It wasn’t that long ago that Dulce Ruiz had to drag herself around. Walking was difficult. Running was out of the question. She suffered from severe knee and foot pain. She was afraid to make a change because she was afraid of failing.
But not anymore.
Today, Dulce exercises regularly. She eats healthy foods. She has a positive outlook on her health. She knows that she can have a slice of pizza or a piece of cake and still maintain her health and weight.
Why the change?
A little more than a year ago, Dulce decided to get a blood test. The results were jarring. She said she was severely overweight, and after doing some research, she determined she was most likely prediabetic.
Prediabetes is a precursor to type 2 diabetes and occurs when blood sugar is higher than normal but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. The risk factors for pre-diabetes include being overweight; 45 or older; having a parent, brother or sister with type 2 diabetes; being physically active less than three times a week; having ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and/or giving birth to a baby who weighted more than 9 pounds.
One out of 3 American adults has prediabetes. Without weight loss or physical activity, many people with prediabetes can develop type 2 diabetes within five years.
“I saw in the newspaper a class at the hospital about preventing diabetes,” Dulce said. “Someone said I should join, so I showed up. I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought I would go to the first class and probably not go again.”
The class, called PreventT2, is a yearlong support lifestyle change program. The class focuses on eating healthy, adding or increasing physical activity, coping with stress and handling challenges.
Dulce went to the first class, then the next, and the next. She found success in the accountability the weekly class provided. She learned about eating healthy and how much physical activity she should get every week.
“I started working out slowly,” Dulce said. “I started at 30 minutes a day and slowly worked my way up.
“For dinner, I used to eat out all the time. Then I would eat my leftovers for lunch the next day. Thanks to this class, I now know how to purchase healthy groceries and meal plan for the week”
Julia Bettinger, cardiopulmonary and wellness director at the Johnson County Healthcare Center, and Savanah Jackson, registered dietitian and diabetes educator at the Johnson County Healthcare Center, teach the class each week.
“Unfortunately, the things that are good for us such as eating healthy, moving regularly and managing stress are not always easy,” Bettinger said. “That is why we are excited to offer a yearlong program that provides individuals with information and a supportive environment in which to make small changes over time.”
Dulce said that beyond teaching the class how to eat healthier and exercise, Julia and Savanah taught the class how to keep going even when they had an off week.
“They encouraged us to eat healthier and exercise, but if we didn’t meet our weekly goal, we knew it was OK,” Dulce said. “We know we don’t have to push ourselves to the point of exhaustion.”
Dulce put together an at-home gym and works out when it fits her schedule. She made a healthy lifestyle fit her work schedule.
“This is the first time I’ve maintained and continued to lose weight for a year,” Dulce said. “I went on vacation, and I wasn’t able to exercise. I was afraid that I would fall back into my old habits. Thankfully, I didn’t. This class helped hold me accountable.”
And perhaps the biggest change Dulce saw was in her approach to a healthy lifestyle.
“I’m not afraid to fail,” Dulce said. “Which is a change. It happens. It’s OK. And it doesn’t really mean you fail. You just get back on track.”
“Dulce is an amazing lady who achieved great success as a result of her tremendous effort!” Bettinger said. “She has proven that you can do anything you put your mind to, including prevent type II diabetes.”
For those on the fence about joining the class, Dulce has a message.
“Come to the first class and you will realize that you are not alone,” Dulce said. You will meet others in the class that are going through the same struggles as you are. These people will probably struggle with you along the way, but together you will learn from each other and help each other move forward. I now feel great! It’s comfortable to walk and easier to do the things that a lot of us take for granted. For example, comfortably getting into a vehicle and putting on a seatbelt and tying your shoes.”
A new year of PreventT2 classes start at the Johnson County Healthcare Center on September 7. Classes are held weekly. For more information and/or to register for the class, call Julia at 307-684-6320. The program is currently free of charge.
“This program empowers individuals to have the confidence and skills they need to make manageable lifestyle changes aimed towards preventing the development of Type 2 Diabetes and promoting an overall healthier life,” Jackson said.
PreventT2 is a part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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