Jody Barton, Stop Diabetes Ambassador

Today we’re getting to know one of the newest members of our Stop Diabetes Celebrity Cabinet, professional athlete Jody Barton. When Jody was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, her doctor told her that life as she knew it was over and she would no longer be able to enjoy the active lifestyle she loved. But she didn’t let that stop her!

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Jody BartonIn July 2009, at age 32, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. With no family history of the disease, I was completely unfamiliar with what my diagnosis meant. I was overwhelmed and confused about what was going on with my body. The day I was diagnosed, the doctor told me that my life as I knew it was over. I would no longer be able to do the active things I loved, like running, swimming, biking and backpacking. For me, this was the most devastating and traumatic part of being diagnosed with type 1.

Prior to my diagnosis, I was an accomplished athlete. From 2002 to 2007, I was on the U.S. National Women’s Skeleton Team, training at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center and competing in international competitions. I then moved on to coach the U.S. Skeleton Development Program in Lake Placid, so I could share my knowledge of the sport with future Olympians.

Pursuing my love of the outdoors, I relocated to Anchorage, Alaska, in the summer of 2008 to work as an outdoor educator at Trailside Discovery Camp. While there, I had the opportunity to travel with friends to the Arctic, where we backpacked in the Brooks Range and floated the Hula Hula River. That’s also when I developed my love for trail running. I tested my limits by participating in the Lost Lake Run, a 15.75-mile trail run through the mountains of Seward. I was enjoying Alaska and all that it had to offer.

Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes made me feel like this was all over for me.

To help me accept my new life with diabetes, I turned back to my active and healthy lifestyle, participating in sports and my love for the outdoors. At the time, I was training for my second attempt at the Lost Lake Run, with the goal of a faster finish time. I realized my goal would have to change. My new focus was on just finishing the race. The day after I was discharged from the hospital, I began with a 1-mile run. While this was nowhere near the distances I had been training at, it was a start.

Over the next few weeks, I logged my meals, blood glucose levels and insulin injections. During training runs, I would stop to test my blood glucose at designated intervals and record the results. With the support of my training partner, I continued to run while learning how my activity level affected my diabetes. Not only was I able to complete the Lost Lake Run one month after my diagnosis, I finished with a faster time than the previous year—all while managing my diabetes along the trail.

My drive to compete is what led to me to finally accept living with type 1 diabetes. In 2012, I set my focus on competing in a triathlon. I did not just want to finish; I wanted to perform to the best of my ability. I was committed to a six-day-a-week training schedule that included biking, running, swimming and weight lifting. I had researched nutrition and was monitoring my carbohydrate intake. I also checked my blood glucose levels 8 to 10 times per day, before and after eating and before and after exercise. I was still using insulin injections to manage my diabetes, which was a limiting factor in maintaining a steady blood glucose level throughout the day.

I realized that transitioning to an insulin pump would allow me to better control my diabetes and, as a result, help me attain the results I was working hard to achieve. Armed with my insulin pump, I competed in the Gold Nugget Triathlon, finishing 50th out of 1,500 women. I went on to compete in Tri the Trails, an off-road triathlon, finishing 1st in my age group and 3rd overall. I finished my most challenging race, the Hammerman X-Terra at Kincaid Park, in 14th place.

Now I was looking forward to my final competition of the summer: the Alaska State Championships Triathlon, an Olympic-distance course consisting of a 1-mile swim, 25-mile bike ride and 6-mile run. All of my training efforts, including my transition to an insulin pump, were directed toward this event. I spent the week leading up to the race finalizing my race nutrition plan, packing my gear and resting my body. With six months of preparation behind me, I was confident and ready to go! But the morning of the race, I woke up with a fever and body aches. I was sick. I knew in my heart that as much as I wanted to compete in the race, and despite all my time and effort, I was not able to participate that day.

While I did not compete in that final race, the experience led me to the final stage of accepting my life with type 1 diabetes. Managing my diabetes with an insulin pump has allowed me to achieve my goals and provided me with increased confidence in my daily life.

My most recent accomplishment was competing at the Midnight Sun Bodybuilding Competition in November 2013, where I placed 1st in my height class and won the title of Overall Women’s Figure Champion. This achievement required continued dedication to my diabetes management, nutrition and training plan. Competing in the event represented the culmination of all that I had learned about living with diabetes—accepting the challenges it brought and overcoming my fears.

Learning how to live with type 1 diabetes has shown me that my life did not end the day that I was diagnosed, as the doctor had told me. I have accepted diabetes and will continue to strive to rise above the challenges that it brings.

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10 Responses to Jody Barton, Stop Diabetes Ambassador

  1. Rich Barker says:

    Jody, my 19 year old son is an aspiring bodybuilder. I have had a very hard time finding information on how to help him get ready to compete. Any information you could pass on would be greatly appreciate!!

    • Jody says:

      Dedication to a healthy diet and successful diabetes management are the foundation to leading a healthy lifestyle and are paramount to training for and being successful in any sporting event. Body building, in particular, focuses on eating a clean diet of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Results are said to be 80% nutrition and 20% time spent training in the gym.
      In preparing for a body building competition, it is important to count not only the amount of carbohydrates you are consuming during a meal, but also the amount of protein and fat. This is referred to as Macro Nutrient counting. Managing blood sugar levels with the correct amount of insulin allows the body to utilize the carbohydrates for muscle growth in addition to the protein and fat to build lean muscle and support an overall healthy metabolism. A basic body building diet includes 5-6 meals per day of lean protein (chicken, fish, egg whites), healthy carbs (brown rice, quinoa, yams), and fats (almonds, avocados, plant based oils).
      The amount of Macro Nutrients and caloric intake in a diet is individualized and based on body weight, age, gender, etc. I suggest working with a certified nutritionist that has experience in developing a body building diet to get started and track progress.
      I make sure to eat 1-1.5 hours before training in order to stabilize my blood sugar and maximize my energy level. After training, I make sure to eat a meal within 30 minutes that includes protein, carbs, and fat to grow lean muscle and replace the glycogen used during training.
      Best of luck to your son with his body building aspirations!

      • Benjamin says:

        Jody, thanks for sharing your story.

        I’m a type 2 Diabetic and recently turned to bodybuilding (not competitively just in training and dieting) as I’ve found there are elements of bodybuilding that help with managing diabetes. Specifically macro counting and of course exercise as you pointed out in a previous reply.

        But I’ve been learning that increasing muscle mass can have additional diabetic benefits as well. Have you found this out as well that led you to start competitive bodybuilding?

        Regards,
        Benjamin
        Hillsboro, OR

        • Jody says:

          Yes- I find that body building and the increase in lean muscle mass has lead to an increased insulin response in my body, both while lifting in the gym and for the hours that follow. I typically train mid-morning after I have eaten my breakfast and a light mid-morning meal. Training at this time of day sets the balance of my diabetes management through the rest of the day.

  2. Scott Bodiford says:

    Hats off to you Jody. I am a Type 1 of 40 plus years. I participated in my first ever half marathon in October 2013, finished T25 in May 2014 and I am getting certified as a personal trainer. Although that is not on a triathlon level I still feel great about these accomplishments. I am sure you must be proud of your ability to rise above and conquer all that is in front of you. A true inspiration you are.

    Thanks,
    Scott Bodiford

    • American Diabetes Association says:

      Good for you, Scott! Thanks for reading!

    • Jody says:

      Competing in distance events, such as a half marathon, requires a dedicated approach to diabetes management both pre and post race. I am familiar with the challenge of managing an appropriate blood sugar level to begin the race while maintaining it throughout the event. Congratulations on your success!

  3. Moira says:

    Hi Jody

    I am Moira McCarthy and I write for Sanofit’s The DX: The Diabetes Experience, profiling inspiring athletes with Type 1. Would you email me at moiramcc@comcast.net. We’d like to feature you!

  4. Steve says:

    That’s a lot of activity for a person without type 1. Hats off to you.

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