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Lifestyle choices lead to healthy habits

Nora with her husband and grandchildren right before starting the classes at Perham Health last year. (submitted photo).1 / 2
Nora after a year in the class and feeling healthier. (Kim Brasel / FOCUS).2 / 2

If you know Nora Heinecke and you haven't seen her in awhile, there's a chance you many not recognize her. She says her own family tells her all the time how different she looks. Losing 56 pounds will do that. Heinecke says she tried many diets over the course of her life, none really worked. What made the difference is not a diet at all she says, simply a lifestyle change.

"The weight just kept coming off. It was great," she says. "I've maintained the weight loss, I'm healthier. The whole time, I just thinking, oh my goodness, this is really working!"

What's working so well for Heinecke and many others is the Diabetes Prevention Program offered at the Perham Health Clinic. It's a CDC-led program that started as a research study several years ago, and it showed that making modest behavior changes helped participants lose 5 percent to 7 percent of their body weight—that is 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Making these changes reduced the risk of developing type II diabetes by 58 percent in people with prediabetes.

Colleen Bauck, RN Care Coordinator/Regional RN Health Coach at the Perham Health Clinic, says the program helps participants learn the facts about healthy eating and being active, learn what makes it hard for them to eat healthy and be active, understand how to change habits and adopt healthy behaviors, and maintain weight loss and lifestyle changes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is growing at an epidemic rate in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that more than 30 million Americans have diabetes.

In Minnesota, approximately 466,638 people have diabetes and 1,407,000 (35.1 percent of the population) have prediabetes.

Bauck said they've had great success with the program since it started in January of 2016, with the average weight loss for participants being about 20 pounds.

The class is meant for those who find themselves diagnosed with prediabetes, which means their blood sugar levels aren't high enough to be considered diabetes, but they may have other risk factors that put them at risk of developing diabetes.

Some of the risk factors include age, family history, an elevated body mass index (BMI), and gestational diabetes.

Nora Heinecke was in that category. She said she had all the risk factors except a family history. It was her doctor that recommended she try the program, but she didn't go willingly at first. He said he would give her some time to try something on her own, but when that didn't get her anywhere, she thought she would give the program a try.

"I was kind of hesitant, but Colleen was persistent, which was good," Heinecke admits with a smile. "I had never tried a formal program. I've tried many diets my whole life, and I had gotten to a point where I had accepted this is how I am. But then I was put on cholesterol and blood pressure medication, and I didn't want to be on medication. I want to be healthy," Heinecke said. Heinecke felt the goals of the program are realistic, which was a relief. At first she had the mindset she would be on a diet for a year, but she quickly learned this wasn't about being on a diet, it was about learning how to do things healthier.

"I still cook everything I normally do. Before, I was always looking for that magic solution to my weight loss, and there isn't one. There isn't an easy, quick fix. It's a lifelong journey."

Heinecke is past her graduation date, that was in September, but she is sticking with her new healthy habits because it's a lifestyle choice, not a diet. She's off all the medications and she says, with a big smile, she can keep up with her grandchildren.

Heinecke's advice to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation and might be hesitant to call about the class is to be honest with themselves and realize there isn't a magic pill.

"If you are serious about making a lifestyle change and finding success you can do this," she says. "I learned so much I didn't know before. They don't ask a lot of you, and throughout the program I just really felt that I could do this."

Three new sessions start January 17, 2018. Call Colleen Bauck, RN Care Coordinator/Regional RN Health Coach at 218-347-1236 for information on what times are available.