I found Jeremy Williamson on Twitter. But if you read fitness magazines, watch Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime television, or follow the annual "Model Universe" competitions, you may have run into this type 1 diabetic hottie already. Jeremy is a 34-year-old native of Augusta, GA, who attended bible college in Tulsa, OK, and worked as a youth minister for many years. In 2006, he started doing a little modeling on the side. Then on a lark, he entered a contest called the World's Fittest Model, and placed as one of the top 15 male fitness models in the nation. Since, he's transformed himself into a supermodel, a passionate spokesperson for a healthy lifestyle, and a diabetes activist.
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Today, in addition to TV spots and print ads, Jeremy supports JDRF walks and gives motivational speeches at diabetes events around the country. (Check out his Road 2 ADA blog) He's currently working on a book about his life's story with diabetes (diagnosed at age 13).
"I wanted to be more than just a face or a physique. I wanted to be a voice. I realized diabetes was my challenge and I know that if I could inspire people with what I had been through, it would be something worth doing," Jeremy told a local reporter recently.
When I spoke to him on the phone last week, he talked a mile-a-minute, in a cute Southern drawl that was more homey than Hollywood, and would never bring to mind the "surfer-dude" look he sports in glossies, if you only ever met him over the phone.
Here's a synopsis of "Jmiah" quotes (Jeremy's stage name), on what he stands for and how diabetes has shaped his life:
On his diagnosis -
"I was the kid that when he was diagnosed, didn't want to tell anybody. Most of the kids in the 7th & 8th grade knew anyway. But when I was in High School I hid it. Today it's more socially acceptable. But 21 years ago... I had a girlfriend, and she broke up with me when she found out I had diabetes. I was devastated. I decided I'll take care of myself, but I won't tell anybody."
On being so "out" with his diabetes now -
"I was doing all these things. I won 6th place in the Model America competition in Hollywood. I won 2nd place in another competition in Atlanta. And a week after that I placed so well in the Fitness Model International competition. Then I was on NBC's Identity game show. In June '07 I won 2nd place in the Model Universe competition in Miami. The guy who won 1st place was the BowFlex guy!
"Then I realized, I'm type 1 diabetic. Nobody knows this. So I started talking about diabetes, and that's when things really started changing — my life got really interesting. I started getting these offers to be a spokesperson for diabetes products. I really wanted to inspire people to success.
"I like to say I'm like the attainable. I'm not a bodybuilder. I weigh 180 lbs, I'm 5'11. Anybody can look like me if they work at it. I don't do steroids or any of that. I'm type 1 diabetic!"
On the job description of a "fitness model" -
"They focus on fitness magazines, fitness events and products, and extreme sports. I do mountain biking, trail riding, trail running, and I plan to get involved in the Cyclebetes tour. But I'm more of model that happens to be fit, because I do commercial modeling, acting, hosting, and other stuff. I also do a lot of fitness magazines, articles, videos, etc. But I do more than just that because I like to work."
On his "fitness for all" message -
"I want to inspire the average person to get up off their tail. Eat clean. It doesn't mean I don't have cheat days — I do, but they're scheduled cheat days. Then I have to check (BG) a lot more — especially the next day, it effects you. I love to teach people how to do this stuff."
"Just get up and be more active! My A1c runs between 6 and 6.5. That's where my doctor likes it to be. He says if it's under 6, with all my workouts I'll bottom out too much."
On teaching his own child to live healthfully -
"I'm not strict on her about how she eats. I just make sure she drinks plenty of water, because water flushes your body, and I tell her to watch the sugars you take in (watch the candy!) and stay active."
"The way I view it, it's like if you put miles and miles on your car in a short amount of time and you don't give it the right fuel and take care of it, it'll break down. That's what's happening to a lot of our bodies, our pancreases these days."
On insulin pumps and CGMs -
"I've never been on the pump. Pumps are awesome. But I've done really well on injections, and I'm so active I wasn't that excited about something attached to me all the time. I did try the OmniPod earlier this year, but within two hours I knocked that thing off my arm."
"But I am about to get me a CGM, because I think those things are just freakin' awesome. After I've seen other people with these, and they seem just like great tools."
"My feeling is: if it's your thing and it speaks your language and it works for you, then do it — it's all about YOU!"
On his upcoming book -
"It's called 'Life After Diagnosis' — about my life, my struggles, and my successes with diabetes."
"This is my story. Everybody has a story. We should get out there and tell them, because people are inspired by stories."
Jeremy's book will be self-published in January on Createspace.com. He's looking for corporate sponsors for the book, btw — "ideally a CGM company!"
In the meantime, if you want more Jmiah, you can always download his free wallpaper for your bedroom ;)