When Jay Cutler prepares to play in prime time, he has more than just the game plan on his mind before kickoff.
Diagnosed as a diabetic in 2008, the Chicago Bears quarterback said Monday that later kickoffs -- such as the one on Sunday night against the Houston Texans -- mean he has more meals to monitor with insulin.
"Diabetes is all about insulin levels and sugar levels and what you put in your body," he said Monday on "The Jay Cutler Show" on ESPN 1000. "The more you put in your body the more you have to regulate it with insulin. So later kickoffs you're talking about breakfast, lunch and a pregame meal, so that's more food you've got to be aware of and what you put in your body. A noon game, light breakfast, a little fruit and some insulin and I'm good to go."
Cutler, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2008 while with the Denver Broncos, said changes to his diet over the years have helped him deal with it.
"It's something you go to sleep with and you wake up with everyday," Cutler, 29, said. "It's not something that you can just be like 'Hey, I'm going to take a day off here and I'll catch back up with it tomorrow.' It's difficult to deal with. I think more than anything over the past three, four, five years is I've changed my diet a lot. I think that's made the biggest impact on me being able to control my numbers and being able to control diabetes.
"When I first got it I was (24), I just kind of ate whatever I wanted, did whatever I wanted, lived however I wanted. As I get older and maybe a little bit wiser you realize how much stuff affects your body and what it can do. Cutting out carbs and sweets and trying to eat just proteins and fruits and stuff like that more natural stuff is what I have found has had the biggest impact on me."
The 6-foot-3 Cutler began the 2007 season at 235 pounds and played his last game at 202 pounds. He couldn't keep weight on, but he still posted solid numbers with 3,497 yards passing, 20 touchdowns and an 88.1 passer rating.
He finally learned diabetes was to blame in April 2008, and he used that spring and summer to develop a plan for managing it.
"They thought it was stress, and I was like 'Listen, I'm not really stressed.' It was missed," Cutler said. "Sometimes it's easy to miss it. I found out in April that I was diabetic. I got up to like 215 somehow by a miracle. Then I went the whole summer just kind of dealing with it and figuring it out, test driving insulins to see what worked, what didn't work, what my numbers were.
"I went into the season and had a great year. Had some good coaches, played with (Brandon Marshall), Tony (Scheffler) and Eddie Royal and some of those guys. Had some great teammates around me. Offensive line was fabulous. It was a fun year."
As the Bears enter the toughest stretch of their season, Cutler will have a new look to help support diabetes research. Along with ESPN 1000's Marc Silverman and Tom Waddle -- as well as some Bears teammates -- Cutler is growing a mustache for the month of November, or "Movember," a nationwide charity event to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues.
"I forgot about it, I really did, and then I look in the mirror and said 'Dang it, I forgot you were there,' " Cutler said. "A lot of the teammates did it too, so I'm not a lone soldier in the locker room. We've got some other guys who look as ridiculous as me, so it's all fine."
If November goes as well as October for the Bears, who have won six straight games, Cutler said he might have to keep the mustache for the rest of the season.
"Hopefully we stay hot, and if we do I'm sure the consensus in the locker room will be that moustaches have to say," Cutler said.