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Feature Article Fighting Pre-Diabetes Leads to Benefits
for All

By Ian Rollins

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Larry Willett of Sweet Home has two main causes in his life: Keeping his pre-diabetes under control and enhancing the dog park space at Sunnyside County Park on Foster Lake.

The first cause led to the second, as Willett started going to Sunnyside with his dog to get his daily 30 minutes of exercise.

“I play with my dog Calli until she’s tired, and then I walk a mile and a quarter over 30 minutes,” said Willett, 67. “I’d love to see them put up distance signs around the perimeter so you know how far you’ve walked. I’m also trying to get a gazebo built and a water fountain in the dog park, pet waste bag dispensers and a fenced area for smaller dogs.”

Originally from Sacramento, California, Willett worked at a nearby casino. “When you work at a casino, you have unlimited access to great food in the team member dining room, and no restrictions on portions,” he said.

He retired in 2015, and a year and a half later, was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and weighed 277 pounds.

“I know that, for my height of 6 feet 2 inches, I should weigh about 180 pounds,” he said. “Weighing 277 pounds, and the thought of how close that was to 300 pounds, along with my age, was simply a wake-up call.”

His doctor, Tessa Reff, MD, suggested he take the free eight-week pre-diabetes class at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital. She also set him up with one-on-one counseling with Holly Weare, a diabetes educator at the hospital.

“I weighed 264 pounds at the first class, and eight weeks later, I had lost 27 pounds,” Willett said. “People talk about weight loss in terms of cutting down your calories, but this class talks about limiting your grams of fat, which is really helpful.”

Willett also learned important lessons about portion size, and eating enough fruits and vegetables, instead of the “wrong stuff.”

He has taken the lessons to heart. In addition to his weight loss, his blood sugar is down from 112 at his diagnosis to under 100 now.

“I highly recommend this diabetes prevention program as a path to a healthier lifestyle,” Willett said. “I credit Holly with a lot of my success – her guidance and methods are most helpful for getting us to think differently than our previous ways of looking at food. We might think we can do it alone, but it had not worked consistently for me. This coaching proved invaluable in my weight loss and lifestyle changes.”

Exercise is another major component of the class. Having a dog and living near Sunnyside made it an easy decision for Willett to take Calli to the park so they could both get exercise.

He enjoys walking at Sunnyside because the grass and dirt are easier on his back and feet than the sidewalks in his neighborhood. Toward that end, one of his other goals is to have a walking path, laid with bark, around the dog area.

Anyone interested in working with him on his Sunnyside Park project can call him at 530-320-1034.

The next Diabetes Prevention class at the hospital will begin on Wednesday, Feb. 7, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and will continue every Wednesday until March 28. The class is free to attend but registration is required.

For more information about the Diabetes Prevention class, or any other diabetes class at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, call 541-451-6313.