Chef Walter Potenza has quite the resume in Rhode Island; sought after chef and owner of a cooking school.

He’s competed on and won Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network.

“I won five times out of seven. I lost a couple, that happens,” said Potenza.

He was chosen as part of an elite group of chefs for the Winter Olympics four times. It was the one in 2002, that proved to be a real eye-opener after he underwent a required medical exam.

“They found that I had elevated glycemic numbers and so I was diabetic,” Potenza said.

“You had no idea?”

“No, I had no idea,” he responded.

What Chef Walter had to learn was, “It’s associated with heart disease and then the many diabetic complications including kidney disease, in particular, eye disease.”

Dr. Rena Wing was the lead researcher on a 16-year NIH funded study called ‘Look Ahead.’ Five thousand people across the U.S. took part; all of them had diabetes and were overweight. “And what it showed was that if people could lose just even 10 to 15 pounds, they increase their chances of actually normalizing their blood sugar,” said Dr. Wing.

“I could eat like two Kit Kats a day, an entire quart of ice cream — it’s sickening,” said Potenza.

His diagnosis was a huge wake-up call.

“The first thing that I did, I remember, was to lose weight,” he said.

He shed 50 fifty pounds. That fat around the middle, Dr. Wing says, can put you at a higher risk. General rule of thumb: your waist circumference. There should be no more fat there than around your hips. Chef Walter has made big changes and his diabetes is under control. So now he helps others by holding classes that look at healthier, diabetes-friendly ingredients, like this soup with chickpeas and savoy cabbage.

“Make sure that your diet has a good strong design that you can manage very well.”

Dr. Wing reminds us, as important as weight loss is, so is something else.

“Physical activity is equally important,” Dr. Wing says.

The American Diabetes Association has a quiz you can take to gauge your risk of diabetes. And of course, your annual exam should include a test of your blood sugars, so you can spot trouble early and take action.

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