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Paying more attention to diet

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Updated: Monday December 04, 2000 1:58 PM


Gary Hall Jr. won two gold medals and two silver medals at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. The 26-year-old American was part of the 400-meter medley relay team that set a world record. And his split in the 400-meter freestyle relay was the fastest relay split in history at that point. The 6-foot-6 Hall is now training for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Check out Hall's diary every other week on

June 29, 2000
Phoenix, Arizona

The last entry that I submitted told the story of my diagnosis and the subsequent struggle. In this entry I would like to address one of the major issues in what has enabled me to overcome diabetes. Nutrition. There are a few other factors involved, such as exercise, and modern medicine, which I hope to address in future postings. This time though I will discuss what role nutrition has played in my swimming career and my health.

Nutrition is a huge part of sport. It's a huge part of life in general. In a very unscientific way (watch the drive-through of any fast-food chain), I've come to the conclusion that most people don't eat well and feel lousy because of it. Unfortunately, because they've been doing it for years, they don't know the difference between how they feel and how they could feel.

Since being diagnosed with diabetes I've paid more attention to diet. Having to manually monitor blood glucose has enabled me to see exactly how hard food can be on one's innards. I've always tried to eat right, but indulged in drive through as much as the next guy. Which is fine, as long as it's not the staple of your diet. Now that I know how bad fast food is for you, I won't touch it.

I'm not a nutritionist (though I've met with dozens of them), so take my advice for what it's worth. If you're too busy to take the time to prepare a well balanced meal once a day, take nutritional supplements. Most food we come across in our day to day activities offer no benefits. Often is the case when an item that was once rich in vitamins and minerals has been depleted of these vital ingredients due to extended shelf life, preservatives, pesticides or freeze-dry.

It's with regret that I look back at my eating habits. I sometimes wonder if diabetes would be part of my life today had I been more aware. I know for fact that millions of people with diabetes could have avoided this disease had they minded their diets. In Arizona, where I'm from, the Pima Indians have the highest ratio of diabetes cases. It's an epidemic that threatens the existence of their people. In Mexico, there are communities of Pima where diabetes exists in extremely low numbers. What's the difference? Diet.

Since I started training I have met with several interesting people who concern themselves with the American diet. I've been introduced to what seems like hundreds of products. One of the more interesting stories includes a man, Dr. Doug Herthel. He deals with the American horse diet. He is a veterinarian that has dealt with some of the greatest horses that have run the track. He performs surgery on them and rehabilitates them back to health. He had noticed that many of the horses were malnourished. He came up with a formula that was instrumental in a quick and full recovery that created a reputation throughout the horse community.

I know absolutely nothing about horses. I like them. They seem nice. I rode one as a kid. But that about sums it up for me. I have heard of a horse named Fusaichi Pegasus. Dr. Herthel had performed surgery on this horse in May of 1999 and brought it back to health. It then won the Kentucky Derby.

It was after I had met up with Mike Bottom, my swim coach, that I first heard about this doctor who had come up with this horse formula. I was just a few months from being diagnosed. It was the season that would decide the fate of my swimming career. I was having trouble balancing my training and nutrition. Mike already had tried out this horse bar (which had been developed into a human-friendly version called Platinum Performance) and had put some of the Cal-Berkeley team on it. They had experienced tremendous results. He offered me some and I hesitantly said, "Yes".

The results speak for themselves. With dietary supplementation I have managed my diabetes and have continued to excel in the sport of swimming, going faster than I had ever been before. I was impressed. I won't say that this is the only reason that I was able to accomplish so much. It did however allow me to train for longer periods of time, at higher intensity.

Vitamins and minerals are also important. I know that beta complexes are good. For the most part I leave science to the scientists. I can't tell you accurately why all of this works. Some kind of trace minerals or linoleic acid or omega complex, I don't know. What's most important to me is that by taking care of my diet, I'm able to avoid the severe complications that stem from diabetes. By doing this I win a fight against a disease that I battle every day.

So I leave you with that on your plate. I have a desire to create awareness about diabetes mellitus, how to treat it, and how to prevent it. I hope to share some helpful information with those suffering from this disease. More information can be found at

My next entry will get back to swimming. I'll dive into the details of the tedious training that coach has inflicted. The team. The pain and suffering. The bickering. The grueling schedule of competitions. The anxiety. The results. The sport of swimming.

Nutritionally yours,

-- Gary

Join Gary Hall Jr. in supporting the American Diabetes Association.

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Gary Hall Jr. Olympic Diary Archive
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