Two years ago, Dale Sanchez sat in his doctor's office at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and listened to the diagnosis. He had Type 2 diabetes. The reality of his lifestyle began to sink in. "That day I was diagnosed, my doctor said 'If you eat another hamburger, you may die,'" Dale tells the Albert Lea Tribune.
Dale was scared straight. He started by walking around Albert Lea's Fountain Lake and eventually built up enough endurance to jog around the entire body of water. "I just started seeing the weight just kind of come off," he tells the paper.
Dale tells us he was also meeting regularly with Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Emily Schmidt, who helped him put together a comprehensive dietary, exercise and blood sugar management plan. As a result, Dale has lost half of his starting body weight — approximately 200 pounds — since his diagnosis. "She's amazing," Dale says of Schmidt. "She made me feel great about being there with her, and has never judged me about anything. She's done wonders for my health, and there's no way I can ever repay her for that."
Dale's journey wasn't all smooth sailing, however. He had his share of breakdowns, wrong turns and detours, just as anyone attempting to make a drastic lifestyle change does. But when Dale faltered, he tells us Emily was there to right the ship. Including when Dale began exercising "like a mad man" after his diagnosis. "I was losing weight but I wasn't feeling well," Dale tells us. "I went to her and she said, 'You're working out so dang much that your body can't keep up. You need to eat more.' But I was afraid. I was afraid that if I did, everything was going to go back to the way it was before. She helped me see through that."
Emily tells us she did that by making sure Dale understood that even though he was now diabetic, his body still needed a certain number of calories, carbohydrates and healthy fats to survive. She also made sure he knew it was OK to have a little fun from time to time. "One of the reasons Dale's been so successful is because he's made sure to still include his favorite foods into his diet," Emily tells us. "There were times when he'd tell me he'd gone out or gone to certain events but had tried to avoid the food. And I'd tell him, 'Part of this is not depriving yourself completely. You still need to enjoy food,'" she says. "I think that was one of the keys to keeping him on track and keeping this more of a long-term success than a quick fix."
Another big key to Dale's success, Emily tells us, is Dale himself. "He's thanked me so many times for helping him and I've always said, 'I gave you some guidance, but most of this has been you — your motivation, your drive to change,'" she says. "He's definitely been one of my most successful patients."
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