By Tappan Dearrigunaga, First Mile Care DPP Participant

I joined the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) at the recommendation of my general care physician, Doctor Savant, in whom I have great trust. I figured the coach would fix me, the way a mechanic fixes a car. I thought I would learn about blood sugar and exercise and be given set goals. But that’s not how First Mile Care DPP works. It’s not an event; it’s a journey.

When I started the program, I was pretty confident that my current diet already left little room for improvement. I had been diagnosed with prediabetes nearly a decade before and since my sugar levels hadn’t tipped into full-blown diabetes, I assumed I was doing — if not great, at least good enough. But my prediabetic state, combined with other factors, had a destructive impact on my health.

In the beginning, I was dubious of the results I would see from the program. It seemed too simple as the steps my coach recommended were very basic things. You start small. You develop a personalized action plan and track eating, exercise, and other details in a notebook.

My phenomenal DPP coach has helped me to become aware of the areas of my life that could be improved. Her thoughtful guidance led me to personal insights into specific, sustainable changes I could make. We were able to create a set of realistic goals for diet and exercise that I could commit to because they were tailored to my needs.

New habits for a healthier lifestyle

As the weeks progressed, the incremental tweaks to my behaviors resulted in real, noticeable changes. My coach was passionate about prompting me into learning how to modify my habits to result in a healthier lifestyle. I tracked not only how often I was exercising but the type of exercise, the intensity, and the duration. I increased lean muscle mass, reduced fat, and lost a significant amount of weight.

I also became hyper-aware of what I was eating, and how much, and what triggered my craving for certain foods and drinks. I was surprised at how much processed sugar and corn syrup are in some of the foods that I thought were fairly healthy – such as the majority of breads. Learning to examine nutrition labels in order to reduce my consumption of processed foods with high salt, sugar and fat content was a challenge at first. But it eventually became automatic, and once I found healthier substitutes, I quickly saw positive results. I ate less because I was no longer eating “hollow foods” with poor nutritional value that left me always wanting more. I even started using smaller plates because I felt well-nourished by smaller portions of nutrient-dense foods.

The power of the tribe

One of the most effective components of the First Mile Care DPP program is what I refer to as “the power of the tribe.” It’s a small group in the same community — mine was a half-dozen people — that meets in a convenient neighborhood location to share goals and encourage each other to be successful. The group setting was paramount to my own personal success with DPP. The power of sharing my struggles and successes with a group of people with whom I’m on a first-name basis, and who have similar goals for changing their lives, was exponential.

In the first six months of the program, the weekly meetings acted as an anchor for me, as I knew I had to be accountable for the progress (or lack of it) that I’d documented in my notebook. But I also knew my fellow travelers wouldn’t judge me if I’d slipped up and would empathize as they shared their own struggles. It’s encouraging to see other participants making progress, which was especially noticeable in the second half of the program when the group meetings switched to a monthly schedule. And because we lived in the same area, we could even meet up outside regular group settings for support, if needed.

Whenever those moments occur where I’m tempted to go back to my old habits, I think of the other group participants and my First Mile Care coaches, all of whom are still available to support me. They have become my friends — relationships I expect to keep for life.

I now eat better, sleep better, and feel better overall. As a result, I am also happier, and this positive mood rubs off on those around me.

Preventing diabetes is not a quick fix. There is no real finish line. I realize now that my prediabetes journey doesn’t end when the First Mile Care program is over. Instead, my DPP coach has given me the tools I need to self-manage my behaviors and maintain my journey to a healthier lifestyle — now and for the rest of my life.

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