Weighing 10 pounds at birth, CJ Euresti was “always a big boy,” says his dad. By his 13th birthday, CJ weighed 287 pounds. “Yes, he was heavy, but the weight gain happened gradually. We didn’t realize how bad it had become.”
CJ’s knees hurt because of his weight and he developed asthma, so it was hard to be physically active. He was homeschooled due to an anxiety disorder and the medications prescribed for it increased his appetite. Eventually, he developed acanthosis nigricans, the dark lines on the neck and other creases in skin that can be an early sign of diabetes.
And in 2019, a blood test at the pediatrician’s office confirmed it: CJ had an A1C score of 7% and a confirmed diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Referred to the Salinas Valley Diabetes Center, CJ was prescribed Metformin, the oral medication to keep blood sugar under control. But CJ’s mom said no: “We’re going to do this through diet and exercise.” Both mom and dad were diagnosed with diabetes years ago and had already cut out most carbohydrates and sugar from their diets. “When we found out CJ was going to be diabetic, too, we started to make more changes.”
Adjusting CJ’s diet
CJ and his folks spoke with the dietitian at the center. She told him, “It’s not so much what you eat, but the amount you eat.” CJ learned to decrease portion sizes slowly, first by a quarter, then a third, then by half as his appetite adjusted. He also decreased his carbohydrates by decreasing tortillas and eating hamburgers without the bun. He gave up sodas and fruit juice, drinking water instead. When the family had pizza for dinner, he’d enjoy one slice instead of two or three. CJ’s nutritionist said, “We’re not saying you can’t eat pizza. Once in a while is fine, but moderation is the key.”
CJ and his dad starting going to the park more to shoot baskets and kick a ball around. And CJ started to lose weight. He set a goal of 270, and when he hit it, he set a new goal. Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and his family needed to shelter in place. His parents bought a set of weights and CJ worked out at home once or twice a day, “Then he started to lose weight fast, and dropped to 240,” says his dad.
After losing 30 pounds, though, CJ stopped losing weight no matter what he did. “That happens,” his dietitian told him. “You’re going to hit a plateau. Don’t worry and don’t starve yourself. Just keep doing what you’re doing and your body will adjust. If you lose one to two pounds a week, that’s good. It’s a gradual process.”
Soon, CJ started losing weight again. Ten months after his diagnosis, he is down to 209 pounds. He’s grown a few inches, too, stretching to 5’ 9” – still a big guy, but a healthy one. And his most recent A1C score is 5.4%. Because type 2 diabetes is diagnosed by a test result of 6.5 or higher, that means CJ has put his diabetes into remission.
CJ takes charge
The better CJ feels, the more he wants to keep going. His asthma and migraines have disappeared and his diabetes is in remission. He has more energy. “He’s always moving,” says his dad. Inspired by YouTube videos of Eddie Hall, the World’s Strongest Man, CJ lifts weights once or twice for a half hour each day. He can’t go to the gym until the pandemic is over, so CJ asked his parents for a punching bag and more weights. “When he eats, he exercises to burn off the calories. Sometimes he overdoes it,” says his dad. “We tell him he doesn’t need to lift every day, but he wants to hit 180.”
And in when CJ turns 14 in the fall, he says he’s done with homeschooling. He wants to go to high school with the other kids his age. He’s ready.
CJ participated in Aspire Health’s Healthy Together program which is funded by the Montage Health Foundation. To learn more about this program and others, check out our Programs and Resources page.