When I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it was a real wake-up call. But change didn’t happen right away. I signed up for classes at the VA, including the MOVE! Program, but at first it was difficult to find motivation.

One evening I was watching the documentary film, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and I really saw myself reflected in the movie. At 60 years old, I knew that I had to do something about my health.

With the help of Shari Baird and Jennie Guan, both registered dietitians at the Phoenix VA Medical Center, I came up with a plan. It didn’t seem like much at first; I started by committing to walking to the grocery store near my office at lunch every day and choosing something healthy. Then I started walking in the morning before I left for work and right when I got home – just 15 minutes at a time.

I used the skills I learned in MOVE! like keeping a food diary to track calories, and tracking my exercise. I changed my diet to eat less processed foods and I found if I mixed things up it was a much better way to eat. I got creative with exercise and parked about a mile from work, and I started walking stairwells and incorporating pushups and planks during my breaks at work. I like to add variety to challenge myself like swimming and hiking.

Today I feel stronger than I ever have in my whole life. In a little over a year, I’ve lost 78 pounds, brought my BMI from 38 to 27, and lowered my A1c from 9.5% to 5.4%! I have less stress and more energy, I sleep better, and I am more self-confident. It’s like night and day!

We’re so conditioned to want everything now, but incremental change really works. When I think about the way I used to eat, I tell myself, “You deserve to take care of yourself for all the hard work you’ve been doing.”

Jennie and Shari were highly professional, friendly and gave strong technical support. Both were extremely influential in my progress towards such an amazing personal success story. I can’t thank them enough for all their help!

My success didn’t happen overnight, but finding personal motivation and having the skills and knowledge to make healthier choices had led me to real and lasting change.

About the Author: Mark Kneip is a Veteran and patient in the Phoenix VA Health Care System

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Published on Dec. 15, 2015

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