"I've ALWAYS had the propensity to pork up," says L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 59, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes seven years ago. That was his wake-up call to take a cold, hard look at his diet and transform it. He went from a high of 215 pounds to his current 185. Yaroslavsky often can be seen running around the Fairfax District and Hancock Park, an activity that he sticks to religiously, along with a low-fat diet. He still takes diabetes medication, but he says he's symptom-free. Although his weight has fluctuated a bit, he says he's on a mission to shed more pounds.
Life-changing moment: The 2001 diagnosis. "My doctor said I was going to have to change my diet. In those days, I was an avid ice cream eater, and I ate a lot of bread. And after eating a big dinner, I'd run the next day. But a 4-mile run doesn't counteract a 2,000-calorie dinner. So I made the decision that day to radically change my diet. We had a half-gallon of chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer and I told my wife to leave it there; it would be a test of my will power."
What worked: "It's easier for me to eat none of something, so I cut out all ice cream and all white bread, all white products like rice, anything with white flour. I cut out meat and now I eat fish and chicken."
A friend, Dr. Fran Kaufman (director of the Comprehensive Childhood Diabetes Center at Childrens Hospital, Los Angeles), taught him how to use a glucose monitor and offered some tips.
Yaroslavsky's exercise plan consists of running five to six days a week, from 4 to 8 miles. "I love to run," he says. "It's more than a weight-management thing for me. It's the only time I have to myself when I'm not being pulled in five directions."
Lesson learned: "If you ever have the urge for ice cream, look at the ingredients and how many calories per serving. You'll think, 'My God, for that little amount, I'm going to have to run another two, three miles.' So how badly do you really want it?"
Tips and tricks: "The best-kept secret in town is that most hotels in the city where banquets are held have great waiters who want to be helpful. If you ask them if they have fresh berries for dessert, usually they do, and I'll have that instead of chocolate mousse. They'll also do vegetable plates or fish or chicken with no sauce."
The lowdown: "Now I believe viscerally as opposed to intellectually that the stakes for me are high. I had been told that I have a higher risk factor for heart disease and stroke, but when I finally got a chronic disease, it became an issue of life or death."
-- Jeannine Stein