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Olympia program helps potential diabetics lose weight and improve health

At the beginning of the year, David Curtz weighed 378 pounds and struggled to do basic physical tasks.

The Olympia man decided to take back his life when a doctor asked if he was a diabetic, and Curtz answered “not yet.”

As of mid-December, he has lost 79 pounds, including 59 pounds since August. Curtz, 70, can now walk for an hour without getting tired — and it’s much easier to tie his shoes.

“Every day right now, I just celebrate how nice it is to move and how nice it is to be able to tie my shoes without having to reach over this huge belly of mine that’s not quite there anymore,” he said.

Curtz credits much of his success to a program at the Providence Boldt Diabetes Center in Olympia. The program taught Curtz how to count calories, monitor his food intake, and hold himself accountable.

More importantly, he said, the program has lowered his risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. The disease causes high blood sugar because the body fails to properly respond to insulin, and this form of diabetes is often caused by obesity and lack of exercise.

“My goal is to just keep following this program and see where it takes me,” said Curtz, praising the Providence program’s simplicity. “This has been a miracle for me. It gives me hope that I can get healthy and live my life more fully.”

The Providence Boldt Diabetes Center is accepting applications for a 16-week program aimed at preventing Type 2 diabetes in adults who are most at risk. The next program begins Jan. 12 and includes 16 weeks of classes, plus monthly follow-ups for the rest of the year. All participants are screened to see if they qualify.

“We’re looking for people who are ready to make changes,” said Linda Gooding, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator with Providence.

The program focuses on improving nutrition and adding exercise. Participants are asked to keep a “food record” by writing down everything they eat.

The program teaches coping skills, such as handling stress without resorting to food, or navigating situations such as the holidays and eating at restaurants, Gooding said. The program also shows participants how to read food labels and further cut back on fats and calories.

“People know they need to eat less and exercise more, but they can have a hard time doing that,” she said. “We offer support and tools.”

BY THE NUMBERS

The number of U.S. adults with diabetes has increased from about 5.5 million people in 1980 to nearly 21 million people in 2011, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control.

In Washington, more than 460,000 adults have been diagnosed with diabetes — that’s a rate of 8.2 cases per 100 people, the CDC reports. That ranks Washington 35th out of all states; Mississippi tops all states with 11.7 diagnoses per 100 people, according to the CDC.

The CDC reports that the diabetes rate in Thurston County is about 9.8 diagnoses per 100 adults. In comparison, King County’s rate is 6.8 per 100, Pierce County’s rate is 9.6 per 100, Mason County’s rate is 10.1 per 100, and Grays Harbor County’s rate is 12.8 per 100, according to the CDC.

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