George and Janet Bedard are retired CLC instructors who enjoy travel when they’re not coaching in the National Diabetes Prevention Program.
Like many couples who raised families in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we thought our weight gain was due to full-time jobs and six active children. We ate well, or so we thought, but we often ate hurriedly to get to our children’s next physical activity where we sat in the bleachers.
About four years ago, we had a wake-up call.
George’s Uncle Earl, who was diabetic, needed our care because of his heart condition. Taking the recycling to the curb, he fell and was in a rehab center for three months as a result. Diabetes had caused him to lose the feeling in his feet, which precipitated this fall. He never returned to his home.
The following spring, we learned at our annual physical that we were pre-diabetic. I immediately asked for a referral to a dietitian. With help from Teresa Farrell at Essentia’s Brainerd Clinic, I lost 24 pounds in three months, but at 268 pounds, I still had a long way to go. That’s when we learned about the National Diabetes Prevention Program that Your Energized Year is offering beginning in mid-February.
I registered and began classes in August 2013. At the last minute, George decided to join me in the class ‘for moral support’. What we found was amazing! In our group of a dozen or so people, we all faced the same issues, but we found our own personal ways of meeting those challenges. Our coach, Cassie Carey, said our goal was to lose 5-7% of our current weight by learning about our food choices and increasing our physical activity. George was great at the physical activity, but I was better with the food preparation and eating. I, of course, was flabbergasted that I’d be expected to lose another 18 pounds in four months. But I did!
This class was so fantastic! We developed a sense of mutual support among the participants. Often we’d come to class with nutrition labels of some tasty food we’d just discovered. Everyone wanted to help everyone else succeed. We weren’t shy about expressing our frustrations so that’s how we’d come across things that helped others’ lifestyles even when the discoveries did not fit with our ways. We learned about nutrition, but we also learned about talking back to negative thoughts, how to manage eating out, how to avoid feeling deprived, how to participate in life’s series of weddings, graduations, birthday parties and setbacks. When the sixteen week, hour-long sessions ended, our blood sugar and A1c numbers were back in the normal range, and our blood pressures were lower. But we were scared of regaining the weight we’d just lost!
The Thanksgiving to New Year’s holidays loomed before us, and the monthly follow-up sessions didn’t begin until January. Some of us decided to meet weekly in December and walk indoors at the time when we would have been in class. It was ‘hit and miss’ because of the holidays, but it was definitely more than we would have done before we enrolled in the program. The walking was good, but the sharing of concerns and successes was wonderful!
Over the course of the five monthly follow-up meetings, we revisited some topics we’d discussed in the weekly groups and explored some new issues to help solidify our lifestyle changes. In short, we became independent.
We can’t tell you that this program was easy because lifestyle change is never easy. There is no magic, no prescribed food to buy, no specific type of exercise required, and no guilt trips. The program is FREE. We came away with a binder full of ideas to help us maintain or extend our healthy behaviors. When we see people from our class, we always exchange our recent discoveries about what’s working for us.
Several months after the program ended, our coach Cassie told us about the CDC program to train people as coaches. The two-day training costs about $750 per person, but Essentia Health covered the cost, and we volunteered to coach future classes. Other participants in that training had employers who gave them time to coach interested employees.
So last February, we began coaching two groups at our church in Nisswa and one at Our Place in Brainerd. It was so much fun to help other people discover that they could live more healthfully. Because these people knew each other already, the bond of mutuality was quickly established. Like George and me, they had tried many different weight-loss programs, and even gastric bypass, but they eventually regained weight. The Diabetic Prevention Program is different because it’s a lifestyle change, not a diet.
At the end of sixteen weeks, our groups lost an average of 6.2% of their weight. Their friends and acquaintances began to notice. As a result, the new two groups we’re coaching this year filled quickly.
Other positive outcomes have occurred. A participant in our group last year, has become a coach for this year just as we did after being in the class. Our class also included women who are active in the church kitchen. Funeral luncheons are healthier now. Veggie dips are made with nonfat yogurt instead of mayonnaise or sour cream. The traditional social gathering after church on Sunday featured coffee, sweet breads and donuts, but now it includes fresh fruit. Parents in our classes are cooking differently for their families. The Our Place group in Brainerd developed a straw bale garden under the direction of Betsy Huston, and they even used wooden flats to create a vertical garden. This effort showed that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. In a very real sense, we are passing on the gift.
Coaching has personal benefits for us. We meet absolutely wonderful people. We stay motivated to continue this lifestyle change. I buy pants with zippers and belt loops rather than elastic waistlines now. I can climb a flight or two of stairs without huffing and puffing. Yes, I’ve lost 70+ pounds, but I’m still a work in progress. George is satisfied with his weight, but he continues to be my moral support.
So, what about you? Has your New Year’s resolution to lose weight collapsed? Are you feeling weight loss and better health are impossible? Your Energized Year is offering 38 classes at various times and places throughout Crow Wing County. If you’re over 18, not pregnant, and ready to make a lifestyle change, now is the time and this is your chance. A program that once cost $150 is now free, and you don’t need to be pre-diabetic to participate! Get more information at www.CrowWingEnergized.org.
Join us in this healthy adventure!