Cara Cunningham

Over 29 million Americans have diabetes. Cara Cunningham was determined not to be one of them.

As a young wife and mother, Cara Cunningham saw a picture of herself and was shocked. “I was only 25 years old, but I saw a sad, 5-foot-5-inch, 205-pound Italian woman staring back at me. I saw a woman very much like my aunt, who—as generations of relatives before her—showed love and felt love through food. In other words, I saw in myself an old lady on the road to obesity and diabetes.”

Cara’s aunt died from complications related to her diabetes, and Cara didn’t want to end up like her. “I have seen diabetes cause blindness, neuropathy—which can lead to gangrene and amputation—kidney disease, hypertension, hearing loss, and even death in my own family.”

Cara Cunningham before change

Cara decided to “change everything” in her lifestyle to “avoid the looming diagnosis of diabetes.” She began jogging and changed her diet, and in 10 weeks she’d lost 25 pounds. By six months, she’d said goodbye to 65 pounds—and discovered a new passion: indoor cycling. In fact, she eventually became a certified indoor cycling teacher.

After settling in Georgetown with her Army physician husband and their three children, Cara started teaching fitness classes, earned a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion, and became a certified personal trainer. Now, Cara doesn’t see herself as someone destined to die from diabetes. “I watched my beloved aunt and other family members die from diabetes, and I definitely don’t want that for me or my children!”


Cara’s tips for portion control

  • Eat only a fist-sized portion of protein, especially if it’s red meat.
  • Eat lots of raw or steamed vegetables, and eat as many colors as possible. At meals, fill up on veggies first.
  • Eat no more than a half-cup of starch (pasta, rice, etc.) with a meal.
  • If you crave ice cream, do not eat a starch with dinner; save that half-cup for dessert.
  • You don’t need to eliminate the foods you love. Just make them a treat rather than a daily indulgence.

For more information on diabetes, go to www.cdc.gov/Features/LivingWithDiabetes or www.diabetes.org.

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