More and more evidence today shows that lifestyle and behavior choices—what we eat and how we stay fit—can influence chronic disease.
By Kay Steinbring, Registered Dietician for HCM
In this past six months I had to take some of my own advice and create a healthier me. Fortunately, I was a participant in HCM’s Salud for You screening program back in August 2014. That’s when it was discovered that my hemoglobin A1C (HA1C is a lab value that translates into a person’s average blood glucose level for 24 hours a day in the past 3 months) was found to be high at 6.0. That put me in the pre-diabetic category.
I do not want diabetes! So knowing my HA1C number was a motivator to change a few lifestyle habits. I talked this over with Kim Thornton, another HCM registered dietitian and colleague. She confirmed what I knew and shared some fresh ideas. I had to make a few changes in my eating habits. Although I’ve known for years that sugar and sweets are not good for us, my sweet tooth has been with me since I was about 6 years old. That’s a long time. So the main habit I changed was my afternoon snack from a cookie or two to a handful of nuts, a small bag of popcorn (< 100 calories), or some fresh fruit. Also, later in the evening, after a balanced supper, I used to eat another sweet. Sometimes I still do, but I try to limit the portion size.
The good news: After 3 months, my HA1C came down to 5.2, which is normal! Then came those Christmas holidays, but no worries, because in February at the Red in Fred screening, my HA1C was 5.5. (Whew! I was still out of the pre-diabetes level.)
Water is still my go-to beverage all day long. Of course I love all vegetables, as most dietitians do, and fried foods do not really tempt me. Walking is still a part of every day for me either inside at work, in the Wellness Center, or outside. It’s been fun trying different exercise classes at the Wellness Center, too, but I’m no Zumba or yoga queen.
As a side note, I’ve been studying for the past year to become a Certified Diabetes Educator. I passed the examination in December! Since having both the personal experience and the CDE certification process, I think I can relate better to some of the challenges of our diabetic patients. I plan to educate, encourage, and empower others who have similar challenges.
Domingo Gallegos works in the HCM Café. He is a father, and a hard worker and at age 36, he had never been to see a doctor because he always felt okay. Until he found out through an HCM Salud for You health screening that he was pre-diabetic. The news came as a surprise even though his father has diabetes.
Learning he was at risk for getting diabetes, and having two young children, Domingo became motivated to change his eating habits and his lifestyle. "I want to be available and stay active for my children," he said.
"My diet was pretty much pizzas, hamburgers, and sodas. Now it is more fish, turkey, vegetables, lots of water, no sugar, and I exercise at the Wellness Center, and run 30 minutes, 3 times a week with my 7 year-old son, Carlos."
As a participant in the Salud for You program, Domingo went through nutritional counseling and received a membership at the HCM Wellness Center—and he took advantage of both. At the start of the program in 2013, he weighed 192 lbs. Today he is a trim 172.
Domingo’s wife and children are eating healthier too. "We eat only chicken fajitas now and no more tortillas. I quit drinking wine because of the sugar content, and I feel fantastic."
Kay Steinbring, HCM’s dietician works with Domingo and she shares a few examples of what he eats for breakfast and lunch:
"Domingo now eats more plant foods, including a breakfast of oatmeal, or a spinach and mushroom egg white omelet, or yogurt and fruit. Lunch includes a large salad and vegetables and protein.
Domingo adds in his positive way, "It was hard to make changes in my lifestyle, but if I can do it, anybody can do it!"