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Diet, Exercise Helps Linda Seagle Keep Diabetes at Bay

Linda Seagle remembers the insulin her grandmother used to take. She recalls that her mother, too, was on medication for diabetes, which often runs in families.

So when a physician told her that she had two options — begin taking medication or lower her blood sugar with diet and exercise — after finding that she, too, could technically be diagnosed with diabetes, she decided to take decisive action.

The hemoglobin A1C test is a standard test used by medical providers to measure a patient’s average blood glucose for the past two to three months. Diabetes is diagnosed if your A1C is 6.5 percent or greater. Seagle’s was right at 6.5 percent.

She has since added a lot more physical activity into her life, refocused her attention on a healthy diet, lost weight and gained the upper hand on diabetes, all with support from the Diabetes Prevention Program offered through Tanner Health System’s Get Healthy, Live Well initiative.

The Diabetes Prevention Program is an evidence-based lifestyle change program created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent type 2 diabetes. It can help people cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half through lifestyle changes. Participants strive to lose 7 percent of their body weight and get 150 minutes of physical activity a week.  

The one-year program includes 16 weekly sessions with monthly follow up. During the program, participants work with a lifestyle coach in a group setting.

Seagle signed up for the program after learning about it during an event at a senior citizens’ meeting in Bremen, where Get Healthy, Live Well staff were providing information on the initiative’s programs.

She signed up to begin the yearlong program in January 2015. At the time, she weighed about 154 pounds and was ready to do whatever it took to reach her weight loss goals. When willpower alone couldn’t keep her on track, she began to use the calorie-counting app MyFitnessPal. No stranger to sweating it out, she had already been going to gym, but the class encouraged her to ramp up her routine even more.

Seagle kept her calendar filled with opportunities to get some type of physical activity in. Her routine included taking aerobics classes and she got moving on the elliptical. In the spring and summer, she tended her garden and mowed her own grass, burning even more calories.

She got into such a groove with exercising and increasing her physical fitness that she set her sights on entering and completing a 5K. Exceeding her goal, Seagle completed not one, but two 5K races, including one in July and another in December.

The Diabetes Prevention Program also showed her how modifying her diet was an important part in improving her health. Rather than using some fad diet that eliminates entire food groups, she opted to make small changes while not totally giving up the foods she loves.

“I ate more fresh vegetables and laid off of the sweets some,” Seagle said. “I still eat them, but not to the extent that I did.”  

The journey was long and not without some challenges, but she completed the Diabetes Prevention Program in December, right on schedule. During the classes, she learned more about prediabetes and how to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. She also learned how to incorporate healthy eating and physical activity into her daily life.

The lifestyle coaches were available to work with participants in identifying emotions and situations that can sabotage success. The group sessions were also a key part of the program in that it allowed participants to share strategies for dealing with challenging situations.

“What I liked best about the program was the accountability and that it helps keep you on track,” said Seagle, who has lost almost 20 pounds and continues to manage her condition without medicine. “My doctor was very, very pleased with my sugar level, which had gone down.”

Gina Brandenburg, program manager of Get Healthy, Live Well, led Seagle’s diabetes prevention group and described her as a model student.

“After successfully completing a full year in the Diabetes Prevention Program, Ms. Seagle is continuing the healthy habits that got her to where she is today,” Brandenburg said. “Her commitment to improving her health is inspiring.”

Seagle is so dedicated to leading a healthy lifestyle that she occasionally teaches fitness classes at the Bremen Health Center.  

Now, Seagle is relishing the benefits of good health. There may have been days when it was a little harder to find the motivation to walk out the door and head to gym, but her workout buddies kept her accountable.

“They always asked me, ‘How is your weight loss going?’” she said. “I was also accountable to them because they could see what I was doing.”

Though Seagle has completed the Diabetes Prevention Program, her journey isn’t over. She wants to lose about seven more pounds and she is considering becoming a Diabetes Prevention Program coach herself.

“Gina asked me about teaching a class and I told her I would consider it,” Seagle said.

She plans to attend the next training session to learn more about being a coach. And while she isn’t a coach yet, she did have one little piece of advice for those at risk for developing diabetes: “Follow your doctor’s advice and stick to it as best you can because it’s not going to do anything but get worse if you don’t do something different,” she said. “It doesn’t improve on its own.”

If you are interested in signing up for the Diabetes Prevention Program, please check the event calendar for upcoming classes and register online or call 770.812.9871 for more information. Class size is limited, so register early.