Today, Evan Maloney is a tall and slender 21-year-old man, weighing in at a healthy 192 pounds. He exercises regularly and enjoys grilled chicken with lemon and chicken salad as two of his favorite meals.
It is a long way from his low point just two years prior, when he was a 300-pound teenager who nearly died from Type 2 diabetes brought on by a fast food diet and little exercise.
Maloney credits the transformation to the support he received from Circle Health’s Diabetes and Endocrine Center, where he met clinical manager Judy Pentedemos, NP, and her team of dieticians and counselors. It was there, Maloney says, he learned he was capable of turning his health around.
“People have to understand that it’s possible,” Pentedemos says. “I tell my patients all the time – diabetes management is a tough gig. It’s not impossible, but you have to pay attention to it every day.”
Increasingly, young people are making their way to her office. According to the American Diabetes Association, youth age 12-19 are the fastest growing population for pre-diabetes. Pentedemos believes the driving forces are genetics, being overweight, little activity and the allure of fast food and sugary drinks.
That was exactly what happened to Maloney, who only woke up to his declining health after a life-threatening episode.
As a senior at Dracut High School, he weighed as much as 270 pounds, but felt he could manage – after all, he had a girlfriend and was on the football and wrestling teams. But when high school ended, so did the sports activity. He got a job at a fast food restaurant and started eating there almost every day. As his weight climbed, his energy and demeanor declined.
“I was just down in the dumps, not happy, and not taking care of my body,” he says. “I came home from work one day very irritable and mad. I just wanted to go to sleep. My mom knew something was wrong.”
His mother, Colleen, convinced him he needed to go to the hospital, where he learned his sugar levels were off the charts. The reading was over 700, nearly five times that of a healthy person. His body was going into ketoacidosis, a process that shuts down the kidneys and results in death if left unchecked.
He was transferred to the intensive care unit, where he spent five days. While he was there, Pentedemos showed him a new path forward, often using drawings and diagrams to help him grasp the nutritional concepts.
“She brought the information to my level,” Maloney says.
Pentedemos and the dieticians at the Diabetes and Endocrine Center write nutrition "prescriptions" that help people plan their diet based on their existing weight. If a patient needs to lose weight, one pound of weight loss per week is factored into the prescription.
Maloney says he resisted dieting at first. He was worried it would be too expensive to buy healthy foods, but then he started to see and feel results.
“The cost was a little more, but at the end of the day, I was happy,” he says. “I started to notice my body feeling better, my breathing felt better, I could walk more and I started running. I wasn't thinking about what I was doing before; I was thinking of what I could do the next day.”
Now he’s eating a low-carb diet, playing basketball and running at the Dracut High track. He’s happy and full of energy. Patients who successfully get their diabetes under control get to “ring the bell” at the Dracut center, a milestone Maloney reached in the past year.
But Pentedemos stresses to patients that once you have diabetes, it’s always there. If an individual returns to their old lifestyle, the diabetes will come back.
Maloney says he has no plans on going back.
“Now I’m happy with myself,” Maloney says. “I’m doing things how I want to do them. I do not want to go back to that weight.”