Carolyn is a member of our Diabetes Prevention Program. She’s been working with her Health Advisor, Michael, for a year now, and a few weeks ago she ran her first half marathon. Needless to say, we were pretty proud of this accomplishment, so we interviewed her to learn more about what motivated her to start running and how races keep her motivated through her journey to better health.

Can you tell me a bit about how you became a member of Pack Health what made you decide to sign up for our diabetes prevention program?

About a year ago now, I went to the doctor for my annual checkup and ended up needing to have labs done. Those labs came back a little differently from what I would’ve hoped: my A1c was a shocking 6.2 and I thought to myself, this is not good. A week later, I heard of Pack Health through work and thought, wow, how about this! Pack Health can provide me with an advisor that will work with me on a weekly basis, so I thought, ok, I’m signing up! They assigned me to Michael, and that’s how the journey started!

That’s great! So what was it like at the beginning? Were you already running at the time?

Well, I’d been exercising regularly, attending Zumba classes, I’d ran my first 5k – I thought I was pretty fit! But something wasn’t going right, and through the program, I realized maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. Maybe I was snacking more than I thought I did, you know, that kind of thing.

Because with Michael, he really keeps me honest! He calls me every week and asks what my Tiny Steps are. Just when I’m starting to do something I shouldn’t, here comes Michael with a phone call or a text and now I have to pay attention to what I eat. I told him, you’re like my conscience!

That’s awesome. Can you share a few of your tiny step goals with us?

Mine were mostly nutrition-related because we figured out it was my diet holding me back. First I just made sure I was eating with a smaller plate because that helped with maintaining a smaller portion size. Then I made sure I was getting the necessary vegetables in daily because I genuinely thought I was, but when I tracked my diet, it turns out that wasn’t the case. Especially at dinner time, I just started to make a conscious effort. Like once you have to tell someone that that’s what you’re doing and that’s your game plan for the week, you have to do it.

And I did it because for a long time there had been nothing. I mean every week, he’d ask my weight, and it was the same. It was a while where there was no movement, and I was training for a 15K at that point so Michael was like you’re knocking it out of the park every week with the exercise, it’s got to be something else, so that’s why every week we really focused in on eating healthier. I think with the 15k and the diet changes, that’s when I started to see some movement on the scale.

In January I started doing myFitnessPal with a couple of friends, and that gave me an even better indication of what I was really eating. Michael had told me about it and it took me a few months – at first, it felt like a lot – but by January I felt like I understood it and that really helped me to turn the tide a bit more. I would recommend that for everybody. I used it for about 3 months and then my meals just kind of stayed the same because now I know what I’m eating and what works.

Michael mentioned you recently ran a half marathon in Chicago. Have you always been a runner, or can you tell me a bit about how you started running?

No, I haven’t oh my gosh, who turns 48 and decides they want to start running, who does that? Well, I did that. My friend suggested we should start running, and signing up for races so we’d know we were training for something, and so we signed up for the 5k. Then we worked our way up to an 8k, and the 15k I mentioned earlier, and then, of course, my big moment with Michael was the half marathon a few weeks ago.

I told him I think I’m gonna die when I do it but I’m going to do it. And yeah, I’d never run before, high school, college, never. But now I’m going to keep running until my knees and my body gives out and tells me I’m done. I have my bibs and my metals, my little wall of fame – and when my body gives out on me I’ll still have that and know I did this.

Also, I think the weight loss I had also really helped with my running. Once I started losing weight it just got easier, my times started to get better. So that’s been pretty cool too.

What was the most helpful part of the program for you?

I think with Michael it was really the weekly interaction. I know we talked every Wednesday, so I had to make sure I was ready – like when you go to the dentist, you brush your teeth before going. That day I always would be on my way back from the gym or eating a salad. Even if I’d missed other days in the week that day I always remembered.

He was also really helpful with finding information, but the game changer was that accountability – the calls, the texts I didn’t feel like I had to respond to all of them or like I was pressured but I felt encouraged and I just knew, this person’s going to ask me how I’m doing each week, that was just a wonderful thing. I mean my own family never asks me about this stuff, but this man really cares.

What advice would you give to people who are considering Pack Health or just starting out?

Definitely, if their employer is offering them this service, take advantage! It’s that accountability, that extra push, to make sure you stay on target with diet and exercise, especially if you’ve been told by a doctor to make these changes.

The A1c scares you because you don’t want to take medication, but making all these changes, sometimes you need a little extra motivation. It’s too easy to say I’m going to do this and then fall off the bandwagon, but if you have this person calling you, that changes things. If you’re not doing it, you feel bad. I don’t think I would have made it through this if it weren’t for him.

The materials were also helpful, especially the booklet and the magnet to write down my tiny step each week. I think even we got the emails with those weekly quizzes – even those were kind of fun to do because it just brought more stuff to the forefront of your mind that you really need to think about. And beyond diet and exercise, looking at the cost of insurance and the copays, that was helpful information too.

Anything else you’d like to add?

You know, I had funding for my program for a year, and I really felt like I got everything I needed. Like I can do this on my own now, which is amazing. I think that’s the right amount of time where you can turn things around and get on track with everything you need to do.

 

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