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YMCA Helps Prevent Type Two Diabetes

The YMCA of Greater New Orleans is taking steps to reduce the burden of diabetes by offering a Diabetes Prevention Program, so that people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes don’t.

When you think YMCA, what comes to mind?

Volleyball, helping kids, swimming, gymnastics, the gym, the song.

This is not about that YMCA – the weight machines, the pools, the catchy song by the Village People. No. Because the YMCA of Greater New Orleans does more than that. This is about the Y’s Diabetes Prevention Program – a program based on the National Institute of Health study that showed eating better and increasing physical activity leads to fewer new cases of type two diabetes.

The Diabetes Prevention Program lasts a year. For the first 4 months, people at risk of developing the disease meet each week; after that, they meet once a month, for eight months. In each session, a trained lifestyle coach helps participants learn strategies for healthy eating, physical activity, and other lifestyle changes.

Barbara Morris is one of those participants. “I’m borderline diabetic,” explains Morris, “and I come here to learn how to eat and I had a certain amount of weight to get off, which I did, and I’m trying to find out how I can stay at that point.”

Morris’s class meets at the West Bank YMCA in Federal City. Gabrielle Kruse leads the class. She says pretty much everyone is there because their doctor sent them.

“I haven’t really had anyone come in on their own,” says Kruse. “And then a lot of times, they’re taken off of their medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol, after being here for a few weeks.”

The goal is for participants to lose seven percent of their body weight, and as you heard, Barbara Morris did that. Her doctor was thrilled.

“She was so happy because she’s the one that recommended me to come here,” recalls Morris. “She said, you lost weight! You lost weight! So she said, I think you should lose 5 more pounds. I said, no I’m not.”

Morris says she’s happy with how she looks now. She’s learned how to eat better, how to count her calories and grams of fat, and most importantly, she stopped drinking coke.

“I would have one or two cokes every day,” confesses Morris. “I started drinking my Crystal Light. I drink a little bit of coffee, and I learned that I couldn’t stand not having sugar, but I learned to drink coffee without sugar.”

Along with changing how people eat, the program helps participants increase their physical activity to about 2 and a half hours each week. Kruse says she wants to get these folks moving – doing things like brisk walking.

Kruse starts class by getting caught up. “We haven’t seen each other since last month,” she reminds the class. “Anything you struggled with this past month, or anything that went well that you want to share?”

“The exercising for me,” volunteers Dorothy Wolfolk, “and keeping track of my eating habits – three times a day. Because I had a bad problem of just maybe eating breakfast and skipping everything else. I’ve gotten a lot better with that.”

Kruse teaches her students that skipping meals is not a healthy way to lose weight.

“When we start skipping meals, our bodies go into starvation mode,” explains Kruse, “becoming less efficient at using calories. Ms. Dorothy, do you want to share how you feel when you skip a meal?”

“I feel off balance, my whole day kinda goes really bad,” reports Wolfolk. “It got to be where it’s: okay Dorothy, you’ve got to start eating right. You’ve got to do your breakfast, you’ve got to do your lunch, and you’ve got to do your dinner. I think in all I’ve gotten better. I did have a breakfast this morning, and I did have a lunch cause I had it here.”

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program takes place all over New Orleans — at worksites, in community centers and churches, and of course, at the Y, where participants, and their families, get a free three-month membership.

Written by Eve Abrams for the Community IMPACT Series and produced by WWNO in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Learn more about the YMCA of Greater New Orleans.