The 74-year-old began to recognize the urgency for changes to be made in her lifestyle, especially in an area where she had for so long resisted—food. In the past, an almost personal mantra of hers had been, “Don’t ask me to do it with food.”
During her research, Dori’s outgoing personality led to many interesting conversations on diabetes with family and friends, including one with Mike Betliskey, her neighbor and a Cottage Health System volunteer. Mike shared with her information about educational diabetes classes at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital (GVCH)—information that helped transform her life.
Offered for free and open to the public, the ‘Living Well with Diabetes’ educational classes at GVCH discuss the basics of diabetes self-care and spotlight one diabetes topic per month. Classes are taught by registered dietitians, Joanne Garcia and Jeannee Diaz, and are available in both English and Spanish.
“Oftentimes your primary healthcare provider does not have hours to sit and teach you, and that’s what we’re here for,” instructor Joanne Garcia explained. “What makes people successful and able to live with diabetes is self-care, and that’s what we’re there to teach.”
Dori started attending classes and discovered that she was not alone in her battle for health. The classes were welcoming for her and the instructors very personable. Her fellow students, all of whom happened to have diabetes already, were open in sharing their own stories and an encouragement for Dori.
The classes discuss how diet and exercise can play a key role in treating diabetes and can prevent the onset of diabetes in someone with prediabetes. During one class, Dori remembers every participant sharing what he or she ate for breakfast, “It became clear to me that it was food that was causing the problem.”
Dori really began to scrutinize her dietary choices. She stopped eating and drinking some of her favorite things, including orange juice and white bread. She started controlling her portion sizes and went back to basics by eating fewer processed foods.
Her pantry shelves even look a bit slimmer these days compared to times past. Dori knows her limitations in that she can still be tempted to eat poorly. Her plan of action and new mantra: “Don’t buy food that you can’t eat.” As instructor Jeannee Diaz reaffirms with her own favorite saying, “You can’t eat what you don’t buy!”
These changes are not easy to make. Joanne recognizes, “Lifestyle changes are difficult. People need support, and they get that support from the classes—in the educators and students.”
As teaching turned to learning and learning to lifestyle changes, Dori’s health spiral began to make a reversal as she lost a total of fifteen pounds. In a visit to her doctor in September 2010, she was elated to hear her doctor say, “Congratulations, Ms. Carlson. You’re no longer prediabetic.”
Dori knows that her journey for health has only just begun. Aware of the dangers of not listening to her doctor and not maintaining a healthy weight, Dori feels more certain of the components that lead to a healthy lifestyle and has committed to following them.
“She is a very special person; she did all of the work,” Joanne beams. “Dori went out and got the information and made the changes, and that’s what it takes.”
BY MONICA RAY | PHOTO BY GLENN DUBOCK