By Juliana Ronn, First Mile Care Director of Operations

Regina Hasan joined the year-long First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) at the beginning of 2021. She is a managing executive officer at the nonprofit organization Unlimited Visions Aftercare in Houston, Texas, where she has worked since 2004. UVA provides comprehensive substance abuse treatment services to adult men, women, adolescents and families, so Regina knows a thing or two about coaching people to identify behavioral triggers, stop bad habits, and create a healthy life balance.

But despite her self-awareness regarding lifestyle change and her success in surviving her own addictions since 1986 through 12-step programs, Regina found it challenging to lose weight to improve her health. That is, until she joined First Mile Care and made small, incremental changes to her eating behaviors and physical activity levels. As a result, she has lost 30 pounds and feels better than she has in years

Regina was never specifically told that she had prediabetes or that her blood sugar level was abnormal. But as an overweight Black woman in her 60s, with long-time high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a glaucoma diagnosis, she knew she presented the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. She was also frequently out of breath and had painful knees due to the excess weight she was carrying.  

One day Regina looked at her lab results after a medical appointment and was shocked to see her body type described as “obese.” She knew she was overweight but had never considered herself as obese. It was a real wake-up call.

This description was still in the back of Regina’s mind when she received a phone call from First Mile Care Coach Shavon LeBlanc on behalf of her regular health care provider at the Pucillo Family Practice (part of Privia Health) in Sugar Land, near her home, inviting her to join a small local group starting the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Regina felt it was a sign from on high — “a God thing” in her words — that she should try again to make the changes necessary to lose weight and improve her health. 

Putting herself in control

Regina had attempted dieting, trying other weight loss programs in the past. She found some success with Weight Watchers but had gained the weight back. “I just didn’t look forward to counting those points for the rest of my life. And I didn’t like other diets like Jenny Craig that were about buying prepared meals or supplements,” she said.

She knew she could control her eating habits for a short period of time, as every January she participates in a fast organized through her church. The challenge was in making true, sustainable changes that she could continue long-term, rather than simply giving up something in the short-term.

“I don’t want to be tied to anything. I want to be able to control what I eat by doing little things, instead of practicing self-denial. I gave up smoking cigarettes, so my goodness, I want to enjoy something if it’s not going to kill me. I was at the point where I resented people who can eat and not gain weight. That made me mad,” she chuckled.

Encouragement to persevere

As someone experienced in group therapy, Regina knows the value of coaching and group support. “Coaches are like cheerleaders. In recovery coaching, it’s very important for someone who is trying to overcome drugs or alcohol or even a mental health issue to have a coach to ‘walk’ with you on the journey. So I was very open to the whole First Mile Care concept of sharing with the group. Just the opportunity to share progress each week and get encouragement was really helpful. Coach Shavon motivated me in the first few months when my progress was slow, and later when I plateaued. The camaraderie of the group was important.”

Regina actually gained a few pounds after starting the First Mile Care program, but her coach pointed out that it was probably due to building muscle mass. After a few months of up-and-down weight, she started regularly dropping pounds in early summer and eventually lost 30 pounds — although it took a couple of frustrating months to lose that last pound that brought her to a round 30. She is now able to fit in clothes she hasn’t worn in years, dropping two or even three sizes, from size 18 or 16 to wear size 14 and even size 12. Instead of wearing a size XL, she now often wears medium-sized tops. And she’s not done with her weight loss just yet.

There are five tactics to which Regina attributes her success in sustaining her weight loss:

  1. Regular movement. Regina faithfully gets the 150 minutes of moderate activity per week recommended by First Mile Care as a tenet of the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program. Her 55+ senior community has a gym in which she works out regularly. She not only walks on the treadmill for an hour, she also gets plenty of exercise by walking her dog 2-3 times daily.
  2. Eating in moderation. A tip that Regina picked up in her First Mile Care class was to eat only half of what she orders in a restaurant, and to ask for the other half to be put in a takeout container. She does this when she first orders her meal, to avoid the temptation to eat more than she should.
  3. Calorie tracking. Regina downloaded the Lose It! app at her coach’s recommendation and started keeping track of her calorie intake. She no longer uses it regularly as she’s quite aware of the calories of her normal meals, but she has it on her phone so “it’s there when I need it.”
  4. Intermittent fasting. Regina practices fasting for 16 hours daily as she finds it’s helpful. While fasting is not a mandate of the First Mile Care DPP curriculum, coaches encourage participants to develop a personalized set of goals and try a combination of tactics to find what works best for them.
  5. Coach support. Regina also credits her success to Coach Shavon, who was not only persistent in her outreach to join the DPP but never gave up encouraging and supporting her. Shavon made Regina aware that type 2 diabetes is preventable, which persuaded her to join the First Mile Care program.

Regina also found her coach’s presentation on the connection between sleep, weight, and diabetes to be helpful, and is trying to practice better sleep hygiene along with moderate exercise and eating.

“I like eating good food and I want to be able to enjoy that. I’m not starving. It’s not about deprivation. If I want dessert, I eat dessert. But I don’t eat a whole package of Oreo cookies. I eat wisely and in moderation.”  

She added, “I know the goal of First Mile Care is not weight loss alone, but diabetes prevention. But I’m the type of person who needed to see results from the program beyond not becoming diabetic. And I have. And it just feels wonderful.”

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!