The Health Promotion Council recently announced the launch of Makeachoice.org, a new online resource to help in the fight against diabetes and obesity.
Part of a collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Makeachoice.org is a statewide initiative connecting Pennsylvanians to personal success stories, diabetes education programs, and a free online resource (www.makeachoice.org) to help encourage and inspire Pennsylvanians to prioritize their health and make a choice to live a healthier lifestyle.
Linda D’Ambrosia, of Harrisburg, was recently named a healthy champion for the Make A Choice initiative. Read on to learn how high blood pressure and a frightening fainting spell finally prompted D’Ambrosia to begin improving her health, energy, and longevity.
Q: What were your health status and lifestyle like before you took steps to change them?
Linda D’Ambrosia: I was carrying a lot of extra weight, so I developed high blood pressure. I couldn’t walk very far without losing my breath, my joints hurt, and I was tired all of the time.
I knew if I didn’t make a change that a diabetes diagnosis was right around the corner.
Q: How was Type 2 diabetes affecting both you and your family?
LD: I have family members with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. I saw firsthand how debilitating and cruel the disease can be. Seeing someone whose sugar is too low and not being able to wake them up is a frightening experience.
Also, seeing them struggle with day-to-day issues that come with diabetes, like thinking clearly or keeping medications organized and on track, was eye-opening to me.
Q: What finally led you to decide to work on your health?
LD: One day while I was at work, I experienced a fainting spell that turned out to be a common symptom of high blood pressure. My physician put me on medication for high blood pressure, and I didn’t like how it made me feel.
After about six months, I decided to make a change and finally take care of myself. That day, I made a choice to put myself first and take care of my body—and when you take care of your body, you are also taking care of your mind.
I was tired of being tired and taking medication. I didn’t like myself and hated shopping for clothing.
Q: What immediate steps did you take to improve your health?
LD: I began educating myself about how I could change my eating habits. I started planning menus that included healthier choices. I joined an organization to help me with my weight loss and learned healthier eating habits.
It’s interesting because I was very strict about what I served my family; they had to eat vegetables and fruits at every meal. (Once again, I always put myself last.)
On Sunday nights, I loaded my lunchbox up with foods that I knew were safe to snack on without feeling guilty. I shopped and prepared meals and snacks in advance so there was no excuse to choose other options.
Once I had the support of the weight-loss organization and my family, the weight started coming off. I was then able to go off the medication and started adding exercise into my life. I began with slow, short walks and then became a member of a gym so the weather couldn’t be an excuse to not exercise.
Soon, I was able to add more mileage to my walks, I walked faster, and I felt so much better. The fatigue disappeared too.
Q: How has your fitness routine evolved over time?
LD: With working full time, I realized that if I went home before my walks or going to the gym, I would not do anything. I would vacuum, clean, watch TV, and tell myself that I would do it tomorrow. That did not work.
I now have an extra pair of sneakers and socks under my desk and walk at lunchtime. I also walk after work before I go home, so there is no excuse. It’s done and I feel great when I know that I put in time for me!
I looked more closely at my health insurance and discovered that I could attend more than one gym. I have (jogged) a few half marathons. I walk the dogs, and I take my granddaughter for walks and enjoy spending time running after her!
I also have a gym bag packed with an extra pair of sneakers and workout gear so wherever I am, I have a choice.
Q: What achievements or changes are you most proud of?
LD: I’m really happy that I am a role model for my daughters and granddaughter. If they don’t make a choice to take care of themselves, they could one day develop diabetes and other health issues. They all eat very healthy, exercise, and run races with me, which is a great way to spend time with my family.
Keeping my weight down and staying as healthy as I can is the best feeling. I want to see my grandchildren grow up and keep doing the things that I couldn’t do 15 years ago.
I also found that I can eat things that I want to and I don’t deprive myself of anything. Finding a balance is key to keeping the weight off, staying off high blood pressure meds, and preventing diabetes.
Q: How did you become involved with the Make A Choice initiative and what do you like about it?
LD: I volunteered for a weight-loss program and met others who were struggling to lose weight. I was contacted by one of the group members who remembered who I was and remembered my journey.
I am excited to be a part of the Make A Choice initiative as it is intended to inspire and help all Pennsylvanians to get on track to live a healthier lifestyle. By doing so, they can prevent the onset of diabetes and other serious health conditions.
Q: What advice do you offer someone who is facing a diabetes diagnosis and feeling overwhelmed?
LD: You can make a change to be fit and live the life that you want and deserve no matter what your age. There are support groups as well as specific diabetes-prevention and diabetes self-management programs that will give you the support and guidance you need to get started. A list of these programs can be found at www.makeachoice.org.
Put yourself first, and the feeling of being overwhelmed will lessen as you see and feel the changes in your body. You will have more energy, have more choices in your life, and become a stronger person inside and out.
Get your family and neighbors on board too. Now, my neighbors and I walk together at least twice a week. I get to spend time with them and we motivate each other. It’s a great feeling.
To learn more about diabetes prevention and management programs in the Capital Region, visit www.makeachoice.org. To see more about Linda D’Ambrosia’s journey to health and wellness, go to www.makeachoice.org/healthy-champions.