By Jeff Millhouse, First Mile Care DPP Participant

This month, I’ll complete the year-long Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) offered through First Mile Care. Throughout the course of the program, I have become aware of habits and behavioral triggers that I now know I must change permanently in order to stay healthy. Luckily, my DPP coach, Kathy Gregory, has given me the tools and techniques I need in order to maintain my healthy behaviors and not backslide into old bad habits.

I’m in my early 60s and live in The Woodlands, Texas. My main health problem over the years has been fluctuating weight. I’m active, but my eating habits were not always healthy and like many people, I gained weight as I grew older. In the last dozen years, I went through two different weight loss programs that were available through my workplace.  While I achieved my overall wellness and weight loss goals within those programs, they weren’t as structured nor as intimate as the First Mile Care program and the behaviors and results just didn’t “stick.”  I used the My Fitness Pal app or another fitness tracker and would lose a few pounds, and then gain it back after those programs ended. Up, down. Keeping my weight consistently within my target range has been a real struggle. 

I have always been physically active.  Lately, however, I have come to accept that I can’t exercise at the level of intensity or duration that I did when I was in my 40s and 50s.  I still try to do some stretching, body weight exercises, and light weight training in the garage when it’s not too hot or humid. I ride a bike occasionally and take lots of walks with my wife and our dog, as we’re lucky to live in an area with good paths and trees. 

Shock and awe

In June 2020, I was surprised to get a letter from my physician, Dr. John Walker of Highland Woods Health, providing his endorsement for the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program and recommending I join it.  I put that letter aside but received another one two weeks later.  I thought “OK. He’s trying to get my attention now.”  

There isn’t any history of diabetes in my family and I hadn’t thought I was at risk for it. I was overweight and I knew the doctor was monitoring my blood glucose level during my annual physical exam, but he had not previously called attention to it and I was never prescribed any medication to manage it. However, after reading up a little on prediabetes and looking at my blood test results from my last few physicals, I could understand why he was suggesting the First Mile DPP program to me at this time. 

My doctor made the connection between my weight, my blood glucose test history, and my overall health. I realized that my eating habits were not only making me look heavy and feel uncomfortable, but the extra weight was putting my overall health and life at risk. Since I trust Dr. Walker’s advice, I decided to join the program, especially since it was offered at no cost to me. 

So, after a very welcoming introductory call with Coach Kathy, I leaned into the program and began to see results within days. After a couple of weeks, my wife Aimee also joined my same DPP group. She liked the results I was getting and the changes I was making. And since diabetes does run in her family, the desire to take action was even more compelling for her.

Within about four months of joining First Mile Care, I had dropped nearly 20 pounds, as once I got into the routine, it was easy. Since then, my focus has been on sustaining that weight loss. Despite holidays and vacations, I’ve managed to keep off the inches and 15 to 20 pounds. I feel confident enough in my ability to maintain my weight loss that I’ve given away half my suits that no longer fit, and other extra-large clothing that was hanging on me after I lost all that weight. Now I wear a large and sometimes even a medium size.

But even better is how I look and feel. Not only do my clothes fit better, but my knees don’t hurt from carrying that extra weight. And when I had my annual physical just a couple of months into the program, my doctor said my glucose level was already back in the normal range. Seeing the results show up in the blood work was really gratifying, as that was something I couldn’t see or judge on my own.

Spotting triggers

I feel the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program works for me because it’s a pragmatic package of methods and support techniques that I can sustain by myself. Even if I go a bit off-course one weekend and see the results on the scale, I know how to course-correct within a couple of days by sticking to my 1,700 daily calories and remembering the other principles I learned. I can still enjoy my favorite foods and reward myself occasionally. I don’t feel restricted by the program. I have choices. The emphasis on meal planning in this program, which Coach Kathy has returned to again and again, is really key to my success.

Obviously, I’m grateful that my wife has been on this journey with me. One of the things we discovered is that we used to eat large meals in the evening, not because we were hungry but as a way to spend quality family time together  — truly, a “comfort food” habit.  I had a very long drive to and from work, so I would snack after breakfast during my morning commute, and snack throughout the day. On my drive home, I’d have nuts or cheese. And then when I arrived home, my wife would have prepared a big meal for us to enjoy together, just as we did when our son was still at home. The First Mile Care program has made us mindful that our dining habits were born of natural family practices and triggers that don’t really apply to our lifestyle any more. So now we’d rather have our “comfort” meal together at breakfast and only something light for dinner in the evening. 

In addition to family time, I’ve identified stress and boredom as triggers for me. If I’m preparing for an important work-related call, I notice that I want to reach for a snack. I ask myself: “Am I reaching for food because I’m truly hungry, or because I’m anxious or perhaps not hydrated enough?” Sometimes just having a glass of water will suffice. I ask the same questions in the evening, when I’m watching TV and craving a snack. I review my daily calories and sometimes I allow myself a snack, but just as often, I realize I associate food with relieving boredom or providing a sense of comfort.

Learning from others

I’ve enjoyed the group aspect of the First Mile Care counseling sessions. Coach Kathy is very practiced at getting people to join the discussion and share their experiences.  Even the group members that are generally quiet are still engaged and they will often share things they have tried that other participants had mentioned in prior weeks. It has been important to acknowledge each other’s successes, however each person defines his or her own success measures, and even if they are small.

For example, when we discussed the importance of reading labels in a meeting, a member of the group shared how he was in the habit of stopping to buy a supersized cup of iced tea on his way to work. But then he realized it wasn’t the caffeine so much as the high sugar content that was keeping him going through the day, and he decided to quit. As I listened to him share his story, it reminded me of how I would occasionally swallow a couple of glasses of sweet tea at lunch, or grab a Coke at the fountain machine in the company cafeteria.

Beyond those examples, his story made me rethink the multi-day juice cleanses I used to do on a regular basis to help maintain my weight. These were high quality “juicing” products, yet when I looked at the labels on several of the juices, I was shocked at the added sugar. This occurred with both the juice cleanse bundles as well as a “healthy” juice I bought at a local vegetarian restaurant we support. I haven’t done a juice cleanse since!  I’ve also changed the type of yogurt I buy, and look more closely at the sugars in cereals and packaged products. My wife and I try to buy whole foods and fix our own meals to better avoid the added sugars and salts in packaged or prepared foods.

Why DPP works for me

The reason that the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program has been successful in helping me adjust my lifestyle is that it isn’t just a program where you’re counting steps or calories or competing for points. Food tracking or journaling is important, just as it was when I was in Weight Watchers and the other fitness program I did. That’s easy for me as I’m a very analytical, data-driven person.

What has been distinctively different this time is that the First Mile Care program takes a more holistic view about addressing the many intertwined factors that affect your physical health and mental well-being — which can either enable progress or hinder it. It’s about learning to determine your triggers for eating or drinking too much or imbibing the wrong foods or not getting exercise. It’s about learning to manage stress and developing good sleep hygiene. It’s about learning how to make smart choices when you’re not at home or in control of the food that’s around you, so that you don’t fall back on old behaviors. 

The Diabetes Prevention Program is not about going on a diet to lose weight — as the name says, it’s about preventing disease. Losing weight is a part of it, but it’s not the only goal. The goal is incremental lifestyle change, and that is a goal I intend to keep.

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!