Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Being an inspiration

"You inspired me...."   "I got in...I'm so glad you are here today,  wanted to tell you..." were the words I heard yesterday standing in the hallway at the Y waiting for the first Zumba class to clear out of the  Fitness studio for our turn.  It was a greeting from a  gal I had been talking to about the YMCA Diabetes Prevention program and my success.   At first I  look stymied and then she said, "the diabetes prevention.."  which clicked.  I was so pleased that she had decided to check it out and that I can be a part of getting her back to a healthy lifestyle.  She is younger than  me, likely only in her 50's and  has now made a commitment to avoid the diabetes that runs in her family too. I will encourage her all I can but have cautioned her, it is work and no one does this for you only you.  She just asked that she be able to talk with me about it and of course I agreed.  But she will get support from her  facilitator and hopefully her fellow classmates and if she is as serious as she appears she will draw on herself.. 

I have become a walking advocate for this program with my own success of losing  30 pounds since September, moving back to the healthy weight of my 20's and 30's. I never dreamed I would be so successful.  I struggled too and couldn't fathom why that weight hung to me, I finally hd almost decided it was going to be the way it was until the doctor gave me that alert that my fasting blood glucose levels were rising.  I vowed to do all I could to avoid further escalation or getting across tht line to diabetes.  Although my program goal was losing 15  pounds that I surpassed and doubled it amazed my doctor and me. It was slow some weeks only half a pound but it came off.  For the first time in I don't know how many years I did not gain weight over the holidays in November and Christmas and  through it all I was not anti social.  

I've written  before on this blog about the Y's national link to the Diabetes Prevention program, a national effort, which  starts with an hour at a weekly meeting for 16 weeks where  some aspect of nutrition and or  physical activity is discussed along with the dreaded weigh in and review of the past week's food diaries (logs.) After 16 weeks (19 for my group due to holidays and the facilitator being away one week) for the rest of this year long program,  which includes a YMCA membership one attends a maintenance class once a month led by another facilitator who is usually a certified  nutritionist/dietitian. 

While I have met others who have not been as successful, it does not take long hearing  their woes to understand why they struggle. I have a genuine sympathy for those who cannot persevere for whatever reasons and for those who really ask for help but  I have little tolerance for whiners, when they complain that it's not working I ask them if they log their food,  and invariable they say, "no I don't like to do that."  Don't like it, then to me they are saying they prefer fat and diabetes; it's their choice.  Life is all about our choices despite how it's framed or who's blamed.  Along with my lack of tolerance for whining is even less for those who kid themselves and want pity.  Most complainers want magic, the quick fix, the stroke of a wand. Don't we all?  No such magic wand exists for health maintenance and certainly not for weight loss. Long ago a friend and I talked about how much harder we work now to try to stay fit;     don't ever recall it being this much work.  

Sure as there are any number of diets that work in the short term, the nefarious yo yo dieting, which affects the body far worse than just staying overweight is often the result.  It has to be a way of eating that one can follow for life.  Think of it, will you exist from now on eating only cabbage soup or no carbs or no whatever as suggested by certain diets of the month? Weight Watchers is a healthy choice and works for many people so long as they stay with it.  Any weight loss program from which one cannot  wait to get back to the foods  they left behind for a lower number on the scale are sure to create rebound to packing back the pounds and then some.  It must be a lifestyle change.  I have met many who regained all the weight they lost and it is not a mystery why that happens.  
5 pounds of fat compared to muscle..gross

I am  keeping off the weight, doing what I did to lose that fat of  which we were reminded with a visual a 5 lb blob of yellowish matter resembling 5 pounds of fat at yesterday's Maintenance meeting.  Yuck the blob was passed around; as I held the gross looking plastic rubbery clump I was so glad to say, "I  lost 6 of these!"  Medical research shows that one pound of fat has approximately one to two miles of blood vessels so each extra pound strains the heart pumping that much more. Each pound of fat on your body has roughly 7 miles of capillaries (smallest blood vessels) that deliver nutrients to the tissue.  For every ten pounds of fat gained, your heart has to pump blood through an additional 70 miles of blood vessels! Consequently, it is not difficult to see why obesity and heart disease go hand in hand. The more I learned the more I became vehemently committed to ensuring my health.

This program  is a lifestyle change,  not a diet and is based on a few simple keys:

  • daily food tracking, writing it down for me in lieu of electronic gadgets which abound.  One participant said she did not want to do homework and record; she did not lose much weight.  Her rebelliousness hurt no one but herself.  Every participant has an individually calculated personal daily fat gram allowance based on age, weight, medical data, etc.  Mine limited me to 33 fat grams a day and   the facilitator often admonshed me to consume all each day to avoid yo yo rebounds.  Now  keeping it at or  below 33 grams a day is my goal because above that I have determined that i my weight would begin to increase.  Along with that calories are recorded but not the I would begin to add weight.  I have also  learned that high fat foods = high calorie foods. 
  • the program recommends  30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week of physical activity for me it is from one to one and half hours physical activity each day even in this tundra arctic where we have  been confined all winter.  My physical activity occurs now mostly exclusively at the Y unless I am shoveling the blasted snow while Jerry's back heals. I have always been active  so this was  a no brainer for me.  But I sure do miss outdoor walks in this so too cold winter.  
  • weighing every day faithfully and recording  it on the food log. That's paying attention to what the old  enemy, never my friend, the scale  has to say.  I weigh in every morning now. This is a big change for me; I would avoid the scale in every way possible before, kidding myself that I could tell when my weight  edged up by my clothes.  I no longer shudder when I go to the doctor's and they weigh me in first thing. 

The  Y program director asked me to share my story which I readily obliged by writing a  three page article which she loved and sent on to the national headquarters.  The next thing I knew I became a rock star of  the Y Diabetes Prevention Program; my story is to be featured in their national publication.  I will soon post what I wrote here on this blog describing my entry to the program with all the skepticism I could bring... I  was also asked to work on a team for this year's YMCA annual campaign which will feature our prevention program.  One thing keeps leading to another and last week I was interviewed for television here in the LaCrosse area, WKBT-TV  to publicize the campaign.  I am not shy nor tongue tied and have had extensive experience in  public speaking in my career and in organizations everything  from live  news interviews, cameras to legislative testimony in Sacramento and in Washington, DC, so it was old times for me.  Actually I am more of a natural born ham.  I knew the Y loved personal stories but didn't think mine was  any big deal, however I am learning that it is indeed.  

At my ripe age of 69 years to regain my lifestyle healthier than before, through this program has been a blessing and if I can share this to help others including the YMCA I am more than willing. My fasting blood glucose which was showing red warning flags is now low normal and my cholesterol  decreased 17 percent.  My doctor is so pleased and proud that he gave me the flyer about this program; he said he wished he could have me talk with so many patients who just  cannot get on the wagon to improving their health.  .  

I will not say it's easy but it's achievable.  And when one values health one will commit to doing whatever it takes.   I thought I was a  fairly healthy eater, I do not eat fast foods nor overindulge in red meats nor sweets.  In fact I prefer sour or salty crunchy to sweets.  But my weakness is cheese, oh I love cheese, melted, hard, grated, there is not a cheese I do not like and cheese is so good because it's heavy in fat.  A grilled cheese sandwich has always been my very favorite lunch.  And so where do I land in retirement but right across the river, Cheese-head Wisconsin country...heaven for me.  It was here I discovered cheese curds, another delicacy for me.  I love them raw or even better  coated and deep fried, melty.  Almost daily  my quick lunch had been cheese and an apple or other fruit and perhaps some triscuit crackers  or a fast quesadilla. Healthy right?  Wrong! One ounce of cheese has between 8 to 10 or more grams of fat.  I ate a hunk of cheese way more than an ounce, more like  5 ounces and through the day it was also a favored snack for me.  You do not have to be a math genius to calculate that  I could easily exceed my daily fat gram allowance on cheese.  So now I know, yikes I  learned something about nutrition.  I never thought of this before despite my constant pursuit of  education in nutritional eating. I have counted calories and carbohydrates, never before fat grams.  Now I can eat cheese but never again the way I used to; one ounce of cheese which is about a  one inch square is an allowance for a snack, carefully monitored and recorded.  I found the culprit and it was me!  Besides cheese, ice cream and frozen custard were almost daily evening treats and well, now you have the keys to my success.  Awareness and admitting, that I was doing this to me.  The same with nuts that had been a  favorite snack. Nuts are healthy and so a handful now and then when passing by the counter didn't hurt, so I thought.  And wrong again.  Nuts may be nutritious but  they are full of fat.  Now my favorite snack is pretzels which provide  the crunch and salt and  no to  very little fat.  And my glass of wine has no fat either.   

But back to the program and my spokesperson role.  Besides the interview the film crew followed me around though  the gym on my workouts on the elliptical and the  recumbent bike after the interview.  At least I had my hair combed and was not as "just got out of bed looking" as I routinely am when I go to the Y.  Why dress up and clean up to sweat it all off?  We appear with a brush through the hair grooming and begin our workouts.. But on interview day  I was looking a bit better still, not aware that I'd get the full paparazzi treatment which had folks in the busy sweaty gym pondering, "who's she?"  I did admonish the camera man that  it was not necessary to get  butt shots from behind me as he laughed he wanted every angle.  I  refused to don my swim suit for  them and allow the film to show the water logged me as well. Just when I thought we were done, they asked if I would return to the lobby and  entry to the Y  so they could film me walking in and talking...another natural talent for me, talking to as I told the reporter, I can talk to anybody about anything and or to anybody about nothing, which way do we go!"  They later told Nate that they had not had so much fun on an interview  for a long time and proclaimed me, " an awesome natural."  Aww, watch out now I'm puffing up!

 But the kicker was yesterday at Zumba class--Monday morning with my hair combed and reverting to my "just out of bed au naturel look" as we rehearsed a new Zumba routine, Nate, the Y's marketing director,  appeared with  the same film crew, pointed me out and there they were as was I, film at 11.  What could I do but keep on dancing!  The instructor told the class, "we have a celebrity in our midst, blame Ms P M." I have been explaining to the ladies ever since.  Now we have our viewing celebration party coming up soon as it shows on TV and the news which will be sometime in March.  I have a lot of explaining to do all the time now just like today at Yoga, "hey did you bring the film crew along?"  Glad to say, no it's just us.  But it's a;; abput working it and it's all good for the Y and for ourselves.     

For more information talk to the YMCA near you to learn about this excellent program based on extensive national research through the National Institutes for Health.  . It's healthy for you.   http://www.ymca.net/diabetes-prevention/


  1. ps I now take much longer in the grocery stores because I read the fat content on labels. Where before I would buy whatever I wanted, now I check it out now and if I do not feel it's worth the cost in fat grams (I treat my daily allowance like a checking account cannot overspend) I don't buy it. That is another big change for me.

  2. enail from Jayne who has no goodle account: You hit it there are really 2 keys 150 minutes a week and count those fat grams, you can just srite the fat grams each day and forget logging it all, fruits and veggies have none, just watch the rest.

  3. Congrats on not only losing that weight but keeping it off. And thank you for the diabetes should-out. Two sisters and two nieces are diabetic. Even though they were/are pencil thin, part of the problem was food choice, i.e., excessive fats and sugars they burned off outwardly, with the internal problem building.

    1. oh yes, Kittie, think folks can have diabetes. I have a young nephew who has had the disease since he was about 8 years old and he is thin as a rail. He has learned to monitor and it was something to see how he checked himself when he was a young child.

  4. Your post here today is inspiring and I agree with many of the points you make. The photo of the five pounds of fat vs five pounds of muscle is disturbing and a good incentive. I like to exercise in a pool and have since 1999, which is a key to staying active, as you say.

  5. Wow! Congratulations, Pat! For so many reasons - first of all for your weight loss, your perseverance, You great attitude, and your determination. Secondly, you are a celeb! Not only, published articles, but t.v. interviews and camera crews filming your every move. Thirdly, congratulations on being an inspiration, not only to the one person who mentioned it to you, but also to all of the others who will read your articles and seeing your t.v. appearances. I'm giving you a standing ovation! laurie

  6. Congrats on thr successes, Pat. Has changing yiur eating habits and shopping affected Jerry as well? We also take longer to shop because of reading labels on everything. Our local Y had a healthy earing orogram which may be similar to the one you described, but it's not specifically for diabetics.

    1. Jerry has little issue with foods he consumes, etc. so not much chnge for him. He is geneticlly engineered to eat and drink whatsoever he chooses without effect. Not fair, I know. He still eats nuts as a snack through the day. Another thing I thought different is that diabetics are often urged to watch their carbohydrate intake because that can convert to sugar in the body. We did not bother with that at all, the fat grams were the only coubting making it fairly easy.