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Ginger Vieira: PWD, Power Lifter, and Life Coach.

Ginger Vieira is a familiar face in the diabetes community, with her work at the HealthCentral DiabeTeens community and her incredible ability to lift ... well, just about anything.  (Girl is a record-holding power lifter.  So cool!!)  Ginger has a realistic, yet upbeat, attitude about life with diabetes, and now she's using her knowledge and insight to help others live better lives with diabetes. 

She's started a new business as a life coach - Living in Progress - for people with diabetes or any other chronic illness, and she's offered to share some of her story here on SUM. 

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Kerri:  What's your diabetes story?

Ginger is awesome.Ginger:  I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease for 11 years. I actually diagnosed myself at a school health fair in the 7th grade. I told my parents and a couple of friends, “I think I have that thing called diabetes…” and no one believed me for like a week! You just don’t think it will happen to you or the people you love.

When I was diagnosed, I cried and cried, threw myself a little pity party, but then I remember thinking about all of my friends and my family, and the challenges they face every day. I realized diabetes is just one of my challenges, and everybody has something. If I know anything for sure about diabetes, it’s that I cannot be the “Perfect Diabetic,” but I know try my best.

Kerri:  How did you get involved with the diabetes online crew?

Ginger:  I’ve been a camp counselor for teens with diabetes for maybe four or five years now, and there’s nothing like putting a group of teens with diabetes in the same room…everyone just feels so relieved to be in a space where they don’t have to explain their burdens and their challenges. Everyone in that room knows what it feels like to live with diabetes. I wanted to help create a space like that on the internet so those kids had somewhere to go when camp was over. That’s how HealthCentral.com eventually developed DiabeTeens.

Kerri:  You're a record-holding power lifter, (which makes you the most badass diabetic I know).  What made you decide to tackle that challenging goal?

Ginger:  Well, I grew up with 3 brothers! But really, I never intended to set any records in powerlifting! I started learning more about weightlifting with a trainer I hired about two years ago because I wanted to get in better shape, and I enjoyed it so much that I just really dedicated myself to it. After a year of consistent weightlifting, I had more than doubled my strength, and someone suggested that my trainer and I look into powerlifting. I fell in love with it! I feel like my body was made to pick up really, really heavy stuff.

Balancing diabetes around powerlifting was absolutely challenging and I spent my first year of training and competing really trying to figure how everything impacts my blood sugars. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple years trying to learn about this disease through a medical perspective, reading about the physiology of diabetes the way a doctor would. Trying to keep my blood sugar steady during a competition was probably the biggest challenge, but by the fourth one I finally had figured out all the science and physiology of what was going on in body and how to adjust my insulin doses accordingly.

But I never went into powerlifting thinking I was capable of setting records. I was soooo nervous at my first event. I just went into all of it simply thinking, “I really love doing this, and I’m going to do the best I can.”

Kerri:  What inspires you to pursue good health?

Ginger:  The obvious answer is, “my diabetes,” but it’s so much more complicated than that. In the past several years I really decided I wanted to be healthy. When I told my endocrinologist about two years ago that I was looking into powerlifting, he actually rolled his eyes at me and laughed! I was furious!

Diabetes makes health more challenging, for sure, but it’s not impossible. And the idea of someone telling me I can’t be healthy because I have diabetes…well, that makes me angry. Angry enough to make it a huge focus of my day. Do I eat perfectly every day? No. Are my blood sugars always perfect? No. But I try really, really hard to take care of myself. If you want something, go get it. Period.

And now you are starting your own business as a health and chronic illness life coach.  What alerted you to that gap in resources, and how will your service help people with diabetes?
I’ve wanted to start something like www.living-in-progress.com for so long, and finally everything’s come together.

It’s easy to go to a doctor, get a prescription, a diet plan and be sent off to follow the rules. But life is so much more complicated than that! And managing an illness day in and day out is so much bigger than just taking your medicine. It impacts every single part of your life! So how can we expect to get everything we need from a doctor?

I strongly believe that the way we think about these challenges in our life is what will really end up shaping how well we take care of them. We need more than just a list of foods we should and shouldn’t eat, we need support in making those changes. Long before you start the diet or the new diabetes management plan, you need an opportunity to look at your thinking, at your habits, at what you really want for yourself.

I can help people through that process.  

Kerri:  Where did you get your professional training?

Ginger:  My training is actually from a cognition-based program (similar to cognitive therapy) that was founded by David Rock. He is the corporate coach for a number of large companies, and he wrote “Your Brain At Work,” a guide that applies the latest in neuroscience research to help individuals overcome challenges in their everyday lives. I’ll be certified in the International Coach Federation in late 2010.

To make a very long story short, I’ve been trained in a method of conversation that allows me to help you look at the way you think and then help you develop new ways of thinking to get on a more individualized path towards your goals. I don’t want to say people can’t try to find their own path on their own, but if they’ve tried and haven’t been happy with their progress, or if they’re interested in looking at what they haven’t tried yet and looking at what their own brains haven’t thought about yet, that’s where I come in.

I knew from the details of the program that I could easily add my own twists and apply it to working with people who live with health and chronic illness challenges. In my training, my classmates and I actually coached each other through our own life goals, so the program has changed and shaped my life in many positive ways already.

Kerri:  Diabetes is a full-time disease and can really take its toll on a person's emotional well-being.  How much will life coaching affect that aspect of diabetes management?

Ginger:  HUGELY! And in fact, that is where we start. Instead of just talking about insulin and blood sugars and diets, we slow down and really look at where you are right now. Instead of jumping right into a diet or a strict plan to check your blood sugar this many times a day, we look at the way you’re currently thinking about your diabetes or how you currently think about the food you eat. We look at where you want to be. And what you haven’t tried yet to get there.

The process is awesome, and I really believe in its ability to help you look at yourself before diving into action. For example, when we want to lose weight, most of us find a diet on the internet or from a friend, and try to follow it perfectly the very next day. Sometimes we’re missing all the knowledge we need, or sometimes the diet is really severe and hard to follow for long. Sometimes, also, the diet may be great but we’re asking ourselves to change our habits all of sudden, to change the way we think just like that **POOF!**

And people are much more complicated than that. There’s so much more to changing a habit than simply deciding to change it all of a sudden. That might work for some people, but for most, our habits have really been wired into us and into the way we think. So in this coaching process, we start by looking at how you think and feel about this major, major part of your life.

Kerri:  How can someone get started with your services and find out more details?

Ginger:  You can schedule a FREE, confidential, 30-minute consult with me by emailing ginger@living-in-progress.com or calling me at 802-497-1854. Coaching can be done over the phone just as effectively as face-to-face, so it doesn’t matter where you live. All you need is a little bit of courage and the desire to improve your life.

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Thanks for hanging out with me today, Ginger!


Great post! I am always appreciative of more information related to diabetes managment and what others are doing. It's equally interesting to note that Type 1 diabetes & Celiac disease combined are a very common occurence. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease (Aug 2009) I was told by my endocrinologist that as people approach their 30's it seems to become more & more common (Type 1 & celiac together) and I know I'm not alone.

Awesome-ness =)

Thanks Ginger for sharing!

Ginger is so badass! Good luck!

Sounds like a fantastic service. Good luck, Ginger!

It's interesting that this person is a life coach because many people with diabetes could probably use coaching to help them in many ways. Very cool post.

Thanks for reading the interview, everybody!

Ginger, thank you for guest blogging. I love that you broke barriers as a female powerlifer and one living with T1 diabetes as well.

Thank you for starting this much needed service for those of us who live with one or more chronic illnesses.

Cheers, Nikki

P.S. I've been doing strength training for the past year (I got into it after being Dx with T2) and I LOVE it!

Great story - thanks Ginger! I am a T1 powerlifter in Australia... there are quite a few T1 guys who lift in Australia but this is the first time I have "met" another female powerlifter, albeit in cyberspace!

Yours in strength... Susan

Nikki and Susan,

Awesome to hear you guys...I mean WOMEN, love lifting!

I can't wait for my hip to heal so I can get back to the heavy lifting.

Thanks for reading the interview!


I'd like to hear Ginger talk about her eyes and how, if at all, diabetes has affected them, and what her eye doctor says about the pressure of weight lifting and any concerns about eye damage/retinopathy down the road.

Hi Lyrecha,

My eyes are very healthy. So healthy, actually, that I was able to get Lasik eye surgery last year to improve my long-distance vision. I healed surprisingly quickly, and my vision recovered to 20/15 because of my starting eye health.

Weightlifting has definitely impacted my joints and tendons! But I keep my blood sugars under great control, and therefore my eyes/retinopathy isn't a concern.

Thanks for asking!

Hi Ginger!

I read on your website that you set a VT state record for women's bench pressing with 187 lbs. *whistles* Do you recall what you started with the first time you benched?

My PB on the bench is 80 x 10. My long term goal is to bench my bodyweight (which is currently too high). I'm in my early 50s; DDD and OA means I can't rush my strength gains.
PB on the Squat Rack is 105. Same poundage
for Calf Raises on the Smith Machine. My other fav exercise is the Clean and Press.
It is ironic that it was Diabetes that got me back into lifting (my first time was in my early 20s): an unexpected silver lining in a dark cloud.
Cheers, Nikki

Nikki, you are a freaking machine knocking around weights in your 50s :) That's awesome.

When I started lifting 2 1/2 years ago, I was bench pressing 100lbs, squatting around 100-125, and deadlifting around 115lbs. No matter how strong I was in the beginning, I didn't have the technique and form down to do a heavy one-rep max lift.

My body type responds really well to lifting. I'm short and meaty! :) My muscles grew really fast (with hard work and good nutrition) but you're wise to take it easy on the strength gains, my joints were getting pretty sore.

Keep up the lifting! I love the impact it all has on my insulin sensitivity!


Ginger, thanks for the compliment -- it put a Cheshire Grin on my face! :)

I looked at my lifting stats and saw that I had posted one incorrectly. Squats on the Smith Machine are 105#. On the Squat Rack it is only 85#.

Deadlifts are 65#. Clean and Presses are 45#. I love doing the C&P! After finishing a set I do
my "Rocky Balboa at the top of the stairs" dance!

My trainer makes sure I don't make my knee
and shoulder worse by training too heavy too
fast. Though she did trigger a sciatica flareup
in my poor bod two weeks ago! It was very painful for five days. The trigger were the
side crunches with my feet hooked under the
back end of the treadmill. Man, turns out that
my spine didn't like that at all!

I'm short in statue also (5'2"). My fav retired
pro bodybuilder is my height -- the amazing
Juliette Bergman. If I had kept with the weight training I started in my early 20's and done the strict dieting I could have built a body like hers.

My current inspiration is a T1 figure and
bodybuilder competitor who is in her late 50's!
Her body is absolutely amazing for someone her age! She teaches P.E. at a community college in Washington State.



Ok, so I'm late to the party (again)...what else is new?

I love Ginger.

I've been working with Ginger for the past three weeks or so, and it has been really beneficial for me.

I'm going to post more about it real soon.

But above and beyond what Ginger is doing to help me through her coaching, she is a really great person who wants to help others. What more could you want from a friend?

Scott, you rock.

It's amazing how much support and help you can get from online communities, even if you don't meet up with them.

Hi Ginger~I just "found" you today and am pleased to meet another life coach with a focus on diabetes and chronic illnesses. Currently I am enrolled in a certified life coaching program and feel pulled to work with men and women with diabetes. My health history does not include diabetes but feel I can still help others. Most people don't think you have to "have the same thing" or "have done the same thing"~for instance be divorced to help divorced people. Do you agree or disagree?

Hi Penny!

I completely agree that everything is related in a way. My background of thinking about the way I think is what allows me to relate to anyone facing any kind of challenge in the health...or even unrelated to health, I suppose! The way we look at ANY KIND of problem or obstacle is the basis of how we relate or how I can help you, regardless of whether I've had to face the same obstacle you have had to face.

Thanks for posting!

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