say “can I have that book back?  I need to add something.”  Ha!  I wanted it accurate and reliable for people to use as a resource, and inspirational regardless of your stage in life.  I hope that I have accomplished that.

 

Kerri:  What was the process of writing Finish Line Vision like?

JH:  It was first establishing an outline for the topics I wanted to cover, like a plan to race an Ironman, or build a house. Then insert the stories from my life and the lives of others, reading and studying a lot of books and researching the neuropsychology of achievement, diabetes, health and wellness and how high achievers overcome obstacles and succeed in life, business, arts and sports.  I don’t say it unless I know it’s true, and have the research to support it.  A lot of people read the manuscript and gave feedback and fact checking – endocrinologists, athletes, business professionals, and even an incredibly talented writer with diabetes who looks a lot like you, Kerri!  That girl is a genius writer!  [Note:  I helped Jay with some of the early drafting a few years ago and he’s been nice to me ever since.]

Kerri: What part of the book is your favorite?

JH:  The book is funny and emotional, to entertain you and inspire you, and educational to inform you.  I tell the irony of the circle of life – the gripping emotion when I was diagnosed with diabetes, the worst day of my life, and how that motivated me to later race Ironman triathlons on the elite level – the best days of my life.  When I write about preparation and adjusting – people with diabetes understand that! – there’s a fun story of when I proposed to my wife during a race, and it didn’t go as planned.  It got kind of bloody.  But it worked!  Ha!  There are fun stories about elite athletes being scared and nervous, famous people failing and doubting themselves, and great quotes to remember when you feel that way.  I guess that’s more than one favorite part!

Kerri:  How do you want people to feel after they finish reading your book?

JH:  Motivated to take action.  Inspired to overcome an obstacle in their life and work toward a goal, even if that goal is intimidating and scary that they might fail.  I have a whole chapter on how high achievers have failed, and then succeeded.  I want people to feel “I can do this!”

Kerri:  And lastly, where can folks grab a copy of your book?

JH:  Order from my website www.jayhewitt.com and I will sign it for you!

Thanks for stopping by, Jay, and for sharing your finish line vision with us.  If you’d like to keep up with Jay, you can order a copy of his book and follow him on Twitter at @JayHewittSpeaks.

*  It’s Iromans.  I checked.  

What's your Finish Line Vision? An interview with author @JayHewittSpeaks about his new book. Click To Tweet

What to Work On.

I’ve gotten lazy in my diabetes management.  And I’m not proud of it.  My recent A1C result was still in my goal range but not where it was a few months ago, and I’d love to return to that level of control.  Thing is, I’ve gone soft when it comes to following through on my daily diabetes duties.

Yeah.  I’m at that point in the postpartum recovery thing:  finding ways to up my diabetes game.

I can check two things off my to do list with confidence:  I wear  my Dexcom every, single day and I also have been on top of my doctor’s appointments.  Those two things get big, fat gold stars.

Other stuff needs some grooming, though.  Here’s my wishlist:

  • Check fasting BG immediately after waking up.
  • Calibrate CGM right when it requests calibration.
  • Pre-bolus at least 15 minutes before eating.
  • Exercise 3 – 5 times a week.
  • Sleep more than 5 hours a night.
  • React faster to the high alarm from my Dexcom.
  • Rotate my device sites better.
  • Remember to eat more than coffee before 1 pm.

Hmmm.  That’s a lot.  Plan of attack for each:

  • Check fasting BG immediately after waking up.  We just moved the little Guy out of our bedroom and now he’s sleeping in his crib in his own room, so I have a little more time (3 min versus zero min) in the morning before I have to run and grab him.  I need to return to the habit of keeping my glucose meter on the bathroom counter and using it before I brush my teeth in the morning.
  • Calibrate CGM right when it requests calibration.  Ugh.  This just requires being less of a lazy tool and just checking/calibrating ASAP instead of ignoring the little red blood drop.
  • Pre-bolus at least 15 minutes before eating. This one is admittedly going to be challenging, as my schedule is a little non-scheduley these days.  My son is a busy little creature and also unpredictable, so it’s challenging to find the “right time” to do things like change out my insulin pump, eat breakfast, schedule conference calls.  But as he gets older, he does seem to be settling into something resembling a pattern, so maybe this will get easier.  I’ll try to pre-bolus.
  • Exercise 3 – 5 times a week.  This one is already going in the right direction.  As mentioned, I joined a gym and that gym has childcare, so there’s no excuse.  Except days like over the weekend, when I was away for work, or today, when the little Guy is so sniffling and booger-gross that I don’t want to bring him to the daycare and expose any other kids/adults to his germs.  We did go for a walk around the neighborhood today, clocking in at least a little bit of exercise, so that helps.  The weather warming up will help here, too.  This bullet point is one I’m putting like half a gold star on.
  • Sleep more than 6 hours a night.  OH HA HA HA HA.  The baby thinks 5.30 am is when human beings should wake up.  The early morning hours are gorgeous and I love the quiet of being awake that early, but around 10 pm my body starts to give up on doing body things, although I rarely make it to bed before 11.30 pm.  I need to work on this sleep thing.
  • React faster to the high alarm from my Dexcom.  Again, this one is something I just have to DO.  No excuses and no reason not to.  My high alarm used to be 140 mg/dL (pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy), but I’ve moved it to 180 mg/dL in the last few months.  I should be responding to 180s.  I will work on this.
  • Rotate my device sites better.  Yep, this is also a need.  My thighs have become a permanent home for my Dexcom sensors, but I am okay with the back of my hip or maybe my arm.  I’ll try to get creative.  As far as pump sites, I’ve been working on rotating those better, too.  Maybe it’s time to try a lower arm site?  (Has anyone ever done that and does it hurt??)
  • Remember to eat more than coffee before 1 pm.  Yeah, this is another whoops.  My mornings are generally a bit crazy, and sometimes I’d rather keep my CGM graph steady instead of interrupting it with breakfast.  But this is backfiring because I then get so hungry around lunch time that I eat the fridge, causing a nasty post-lunch bounce.  Moderation here.  Eat regularly throughout the day and I’ll be less likely to unhinge my jaws and devour the contents of the cupboard.

I hope writing this crap down will help up my accountability and will inspire me to keep moving forward.  If I can make one or two of these become habit in the next few weeks, I’ll mark that as a success.  Because backwards is all gross and disgusting feeling and also it looks like there’s a c-section back there and I am NOT going back to that.

The One About the Gym.

UUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHH the one about the gym.

Dude, I wanted to start this post with a story about how hard it’s been to regain traction with losing the baby weight and then end with a BAM I NO LONGER WANT TO BURN MY SHAPEWEAR IN A BONFIRE.  But no.  That is sadly not the case.

The road to my last pregnancy was paved with fertility drugs, miscarriage, depression, and other terrible crap.  Ends eventually justified the means and I was beyond grateful to find out I was pregnant after such a journey.  (The little Guy is my favorite guy.)  My son was born eight months ago and he is exactly who we had been waiting for.

Table all the parental happies for a minute, though, because this post is not about infertility.  Or the little Guy.  It’s about the tarnish that’s settled onto the word “just” in the sentence, “I’ve just had a baby.”

No.  I did not just have a baby.  I had a baby eight months ago.  And I still feel like I’m trapped in the postpartum schlubby chub club.

So I joined a gym.

I used to go to the gym a lot.  It was kind of a family thing and while I never sculpted a physique that would stop traffic (unless a vehicle actually hit me), I was stronger and healthier and slimmer than I am now.  I didn’t feel ashamed of my shape and I wasn’t avoiding my closet in favor of athleisure wear.

Oh yeah.  “Doing absolutely nothing in my active wear” has been a theme these last eight months.

Postpartum anxiety didn’t help (better now, though) and neither did the c-section recovery.  I didn’t feel great after my first c-section and, despite rumors I’d heard that the second one is easier, I did not find that to be true.  Add in some wrist and hand issues (I ended up with breastfeeding injuries, which feels silly as eff to type but is actually a thing) and my body felt like something I was renting out instead of taking ownership of.

That did not feel good.  I want change.  Can’t wait around for change, though.  Have to chase change.  Change is exhausting.  So is this paragraph.

So about a month ago, I joined a gym.  It wasn’t a cheap decision, but the gym feels low pressure, has great hours, and also provides childcare for small baby people, so I have no excuse NOT to go.  Also, something about paying for it makes me less likely to NOT go because I hate throwing money away.  So I’ve been going.  Despite feeling shy (is exercise timidity a thing?) and despite feeling flumpy, I’ve been going.  I use the treadmill and the free weights and I’m debating a class or two if I can find some glasses and a fake mustache to wear while participating.  I’m trying not to weigh myself but instead using a particular pair of pants as my barometer for progress.

I hope to see some progress soon but I’m trying to find small victories in the steadier blood sugars and increase of energy.  And also in the “hey, I left my house and didn’t spend the entire day juggling kid requirements only.”

Hopefully, in time, I’ll schedule my shapewear bonfire, but in the meantime, I’ll try and find some pride in taking small steps now.  Especially wearing these mad cool glasses and this fake mustache.

Accountability.

We have a newly-minted kiddo.  That’s an established fact.  He is cleaned, fed, and loved all day long.

Here’s the problem:  I’m not cleaned, fed, or loved all day long.  It’s embarrassing to admit that, but it’s the truth.  I’m struggling hard with self-care.  And I also kind of buck up against even the admission of struggling with self-care, because parents in general are sometimes tsk, tsk‘d for putting their needs on the to do list at all.

But that oxygen mask metaphor that I used back when Birdy was born?  Applies to the little Guy, too.  I can’t take care of him, or her, or anyone if I’m off my own game.

Maybe I’m not off my game so much as I need to change the game.  Gone are the days of plotting and spreadsheeting fertility goals, and with them went the fastidious monitoring of blood sugars and doctor’s appointments.  It’s okay to loosen the reins a bit there, but I need to keep up some semblance of diabetes management.  Checking blood sugars?  On it.  Using the features of my insulin pump to my advantage, like inputting my blood sugar and carb intake and letting it calculate my insulin needs?  On it.  Keeping my CGM graph top of mind instead of succumbing to alarm fatigue?  I can do that, too.

But oh the exercise and food thing is a frigging quest.  Uphill.  In the snow.  With that Sisyphus ball thing.

I thrive when held accountable, and I need accountability in order to reignite some healthier habits.  There was a short discussion about this on Facebook last week, which led to the creation of a small Accountabilibetes group, where we’re trying to help one another stick with some kind of exercise program, and that camaraderie has been a big boost.  Even though the weather has been fuck all cold (snowed last night), I’ve been back on the treadmill the last few days, easing in with some interval training that’s heavy on the incline and gentler on the speed for now.  (I’ve started watching The West Wing, which I’ve never, ever seen even an episode of before.  Now I have seven seasons of Sorkin-saturated dialog to work through.  Should keep me entertained throughout the winter treadmill months.)  A fully-charged Fitbit helps, too, as I’ve avoided that thing for the last 12 months as well. As far as food goes, improved food choices usually follow exercise for me, so I know that I’ll battle food temptations less when I’m physically active.

So far, it’s only been a few days, but I’m hoping that a few more days will wet cement these habits.  Once that mental cement sets, I’ll be in my pre-pregnancy planning circuit and my health overall will improve.  Right?  RIIIIIIIIIIIGHT.

Before that cement dries, I need to stick my finger in it and write “It’s worth it.”  And maybe also draw a cat out of the word “cat.”

FitBit Motivation.

I like my FitBit.  I’ve been using one since March of last year and it has consistently kept me motivated to keep moving.

… okay, let me check that for a second.

It’s not the device itself that keeps me on the move. Initially, I liked seeing the numbers climb on my step count and watching that ticker drove me to earn higher numbers.  It was a stark mental contrast to how I felt about my diabetes numbers, where I was aiming for more of a game of golf (bring that number DOWN, not UP).  FitBit was cool because the higher the number, the better.

Eventually, the newness of the self-tracking incentive wore off and I wasn’t as eager to fight to hit my step goal.  I still exercised daily, but with a little less oomph, if that makes sense.

What reinvigorated my motivation are the people I’m interacting with through the FitBit community.  And this is where diabetes intersects a bit, because most of the people I’m connecting with through FitBit are friends from the DOC (diabetes online community).

One of the things I like most about the FitBit are the challenges you can engage in.  Here’s a screenshot of what’s available (over there on the right) –>

The ones I like the most are Workweek Hustles, because you have five days to not only reach your own self-set goals, but you can pace yourself against friends, making it a friendly competition.  As the FitBit devices sync with the app, you can watch your step count climb and see which participant will come in “first” (with the most steps).

Dude, it is FUN to play and to flex my competitive muscle.  (I’m a little bit competitive.  Maybe more than a little bit, judging by my husband’s bemused raised eyebrow every time I go to use the treadmill at 9 pm.  “FitBit challenge again?”  “Yep.”  “Go get ’em.”)  And while exercise isn’t something I’ve ever shied away from, it’s more exciting when I’m held accountable.  If I’m in first place, there’s no way I’m going to skip a workout or avoid going for a walk or run, because I want to keep my foothold on that leader board.

These competitions play out awesomely for my blood sugars, if I stay on top of things.  Making an effort to move more during the day has brought my total daily doses of insulin down by more than 20%, which for me is quite a bit.  (Also, this is not medical advice or science of any kind.  Talk with your doctor if you are considering taking anything you read on the Internet as medical advice, because they are a doctor.  And I am simply an over-caffeinated FitBit addict.)

More importantly, I noticed that my activity level goes up significantly when I’m engaged in a FitBit challenge.  If there’s a competition to participate in, reaching my step goal of 12,000 steps per day is a piece of (gluten-free) cake.  It’s like having a dozen workout buddies.  (Read Laddie’s take on the challenges here.)

FitBit challenges are pretty freaking awesome.  And fun.  And help break up some of the mundane ho-hummishness that my exercise routine can fall into.  A dose a fun, friendly competition and accountability is exactly the gentle incentive I needed.

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