When Larry Betsinger was diagnosed with diabetes he was scared. Like many people, Larry gained weight as he aged. Every birthday meant a few extra pounds, climbing cholesterol numbers and an increase in blood pressure.
But it was his dangerously high blood sugar that shocked Larry into reality.
“My doctor looked at me and said, ‘Larry, you’re now officially a diabetic.’”
It took a moment for those words to sink in. Then, Larry asked his doctor one question.
“Can I fix this?”
Yes, you can fix this, his doctor said. If you’re willing to work hard and make changes to commit to a healthier lifestyle, you can fix this.
Larry’s doctor recommended a Mercy Health Coach: a health care professional who would partner with Larry to help him fully understand his condition and how to make lifestyle changes to improve it — and stand by him as those changes took place. The Mercy Health Coach program allows patients to learn about wellness challenges at a natural pace, while Health Coaches explain strategies for dealing with those challenges in the same way. Visits are relaxed and not strictly timed, either by clock or by calendar.
Larry’s Mercy Health Coach admitted that Larry was apprehensive at first. He was worried about the potential complications of his diabetes. At their first meeting, Larry’s health coach spent time explaining how diabetes is controllable.
“I was very fearful,” agreed Larry. “I was upset by the whole thing.”
But by his second visit, Larry really warmed up to the idea of making positive changes to improve his health. Then, his enthusiasm shined through and he just took off!
Larry credits his Health Coach for sparking that enthusiasm. “She made me believe that I could do it, that I could control my blood sugar and control my weight, and she did that by dealing with me logically, by explaining the numbers,” he said. As retired bank executive, Larry understands numbers. “I’m a numbers person,” he said. “Numbers always tell a story.”
Larry’s Health Coach explained the numbers that were affecting his health – blood sugar numbers — and how they were affected by carbohydrates in Larry’s diet.
Larry’s Health coach provided him with information then let him decide what to do to change his life. Larry and his Health Coach chronicled everything he put into his body, and then talked about what he was willing to change.
Larry impressed his health coach by taking the time to create an intricate log of his blood sugar counts using a spreadsheet. After seeing the direct relationship between eating a meal high in carbohydrates and having a high blood sugar level, Larry started modifying his diet.
“Before I started paying attention, probably 90 percent of what I ate was carbohydrates,” he said. “Breads, pastas ... I loved them, and I still do. And I didn’t give them up. I just reduced the portion sizes.”
Larry estimates that he cut his carbohydrate intake by two-thirds while maintaining a regular exercise routine, which included working with a personal trainer, bowling and golfing.
A tall man of 6' 4", Larry began modifying his diet when he weighed about 315 pounds. A little more than a year later, he’d lost 90 of those pounds.
“It got to the point where I actually had to start taking in between 300 and 400 extra calories a day, because I didn’t want to lose any more weight!” Larry exclaimed, now comfortable at about 225 pounds — and with healthy blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
While proud of his success, Larry is quick to share credit with his Mercy Health Coach.
“I probably never would have believed I could do it without my Health Coach,” Larry said. “I was absolutely convinced it was impossible for a 73-year-old man to lose 90 pounds. My Health Coach convinced me that I could, and once I believed that I could, I did. I set goals and I worked toward them. And, my Health Coach gave me so much encouragement along the way ... she’s probably the nicest person I ever met.”
Larry’s Health Coach was thrilled with his results. And, even though Larry is considered a “graduate” of the Mercy Health Coach program, the coach-patient relationship never really ends. He is always welcome to call or stop by for a visit.
“They’re all so pleased any time I visit,” he said. “They clap!”
It’s that kind of encouragement that makes the Mercy Health Coach program work — for both the patients and the coaches.