Not a diet program, a prevention program

Although he didn’t believe it would work, Dave gave the UCHealth Diabetes Prevention Program in northern Colorado a chance — and lost 100 pounds.
September 7th, 2017
Dave and Judy Kersten walk together. The two joined together in preventing diabetes as well by joining a UCHealth Diabetes Prevention Program.
Dave and Judy Kersten decided to join UCHealth Diabetes Prevention Program in northern Colorado and lowered their risk of diabetes together.

Dave Kersten wasn’t interested in a diet of lettuce. He didn’t want to give up eating out with friends and enjoying food. His wife, Judy, had tried to drag him into her diet programs before, but Dave didn’t want any part of them. He was so resistant, when Judy cooked, what he called “some sort of squash spaghetti dinner,” he’d swing by a burger joint before heading home, he said.

“I’ve always been up and down with my weight,” Judy admitted. “And there are good programs where you lose weight quickly, but you don’t keep it off, and Dave has never tried things with me.”

Judy, however, didn’t give up on herself or Dave.

Both found out at their annual wellness exams that they had high A1C (blood glucose) levels — a precursor for Type 2 diabetes. Having heard about UCHealth’s Diabetes Prevention Program in northern Colorado, Judy gave one more push to convince Dave to join her in addressing their health concerns.

“I thought I’d give the class a shot for a week and see what happened,” Dave said. “Just like everything else, I thought it would be a waste of time. I’d never been able to lose weight in my life.”

At 70 years old and 5 feet, 11 inches tall, Dave weighed 284 pounds.

Preventing diabetes

This is a year-long program with 22 in-person classes to promote long-term lifestyle change to prevent Type 2 diabetes and other related disease including cardiovascular disease.

The next session is:

Noon-1 p.m. starting Feb. 21, 2018 at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies.

To register or if you have questions, call Teresa at 970.616.6680.

The UCHealth Diabetes Prevention Program is an evidence-based, lifestyle-change program, according to Linda Schoon, UCHealth registered dietitian and diabetes prevention program coordinator.

“Each session is unique.  We encourage participants to take advantage of that early motivation for nutrition and activity that lead to weight loss,” she said. “The class is an hour long — very feasible — with weigh-ins and goal setting. We really dig deep into lifestyle — and change takes time.”

The program consists of 22 different sessions focusing on behavior modification and problem solving. For the first six months, classes are held on a weekly and then biweekly basis, followed by six months of monthly classes for long-term lifestyle change. Research shows that people who lose 5 to 7 percent of their weight lower their risk for diabetes by 57 to 71 percent.

“We toyed with the idea (of joining the program), and then we decided to commit — and it is a commitment,” Judy said. “You’re committing to the exercise and food program. I don’t call it a diet because it was more of changing how you ate rather than dieting.”

Their commitment also was financial. Although some insurances cover the cost of registration, their insurance did not.

The class: Diabetes Prevention Program

The first week, Dave and Judy learned about mindful eating. Dave said he learned there were only really two “banned” foods: trans fats and sugary sodas, and that staying hydrated and limiting caffeine also was extremely important. Dave went home and began to think about what, when and how much he ate. At the next week’s meeting he weighed himself — he’d lost 5 pounds.

“I thought, ‘Wow! That has never happened before,’ ” Dave said. “Then each week after, it was another 5 pounds. Each week reinforced the changes I made, and as we got more and more information, it was easier to maintain everything. We got into counting calories, portion sizes — all those handy little things — and as I went through the program, I learned more and more.”

Dave replaced sugary colas with better options. The rest, said Dave, was just focusing on portion control and keeping track of everything he ate. He used a handy sheet that Schoon had provided, as the electronic versions weren’t his style. He learned that if he wanted to enjoy a snack in front of the television that evening, he’d have a smaller portion size at lunch to save the calories for later.

“I tried to stick with the reasonable range of calories that the coach had personalized for me but never deprived myself of anything. I still ate pretty much what I wanted, just less of it, like having a half-ounce of Cheetos,” he admitted. “You just learn not to take the bag out and sit down in front of the TV with it.”

Dave weighed 182 pounds as of September 2017– a loss of 102 pounds since the start of his program.

The results

“Everything is just easier now. My knees and back don’t bother me anymore,” he said. “Linda (Schoon) said my A1C would go down, and she wasn’t lying. It continued to stay in the normal range. Not being prediabetic anymore is fantastic; the additional weight loss is a bonus.”

Judy saw similar results in her tests, though she didn’t lose the sheer amount of weight that her husband did. But then again, it’s not only about weight loss, it’s about lifestyle changes and preventing diabetes and other diseases, Schoon said.

“To think that I didn’t have to diet, lose weight and then just gain it back again was great, but then we learned all this other great information, too,” Judy said. “We both have had good health throughout our lives. And just to know that we don’t have to lose control of things as we get older, to understand what diabetes does and how it affects other parts of our body — that information is invaluable.