Friday, April 12, 2013

PHYS. ED.: Bodyboarding with Diabetes

PHYS. ED.: Bodyboarding with Diabetes

Steve "Action" Jackson at Posto 5, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.  Photo: Oswaldo Luiz Sequeira

  In April 2012, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  In the several months leading up to that, I had a lot of things going on in my life...the death of one friend and the suicide of another friend, my mother-in-law being diagnosed with cancer, packing up my house in New Jersey, preparing to move to Brasil.  I had no idea I was diabetic.  The signs were there...needing to go to the bathroom constantly, always thirsty, tired all the time, sudden weight loss...but I just dismissed them as stress-related.  It wasn´t until I was rushed off to the hospital via ambulance at roughly 3am with severe abdominal pain and vomiting that I learned what was really wrong with me.  After being stabalized in the emergency room at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, my blood tests came back.  The doctors informed me that my BSL (Blood Sugar Levels) were near 600 (normal is around 100-120).  My body had gone into a state of diabetic shock and had been on the verge of slipping into a diabetic coma.  After spending 24 hours in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and three days in the hospital, I was released on April 37th birthday.


  Diabetes is a disorder of the metabolism, or how the body uses food for growth and energy.  People with diabetes cannot properly convert their food to energy.  When we eat, an organ in our body called the pancreas produces insulin to change sugar (or glucose) from food to energy.  Diabetes is a condition in which the body either does not make insulin (Type 1 Diabetes) or does not make enough insulin to be used correctly (Type 2 Diabetes).  Diabetes is an ongoing condition that must be managed for life.  People with Type 1 Diabetes require daily insulin injections.  Many people with Type 2 Diabetes can manage their diabetes through proper diet, exercise, and oral medications.


  People with too much sugar in their blood may have symptoms including:

-Frequent urination
-Feeling thirsty all the time
-Feeling hungry
-Tired all the time
-Sudden weight loss
-Dry, itchy skin
-Numbness or tingling in hands and/or feet
-Sexual Dysfunction
-Blurry vision
-Poor healing


  The biggest contributors to the onset of diabetes are poor diet and lack of physical activity/ exercise.  Type 1 Diabetes is caused by autoimmune destruction of the pancreas.  Type 2 Diabetes can be caused by:

-Being over age 40
-High Blood Pressure
-Ethnicity (rates of Diabetes are higher in African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans)
-Gestational Diabetes (pregnancy)
-Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
-Having a baby that weighs over nine pounds at birth


-Being overweight or obese
-Emotional and physical stress
-Stress of illness or injury
-Certain medications such as steroids


  If diabetes is not controlled well, high blood sugar can lead to:

-Damage of the heart, kidneys, nerves, and eyes
-Heart attack
-Visual problems
-Numbness in the feet and legs
-Sexual dysfunction


  In the year since being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I have been exremely vigilant about watching my health and being able to continue bodyboarding.  There are three things that I do to control my diabetes:

MONITORING/ MAINTENANCE:  I use a glucometer to check my BSL at least four times a day...before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner, and before I go to bed at night.  If my blood sugar is running high, I use insulin injections to bring the numbers back down.  I have two types of insulin that I use...a fast acting insulin that I take right before meals, and a time-release insulin that I take before I go to sleep at night.  I, also, check my BSL immediately before and immediately after any physical activity...bodyboarding, running, training session,etc.  Just in case my blood sugar drops too low during physical activity, I make sure to keep a snack readily available.  My preferred snack these days, Bio2 organic energy bars, I keep in my glucometer hardcase.  In an effort to maintain consistent BSL readings, I keep a journal in which I record all of my blood sugar readings as well as everything I eat and drink.  By doing this, I can keep track of the foods that effect my BSL negatively, and avoid those foods in the future.

DIET:  Adjusting my diet has played a huge part in being able to regulate my diabetes!  By limiting the amount of carbohydrates, especially eliminating many simple carbs (processed foods) and focusing on more natural complex carbohydrates, my BSL readings do not fluctuate like they used to.  Another major change I made was eliminating all soda consumption from my diet.  Along with that, I try to avoid refined sugars as well as artificial sweeteners...for a touch of sweet, I use honey and agave nectar.  My old dietary habits are largely resposible for the damage that has been done to my body.  My new, more intelligent dietary choices, along with a good vitamin and supplement routine, play an extremely large role in controlling my diabetes and keeping me as healthy as possible!

EXERCISE:  Maintaining a regular exercise schedule is extremely important!  Bodyboarding has always kept me in relatively decent physical condition...a fact that my doctors believe most likely helped keep me from dying when I went into diabetic shock.  Still, consistent physical activity outside of the water is key not only for keeping in good health but for staying in top physical conditioning for bodyboarding.  I am more regimented than ever with my workouts as a result!

Steve "Action" Jackson at P5. Photo: Renato Silveira
Through monitoring and maintenance, following a healthier diet, and exercising more routinely I have been able to continue living my bodyboarding lifestyle.  I control my diabetes.  My diabetes does not control me! This experience has been a learning process, but one that has provided many lessons that I feel wiser and more motivated than ever for having learned.  The most important lessons I have taken away from this experience are these...1)  Pay closer attention to the food you eat, and be more selective about what you put into your body...and 2) Exercise, exercise, exercise!  The best way to prevent diabetes is through intelligent dietary choices and regular exercise.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding your health and diabetes, please be sure to visit your healthcare practitioner.

NOTE:  Information taken from "A Guide to Diabetes Care" provided by Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

  Until the next time, I´m Steve "Action" Jackson.  I´ll see you in the water...YEEEWWW!!!


  1. Fuerza bro!!! all is actitud and faith, all you need is believe in God, bro! the best waves come to you.
    My name is Ricardo Martinez From Ecuador... look facebook/bbprogresivo

    buenas olas.

  2. As soon as you get to know about the diabetes and detect the diabetes signs, you should start taking the balance diet and regular visit the physician so as to prevent the further damage.