By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, email@example.com
He could not quench his thirst. That was one of the first signs. Then he began vomiting.
“By the time we got to Riley Hospital he could barely walk. His sugar level was almost 600. I was scared,” said Taye’ Baker’s mom, Michelle Stewart. That was Aug. 19, 2019. Baker weighed 306 pounds. Since then, he’s dropped to 190 pounds.
Baker was admitted to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health where he remained a patient for four days. Other than two cousins who were diagnosed with diabetes, Stewart said she doesn’t know anyone in her family who has the disease.
“I’ve been the exact same size since high school. I was 32 when I had Taye’ and sister is 15 years older. I had no idea what was happening and how I could help my son,” said Stewart.
She set her mind to learn – and learn quickly.
Working with a nutritionist and pediatric staff at Riley Hospital, Stewart learned to administer insulin shots to Baker.
“I was terrified. We lived alone. I took a lot of notes and listened to the dieticians and tried to do what would help him,” said Stewart. She also wanted to understand how her son became sick so quickly.
It was after his sophomore year at North Central High School when Baker spent the summer months with a close relative. Stewart said her son ate lots of fast food meals, and gas station grab-and-go snacks.
“When he came back home he had picked up a lot of weight and I wondered why he picked up weight so fast. I was buying bigger sizes and he was using food as a coping mechanism,” said Stewart. With his diagnosis came five injections a day.
“He didn’t want to be that way and I wanted to help him. We set up a schedule. I bought exercise equipment. We limited snacks and counted carbs. There were no fried foods, and soda was limited to diet drinks and only for special occasions,” said Stewart. She calculated calories and kept a journal of food intake.
“I threw away grease and flour. I air fry or bake and limit sugar additives,” said Stewart. After dinner, she cheers for her son as he rides a stationary bike and continues to encourage him as he completes abdominal crunches. He was off of insulin in two months.
“The mindset I had was I wanted to take the least amount of insulin possible and to get healthy. I was mostly focused on the weight loss because I knew everything else would follow,” said Baker, 17.
As a high school junior he is on a college prep track. He played viola in the orchestra for two years and his favorite subjects are history and science. He enjoys playing video games and creating digital art. He plans to attend college after graduation and study computer science.
“I absolutely wanted to lose weight but I wasn’t motivated until this happened,” said Baker.
Some changes weren’t that tough, he said. He does not eat meat so his meals were focused on poultry and vegetables.
“Instead of drenching things in BBQ sauce, I would only use two tablespoons and I measured the sauce and spread it out to give the impression there was more,” said his mom. His favorite foods are chicken patties and tater tots and he still enjoys the Thanksgiving Day favorites – turkey dressing and macaroni and cheese but those are foods he eats in moderation.
“Moderation is everything. He likes pizza but now we limit it to a piece of cheese pizza once in awhile. We steer away from sweet treats and offer up sugar-free Jell-O instead,” said Stewart.
How has the weight loss changed Baker?
“He has so much confidence. When he gets dressed every day he knows he looks good and he feels good. He was first attending school virtually and when he went back his friends barely recognized him,” said Stewart.
“I think people can see how I’ve changed – not just my weight but my mindset,” said Baker. “I’d tell other teens to ‘just try to do your best to eat what you like but not too much of it and always look out for the intake.’”