Managing Diabetes through Diet and Exercise
A “disheartening diagnosis” is what Alicia Guidotti thought when her doctor told her she had type 2 diabetes.
Knowing how diabetes had affected her father and brother—including amputations and disability—Guidotti initially feared she wouldn’t know how to manage a chronic illness. But, motivated and aware of a local resource, she stepped up to the challenge of managing her diabetes.
Gaining a New Perspective
Guidotti’s doctor referred her to the Center for Excellence in Diabetes Education, a program offered through Cooley Dickinson Hospital, where she gained knowledge and support. Initially, she changed her diet, but other lifestyle changes proved problematic, so she enrolled in Step Up, a diabetes lifestyle intervention program.
“Exercise was my biggest hurdle,” said Guidotti, 63, who in addition to her diabetes suffers from arthritis in her knees. She quickly learned that regular physical activity is important to someone living with—and successfully managing—diabetes, along with proper meal planning, taking medications as prescribed, and reducing stress.
“The Step Up staff altered my fitness program to incorporate swimming, and I did other exercises that preserved my knees. They made me feel good about my progress and helped me put into perspective how to make my health a priority,” added Guidotti.
From April through June, 2013, Guidotti attended sessions with eight other participants where she exercised three times a week under the watchful eyes of exercise coaches, registered nurses, and behavioral therapists. One session per week was devoted to education, including strategies for changing behavior and preparing and cooking healthy, diabetic-friendly meals.
“The education and the camaraderie were very important, and helps me to this day,” Guidotti said, noting that when she “falls off the exercise wagon” she plays back in her mind the encouragement that came from her fellow Step Up classmates and her coaches.
A New Approach
By the start of 2014, Guidotti had decreased her blood sugar, or A1C score, from 6.8 to 6.0, and lost 15 pounds. Research shows that a one percent drop in A1C levels correlates to reduced death from diabetes by 25 percent, while the risk of nerve damage, vision loss, and kidney disease drops by 35 percent.
“With my family history, it is a major accomplishment that I am able to stay off medication. I have learned to maintain the quality of life I want using the tools I have learned,” said Guidotti.
To others facing a similar diagnosis, Guidotti advised: “Diabetes is not your fault and you are not alone.”
About Step Up
Step Up offers a group approach to structured exercise, as well as nutrition and meal planning, behavioral coaching and support, and medication management. To learn more or to sign up for the next available Step Up session, call 413-586-1601.