In 2015, over 30 million Americans were reported having diabetes, which amounts to over 9 percent of the U.S. population. For Jill Megna, fitness coordinator at The Becoming Center, and a certified CDC Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle coach, these statistics are more than just numbers. They are the lives of individuals she works with and the healthy lifestyles she hopes to inspire and shape.
While these shocking, often concerning, numbers certainly affect the work Jill does, what motivates her most about helping individuals with this disease, is seeing the way her Diabetes Prevention and Management program motivates them to live a happier, healthier life.
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Jill’s Tips for Diabetes Prevention and Management
- Manage your weight: Being overweight increases your risk for type 2 diabetes. Jill says her program never uses the word “diet,” and instead, encourages individuals to make healthy choices and small lifestyle changes that often produce longer-lasting results. Losing just five to ten pounds can help manage type 2 diabetes and reduce your risk for diagnosis.
- Quit smoking: Smoking can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and potentially heart attack and stroke.
- Make physical activity and fitness a part of your regular routine: Jill says her diabetes prevention and management program advises members to participate in 150 minutes (spread out in increments) of physical activity each week. She also says that it is important to start out with small changes and to make your fitness goals attainable.
- Manage your blood sugar and blood pressure: Diabetes causes blood sugar levels to rise higher than normal, which makes maintaining your blood sugar extremely important. Additionally, 2 of 3 people with diabetes report having high blood pressure.
Motivating Members and Shaping Healthy Lifestyles at The Becoming Center
I never truly realized how big of an impact diabetes could have on an individual’s quality of life. It’s amazing to see how even small changes can truly make a difference. You don’t have to move mountains to see improvements.Jill Megna, fitness coordinator at The Becoming Center
Jill has been helping members at The Becoming Center reach their health and fitness goals for over four years. First beginning her career as an exercise physiologist and moving into her current role as Fitness Coordinator, Jill’s 16-week Diabetes Prevention and Management Course first began as research for her thesis when she was completing her Masters from West Chester University.
“We held an information session explaining the program to volunteers who were interested,” Jill says, describing the 12 women who were keen on getting involved. “I used research from the first six months to write my thesis, but all of the participants were so passionate about the classes and impressed with their results that everyone who signed up, wanted to stick with the program.”
As members participate in the diabetes prevention and management course, Jill helps them reach their goals one small step at a time. “It’s important for members to make small changes first.”
In this program, I’m really trying to shape healthier lifestyles and teach members how to make healthy choices. I never say you can’t eat X, Y, or Z. And I never use the word diet.
Small Changes, BIG Results: A Member’s Success with Diabetes Prevention
For Shirley Bastian, a pre-diabetic member who understands the importance of maintaining her health, it is the small changes she’s made since taking Jill’s course that have made a big difference in her everyday life.
As a member of The Becoming Center for over four years now, Shirley has been pleasantly surprised with her consistency. “Exercising is not my favorite thing,” Shirley admits. “I’ve tried other gyms in the past, and I was not happy with them at all,” she says describing how other fitness facilities and their competitive atmosphere intimidated her.
At The Becoming Center, the people are so encouraging of one another. Everyone feels comfortable to go at their own pace.Shirley Bastian, member at The Becoming Center
As a retired Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist (LDN) living with prediabetes, Shirley knows it’s extremely important to stay on top of her condition. “I heard Jill talking about her diabetes prevention and management program and I decided I would give it a try.”
As Jill’s program taught Shirley and the other women in her class how to live healthy lifestyles and keep their risk factors for diabetes under control, the group not only began to make healthier choices, but they were given a space where they could share their experiences and help each other along the way.
“The sharing aspect of the class was really nice,” says Shirley. “We could give each other tips like recipes and restaurants that had healthy options for diabetics.” Bringing her new knowledge home with her, Shirley began to notice the class’s influence on her everyday life.
The class has helped me make healthier choices. I find myself picking healthy selections while shopping and I don’t have any junk food at home.
“I’ve always had a sweet tooth,” Shirley admittedly laughs, “especially for baked goods, but now I say to myself, ‘okay let’s try having fruit this time instead.’” In addition to making healthy choices, the diabetes prevention and management class has helped Shirley maintain a healthy weight.
My weight has stayed the same, which is good for me. I just went to my doctor for my yearly physical and she said my health is excellent.
As Jill helps individuals make small changes that lead to healthier lifestyles, she becomes most inspired when seeing members realize their full potential. “It’s amazing to see how small changes can really make people feel better. When they see their improvements it becomes this continuing positive cycle of motivation.”