“We can talk while I ride the exercise bike,” he says into the phone. “I do at least 30 minutes a day.”

It just didn’t make sense to Roger Yockey. How could he be so overweight when the people that he and his wife were meeting on volunteer missions around the world had so very little?

“Marilyn and I have done a lot of volunteer work in Central America, Portugal, the Caribbean, and the United States. We usually work with children who may have been abandoned or have special needs that cannot be met by families because they are very poor,” says Roger.

“I have photographs next to where I eat and next to where I watch TV of a child who has this look on his face like ‘What am I going to eat? Where am I going to sleep? Where am I going to live?’ I tell myself, ‘Roger, why should you be overweight, grossly so, when so many people are starving, especially children?”

Roger’s a little bit out of breath right about now. “We can talk while I ride the exercise bike,” he says into the phone. “I do at least 30 minutes a day.”

Roger Yockey, and his wife, Marilyn, both 78, moved to Yakima from Seattle when they retired. They wanted to be closer to the grandkids. Roger was a journalist and a journalism teacher at Seattle University. He also worked in communications for labor unions and in community organizing. Roger also ran a micro loan program for women, people of color and displaced workers.

As the Yockeys grew older, their waistlines grew larger. Roger went to the doctor. “Thanks to a wonderful physician at Virginia Mason Memorial, Dr. Silvia Labes (a primary care provider at Memorial Cornerstone Medicine) she saw indications that I was pre-diabetic and recommended the program.”

Roger is referring to Memorial’s Diabetes Prevention Program, a year-long series that teaches participants how to incorporate a healthy diet and exercise into their lives. The result is . . . well, as Roger says, “when I first went in I was what they call ‘morbidly obese.’ I weighed in at 295 pounds and I’m 5-feet, 9- inches tall.

“But somewhere along the way through the program I was told not only was I not diabetic, I was not even pre-diabetic. I weigh now about what I did when I was married and in the Marine Corps Reserve, 192. I went from a size 52 waist to a 40.”

For Roger, having his wife as his partner in the program made all the difference. “The two important things for us: It really helps if you have a partner. Marilyn and I tracked what we ate with a focus on calories and fat. That’s our guide. And the group sessions, you’re talking to other people and they’re telling you what their experiences have been. And then you weigh in.

Marilyn, who’s lost about 65 pounds, walks at least 30 minutes a day, rides the bike for 30 and goes to aerobics class twice each week.

The Yockeys, who have shed about 168 pounds between them, are Diabetes Prevention Program graduates now. But they still show up to weigh in, because, like with everything, there are always challenges.  “Eating out is a problem,” says Roger. “Red Robin and Red Lobster are great for working with you on dietary restrictions. The wonderful thing about the Café at Virginia Mason Memorial is they list the calories in the entrees, and I think the food there is just delicious.”

Temptation is everywhere. But the Yockeys are knowledgeable and prepared. “I love coffee and a cookie with it,” says Roger. “So I pick out a cookie that’s pretty low in fat and calories, and I just eat one.

“Last July we went to Guatemala for a week, and we’re already investigating where we’re going this year. Thanks to Marilyn, a cane and God, I make it. I just wish I had done this years ago.”

“Three years — and more than 200 pounds — ago”

Yakima resident Maury Riker has been a lot of things during his years spent in the working world: paramedic, facilities manager, recycling specialist, company owner, billing expert. But in retirement, he’s got an entirely new gig: healthy lifestyle crusader for Virginia Mason Memorial’s Diabetic Prevention Program.

“My wife’s doctor suggested the program to her. We decided, why not? Let’s go to the orientation.

“I was skeptical, but we went anyway. There was a class starting the very next night.”

That was about three years — and more than 200 pounds — ago. That’s when the Riker family—Maury, Patsy and son Michael — joined Virginia Mason Memorial’s year-long Diabetes Prevention Program and began attending classes, tracking the food they ate, weighing in and adding exercise to their lives. Maury also discovered that he was prediabetic.

And this is Maury Riker now — down from 307 pounds to 218: “All I’ve ever done to lose weight is walk. Now I’m up to 1.5 to 2 hours every day walking at the YMCA, seven days a week except on Sundays in the summer when they’re closed. When I started, I was really lucky if I could walk around the block, but three months into the class I was no longer prediabetic.

“I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve gotten into the program from the Y. A lot of guys have gone through it. One of them was a guy sitting on a couch in the locker room. He was saying, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.’ I took his hand and he said, ‘My name is Dave, and I’ve already a heart attack and the doctor says I have to change my life dramatically.’ I told him this program would do that. That’s a big step for me, putting myself out there. But he walked up to me at the Y the first part of October, grabbed my hand and said, ‘Maury, you saved my life.’ “

Maury tells anyone who will listen about the Diabetes Prevention Program. In fact, Lori Gibbons, the program’s coordinator, made up cards to hand out especially for him.

“I go to every orientation,” says Maury. “They show a video of me, and then I walk into the room to show them that this is not some clown from New York City or Hollywood, it’s me right here in Yakima. I tell them that it’s actually fun to go through the program. It’s easy once you get the hang of it.”


Maury’s a big fan of the program, but he’s also human. He, and the program, allow for that.

“Life is not a level playing field, there are ups and downs,” he says. “For me, the tracking was a pain in the behind having to write it all down. But I track on an app now and it’s great; I know how many calories I’ve eaten and what I have left for dinner.”

Is there room for any guilty pleasures in the Rikers’ lives? “I have a couple,” says Maury. “Cheezit crackers and peanut butter, and we’ve discovered frozen yogurt instead of ice cream!”

Patsy says simply, “The program has changed our lives.”





Tips for weight loss

Kim McCorquodale RD at North Star Lodge

If you’re like me, and I think most of the US population, you overdid it during our recent holiday season and have added a few pounds. If you don’t want to be in the same place next January, make some of the changes below a part of your lifestyle. Remember, it’s not perfection but perseverance that wins the race!

•    Make small, permanent changes – they do make a big difference. Choose 1-2 small goals to start, such as writing down everything you eat or planning your dinners. After a month of success with those add in 1-2 more.

•    Weigh weekly.  Weighing more often can be discouraging, but never weighing can make it difficult to gauge the success of your changes.

•    Eat more veggies.  There are many reasons to do this that have nothing to do with weight loss, but veggies will fill you up without filling you out. Add at least 2 servings for dinner and include them in your snacks.

•    Snack wisely. Include a lean protein whenever you eat to increase satisfaction and reduce cravings. But don’t overdo portion size – your protein portion should only be about 1/4th of your plate.

•    Choose whole grain versions. Fiber, like protein, tends to increase a sense of fullness and to reduce those cravings.

•    Check restaurant menus online and plan what you’ll order before leaving home.  This will help you avoid the temptation to “live it up” when you arrive at the restaurant hungry.

•    Plan ahead. This is included in many of the suggestions above, but it can’t be encouraged enough. Start small with planning 7 dinners for the week, then make your grocery list and stick to it. Having the ingredients for a healthy dinner in the house is a huge part of success. Next plan a variety of healthy breakfasts, lunches, and snacks and have what you need for those on hand. This will make a big difference in your journey to wellness and weight loss.

I hope many of you will join me in making 2015 a healthier year!

4 practical ways to avoid packing on holiday pounds

Dec. 20, 2014—Lasting happy memories—that’s what you want the holidays to bring you. Not lasting pounds. But with calorie-rich food almost everywhere you turn during the festive season, is it really possible to be a smart cookie and still smile when you step on the scale?

Absolutely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is encouraging all of us to eat mindfully this holiday season. And no, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the eggnog or other special treats you’ve been looking forward to for weeks.

But to stay festive and fit, some moderation is in order. To help your health stay on track through the holidays, follow these 4 tips from CDC, the American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Strike a balance. Try to find that middle ground between overeating and depriving yourself. Are you headed for an evening party? Then eat small, fairly low-calorie meals throughout the day, starting with breakfast. You won’t arrive hungry, which can help you control what you eat.

At buffets, downsize your plate. Using a salad or dessert plate will help keep portions in check. And be strategic about where you socialize. Move away from the buffet when chatting to avoid repeat trips for food.

When it comes to dessert at holiday gatherings, don’t be afraid to savor some sweets. But use the buddy system and split treats with a friend. A mere taste often satisfies a craving, so you can also sample 1 or 2 small sweets all by yourself.

Go easy on liquid calories. They can add up quickly. At parties, try having a glass of water between each drink. That will help you feel full and your weight stay steady.

As for that eggnog, why not prepare it this way? Fill a glass half- or three-quarters full with low-fat or fat-free milk. Then pour in the eggnog. You’ll still get the flavor, but with far fewer calories. And remember, keeping alcohol out of the mix can reduce the number of calories as well.

Try some makeover magic. Just as you can transform eggnog into a healthier, less calorie-laden drink, you can improve upon other holiday foods through simple substitutions. When baking:

  • Replace butter by substituting equal parts cinnamon-flavored, unsweetened applesauce
  • Add flavor with extracts—such as vanilla, almond or peppermint—rather than sugar
  • Use a reduced-calorie sugar substitute
  • Substitute low-fat or fat-free milk for whole or heavy cream

And when cooking:

  • Choose low-fat or fat-free milk instead of whole milk or heavy cream
  • Bake, broil, steam or boil rather than fry

Don’t take a holiday from exercise. You owe it to yourself—and your waistline—to keep moving, so burn off holiday calories by staying active. After dinner, you might gather your family for a walk and check out all the holiday lights in your neighborhood . If it snows, take the kids sledding.