Change Today For A Healthier Future - Y Life Birmingham

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YLife Birmingham

November-December 2012 Volume 7, Issue 6






November is National Diabetes Awareness month, not that any of us in Birmingham need to be reminded of the effects the disease is having on our community. If you’re one of the estimated 79 million Americans at risk of developing type II diabetes, what you need is encouragement and hope, not an endless parade of statistics and bad news. Take a few minutes to read about some of the greatest success stories from the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program offered at various locations around town. Also, if you’re concerned you might be heading down the path towards type II diabetes, make plans to attend a diabetes screening at your neighborhood branch in November or contact Debby LaCruz, Diabetes Prevention Coordinator, at 801-7224 or

Mary Guest Hollis Mary Guest Hollis is the poster person for the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. Literally. The Birmingham native’s bright, smiling face can be seen on many of the promotional pieces throughout the YMCA of Greater Birmingham. She’s one of the program’s best success stories, too. She had all of the risk factors and, after hearing about the diabetes prevention program in the local media, Hollis decided it was the right time to do something. “Both of my parents were diabetics and I was prediabetic at the time. I had high blood pressure, and I was overweight,” she said. “I just felt it would be a good opportunity to for me to get my health under control. “I had just made a New Year’s resolution a few weeks earlier but had already failed. This seemed like a good opportunity to try something new,” she added. “I gave Debby LaCruz a call and I signed up for the very next program.” In the two years since the YMCA introduced the Diabetes Prevention Program, the Birmingham YMCA has helped over 300 people to not only lose weight – a key to preventing diabetes – but to also learn how to live a healthier lifestyle. Many of the program’s graduates have tried other weight loss programs over the years with little to no success. The difference, Guest says, is that the Diabetes Prevention Program treats each participant like the unique individuals they are, and the group setting allowed her, in particular, to interact with classmates and learn what works and what doesn’t work from each other. “I was always told to lose weight and to eat better. I had gone to other programs to try to do that and was never successful, but this program was totally different,” said Guest who enrolled in one of the first programs offered in Birmingham at the Youth Center

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downtown. “We got a lot of support from our peers in the program. It wasn’t just someone standing there talking. We had input. We were able to say what works for us and everybody shared which made it a really good experience.” Guest said she and the other participants created a bond that helped keep each other encouraged and, perhaps more importantly, accountable. “I didn’t want to let my team members down. It was more than just being about you, but about other people as well,” she said. Through the program, Guest learned how to exercise correctly, keep motivated, avoid common mistakes and even benefitted from a healthy cooking demonstration by YMCA Downtown Healthy Lifestyles Director Caroline Bundy. Guest said she’s not only lost weight, but has maintained her new lifestyle, and even credits the program for helping her through an unrelated, but important, health obstacle. “I had major surgery in October 2011 and I don’t think I would have done as well if I hadn’t gone through the program and gotten in shape,” she said. “On this program I lost 20 pounds, my good cholesterol went up and my bad cholesterol came down, my blood pressure is fine now, and my doctor was really pleased. I feel better, I’m moving more, and I’m doing more and more activity at the YMCA.”

Mary Lucas Helena resident Mary Lucas has the kind of personality that just draws people to her. Funny, outgoing, warm and hospitable, you never get the impression that anything could bring her down. However, a visit to her doctor in April 2011 put a damper on that big personality when she was hit with some troubling news. She had pre diabetes and was well on her way to developing Type II diabetes. “As soon as I got the diagnosis, I went into a real depression. I just sat. I stayed in bed for a week and cried,” Lucas admitted. “My life centered on food,” she added. “When we get together with our family that’s what we do; share a meal together.” Lucas’s lifestyle was resulting not only in higher blood sugar rates, but was a having a physical impact, too. She says she was beginning to have difficulty walking up stairs or through her neighborhood, often becoming winded and experiencing back and joint pain. She knew she needed help but didn’t know where to turn. Then she heard about the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program at nearby YMCA Hoover. “I thought this is just what I need because I really respond well to a group of people that are in the same situation as me.” With her husband, Jeff, and daughter, Amanda, in her corner – as well as a new granddaughter, Clara, to look after – Mary called Debby LaCruz, the Diabetes Prevention Coordinator, registered for the program and began attending the weekly Monday night meetings. “There was nothing preachy or bossy about it. Debby gave us the opportunity to speak freely about the problems we were having. We got to be good friends in the group,” Lucas said.

“I really looked forward to meeting people and as I got to know these people you can help encourage them, because they sure helped encourage me.” “We went over things about exercising and the quality of food we’ve been eating. Debby really taught me how to examine a

“I feel like I can control it now.” product label and to understand exactly what was going into my body,” she says. “It was about that time that I decided boxes and bags are just no good.” Lucas learned about how to make better choices for herself and her family and began implementing those lessons to her daily life. She started out by dramatically cutting back on bread, rice and potatoes, increasing the amount of vegetables at meals, and adding healthier protein sources at smaller portion sizes. She’s even making it a habit to search for local, organic foods, an idea she admits isn’t for everyone, but makes sense for her and her husband. Through the class, Lucas also came to realize she is an emotional eater and how to avoid those pitfalls as well as giving her the confidence to leap over another hurdle: nighttime eating. “After dinner, I don’t eat any more. It was hard to begin with, because I wanted something sweet after my evening meal. In the beginning, if I felt like I couldn’t do it, I went to bed. I got in bed and I read a book,” says Lucas. “Now, it has just become a habit. Those things still creep up on me, but I feel like I can control it now.” Over a year has passed since she completed the program, losing close to 40 pounds which she has been able to maintain though her lifestyle changes. Lucas also has become a role model for her husband, daughter and, best yet, her granddaughter. “Before I enrolled in the program I was watching my granddaughter Clara five days a week and at the end of the day I was just absolutely exhausted. All I wanted to do was sleep and eat.” said Lucas. “It was hard chasing her around, but now, I’m not going to say it’s easy, but it’s better than it was. I have a lot more energy but it’s also about not teaching her the bad habits that I had.”

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Teddy and Terri Galanti If everyone in the Birmingham area took their health and wellness as seriously as husband and wife Teddy and Terri Galanti, the city would look a whole lot different. For that matter, if only a small portion of our community used the Galantis as their role models, Alabama will find a better place on those lists of healthy, and unhealthy, states. Longtime residents of Pell City, the Galantis know that you only have one life to live, so you might as well be as healthy as possible. Despite their best efforts, the couple still found themselves with some not so healthy habits. However, it wasn’t until a close friend began having serious problems due to diabetes that Teddy decided he and his wife needed to get serious. “It was kind of late in the process and they started taking his toes off and half of his foot and they just kept going on up,” said Teddy. “I read in the paper about this program and I thought we might need to do something to combat this so we don’t start losing our limbs. He looked pretty healthy and was a lot younger than I was.” The Galantis enrolled in the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program at the Trussville YMCA, making the 30 mile drive every Monday morning. While traveling that far may be a deterrent for many people, the Galantis didn’t let the distance keep them from

“I believe in the program so much.”

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improving their health. “We just dealt with it. It’s our health and our lives,” said Teddy. “Disease and death don’t discriminate.” For Terri, the program was an answered prayer. An asthma sufferer, Terri also discovered she was at risk for diabetes and was determined not to go down that path. “Having one major illness I didn’t want to take on any others; I just wanted to try to get as healthy as I could,” she said. “With age, weight and family history, those three factors alone put me in the category of prediabetic.” Over the years Terri had taken part in research studies examining the role of exercise on asthma. She said none of them made learning how to eat healthy and weight loss a priority, often gaining weight by the end of each study. “You go and exercise with the nurses and doctors and they talk about eating healthy, but they don’t do like the YMCA. They just say ‘you need to do this.’ But the Diabetes Prevention Program shows you how,” Terri said. What the Galantis learned was shocking; they learned that many of the foods they believed to be healthy weren’t so good for them after all. They have also cut back on the amount of red meat and have added more fish and vegetables to their diet. However, one of the keys to their success, says Teddy, was keeping a food journal. “By writing stuff down you can keep a closer eye on what you’re eating,” he said. “On those days where you weren’t feeling too good, you can look back in journal and see what you’ve had to eat and drink and you can find out.” By the time they graduated from the Diabetes Prevention Program, Teddy and Terri had each lost weight, had learned how to maintain a new lifestyle, and now have more energy to do their favorite outdoor activities like gardening and walking. In addition, Terri was so inspired by her results that she became a trained diabetes prevention coach and is now teaching others how to prevent type II diabetes. “I believe in the program so much – I saw the value of the program – I wanted to stay involved,” Terri said. “This is a good way to do it.”

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