Pre-diabetes. Stop it - one pebble at a time.
I come from a family with a strong German heritage and excellent home cooks. Food is how we celebrate, reward, demonstrate love, comfort and console ourselves and others---it was never thought of as nourishment or fuel. My draw to family food traditions, and an increasingly hectic life that often demands fast (drive through) and convenient (frozen/boxed) meals, have led to my bitter-sweet relationship with food. Last July, as I sat working at my desk, 40 lbs. overweight, I received an e-mail announcing the state employee Diabetes Prevention Program series of classes. Recent blood testing had revealed that I was on the cusp of pre-diabetes, and I was chronically fatigued. I knew I needed to do something about it or I would be on the same path to diabetes and heart disease plaguing multiple generations in my family. I enrolled in the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, co-sponsored by Health and Welfare and Health Matters, and began attending classes last September.
During the year long program I found that accountability is an absolute necessity for me. I remain on track better with weekly meetings versus monthly meetings, and when I keep a detailed daily food and exercise journal. A health coach introduced me to the myfitnesspal app and it made journaling so easy and convenient. I did finish the year-long program in August below my starting weight which is a success in my book. Because I recognize my need for continued accountability and camaraderie in my journey to better health, I plan to join Weight Watchers. Just as importantly, I learned about my entire circle of health – beyond my weight - which was a bit off kilter.
The biggest change as a result of the program is that I am now more knowledgeable and mindful about what goes into my mouth. The program encourages participants to let go of the cycle of indulgence and guilt. There are no prohibited or “bad” foods, it’s simply a matter of being mindful and making adjustments to meet daily goals. I gained a context for nutrition and wellness that every food or drink fits into, versus simply selecting or judging food according to its taste or the anticipated emotional result.
My biggest challenge was remaining motivated and disciplined while continuously feeling fatigued and foggy-minded. Probably many people can identify with that. I had long been in the habit of feeding my fatigue to gain energy and reduce the fog, especially during my mid-afternoon slump. Caffeinated soda, candy bars and salty carbs were generally the pick-me-up of choice. After beginning the program I ate better and lost some weight, but I remained fatigued and foggy and continued to crave and indulge in caffeine, sugar and empty carbs to increase my energy level. Frustrated and tired of being tired, I finally scheduled a medical evaluation. After referrals and testing, I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder (fragmented sleep) and severe allergies to virtually all outdoor plant life. I was prescribed a medication that increased my alertness and energy level throughout the day. I also began allergy shots to boost my drained immune system. With increased energy, I had the motivation and stamina to begin exercising again. The exercise resulted in better sleep. The better sleep resulted in clarity of mind, which resulted in having the discipline to make healthier food choices and exercise consistently. It also became easier to plan ahead and prepare healthy home cooked meals instead of fast or convenience foods. This full circle was completed by a boost in weight loss that felt virtually effortless. Most of us don’t realize how much our body is like a car engine. All parts need to be fully functional and contributing to the engine’s operation, or the car will run sluggishly or maybe not at all.
The first step for anyone considering this journey into better health, is to identify the consequence of not doing it. If you’ve tried to lose weight on your own and failed, or yo-yo dieted and ultimately ended up back at your starting weight (or even higher!), you need to think long and hard about the consequences. If you continue to do nothing, a high A1C will likely become pre-diabetes; pre-diabetes will likely evolve into full-blown diabetes; diabetes will likely contribute to heart disease; and the circle of consequences just continues from there.
The Diabetes Prevention Program changed the way I think about food and the choices I make. You can check out the program on Health Matters; classes open regularly across the state. I do still indulge, but I try to balance my indulgence with a beneficial choice that helps counter my indulgence. That may be to eat a low-fat meatless dinner after enjoying the pizza buffet at lunch, or to exercise a little more intensely or longer. Most of all I learned that each little pebble of change gets me that much further down the road to prevent diabetes and achieve better health.
State of Idaho
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