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Lessons for Life 

Diabetes runs in Dr. Patti Canchola’s family.

“On my father’s side, there’s a very high incidence of diabetes and also a predisposition to weight control problems,” she said. “I always struggled with weight control, even as a child.”

But it wasn’t until she was well into her adulthood that Parkview Medical Center’s Diabetes Care center gave her the tools to manage her diet, weight and keep away from a family inheritance.

Patti has also been very active.

An avid cyclist, Patti decided to take up running in 2010 and was taking on marathons before injuries sidelined her in 2015.

“I took a break and I started gaining all of this weight back and I felt terrible,” she said. “I’m in my early 50s, so I decided it was time to go see a doctor.”

Patti said that when the blood work came back, there had been a significant change in her blood sugar levels.

“My doctor told me I had two options: Either drop the weight or start insulin,” Patti said. “I hadn’t put on that much weight but I left feeling pretty shocked and pretty surprised.”

Then Patti happened upon an advertisement for the Parkview Diabetes Care Center’s Prediabetes Management program and signed up for the yearlong commitment in 2017.Patti

Patti said the program was intensive to start, with weekly meetings and classes talking about how diet and exercise effects weight and blood sugar.

Patti said her background in veterinary medicine helped her grasp a lot of the lessons pretty quickly, but it was the accountability that she found most helpful.

“You’re talking about your lifestyle in the group, your weaknesses and strengths,” she said.

After the first six months in the program, it shifted to monthly meetings and by that time, Patti said, it felt a bit like losing training wheels.

“You learned real quickly what you can get away with and what you can’t and you realize it’s a real lifestyle change,” she said. “I saw this is giving myself 365 days to change my life.”

Patti said she had tried fad diets in the past, put weight on and lost it and continued to eat the kinds of calories she did when she was running marathons, even though she wasn’t running marathons.

“Because I just enjoy food, what I wasn’t doing was realizing that the whole calorie in, calories out really does apply,” she said.

Patti started to weigh her food and count calories and by the sixth or seventh month in the program, realized she could still eat her favorite foods as long as she practiced portion control.

She also reintroduced exercise into her lifestyle. Now she rides her stationary bike five days a week and lifts weights twice weekly.

By the end of the program, she had lost 18 pounds.

“People will look at me now and say she’s thin, but every single day I have to count calories,” she said. “The numbers do play with my head sometimes, but then I remember it’s not just about the numbers but also about how I feel physically.”

Patti said the program also talked about other aspects of healthy lifestyles, including finding support groups outside the core group.

“The focus is being the healthiest you can be,” she said. “We as a group were taught to be active and take care of our spiritual and mental health.”

Patti said she’d encourage anyone who’s concerned about diabetes to take the blood test and consider the program.

“Don’t be afraid to commit yourself for a year,” she said. “I’m just so lucky it came at a time in my life when I needed it and the accountability it brought.” 

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