I’m Elvia. I Found a Program to Help Me Prevent Type 2 Diabetes, and Now I’m Sharing it With My Community. It works.
Seeing results firsthand is what motivated Elvia Alcala to become a lifestyle coach for CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) lifestyle change program. Elvia speaks from her own personal experience with type 2 diabetes to motivate her family and the Hispanic/Latino community to get healthier. Her mother died as a result of diabetes complications, and several of her family members have diabetes. Both Elvia and her sister have prediabetes, a condition which means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Prediabetes can lead to type 2 diabetes and other health complications like heart disease and stroke.
Participating in the National DPP lifestyle change program was what Elvia needed to improve her health for the long term. The program helped Elvia lower her blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure not only while she was participating, but also long after she’d finished the program. She used to go to the doctor every 3 months, and now she goes every 6.
“The changes that I made have not only benefited me, but also my husband, my family, and the groups we are training,” she says.
Elvia admits that change does not come easily. Determination and being able to prioritize her own health have helped her through her journey. When coaching other people through the program, she tells them that perseverance is key and encourages them to stick to the program, even if they have a bad day.
“I tell them that if they feel stressed and hungry, they can eat fruits or veggies, like I do. I also tell them to try to include some movement in their day, even if it’s dancing in their own backyard. I do Zumba by myself or with my daughter. As a coach, I need to be an example, I have to take care of myself,” Elvia says.
Even as a coach for the program, Elvia is not perfect. She gained 6 pounds earlier this year after a disruption to her normal routine and having to spend more time at home. But since then, she’s lost 3 of those extra pounds.
Elvia says she encourages people to make small changes to their daily routines. She says that she does not like to talk about “diets” but rather “eating better.”
“If you say the word diet, people react negatively,” she says. Instead, for a family gathering, ask people to bring healthier options like salad or vegetables instead of fried chicken and plantains.
Another tip she has shared with some of her participants is to bring their lunch to work.
“One participant liked to stop at a nearby gas station to get tacos and coffee every day,” she says. “Her cholesterol was very high, and I suggested she should bring her lunch to work. She did, and one month later her numbers had gone down.”
This November for National Diabetes Month, Elvia has something she wants everyone at risk for type 2 diabetes to know: “I used to feel trapped, but now I feel free and confident in myself,” she says. “You have to put yourself first. We can’t love others if we don’t love ourselves first. Our families and friends love us, and they want to have us around for a long time.”
You can be like Elvia and reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Learn more about the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program here.
A Thanksgiving Message from our CEO
2020 has been an extraordinary year….unexpected, stressful, but also inspirational. How can the year’s events be inspirational you might ask? We have witnessed amazing acts of courage, genuine care and compassion, and a compelling reason, if we needed one, to recommit and double down on our mission to serve agricultural worker families. As critical and essential workers, they are the unseen heroes…we see and benefit from the fruits of their labor, but do not always see behind the produce shelves…the hands, bodies, faces of men, women and children. There is no remote work for them - no Zoom meetings – no guarantees for paid sick leave, or unemployment. In our insular world, we may take for granted the abundance of food, the ample supply of fruits and vegetables…we have not suffered scarcity…we have not gone hungry.
We are thankful for “Our Abundance: Thanks to Their Labor”- also the title of one of my favorite NCFH commemorative artwork pieces. Skillfully painted in 2010 by Kauila Clark, whose spirit may no longer walk among us physically, but who lives within our hearts, the image gently reminds us of the strength, dignity and inspiration reflected in the labor of farmworkers across the country.
This painting adorns my wall…it is inspiring! Kaulia is inspiring! Farmworkers are inspiring!
2020 is extraordinary…it should propel us to do more…to serve better…to find solutions…to work harder…to strengthen our partnerships….to raise awareness…and to raise our voices for those who are silent or unheard. We need to shout our thankfulness and blessings to America’s agricultural workers from the rooftops!
“Gracias a Su Trabajo” soy bendecido.
President & CEO
I’m Olga. When I Wanted to Improve My Health, I Did it With Other People. We Learned From Each Other.
A National Diabetes Month Story
Olga Aguirre has been in good health for most of her life. Because of her family’s history with diabetes, her doctor recommended that she join CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) lifestyle change program. Participating in the program gave Olga not only the tools to take care of her health, but also a sense of belonging.
“I was a sales manager at a store and was used to talking to people all the time. Then my husband fell ill, and I stopped working to take care of him. This caused me some anxiety and affected my eating habits,” says Olga. “Being able to join a group like this has been very nice. These are people I can relate to – the coaches and participants are very respectful of other opinions. In this type of class, you learn from each other, and that makes it interesting.”
Participating in the program helped Olga prevent type 2 diabetes, which runs in her family. Olga’s grandmother had severe complications from diabetes, and as a result lost both her feet. This made a big impact in Olga’s life.
“I was very close to my grandmother, and I always saw her struggle to take care of her health,” Olga says. “This program taught me how to read food labels and count calories. I also learned about the importance of physical activity. I try to walk at least 30 minutes every day. I also sweep my porch and help my husband pick up leaves. I always have the radio on, and I dance while I do house chores. Colombian music gets me going.”
Even after finishing the program, Olga has kept in touch with her lifestyle coaches. She says she sometimes sends them photos of the dishes she has prepared and the way she sets her dinner table.
“I show them photos of my coconut water and nopales (prickly pear). I also send photos to my daughters-in-law to teach them how to prepare healthy dishes for their families,” she says.
Olga’s breakfast might be an oatmeal shake with bananas, strawberries, almonds, or blueberries. For lunch, she frequently cooks an omelet with green peppers, mushrooms, cheese, and sometimes ham. For dinner, Olga and her husband have chicken or fish. In fact, they love fish!
“Sometimes in the afternoon if we are hungry, we have sardines, a boiled egg, or a veggie like a baked potato or a chayote (squash). Other times we have salads and I add olive oil,” she says.
To succeed in the program, Olga encourages participants to trust themselves and follow the program’s directions.
“You must have willpower to take your medicines and stay healthy. Also try to avoid stress, as it does have a big impact on your health.”
This November for National Diabetes Month, Olga has something she wants everyone at risk for type 2 diabetes to know: “If you join the lifestyle change program, make sure you stick to the plan and follow what you learn in class and your doctor’s instructions. It is important to follow the booklets. Each chapter is a lesson.”
You can be like Olga and reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Learn more about the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program here.
What if the saying “Happy wife, happy life” could change your life forever? That’s what happened to Jack Aponte; thanks to the help of his wife, Joyce, he reduced his risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It all started at a truck show. Jack, a former long-haul trucker and current radio host and personality, partnered with the Healthy Trucking Association of America (HTAA) to bring health and wellness messages to the trucking community. Jack –or “Kaptain Jack,” as his fans know him –was in charge of drawing a crowd with lively music and his connections to country music stars. Bill Gordon, a representative from HTAA, was in charge of talking to truckers about type 2 diabetes prevention. Bill’s goal was to get truckers to take a prediabetes risk test to find out if they were at risk for type 2 diabetes. Together, Jack and Bill worked a booth at 26 truck stops around the country.
"We were at the Mid-American Truck Show in Louisville,” says Joyce, who tagged along on the truck stop tour. “Some of the truckers walking by stopped to take the prediabetes risk test. Some said they’d come back and do it later, and some of them were with their wives who encouraged them to do it. So I said to Jack, ‘Why don’t you do it?’” At first Jack resisted. “He said, ‘I’m fine.’ But I told him to go ahead and give it a shot. What’s there to lose? It’s just a minute. What can happen?”
Diabetes is not something that Joyce takes lightly. She’s still devastated by the loss of her twin sister, Marilyn, who passed away from complications of type 1 diabetes. Joyce and Jack both have a family history of type 2 diabetes as well.
“I was always worried about the future,” Joyce says. “A diabetes diagnosis would affect both of us in every way. It’s everything. I wanted him to do it not just for him, but for us.”
Joyce continues, “We looked at each other ,and Jack said, ‘Do you want me to do it?’ I told him ‘Yes!’ So he said, ‘Oh alright.’”
I’m a firm believer in happy wife, happy life,” Jack says with a laugh.
Jack took the prediabetes risk test and found out he was at risk for type 2 diabetes. He knew that he was eligible for CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) lifestyle change program, which would show him how to eat healthier, increase physical activity, and manage stress to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. After talking with Joyce, he decided to sign up.
“At first I grumbled a little bit,” says Jack. “But once you start the program and get into a rhythm, things turn around. It changes everything. Not just for the time when you’re a part of it, but for the rest of your life. I’ve been off the program for a year. Now I live my life differently.”
Jack’s eating habits were one of the biggest changes he made while participating in the lifestyle change program. Growing up, Jack’s family owned a restaurant; he loves to cook and has a strong appreciation for Italian-American food like pasta, pizza, and “beautiful Italian bread.” The program taught Jack that he doesn’t have to give those things up. By using moderation, portion control, and learning how to incorporate healthy ingredients into family favorites –like veal parmesan –he can celebrate his Italian-American culture while sticking to his health goals. Even Joyce has noticed the difference in Jack’s food choices.
“If he might have had 6 slices of pizza before, now he’ll have 3,” she says proudly.
“I really enjoy cooking, and I love seeing Joyce enjoy the meals I make for her,” he says. “But I’m using healthier ingredients now. I’m not a vegetable eater, and before I wouldn’t eat them at all. Now, I’ll eat them but only if I cook them the way I want. Take string beans, for example. If you combine them with crushed tomatoes, then you get string bean marinara.”
Says Joyce, “That never would have happened before the program!”
Through it all, Joyce, of course, is right there beside Jack in support.
“We’ve been married 49 years,” she says. “We’re doing this together. I’m not going to order a pizza while Jack makes broiled fish. We talk about it together. We’re going to make it together.”
This November for National Diabetes Month, Jack has something he wants everyone at risk for type 2 diabetes to know: “Take the step,” he says. “You won’t regret it. There’s no downside. I promise you, you’re going to feel much, much better. Your life will change in a way that you always hoped it would change. So many people wish they could make a change. It will help you make adjustments that will last a lifetime.”
Joyce has something to say too: “If someone said you had an opportunity to prevent cancer, you would do it. This is a gift. I know the effects of having diabetes because I lost my twin sister to it. If you’re at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, you can take that control back.”
You can be like Jack and reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Learn more about the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program here.
From the cab of his 18-wheeler, long-haul truck driver Glenn Keller uses his voice to motivate people to improve their lives. Glenn is not only a truck driver – he’s a certified motivational speaker who helps people set and achieve goals to be the best version of themselves. He motivates people through videos and podcasts that he records from his truck, which he calls the “Empowerment Express,” as well as at his church and on Facebook. And while Glenn can tell you all about the 7 steps for setting goals, he is the first to admit that he didn’t always focus on setting goals for himself, especially when it came to his health. One day, Glenn’s doctor told him that he was morbidly obese.
“It added insult to injury,” says Glenn. “I already knew it, and I knew how it was affecting me.”
Still, Glenn didn’t make any changes right away. “I was in a lackadaisical place where I knew I needed to do something, and I kept putting it off. I couldn’t see anything that would motivate me to change.”
Things might have stayed that way if not for the Healthy Trucking Association of America (HTAA), a group that reached out to Glenn and told him about CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) lifestyle change program, which would teach him healthy habits to reduce his risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The representative from HTAA told Glenn that he’d be eligible for the program if he took a 1-minute prediabetes risk test and came back with a high-risk score, which he did. Hearing about the program was enough to spark Glenn’s motivation to get healthy.
“I told myself I needed to pull my life together,” says Glenn. “I said to myself, it doesn’t make any sense for you to be obese, let alone morbidly obese. I told myself that I can do better, that I have done better.”
So Glenn signed up for the program. Because his work as a trucker meant he was usually on the road, he was able to participate through an app on his phone. He tracked his meals and physical activity and had access to a lifestyle coach when he had questions.
“It’s a pretty amazing program from the standpoint of making us accountable for what we were doing,” says Glenn. “You had to put in your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any physical activity you did that day. You had to weigh yourself, and you couldn’t fudge on that because the scale sent your weight directly to the app. Without that accountability, you wouldn’t feel anything if you ate healthy or unhealthily. With the program, I had a really good feeling when I had a good breakfast, good lunch, and good dinner.”
Participating in the program wasn’t always easy – when Glenn first started, he wasn’t in the best shape and wondered if he’d be able to stick with it. But he kept going and eventually became motivated by his own success after losing 35 pounds. Now he’s gotten his wife, Jennifer, involved in the program, and the two are supporting each other in making healthy choices. He has a goal to lose 45 more pounds.
Being a part of the program has also made Glenn think differently about setting health goals, and he uses that insight when he’s motivating others.
“Setting goals about a diet has a negative connotation,” says Glenn. “The goal is not just to lose weight. The goal is to eat properly. The goal is to set aside time for exercise. If I set those goals, the weight loss will come. I don’t need to focus on it. The reward is better health.”
Glenn is grateful that the program gave him the chance to reduce his risk for developing type 2 diabetes, as he’s seen how the disease can affect people. Glenn’s first cousin – who was also a truck driver and who he looked up to as a child – had diabetes. Glenn says the disease “got away from him.”
“He went from being out on the open road for most of his life to being a double amputee in a wheelchair,” says Glenn. “There are a lot of people who don’t really know the true impact of having diabetes and what could happen.”
Luckily, Glenn’s outlook on the future is a positive one. He turned 60 earlier this year and has big plans for how he wants to spend his time in retirement.
“If I do everything I’m supposed to do to take care of myself,” says Glenn, “then when I retire it allows Jennifer and me to keep living our life. I haven’t limited myself by allowing type 2 diabetes to take control of me.”
This November for National Diabetes Month, you can be like Glenn. Set goals for better health to reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Learn more about the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program here.
The National Center for Farmworker Health
Improving health care access for one of America's most vulnerable populations