Greg stays on the road to good health

By Tania Phillips

Former electrical engineer Greg Packer got the shock of his life when he was diagnosed with diabetes at just 54.

While he had cholesterol problems more than a decade earlier, he did not any way expect his diagnosis.

However, straight away he decided he wasn’t going to just sit and let his health deteriorate. Already a keen cyclist, he threw himself into his riding.

Two decades later he still rides his bike every day and at almost 75 he is enjoying good health and fitness and his blood glucose levels are in a healthy range.

“I didn’t realise at the time there was a family history, the doctor asked me did I have any and I said no,” he said.

However he went home and made a few phone calls only too discover he wasn’t the first member of his family to be diagnosed.

“I don’t ever really remember being told it was type two – the doctor kind of said it was a little of both – type one and a half,” he laughed.

“I haven’t got it from being overweight or anything like that.

“It was a bit of a shock I was only 53-54 at the time,” he said.

As well as checking in with family, he looked for any information he could find on it.

“I had a good read about it – they give you the diabetes book and so I had a big read,” Greg explained.

“One of the things they suggest is exercising. I was already riding about a hundred kilometres every week – mainly on the weekend with my friends.

“So what I decided to do was double that and start riding a lot more during the week.”

Living in a Western Brisbane suburb with nice quiet roads, he started getting up early – leaving home at 5.30am and going for long rides – coming back after 7am to get ready for work.

“I started doing that every day – I decided to do 200 a week and I’ve been doing that now for 21 years,” Greg explained.

“After I got my diagnosis, the specialists said to me in about two years you’ll be on tablets and on insulin in about eight,” Greg said.

“That really made me double-down and say well that’s not going to be me – I didn’t say that to him only to myself. And now after 21 years I’m not on insulin. I am on tablets that help your body use its own insulin, make insulin.”

Greg said he had changed his eating about 15 years before that after test revealed high cholesterol.

“I changed my eating habits then,” he said.

“I cut down on cholesterol and then when I was diagnosed with diabetes – low glycemic foods were coming out. Twenty-one years ago there was quite a bit being written about it so a friend of mine gave me a book on it. Then I went low glycemic. When you change your eating habits you soon get very use to it. After changing bread I thought – how can I ever eat white bread again, but they have sourdough now,” he laughed adding it was his experience that when you change your eating habits and you are strong about it then it becomes very easy to keep doing it.

So what’s his advice to someone who has just been diagnosed?

“I think the key thing I say to people – it’s a shock to everyone when they are diagnosed – but do a bit of reading on it, there are diabetic books out there,” he explained.

“There is quite a bit of stuff out there, if you read between the lines I believe, you should be eating low glycemic food and you should be doing a bit of exercise.

“What I’m positive about is that you’ve got to get your body into a rhythm of exercising every day at the same time.

“What happens when you don’t do it, you feel really bad. Like today I went for a ride but I didn’t get out until about 9 am because it had been raining a little bit earlier. But I don’t use that as an excuse not to ride – I look at the radar and wait for a period when I can get out and not get wet. I’m lucky now I live up on the Sunshine Coast and all the roads have cycle areas – there’s also a bike path all the way down the coast. But I like riding on the road, its got edges all the way and you can ride form Noosa to Caloundra. I don’t go far but I’m out every day doing 30 to 40 kilometres. You’ve got to get your body into a rhythm.”

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