By Aaron Allen
Many people believe that life begins when you hit 50. For Chukundi Salisbury, a well-known DJ, promoter and event planner in the Pacific Northwest, turning 50 marked a transformation to a healthy lifestyle that has already shown big dividends for a man who is affectionately known in the community as “Big Kun.” Salisbury who was diagnosed by Type 2 diabetes in 2010, embarked on a personal commitment, a change of habits, and a transformation that saw him lose almost 200 pounds in 10 years and he is feeling better about his healthy choices every day.
Type 2 diabetes, just as Type 1, is medically known as “Diabetes mellitus,” which refers to a group of diseases that affect how our body utilizes blood sugar or glucose. Glucose is essential and vital to one’s health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up our muscles and tissues. It’s also our brain’s main source of fuel.
If you have diabetes, your body isn’t able to properly process and use glucose from the food you eat. There are different types of diabetes, each with different causes, but they all share the common problem of having too much glucose in your bloodstream. Treatments include medications and/or insulins. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or put into remission by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 26 million Americans are living with diabetes, another 79 million have prediabetes meaning one-third of the population is affected by the disease. In addition, African American adults make up almost 19 percent, or 4.9 million people, who have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to 7.1 percent of non-Hispanic white people.
Admittedly for nine years after his initial diagnosis, Salisbury continued “poppin’ bottles’ and embellishing in a lifestyle that did not serve the best interest of his overall and long-term health. Deep inside he knew he needed to change his lifestyle if he was going to regain control of his health, but mentally he wasn’t ready to take the necessary steps to do it.
“Initially in 2010 I got a bit scared,” says Salisbury. “Like most people hearing this news and decided I was going to beat this. I did avoid having to take insulin, but I did begin taking a medicine in pill form called Metformin.”
“I still continued to gain weight and live my lifestyle and my thought process was I figured out I could just take more of the medicine and continue to pop bottles and do all of those things that I did living an excessive lifestyle without any diet or exercise,” added Salisbury.
At the time he learned that he had diabetes Salisbury weighed 460 pounds. On the advice of his doctor, Salisbury began a healthier and diabetes-friendly diet, and started a simple but effective workout plan which helped him lose over 100 pounds by 2019. Despite his progress, Salisbury still was not fully vested in changing his lifestyle and continued to engage in some of his bad habits from time to time.
“I knew that I needed to change but I wasn’t completely committed,” says Salisbury. “I just wanted to live a better life, but I still had a toe in the water if you will. I did lose a lot of weight just by doing things like not eating late at night and things like that, I did lose 100 pounds, but I was still overweight, and I still had diabetes.”
In 2019, Salisbury, on the brink of turning 50, started a mental shift that fueled his desire to get serious about his health. It was a significant step, but certainly was not his last.
“I was forty-nine and I said OK I’m going to change my ways and when I turned fifty, I want to be healthy,” Salisbury said. “I started reading about Metformin’s side effects and the side effects of other medicines, I was living a sustainable lifestyle and things start hitting you when you turn fifty.”
Coming off the heels of an unsuccessful political campaign in 2021, Salisbury decided it was time to tackle the biggest hurdle in his health journey by committing to a complete lifestyle change which included walking every day for one hour.
“After I lost my election for state representative in November of 2020, I decided to make this change and really be committed,” says Salisbury. “After the hard work it took running for office it dawned on me that if I could work that hard to run for office, and it was a grind, I should be able to work hard for myself and my health.”
“It was during the holidays around November, and I made the decision, but who starts a new diet and lifestyle during the holidays, so over the holidays I got it all out – poppin’ bottles, going to the Cheesecake Factory, I got it all out,” Salisbury remembers. “Then on January 4, 2021, I started walking.”
“The reason I picked walking was because I watched people do things like go to the gym or engage in some kind of extreme thing, and I wanted to pick something that I knew I could sustain mentally, physically and financially,” says Salisbury. “I walked for 242 days, through snow, through rain, through that record heat we had in 2021 and June my doctor told me I’d lost 60 pounds at that point and my A1C (an indicator of your blood glucose over time) went down to 5.4 which was amazing because that is what most healthy people’s glucose levels are at.”
According to his doctor, Dr. Wuaca Luna, Salisbury was able to stop taking his diabetes medication as his A1C readings began showing improvement.
“When his A1C began lowering and hovering in the neighborhood between 5.0 and 6.5 I suggested it may be time for him stop taking the medication,” says Luna.
Six months and sixty pounds later, Salisbury achieved his goal in bringing his diabetes into remission. He continued his walking regiment, stopped drinking alcohol, maintained his dietary and lifestyle changes until September when he contracted COVID, which ended his 242-day streak. During that time, Salisbury lost 76 pounds going from 306 pounds to 230 pounds.
Most people believe that taking medication is the only relief for diabetes, but Salisbury has shown and advocates that this is not true and his mission is to help educate the community, particularly the Black community, that there are other alternatives one can take to diminish the effects that diabetes can have on one’s life.
“My mission [is to let people know, by example, that] you can reverse or put your diabetes into remission through a regiment of diet and exercise,” says Salisbury. “Nobody is talking about reversing or putting your disease into remission to Black people and it is a real thing and I want to let people know that you can.”
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