Patient beats diabetes with nutrition and exercise

Three years ago, Leonor Orellana was on the verge of having type 2 diabetes. Today, the 57-year-old is nearly 70 pounds lighter and out of the diabetes danger zone, thanks solely to lifestyle changes – and a little help from Venice Family Clinic, of course.

Orellana weighed nearly 200 pounds when her doctor told her she was pre-diabetic. The news scared her: her father and uncles had all died because of complications from the chronic disease. She wanted to make big changes to her life right away, but she didn’t know how or where to start. So her physician referred her to Venice Family Clinic’s Health Education department.

There she met Vanessa Fernandez, who leads nutrition workshops and fitness classes.

“Leonor was nervous at first because she wanted to make these changes all at once, but I helped her become more comfortable with the idea of making lifestyle changes little by little,” said Fernandez, who is a health educator with the Clinic.

For example, Orellana at first stopped eating white rice and potatoes altogether, but Fernandez explained how Orellana could eat them in moderation and still be healthy.

“Quitting something cold turkey is difficult for most people. Incorporating changes into your life a little at a time until it almost becomes second nature is much more effective,” Fernandez said.

Orellana had been taking exercise classes at the Clinic for a couple of years before her provider urged her to lose weight.

“I didn’t come just for fun anymore. I felt like I had to be there for my health,” she said of the classes.

But she didn’t stop at three-times-a-week exercises classes at the Clinic, Orellana got active on her own. She swam another three times a week, took walks, and danced her way through Zumba classes.

She also changed her eating habits. She stopped adding sugar and creamer to her coffee, and she stopped drinking sweet beverages such as sodas and juices. Through nutrition classes at the Clinic, Orellana learned to vary the fruits she eats, avoiding those with a higher glycemic index, including bananas and melons, while eating more berries and citrus, which have a lower glycemic index.

Now Orellana is happy, fit, and no longer pre-diabetic. She plans to continue living this healthier lifestyle, so she can stay in shape.

“I have no idea what I would have done if the people at the Clinic hadn’t taught me how to be healthier,” Orellana said. “I want to make sure I maintain my healthy weight. Maybe I will get more health education, too.”