Lauretta Zandstra

Lauretta Zandstra, Participant, Diabetes Prevention Program

When Lauretta Zandstra was notified about the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s (NKFM) Diabetes Prevention Program, it was a wake-up call for her. Lauretta has a family history of type 2 diabetes and knew she had to make lifestyle changes in order to prevent the disease herself. “I knew this program was what I needed to start living a healthier life,” said Lauretta.

Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include having a family history of the disease; being overweight or obese; being over the age of 45; and having African American, Hispanic/Latino, or other racial or ethnic backgrounds. However, there are ways to prevent the disease. Research shows that by losing a modest amount of weight – 5-7 percent of your body weight – and being physically active for 150 minutes per week, a person can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Lauretta enrolled in the Diabetes Prevention Program in January of 2014 in Grand Rapids. The Diabetes Prevention Program is a 16-week program led by a trained lifestyle coach in a group setting, and works to help those at high risk for type 2 diabetes learn how to maintain healthy lifestyles through eating healthier, increasing physical activity, and losing weight.

Lauretta explained that she was shocked during her first class.

“I was surprised how diverse the group of participants were. I thought everyone was going to be overweight and just trying to lose weight. But people at risk for diabetes truly come in any shape, size, and age,” said Lauretta.

It is recommended that adults get 150 minutes of physical activity per week. While this may seem challenging, participants are encouraged to start off by taking a 30-minute brisk walk, five days a week. Once participants feel comfortable with this activity level, they can intensify their physical activity.

Lauretta said that she loves doing yoga, but wants to take her physical activity to the next level.  She plans to intensify her workout by adding exercises that will raise her heart rate, which is a good measuring tool for this. “Participating in this program is a process. You have to set a goal and work towards it. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it!”

One lifestyle change Lauretta has made since starting the program is planning her meals a week in advance. This makes it easier for her to eat healthy foods because she can track the fat grams and calories of the meals she cooks at home.

“Planning my meals and tracking what I eat really opened my eyes. I’m more conscious of what I put in my mouth now because I’m aware of the nutritional value of the food I eat,” Lauretta said.

Lauretta explains she’s eliminated a lot of food items from her kitchen, for example, potato chips and dip. She realized that when she was emotionally triggered she would reach for snack food, which was an unhealthy habit.  However, she does allow herself to indulge in some sweets.

“I love dark chocolate. I learned that you can’t deny yourself from all of your cravings,” said Lauretta.

Eating used to fill an emotional void in Lauretta’s life, but she now has other things to turn to since participating in the Diabetes Prevention Program

“If I’m feeling stressed, I’ll exercise, or get a massage or manicure. It’s important to do something nice for yourself sometimes,” said Lauretta.

During Lauretta’s 16 weekly sessions, she wanted to educate herself as much as possible about healthy eating and what physical activity worked for her. She says that she had to work hard at her goal of losing weight, and that it was a gradual process.

“It’s much healthier to lose weight gradually compared to a crash diet. No matter my set backs, I was encouraged to keep plugging along,” Lauretta said.

Since starting the program, Lauretta has lost 37 pounds, and is working on losing another 30-40 pounds. She says she would recommend this program to anyone at risk of type 2 diabetes who is willing to make necessary healthy lifestyle changes. Lauretta says she keeps her goals in the present, and that she is feeling much healthier since she’s made lifestyle changes.

Take your first step towards a healthy lifestyle and take the CDC's Prediabetes Test to see if you're at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. For more information about the Diabetes Prevention Program, contact the NKFM at [email protected] or call 800-482-1455.