After Kathy Martin’s husband died in May 2015, she and her daughter, Candace Martin, both gained a significant amount of weight. “We both just ate to help with the sorrow,” Kathy says.
Candace, 38, and Kathy, 63, both worked at the Staunton-Augusta YMCA. Candace approached her mother about participating in the Diabetes Prevention Program that was being held there as a joint initiative between the Staunton-Augusta YMCA and Augusta Health. Candace had a family history of diabetes on both sides, and Kathy was prediabetic.
Both women decided to enroll in the yearlong program. Little did they know how much it would change both of their lives. Candace is now down 72 pounds and Kathy has lost 30.
“Give it a chance,” Kathy says. “It’ll make a difference in your life. For me, going to a class once a week is a whole lot better than having a leg or a foot amputated because we can’t give up our habits.”
A cohesive group
The Diabetes Prevention Program aims to help those who are at high risk of developing diabetes improve their health through educational classes and meetings.
The first part of the yearlong program involves attending a weekly meeting for 16 weeks, says Jean Magee, MEd, RDH, CDE, a diabetes educator at Augusta Health. The second part of the program involves attending a monthly meeting. At the meetings, participants learn about everything from how to shop more healthfully to how to fit exercise into a busy lifestyle.
The two primary goals of the program are to lose 5–7% of bodyweight and to exercise at least 150 minutes per week, Magee says. But there is a social component as well.
“The best part about the Diabetes Prevention Program is that the small group becomes a cohesive, motivating force,” Magee says. “They have a community. They’re sharing their successes and their failures, and how they did for the week.”
Major lifestyle changes
Candace and Kathy started by making small lifestyle adjustments — such as parking in the farthest parking spot and not having a second helping of food — and worked their way up to bigger changes.
Much of Candace and Kathy’s success involved simply having more self-awareness. “It’s realizing that, yes, you can eat a donut, but there’s a choice out there that’s better for you,” Candace says.
The mother-daughter duo not only doubled their weekly minutes of activity, but they also developed sustainable healthy eating habits. For example, Kathy says she and her daughter began going to Costco to purchase nuts, carrots and Veggie Straws. They would count each snack out based on the serving size and put everything in individual-sized baggies.
In addition to the significant weight loss they both saw, Kathy’s blood work improved greatly. By the end of the program, she was out of the prediabetic range and all of her labs had improved, Magee says.
“They were the superstars for sure,” Magee says. “It just goes to show that if you’re ready for this program, it works. If you’re ready for lifestyle changes, you’re going to be successful.”
A meaningful moment
At the beginning of the program, Kathy set two goals: To lose 20 pounds and to fit into the wedding dress her mother had made for her 1976 wedding, when she married her late husband.
On the last night of class, Kathy asked her dad to bring her mom to the YMCA. Kathy then surprised her mom in her wedding dress. “It was really special for her to see that again,” Kathy says.
To participate in the next Augusta Health Diabetes Prevention Program, call (540) 213-2537 or email Jean Magee, MEd, RDH, CDE, at email@example.com.