How I Became a Seven-Fingered Diabetic Powerlifter

Chris Ruden was born with a congenital birth defect and was later diagnosed with diabetes. He used these hardships to motivate himself to become a powerlifter.

My name is Chris Ruden, and I am a diabetic powerlifter with Type 1 diabetes.

But my story goes beyond diabetes. I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 19, but the real story of my struggles began at birth. You see, I have a congenital defect in that my left arm is shorter than my right arm, and my left hand has only two fingers.

But while others may see being diagnosed with diabetes as an obstacle, I turned it around and used it to my advantage.

Physical Defects and Self-Esteem Issues

Growing up with a visible physical defect had a major impact on my self-esteem. I did many things to fit in and live like a "normal" kid.

At one point, I even took up martial arts to cope with my insecurities. I also picked up drumming and became part of a band. I used a special glove with a hole through it that allowed me to control the drumstick.

During all this time, however, my insecurities were still having a negative impact on my life.

After I graduated high school and went off to college, the real troubles began. At this point in my life, my self-esteem was at an all-time low.

To mask my insecurities, I began drinking far too much, and even experimented with drugs. My life was spiraling out of control, and the root of it was my attitude toward my physical condition.

Luckily for me, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes before I went too far. It was this diagnosis that I truly believe saved my life.

Life after Diagnosis

Now, you may be wondering what is so great about being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

It is disease that is disabling and an everyday hurdle. It affects your daily function, and makes you dependent on insulin injections to control your blood sugar. It can affect what you eat, how often you eat, your energy levels, and even your moods.

Who in their right mind would see that as a blessing?

Though this is all true, I would not be in the mental and physical shape I am in today were it not for that diagnosis. Without diabetes, I would have continued to destroy my body, and ultimately my life. I honestly might not even be alive today if not for my diabetes.

Of course, initially my diagnosis was a complete shock. I wasn't ready for it, and I had a moment in which I felt like the unluckiest guy in the world. I already had a significant physical defect. Why did I have to have diabetes too?

But once I learned to accept my condition, things changed for the better.

It was an huge wake-up call for me. I knew I had to stop destroying myself and start making positive changes in my life. And as my attitude toward diabetes began changing, my attitude towards my physical affliction also changed.

I switched my major to exercise science and health promotion. And it was there that my fitness journey took off. As I trained and pursued my passion for fitness, I grew to become more accepting of my condition.

Just as I used my diagnosis as a tool to improve myself, I also began using my physical condition as a motivator. Instead of using it as an excuse to limit myself, I used it as a reason to do and achieve more.

Currently, I am the only seven-fingered diabetic powerlifter in the world. I have helped hundreds of people achieve their weight loss goals and motivated countless others to break free from their self-imposed limits.

Fitness Challenges for People with Diabetes

I must admit that it wasn't easy to get to where I am today. Having diabetes means I have to carefully plan every exercise regimen in a manner that doesn't harm my blood sugar levels.

Blood sugar control is one of the biggest challenges about exercising for people with diabetes. It is especially difficult for diabetic bodybuilders, as they must undergo high-intensity training that significantly impacts their blood glucose levels.

To better manage your blood sugar levels and ensure smooth workout sessions, you must time and adjust your insulin dosages properly. There is no one-size-fits-all dosage or timing for insulin intake. It's best to work with your doctor and experiment with different adjustments as you go along until you find the optimal balance.

Another big challenge is diet. You have to choose food items that won't harm your blood sugar levels but also will help you achieve your fitness goals.

I focus on getting sufficient proteins and carbohydrates to nourish and grow my muscles. Your diet greatly depends on your goals—whether you want to remain fit, lose weight, build strength and muscles, or a combination thereof. Therefore, it is best to plan your diet with a fitness trainer or dietitian.

Final Thoughts

When you're living with a disabling condition like diabetes, it can sometimes be difficult to stay positive. But the sooner you come to accept the reality of it, the sooner you can begin managing and even using it. Once you can properly manage your diabetes, you can being living a healthier, happier, and more balanced life.

Remember that your mind is also a powerful tool. It can either help you or prevent you from achieving your goals. Control it instead of letting it control you.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: GLUCOSE | SUGARS | DIABETES