This article was originally published on December, 31, 2010, for Inside Business/The Hampton Roads Business Journal.
LeAnne Rains Benedetto got the news in January 2009.
Type I diabetes. Her body had stopped producing insulin.
"You don't realize what a grim disease it is until you get it," she said. "It can lead to amputation or blindness. I was terrified."
Rains Benedetto, a familiar face in Hampton Roads after a 10-year career as a TV news anchor, was determined to fight the disease in "the healthiest way I could."
The way turned out to be a fitness regimen.
After seeing an episode of "Oprah" in February in which she learned the benefit of exercise for those with diabetes, she enlisted the services of a personal trainer and began working out five days a week.
"Exercise wasn't an option," said Rains Benedetto. "I knew I had to do it. But I knew I couldn't do it on my own. I needed someone to push me."
These days, her fasting blood sugar has dropped dramatically. So has her dress size.
"Ironically, here I have Type I diabetes, a chronic disease, and I feel better than ever," she said. "I am so much stronger and have more energy. Exercise has changed my life in many ways."
Rains Benedetto grew up in Florida and graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in political science.
"I got an internship at a TV station in Dallas, and the first time I walked into the newsroom, I knew, 'This was it.' This was what I wanted to do."
Known as LeAnne Rains then, she came to Hampton Roads in 1990 as WAVY TV's weekend anchor, later becoming the 5 p.m. anchor.
After taking a year off to marry husband Michael and travel the world, she returned to the area and anchored
WTKR's 6 and 11 p.m. shows until 2001.
She retired to tend to children Allie, now 12, Juliette, 11, and Marco, 9.
These days, Rains Benedetto is director of communications for TFC Recycling, the family business, and runs LeAnne Rains & Co., a media services company where she produces and hosts shows for television.
Her latest show was "13 Days Till Christmas," produced for WVEC.
She has been so sold on the power of exercise in combating disease that she frequently speaks to diabetes groups and was a recent participant in the American Diabetes Association's "Step Out for Diabetes" walk.
Rains Benedetto recently shared coming to grips with her condition and her views on fitness.
When did you realize that something might be seriously wrong?
I started losing weight without trying and I didn't have much energy. I just kept feeling worse and worse. But never did I think I had diabetes. Then, I got a call from my doctor saying, "You need to come in." I had a fasting blood sugar of 280. [Under 100 is normal.]
Had you had much of an exercise history before?
I was never what you would call an athlete. I was one of those people who tried whatever was the current thing. If it was hot, I was into it. I did it all: aerobics, yoga. But not for long. I didn't have the consistency or discipline, but I was determined to try fitness.
So what did you do?
Through a site called USA Elite Trainers, I found Ryan Bielat, a great trainer. Then, I signed up for nine months of workouts at Anytime Fitness. The key was to find a gym close to home. I knew whatever I did it had to be convenient and I needed someone to push me.
What are your workouts like?
I work out an hour a day, Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. And a half-hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's a lot like CrossFit. I never know what I'm going to be doing when I walk in.
I love that variety. It can be a day of pushups, pullups and squats or running outside or weights. As I say, every day is a new adventure in pain.
What has been the effect of your program on diabetes?
I don't ever envision not having to take injections, but the number has been greatly reduced. If I don't work out for three or four days, my blood sugar numbers start rising. So I don't need much motivation to keep exercising. The workouts make me feel more in control of the disease.
How about in general?
My body has changed. (Laughs.) I now have natural shoulder pads. My clothes fit better. I look taller and thinner. I don't have to say to myself anymore that I have to lose 10 pounds before I go to an event. I'm ready 24/7. It's a good feeling. I learned that being thin doesn't necessarily mean you are healthy.
Diet is huge for diabetics. What is yours like?
(Laughs) It's not where it needs to be, but it is getting there. I try to limit myself to 15 grams of sugar a day. That's like one bite of dessert. And I try to stick to a high-fiber diet.
You have worked hard to get the word out about getting other diabetics into a fitness program.
I feel very strongly about how it has helped me. If I can help others, I want to do it.
I feel very fortunate. Getting diabetes was my wake-up call to living a healthier life.
It is pretty obvious you are hooked.
I just signed up for nine more months of sessions.
What are your goals for 2011?
The main goal is to keep trying to reduce the insulin I have to take. I also want to get stronger and I hope to run some 5Ks. nib