Bill Burdette is a 58-year-old long-haul truck driver. Several years ago, Bill was diagnosed with prediabetes at his annual work physical. Bill was not totally surprised, given his family history: Three of his four siblings had already been diagnosed with diabetes. And Bill knew that his job as a truck driver put him at higher risk for health problems because he sat for long periods every day, didn’t get much exercise, and often had limited food choices on the road. At 265 pounds, he was considerably overweight at the time of his diagnosis.
But while Bill wasn’t exactly surprised, he did feel frustrated: His life on the road made it very difficult for him to follow a healthy lifestyle. How was he going to exercise when he had a delivery schedule to keep? He also felt afraid, because if he did go on to develop diabetes, he might have to take insulin, and that could affect his job security.
Bill decided to approach his prediabetes as a call to action and a chance to improve his overall health. He turned first to his health-care team, who advised him to set a modest weight-loss goal (just 13—19 pounds, or about 5% to 7% of his current weight), perform 30 minutes of regular physical activity each day, learn more about the fat and calorie content of the foods he was eating, and keep a log of what he was eating, so he could see where changes could be made.
Bill also called up his siblings with diabetes to ask what they were doing to control their condition. He got some great tips, and he also learned how good it felt to talk to people who cared about him and understood what he was going through. His siblings expressed interest in keeping in touch more regularly, so they could all support each other.
Bill also sat down with his wife to come up with a specific plan of action for improving his health. They use a problem-solving approach to answer the following questions:
• What is the problem? Overweight and too-high blood glucose.
• Which of my behaviors are affecting the problem? Poor food choices and lack of physical activity.
• What are the barriers that are preventing me from taking better care of myself? Fast-food meals daily, being inactive.
• What are some possible solutions to the problem? Packing a cooler with healthy foods, limiting fast-food meals to twice a week, walking 10 minutes at least three times each day.
• How will I know my plan is working? I’ll keep records of my food intake and physical activity. After a week of my new plan, I’ll note how many days I’ve eaten fast food and how many days I’ve met my walking goal.
Bill’s wife was supportive of his efforts, helping him stock a cooler with pre-cut vegetables, sandwiches made with lean meat on 100% whole wheat bread, and diet drinks at the beginnings of his runs. But she also let him know how scared she felt about his prediabetes diagnosis and what it could mean for their future together.
Bill began taking brisk, 10-minute walks at truck stops at least three times each day. He started reading menus more carefully, ordering more modest portion sizes than he had been, and eating more fruits and vegetables when possible. He kept logs of his activity and meals and felt motivated by his successes. His blood glucose dropped back into the normal range, and he began to feel better.
Once Bill’s wife saw that he was following through on his action plan, she felt less afraid and was able to be supportive and encouraging when he had setbacks or felt discouraged. His siblings, too, pitched in with encouraging words, and Bill was able to return the favor when they needed it. Together, the extended family helped each other stay on track and cope when the going got rough.
To read more tips on preventing prediabetes, go to http://ndep.nih.gov, click on “Publications,” then search on “Have Prediabetes.” One of the publications you’ll find is Small Steps. Big Rewards. Your GAME PLAN to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes.