MaryKathleen Carpenter did not like going to the doctor. A lot. “All of my life I’ve hated going. My back and my knee go out occasionally, and I have a bad hip. But no matter what problem I had – my knee, whatever – the doctor would say it was because of my weight. They wouldn’t even consider anything else.”
MaryKathleen felt dismissed. And judged. But her health problems persisted, and her family convinced her to try again. “They said, if you don’t go to the doctor you won’t ever find out.”
So, reluctantly, she went. And, boy, was it an eye-opener. “All of my doctors said I was overweight, but when I requested my medical records it said, “obese.
“It said ‘obese.’ “
And that was it for MaryKathleen, 5-feet-11-inches tall and 278 pounds. One of her doctors had recommended Virginia Mason Memorial’s Diabetes Prevention Program, and she went.
“Everybody always said, ‘You’re big.’ That’s just how it was,” she says. “I was 5-11 in fourth grade.
“I’ve tried diets all my life. When I started the program I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this the rest of my life. Now I can’t see me not doing it. I promised myself when I started that I wasn’t going to make any changes to my eating habits that I did not want to.”
There’s a bag of broccoli on her desk and a phone in her hand; it’s open to the MyFitnessPal app. “Now I focus on looking at the nutrients I need: potassium, proteins, fiber, calcium and iron. That broccoli, it’s full of potassium and fiber.
“In the program, you need to increase activity by 50 minutes a week, and you’ve got to track fat and calories. I absolutely adore tracking: I did it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day. I gives me the control I need.”
Also on New Year’s Eve, MaryKathleen, age 46, and her husband went out to welcome in 2018. MaryKathleen, 90 pounds lighter, wore her freshman high school homecoming dress, a form-fitting creamy white number with sequins.
MaryKathleen, however, does not adore physical fitness. That part she’s doing her way. “I don’t care how much you yell at me, I don’t care how much you tell me, I’m not joining a gym. What I do is walk during my breaks and at lunch. And I park in the farthest spot away in parking lots.”
As MaryKathleen closes out her year-long journey through Virginia Mason Memorial’s Diabetes Prevention Program she feels empowered and in charge. “The program gave me direction. It’s given me a method. And I’m not the only one. It gives you other people to share with.
“There aren’t a lot of things I take time away from my family to do for myself. This taught me that if I want to do something, I can do it. I now have the knowledge and power to make a knowing decision.”