Diabetes Dialogues

Sharing My Story: Mary

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Mary Van Doorn, a mother of two from Dacula, Georgia, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes—but her diagnosis didn’t hold her back. Mary founded Sugar Mama Strong, a diabetes support group and wellness program for women. This is her story:

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when I was just 21 years old, the daughter of two type 2 parents. Our genetics run deep—almost every adult on my mother's side now lives with type 2.

At first, I ignored it. I lived in denial for a long time—I call it my young and stupid phase. At 21, you think you're invincible. I didn't FEEL sick. I didn't LOOK sick.

It wasn't until I got pregnant with my son that I really started paying attention—his life depended on it! My pregnancy was non-eventful, but after he was born, I went back to life in denial.

Years later, when my second child was two, I decided I had had enough. I was tired of being the mom who couldn't play with her kids. Everything was hard. I took my life back by losing 100 pounds with improved nutrition and exercise.

When Aly was six, I founded Sugar Mama Strong Diabetes Support—an online support group for women living with diabetes. I needed support from people who "got me". Because even though I had lost weight and my OUTSIDE looked completely different, I was still very much ignoring my insides. My A1C was still almost 11 and my cholesterol was 220.

Along my weight loss journey, I became a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, Silver Sneakers instructor, taught Zumba classes, ran half marathons, did a triathlon, and earned my black belt in Tang Soo Do.

With my experience working with Sugar Mama Strong, and my new-found experience with weight loss and fitness, I wanted to better serve my community of women and founded Sugar Mama Strong Fitness and Wellness, a program designed specifically for women with diabetes. Our workouts are accessible for EVERY woman no matter their fitness level or diabetes complications. There are ladies in our group who are double amputees from diabetes who have learned they CAN exercise every day. We have newly diagnosed women who are changing their lives by incorporating modified fitness into their daily routines.

I LOVE helping other women feel empowered to change their lives.

We don't have to do this alone. We don't have to feel stuck. We can feel supported, understood, and capable and strong. #SugarMamaStrong

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