Battling Diabetes One Pedal Stroke at a Time

A diabetes diagnosis helped Wendi McDonald make drastic life changes – changes she’s now inspiring other women to make too.

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A diabetes diagnosis helped Wendi McDonald make drastic life changes – changes she’s now inspiring other women to make too.

At age 38, Wendi McDonald’s life turned upside down. She lost both of her parents and had to deal with an overwhelming diagnosis: Type 2 diabetes. Instead of turning to insulin or oral medication as was first suggested to her, McDonald chose to manage her diabetes by changing her diet and exercising. For the first time, McDonald stepped into the kitchen and learned how to cook.

After her diagnosis, she dusted off an old Peugeot bicycle – a bike she had helped her father repair years ago – and began riding.

When McDonald first got back on a bike, she could barely ride around her block. Now, she’s biking all around the city of Vancouver and beyond.

Riding a bike more often makes McDonald feel like a different person than she was ten years ago. Her weight used to mean that even walking hurt; since getting on her bicycle every day, she’s lost over 100 pounds (45 kilograms). “At first my goal was to bike around one block,” said McDonald. “Then two blocks. Then three. Now, I try to cycle at least 19 miles (30 kilometers) a day.”

McDonald’s daily cycling, paired with her sensible eating, has had an incredible effect on her condition. McDonald has not registered as a diabetic for over seven years. “My diabetes hasn’t gone away,” she explained. “But biking is helping me manage it.”

While biking has helped McDonald physically, she is also aware of how much the activity has helped her mentally. Cycling each day has helped her deal with the stress that comes with a diabetes diagnosis, as well as other anxieties. Three years ago, McDonald was diagnosed with cancer, and she continued to ride throughout her recovery to help keep her head clear. For McDonald, biking is as much a mental necessity as it is a physical one.

But cycling has become more than a way for McDonald to manage and control her diabetes. Now, bikes are her passion. She plans to volunteer at Vancouver’s cycling coalition, HUB, and for her 50th birthday, McDonald took a course in bike mechanics. She now owns a “very sexy pink tool belt” and repairs used bikes, sending some all the way to Africa with a local charity. McDonald believes in sharing her story to inspire women to take control of their lives, make a healthy change, and get on their bikes.

In June 2014, McDonald will be biking 26 miles (42 kilometers) as she participates in the Tour de Cure in Hillsboro, OR. While raising awareness of diabetes is important to her, McDonald is passionate about initiating healthy change and helping women change their lives for the better. McDonald is, and will continue to be, an advocate of healthy living. “No one is ever too old to make a change in order to improve their health,” said Mcdonald. “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never stop.”

Diabetes Quick Facts

11.3% of Americans over the age of 20 have diabetes

26.9% of Americans over the age of 65 have diabetes

16% of adult diabetics in the USA will manage their diabetes with diet and exercise

1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people 20 or older in 2010

30 minutes of riding your bike a day can reduce your risk of a variety of diseases, including Type 2 diabetes

58% is by how much at-risk individuals can reduce their chance, just by changing their exercise regime and diet plans.


Karin Olafson is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and editor, and is currently researching a health and nutrition piece for Canadian running magazine.

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