When Kim Briere-Lewis was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2007 she realized she needed to change her lifestyle. Briere-Lewis’ primary care physician suggested that she attend the Diabetes Management Program through North Shore Medical Center. “At first I was reluctant but I agreed to go and it ended up changing my life.”she explained. Kim began attending classes last April, every Wednesday from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. where she first met dietitian Jean Bianchetto and certified diabetes educator JoAnn Sampson.
The Diabetes Management Program consists of four group classes and one follow up class. At the first group a nurse discussed the medical aspects of diabetes as well as the typical feelings most patients have when they are diagnosed. Each of the classes focused on different aspects of having and living with diabetes through informative lectures, hands-on activities and team work. During each class, a segment was dedicated to stress reduction activities such as stretching or deep breathing.
The first class focused on an overview of diabetes and medication information. The second class introduced Briere-Lewis to the impact of food on blood sugar and proper portion control; participants were asked about what types of foods they usually ate and to keep a food diary. The third class described the complications of diabetes and the importance of exercise and stress management. During this class participants were also encouraged to set personal goals for themselves. The final class informed participants about flexible meal planning and focused on how to manage eating in restaurants.
Six weeks later a follow up class was held where participants went into detail about which goals had been achieved, which had not, and how they had progressed in managing their diabetes.
“They taught me how to use a monitor to test my blood glucose level. That program [the Diabetes Management Program] saved my life because without education you don’t know what you’re doing,” Briere-Lewis said. “Could you imagine testing your blood after everything you ate? At first it was terrible but after I started going to those classes I learned how to read [food] labels and began to understand proper nutrition. I learned to be more selective in my food choices, portion sizes and how to increase my intake of fiber and complex carbohydrates to keep my blood sugar level more even”.
After learning how to improve overall nutrition and regulate blood sugar, Kim lost 40 pounds and went from a size 16 to a size 10 and says she has never felt better. Kim’s father also has diabetes and she has introduced him to the support group to help him with his diabetes management.
“I don’t know why people don’t take a chance and check out the program. Without them I don’t know what would have happened to me” she said. “I know that if I hadn’t taken the program, I wouldn’t have really understood what changed I needed to make in my diet and my life and I wouldn’t have been able to keep my blood sugar under control. It’s scary to be diagnosed with the disease, but once you learn a little bit more about easy steps you can take, you realize it’s very easy to make a huge difference in your health. I strongly urge everyone with diabetes, even if you’re had it for awhile but are unsure how to control it, to take this class. It saved my life,” said Kim.
She currently participates in the Diabetes Management Center’s e-mail newsletter and attends the diabetes support group at NSMC Union Hospital on the third Thursday of each month. Kim can proudly say she has achieved control of her blood sugar and has improved her health.