In April, I mentioned the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program when I told you about public weight loss efforts that are sweeping the nation. The program – which is facilitated by trained Lifestyle Coaches – helps participants change their lifestyle and reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Today, I’m excited to introduce you to a Lifestyle Coach and Program Coordinator at the YMCA of Greater Birmingham, Debby LaCruz.
Debby has worked at the YMCA in a variety of positions for many years and has been a Lifestyle Coach since the program started in Birmingham in 2010. She said she was drawn to the program because she has been living with type 1 diabetes for twenty-one years and has several family members living with type 2 diabetes.
“I’ve always had a passion for healthy living, but when I saw the approach for this particular program, which includes empowering participants and being a part of their support team, that really rang true to me,” Debby said. “I was in the right place, had the right life experience and was ready to give this program everything that I could.”
The National Institutes of Health funded a study showing that programs like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to fifty-eight percent. Program goals include losing seven percent of body weight and increasing activity to one hundred fifty minutes per week.1
“The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is what we call a lifestyle intervention. It’s for overweight adults that are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” Debby said. “The way that it works is that we build small groups of eight to fifteen people that meet weekly and have a shared goal of reducing that risk.”
For the first sixteen weeks, participants meet weekly to monitor progress with private weigh-ins, discuss issues and offer each other support. After that, they transition to the maintenance program and meet monthly for a total of a one-year commitment.
As a lifestyle coach, Debby’s role is to facilitate the small groups and create a safe place for participation in the program while ensuring accountability and empowering participants to succeed.
“People who have gone through the program say the best thing about having a lifestyle coach is the accountability,” Debby said. “Eventually they start to hold each other accountable. Some participants even call each other and do things together outside of class.”
Debby brings tremendous passion to diabetes prevention and says she feels connected to the struggle each person faces.
“I know what it is to get up every morning and have to re-commit to healthy living,” Debby said. “I’ve experienced what it’s like to live with the threat of this disease and how isolating it can be.”
For participants in the program and for anyone attempting to lose weight and improve their lifestyle, Debby offers these suggestions:
- Track your food in a food diary – Write down everything you eat and make yourself aware of everything you put into your body. Then, once a week go through the diary and look for a small change you can make to be healthier the following week.
- Find an exercise you enjoy and don’t be afraid to try new things – It’s really important to find something you enjoy and use that as your base activity, and then try something that you don’t normally do from time to time.
- Talk with your doctor if you think you’re at risk for developing type 2 diabetes – It’s important to communicate with your doctor and there are a lot of doctors out there that truly care and are advocates for their patients.
- Find support – Reducing the risk for developing type 2 diabetes takes a team approach including the individual, doctor, family and community support.
The success of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is in the numbers. Survey responses from program participants showed a ten percent increase in overall heath and Debby sees people reach their personal weight loss goals all the time.
“I’m a big believer in the program and it’s a privilege to be a part of prevention,” Debby said.
I’m so happy to know that there are people like Debby out there who are helping to empower others to make a difference in their lifestyle. Thanks to Debby for taking the time to share her story and suggestions!
All the best,
Disclosure: Debby LaCruz received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
1 About the Program. http://www.ymca.net/diabetes-prevention/about.html. Accessed August 7, 2012.