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YMCA group continues battle against diabetes

By Mary Rickard

Special to The Advocate

Photo provided by the YMCA of Greater New Orleans - Dr. Sandra Green provides a health screening as part of the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program at the Westbank YMCA at Federal City in Algiers. Classes and exercise programs are available to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes at YMCA centers throughout the greater New Orleans region.

A half dozen people have met weekly for more than a year at the Belle Chasse YMCA to share tips, setbacks and successes they have experienced while making substantial lifestyle changes. They were all diagnosed as pre-diabetic and enrolled in a program to change behavior patterns and reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The YMCA has launched Small Steps, Big Rewards, a diabetes prevention program in 41 states with more than 21,558 participants. In Louisiana, 10 percent of adults are diabetic.

The goal of the class was for each member to reduce their body weight by 7 percent and increase their physical activity to 150 minutes per week. Being overweight is the top risk factor for diabetes.

Looking back now, members of this group realize they probably understood little about what foods were healthy, how large a portion should be or how high-carbohydrate, high-fat diets were undermining their overall health.

“This program has taught me how to eat,” said Victor Scorsone, who used to consume fast food and hamburgers on a regular basis. He has switched to turkey and chicken and cut out fried foods, shedding 30 pounds in the first three months. He has been less successful exercising, he admitted.

Debra Chauncy would drink three tall glasses of chocolate milk daily but has switched to a lighter, organic-brand chocolate milk with 16 grams of fat to satisfy her sweet tooth.

The group came together every Tuesday evening for 16 weeks before meeting monthly. Taught by Diabetes Prevention Program Regional Director Kayne Daigle, the classes cover topics such as managing stress, choosing healthy meals when eating out, staying motivated and becoming a “fat detective” by reading the ingredients on packaged food labels.

Wayne Wallace pays attention to grams and calories with a phone app, My Fitness Pal.

“I let the technology do it,” he said.

A physician attended one meeting and explained the benefits of eating dark green, leafy vegetables.

“When I eat right, I feel right the next day,” said Art Terral. “When I don’t, it’s almost like a hangover.

The participants also have learned how to count calories.

“It would take 3½ hours of running to work off that sandwich,” Scorsone pointed out.

Knowing the calorie count makes it simpler to turn away food he doesn’t really need.

The group has functioned like a support group, sharing openly about the challenges of lifestyle change and holding one another accountable through peer pressure.

United Healthcare covers the cost for its members, as do some employers that sponsor on-site programs. The YMCA offers sliding-scale financial assistance and payment plans to make the program affordable to individuals paying out of pocket.

Members of the community, 18 and older, who want to participate in the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program are encouraged to contact Kayne Daigle, program coordinator, at or call (504) 224-5813.

To learn about the risks for Type 2 Diabetes or pre-diabetes diagnosis, visit

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