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.”