I have been overweight my entire life. From being the chubby girl in elementary school, to having a BMI in the morbidly obese category as an adult. During my annual checkup last November, my doctor told me that the results from my blood work showed that my A1C levels were high (6.3). Anything over 6.0 was considered pre-diabetic, and ideally, the value should be <5.7. I wish I could say I was surprised, but honestly, I knew my poor eating habits were bound to catch up with me at some point, and it was apparent that now was that time. My doctor knew me well enough to know exactly what heartstrings to pull to make this real for me. She told me that as a single mother, I owed it to my daughter to get this under control before it was too late. She knew I had tried a number of different diets, from Weight Watchers with my Mom in 6th grade, to medically supervised liquid diets. I could lose the weight well enough; I just never could manage to keep it off.
This time, my doctor gave me a brochure for the Diabetes Prevention Program at the YMCA, and recommended that I give it a try. Since it was close to the holidays, I decided to wait until the New Year to look into the program. I had to wait several months for a new program to begin because one of the critical aspects of the program is the group interaction, and the program directors were waiting for enough participants to start a new group. Finally, on June 17th, I had my first class. I don’t know exactly what I expected, I actually knew very little about diabetes and worried I would never eat desserts or bread again. To my relief, the class began very gradually with no harsh restrictions on the foods that I feared I would never get to eat again. We focused on logging what we were eating, and ensuring that we were eating less fat than our prescribed amount based on weight. My initial reaction was to overdo things and try to lose the weight quickly as I was familiar with. I thought to myself ‘I should have 55g of fat a day? I am only going to have 30g! That will help me get thinner faster!!’ After the first few days, I reconsidered what I was doing. My end goal is to have a healthy lifestyle, not just another fad diet. So I focused on taking things VERY slowly. I followed the guidelines of the program, and made sure I made good use of my fat grams for the day (using them on good fats like fish and nuts, rather than French fries and ice cream). I stopped drinking my calories and cut out soda and sugary coffee all together. Although the last two changes were hard, but I focused on choices that would not only go a long way toward a healthier diet, but also things that I knew I could live with. This was, after all, a change I intended to stick with.
The two most helpful tools that I have learned in the program are planning and mindfulness. Planning my meals and ensuring that I have the foods prepared to meet my busy schedule is the most critical part of my dietary success. I am constantly proving to myself the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin who said “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” The other critical tool is being mindful of what I do choose to eat. The DPP leader, Lianna, is particularly skilled at urging us to consider the choices we make. Whether it is through her comments on our food journals, or discussions in class, time and time again the importance of making good, mindful choices is emphasized. For me, this is the key that allows my dietary changes to be livable and sustainable.
After the first few weeks of the program, we began tracking our physical activity. This was a little tougher for me as I was a fairly physically lazy person with a very busy schedule focused around my 5 year old daughter. It was tough for me to make myself a priority and make time to go to the gym. It was also tough to step out of my comfort zone, put on some big girl shoes, and try new things. After the first week or so, I realized it wasn’t as hard as I was making it seem in my head. My daughter really enjoyed spending time in the Kid Zone, and no one stared at me funny when I stepped on the treadmill or showed up for a new group exercise class. I realized I could do this! I could make this a permanent part of my life!!
The class focused on trying new things and finding new ways of being active. We did belly dancing as a class (not for me), I tried (and LOVED) water aerobics. I even signed up for Sweat Fest during the summer. Of course there were days where I didn’t want to be active or go to class, but more often than not I did want to go and I always felt like a million dollars when I did.
As we reached the end of the first 16 weeks, I began to get very nervous. I was worried about slipping into my old habits if I didn’t have weekly accountability. Bi-weekly and monthly check-ins left too many days where it would be easy to slide into bad habits. Fortunately, the timing was perfect to sign up for the Fall Fitness Boot Camp through the YMCA. Three months of 3 day/week hour long boot camp sessions? I never would have imagined myself volunteering for such a thing!! But I did. I'm nearly two months into the boot camp, and still love it! Aaron, the trainer at the Northwest YMCA running our camp, is amazing. He is so supportive and helps push each person in the class to do what they can do without the fear of judgment from others. Everyone in the group is at a different place with their physical health, and he always offers modifications to ensure that everyone is able to complete the exercise at a level that is challenging, but obtainable for them. It is such a healthy environment and I find myself pushing myself harder each time to continuously improve. The boot camp has been an amazing compliment to the dietary changes that I am making.
It's been 150 days since my first DPP class. I find myself with 12% less of myself and with a million times the passion and excitement for life. My cholesterol levels have improved by 30% with my LDL number dropping 40%. My A1C hasn’t improved as much as I would like, but it has improved and my doctor will check again in 6 months to confirm continued improvement. If it continues to improve, she will not require me to take Metformin to help with my A1C.
Beyond the hard numbers, I find myself sleeping better, my anxiety/depression is much more manageable, and my general zest for life is much improved. I look forward to the continued changes that the New Year will bring to my general health and appetite for life!
- Donna (Diabetes Prevention Program participant 2015)