PINELLAS PARK – At age 36, Matthew Massingill hasn’t been diagnosed as a prediabetic but understood he had an increased chance of developing the disease.
“I knew I had a lot of weight to lose, and both my parents were diabetic, so it’s in the family,” the Pinellas Park resident said. “I just felt like it was better to nip it in the bud early.”
So when Massingill heard about the new program at the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, designed to prevent diabetes in those already at risk for the disease, he jumped at the chance. He began attending weekly classes in May and driving down to the Jim & Heather Gills YMCA in St. Petersburg a couple of times a week to work out.
“I’ve changed eating more so than I’ve changed the exercise,” Massingill admitted.
He said the informative classes helped him wake up to the realities of what he was eating.
“They actually gave us hard numbers (so) you can see the difference between similar volumes or mass of food having grossly different amounts of calories if they were higher in fat,” he said. “I had never paid attention to fat grams, and I’ve kept close tabs on that in writing every week. The habit of paying attention to the nutritional content of food was the best result of the program,” Massingill said.
“After a number of weeks, it becomes fairly second nature,” he said. “You get used to what certain foods have in them, and you don’t have to look them up anymore.”
Now the same program will be offered closer to home in Pinellas Park. For Pinellas Park residents like 73-year-old Anita Wilson, the lack of a commute could make participation in the program easier.
“They may have heard me gripe about it,” she said with a laugh. “It’s been a pain to drive down to First Avenue South once a week. It’s just about out of the way.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, estimates that 1 in 3 adults, aged 20 years or older, had prediabetes in 2010, according to the organization’s website. Additionally, the vast majority was unaware of their risk.
The YMCA is an inaugural partner in the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program, designed to address that problem and give those at risk the tools needed to prevent the disease. The information provided in the one-hour, small group classes of the program is based on a study by the National Institutes of Health. The study found that modest behavioral such as better food choices and exercising at least 150 minutes per week helped participants lose 5 to 7 percent of their body weight. That in turn reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Massingill said he recently got down to this goal weight, 7 percent less weight than when he started the program in May. He still wants to lose more, especially for his health in the future. He and his wife are expecting their first baby soon.
The classes calculated that Massingill should only consume about 42 grams of fat every day. He learned to read labels and gravitate away from higher carbohydrate foods and more toward fruits and vegetables.
“Actually in my case, it was more the amount of those things I was eating. I don’t know that I’ve really cut anything out,” he explained.
For Wilson, the information was nothing new, but the constant encouragement helped.
“I’ve had a lot of training along this line. A lot of it I know, but it’s good to be reminded,” she said.
Wilson certainly has the family history to make her at-risk, with diabetes diagnoses delivered to several aunts and uncles and grandparents over the years. Once she hit middle age, she assumed the question was not if she would develop diabetes, but when.
Wilson said the classes include a weekly weigh-in, done “very privately” in a cubicle within the classroom.
“No one ever knows whether you’re going up, down or sideways,” she said.
For her part, Wilson said she’s lost five pounds and has been working on addressing the stressors in her personal life that have made weight loss more difficult.
“I think I’ve become more conscious of actually paying attention to serving sizes and what I’m eating,” she said.
Along with eating better, Wilson said she tries to include more exercise in her day, by making her walks with the dog longer, for example.
“Most adults at this point have a pretty good idea of what they should be doing,” she said. “There were a couple of guys (in the class) that just totally didn’t have a clue, were totally oblivious to the whole thing.
“Maybe that’s a man thing,” she mused.
Both Massingill and Wilson are nearing the end of their weekly classes. After that, the classes will continue on a monthly basis for the rest of the year.
To get involved in the Pinellas Park classes or for more information, contact local YMCA diabetes prevention program coordinator Shelley Swapp at 895-9622 or email@example.com.