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Local program helps pre-diabetic patients adopt healthy lifestyles

Magdalena Cardenas, an I Can Prevent Diabetes program participant, is shown at her last exercise session Tuesday morning. (Martina Baca/ Daily Globe)1 / 2
Leonor Soto (from left), Magdalena Cardenas, Conchita Sievert, Matilde Arellano, Azucena Comparan, Maria Villalta and Maria Soto are shown with a Worthington Area YMCA instructor Tuesday morning. (Martina Baca/Daily Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — A group of pre-diabetic women have not only seen improvements in their health during the past year, but have also assumed the challenge to change their lifestyle with the help of the local program “I Can Prevent Diabetes (ICPD).”

ICPD is a free educational program run through the University of Minnesota Extension that aims to educate pre-diabetic adults on how to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The program welcomes women and men older than age 18 who are at risk of, but not currently with, diabetes.

Participants attended classes once per week during the 16-week program and were taught how to cook healthier and pay attention to food portions. They also attended exercise classes with a YMCA instructor. After the classes were finished, participants met once per month for eight months to discuss their improvements and challenges.

“I have taught them that they can cook healthy meals with what they have in their fridges and without going over their budget,” said Nobles County SNAP-Ed Educator Maria Conchita Paez Sievert.

Sievert, who led the Spanish class for the first time, started as a participant in the program five years ago after she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. A little more than a year ago, Sievert had the chance to lead one of the classes and inspire participants with her own story.

Sievert explained that when the classes started, she set a goal for class members to lose 160 pounds. After only four months, the group had lost 150 pounds.

Sievert, as well as the six class members, gathered for one last time Tuesday morning to hear the exciting news that they had exceeded their goal by more than 40 pounds.

“You guys rock,” Sievert told the women during their last class.

“I am so proud of them,” she added. “All of them have shown great discipline, and seeing the results made me so happy.”

Even though the women completed the program, Sievert said she hopes that they will continue with the positive changes they have made.

“It’s a change of lifestyle,” Sievert said. “I really hope they can keep eating healthy and exercising, because that was the main goal of the program.”

Azucena Camparan was one of the women who decided she needed to make a change if she wanted to live a better life. She recalls that before starting the program, she would drink around six soft drinks per day and lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Today, Camparan tries to avoid high sugar beverages, looks over her food portions and attends the YMCA daily.

“I never did any physical activity in my life,” Camparan said. “I would just be sitting in front of the TV eating a snack, but now that I have come to the classes I have learned so much about the importance of eating healthy food and exercising daily.”

Camparan noted that she not only feels better physically, with less headaches and more energy,  but her self-esteem has also improved.

“My husband and my mother have told me how good I look and that motivates me to keep going,” Camparan said.

Another woman positively impacted by the program is Matilde Arellano, who lost 30 pounds. She explained that her diet was high in carbohydrates and proteins before starting the program and low in fruits and vegetables. She noted that, for her, the hardest part of the program was exercising.

“For me, changing my eating habits was not that difficult because I always liked to eat vegetables, but for some reason I didn't include them in my diet,” Arellano said. “When I started exercising, all my muscles were so sore because I had never done anything like that in my life.”

Sievert said that the program is also supported by Nobles County Community Services Public Health, which provides transportation and daycare. The Worthington Area YMCA has also supported the program by facilitating a space and trainer as well as providing low-cost memberships for  participants.

Sievert said sign-ups are open for the next ICPD program, which will be held on April. Anybody interested in joining can call 295-5317.