“Diabetes is the best thing that ever happened to me,” said fourth-year DEM student Alex Naccarato. “I would never have gotten into powerlifting or breaking a world record [without it]. It was like a blessing in disguise.”

At the age of 15, Naccarato was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. From that moment on, the challenge of dealing with diabetes has changed his outlook on life. He thrives on the positivity around him, and as someone who must overcome obstacles every day, believes there’s no use in holding on to negativity.

When diagnosed, Naccarato was overweight and willing to do whatever it took to become healthy again. “The first step was getting a personal trainer,” he said. “I was 250 pounds and wanted to lift.” He found a gym where his trainer helped him train for heavyweight workouts, where he lost over 50 pounds.

Naccarato’s positive outlook has had a tremendous impact on his personal and professional life and his friends and clients at work. Many of them enjoy the happy-go-lucky attitude that he reflects. “If I have to live with diabetes, so be it. There’s no point in looking down on it if you really can’t do anything about it,” he said. He believes that if you choose to look only at the negative side of any situation, it will never make any difference, and the only way you can overcome your obstacles is to believe that there is some good that will come from it.

Naccarato not only trains as a powerlifter but is also a personal trainer with a group of loyal clientele that has become his “gym family”, a group that strives for a healthy, active lifestyle. “People don’t want to get huge, and I want to show them they can powerlift without getting too big,” he said.

His positive outlook on his personal life shines through to his clients and he pushes each of them to do the best they can. “I train people for the same reason I work with diabetics, and as long as I help one person, I’m happy,” he said.

Throughout his personal struggles, Naccarato has learned enough to relate to his clients. For example, he tells them, “Don’t aim to lose 20 pounds because you never will—instead, lose one pound 20 times and see how fast you reach your goals,” he said.

Over the summer, Naccarato participated in the world record–breaking caber toss at the Fergus Highland Games in Fergus, Ontario, and 69 cabers were flipped simultaneously. “You step out there with this 14-foot log on your shoulder, and you know you have to flip this thing,” he said, adding that the feeling was “totally incredible—it’s something you can’t describe”. Being part of a group of record breakers, Naccarato notes, “They depend on you, and you feel like you have to flip your log to be part of the team.” In the end, they managed to make his dream of being in the Guinness Book of World Records come true. “It was funny, though,” he said. “There were just a bunch of guys in kilts hugging each other.”

Naccarato said he “loves lifting heavy” and will continue to push himself to his personal limits just to break them. “It’s important to know you can overcome anything and beat it tenfold,” he said. He tries to push that idea to everyone he knows; getting others to live a healthier, stronger lifestyle is a paramount aspect of his life.

Along with Naccarato’s strict training and dietary regiment, he works alongside other diabetics as an Ambassador for the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Bayer Canada. These companies, like Naccarato, aim to better the lives of diabetics, allowing them to live a normal, healthy lifestyle. Bayer Canada, the company that provides Naccarato with his insulin pump, works with professional athletes, such as rookie NHL athlete Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes. Through research, they have given people like Naccarato the chance to live freely and train to lift as much as possible. “I can only bench 230 pounds, I think,” Naccarato said. “But I deadlift 555 pounds. That’s my bread and butter.”

There is no holding Naccarato back from what he wants to accomplish. He loves to lift and he firmly believes everything happens for a reason, but continues to live his life the same way he teaches his clients: “one pound at a time”.

This article has been corrected from the print edition. Naccarato was quoted as saying “this 14-pound log” rather than “this 14-foot log”. A notice will be printed in the November 9, 2015 issue.