As a journalist, Rob Taub knows the importance of facts. But for years, he rejected the truth about his own health.
When his kids put his picture on the refrigerator, Taub looked at the 240-pound man in the photo and refused to believe it was him.
“I was living in denial … absolutely,” he said. “When I looked in the mirror, I saw somebody who was fit and healthy and ran every day. I didn’t see somebody who was overweight.”
Today, Taub has a better grip on reality and has learned to manage his weight, diabetes and high blood pressure. And he’s helping others face the facts in his role as ambassador for Know Diabetes by Heart, a collaboration between the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. The initiative raises awareness of the link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease and empowers people living with type 2 diabetes to better manage their risk for heart attacks, stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease.
“I love talking to people about diabetes and heart disease and getting them to educate themselves,” said Taub, a New York area writer, podcaster and broadcaster. “I meet people who know more about their favorite sports teams than they do about themselves. If we could spend as much time talking about our health as we do the NBA, NFL and baseball, we’d be a lot healthier.”
Even though he was an athlete in school, Taub grew up eating “a horrendous diet,” including a big bowl of sugary cereal every morning.
“I still remember sitting at my desk in my first class of the day actually trembling because I was so loaded up on sugar,” he said.
He kept eating junk food into adulthood, but it didn’t affect his health or his weight – at least not at first. “I offset the bad diet with exercise. I’d say ‘Oh, I’m getting a little bit of a belly? I’ll just add an extra mile to my run in the morning.’”
His poor diet finally caught up to him 12 years ago, when he was diagnosed with obesity and type 2 diabetes. He enrolled at a fitness center in North Carolina, which he credits with “completely retraining” him on how to eat well. He learned everything from how to read nutrition labels to how to slow down “and stop eating like you’re shoveling the food into the back of a truck.”
Today, at age 63, he manages his diabetes and blood pressure through regular exercise and a balanced diet. He encourages people living with type 2 diabetes to know they can make meaningful changes to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
“It’s not like I’m a saint. I still eat candy and have a Scotch or a bourbon. But I’m diligent and thoughtful about what I eat,” he said. “Diabetes is a war that is fought every day. You’re going to lose some battles, but you have to be strategic and play the long game.”
Taub’s message of resilience strikes a chord with people from all walks of life, said Dr. Evelyn Granieri, chief of geriatric medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
“I’ve never dealt with someone who is more passionate than Rob about making sure others really understand diabetes, its complex challenges and the help you need to deal with it,” said Granieri, who has collaborated with Taub on podcasts and videos about health.
Taub wishes he had known more while his parents were still alive. His mother struggled with diabetes. His father battled heart disease. Neither fully understood how to manage their conditions.
“I still feel guilt that I didn’t know enough to help them,” he said.
Today, he’s a firm believer in health and nutrition education, starting in grade school. He’d like to see more support groups for people with diabetes and heart disease, as well as more coaches and role models who can inspire patients.
“I wish I had someone to help and mentor me when I was first diagnosed, because I encountered so many obstacles, and I was unprepared,” he said. “Nothing is more fulfilling for me than helping others who can benefit from my knowledge and experience, so they don’t have to make the mistakes I did.”