Diabetes Forecast

The Roller Girl: Mary Weeks

Rough-and-tumble Roller Derby leads a skater to better health

By Tracey Neithercott , , ,
Mary Weeks

Mary Weeks
Photograph by Stacey Emenecker

I just learned to listen to my body, especially when I’m out on the track.
—Mary Weeks, Roller Derby skater

Mary Weeks could crush you. Forget images of wobbling around a roller-skating rink to a cheesy love song. When Weeks laces her skates, she means business. And as member of a Pennsylvania Roller Derby team, that business involves sprinting, shoving, and otherwise crashing through the other team’s defense.

Weeks was playing coed softball eight years ago when she learned about Roller Derby. “It was very athletic, very physical,” says Weeks, 31. “It took every fiber of [my] being—physical and mental—to do it. It was the perfect fit.”

 While joining a Roller Derby team helped Weeks stay active, it also supported her poor eating habits. Practice was Fridays from 10 p.m. to midnight, and Weeks’s post-workout meal of choice was a cheesesteak. Four years later, she was diagnosed with prediabetes. Weeks immediately made some big changes to her lifestyle, starting with her diet.

She switched to six or seven small meals during the day, opted for low-fat foods, and cut processed foods altogether. Weeks now focuses on eating veggies in every meal—even breakfast, which might be egg whites with broccoli and tomatoes. She can feel the effects of healthful eating in her skating. “If I eat bad or I eat heavy and I go to practice that week, I can feel it,” she says.

Mary Weeks (left) skates hard with the Lehigh Valley Rollergirls.
Photograph by Jim Rhoades

To ramp up weight loss and get her blood glucose under control, Weeks also began exercising more after her prediabetes diagnosis. She signed up for a gym near her Emmaus, Pa., home and now works out six times a week, either running, lifting weights, or both. On top of that, she stays active during Roller Derby practice and games.

Though Weeks loves Roller Derby for its physical demands and rough-and-tumble nature, she’s seen a softer side to the game, too: Her teammates played a significant role in helping her deal with her prediabetes. “I remember when I found out [about my prediabetes] and I went to practice and announced it to the team,” she says. “Everyone was so supportive.”

Although she doesn’t need medication and her A1C has dropped, Weeks’s outlook on her health remains changed. “Before, it was just go, go, go, party, drink,” she says. “I just learned to listen to my body, especially when I’m out on the track. Now it’s, ‘Hey, this is the only body I get.’ ”

Safety Note

Talk to your doctor to make sure engaging in extreme sports is reasonably safe for you.



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