Even though a blood test showed her blood-glucose levels were high, Jan M. didn't think she had diabetes. "It was a term that didn't exist in my vocabulary," she remembers. At the age of 44, she seemed too young—and besides, she felt fine. True, she had been overweight for most of her adult life, her father had died of heart disease years earlier and her grandmother had type 2 diabetes—but still, it just didn't seem possible. "I was scared and in denial," she admits.
So when Jan was advised to attend a diabetes-education class, she went reluctantly. But what she learned that day from the diabetes educators transformed her.
"They told me that I'm 90 percent responsible for my own health, and that they could only help me with the remaining 10 percent," she remembers. "It was the kick in the pants I needed to jump-start my life on the road to better health."
Working with a dietitian, Jan developed a meal plan she could live with—one that "didn't make anything forbidden." Unlike the many weight-loss diets she'd tried unsuccessfully in the past, it gave her the flexibility to include the foods she loved, such as pasta and chocolate.
Her care team also focused on tackling one issue at a time, rather than overwhelming Jan with too many changes at once. "First, I worked on limiting the carbs I ate, then we worked on cutting down on saturated fat." Along the way she acquired the habit of measuring her portions rather than just "eyeballing" them.
Jan's options were limited by injuries; she'd been sidelined by knee replacement surgery, spinal fusion and a fused left foot. So she started from ground zero. "The first evening it was a matter of just putting on my sneakers and walking to the end of the driveway and back." With her mother along for support, she increased her walking by small, realistic increments. Eventually she reached her goal of a 2.2-mile daily loop.
The pounds started melting off gradually but persistently. A year and a half later she had dropped 101 pounds and six dress sizes—and greatly reduced her daily dose of metformin (a diabetes medication). Now, Jan feels like a new person "with more life and more energy"—and looks like one too. A committed exerciser, she aerobic water-walks in a swimming pool daily and does a cardio/strength workout three times a week. Support from family and friends has been vital, but she's especially grateful to her diabetes-education team. "I know they’re just a phone call away."
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