South End resident Susan Collings, 58, was always active throughout high school and college. An avid athlete, she never thought about what she ate or worried about her weight. She often rebelled against the media’s depiction of what a woman’s body should look like and was proud of her athletic build.
But after the birth of her child and shifting into busy, yet sedentary position with her career, Collings began to see the number on the scale rise. About five years ago, when her weight shifted into a health issue, Collings took her diagnosis of type 2 diabetes very seriously and joined a gym in the Newburyport area where she lived at the time.
Two years ago, when she moved to Boston, she signed up for a YMCA of Greater Boston membership and used her competitive drive to motivate her to reverse her diagnosis. “I worked hard and made it a priority to get to the gym,” Collings said. “I enrolled in some of the Y’s incentive health challenges, and I lost some weight. Then I plateaued and was having trouble on my own reaching the fitness level that I wanted.”
Collings then heard about a new pilot program from the Joslin Diabetes Center being launched at the Wang YMCA. She quickly enrolled in the Y Weight Management Program, an intensive, 13-week course that meets each week for two hours where participants learn about proper diet and creative ways to bring physical activity into their daily routines.
On Thursday, Dec. 13, Collings graduated from the Y Weight Management Program with six other participants. Since her diagnosis, Collings has lost 70 pounds altogether, 25 pounds since she enrolled in the Y class in September, and decreased her A1C levels from 6.6 to 6.1 during that time. She attends group fitness classes at the YMCA nearly every day and uses the tools she’s learned about nutrition through the Y Weight Management program to help her make healthy eating choices.
“Joslin’s programs are deeply researched and science based so I knew that it would help me succeed,” said Collings. “The nutrition piece is taken much more seriously, and they treat it like a class and require attendance. In order to control your diabetes, you have to have a strong education about the way your body metabolizes food and the way everything works. I’ve felt extremely supported throughout the whole process.”
Through the Y Weight Management Program, participants discuss openly their weekly successes and failures and assess the emotional aspects of eating. YMCA instructors help participants create strategies to reduce stress eating and how to handle holidays when unhealthy food options are prevalent and tempting. During the second hour of the program, YMCA trainers lead the group through cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, and stretching techniques. Weekly weigh-ins also provides added motivation and encouragement for the group to stay on track.
“I felt guilty and demoralized after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but you get to a certain point where you have to stop feeling embarrassed about it and decide that you want to live a healthier life and take control,” Collings said. “I found the help I needed through this program, and with each pound I lost, I knew I was gaining control. I don’t want to let anything else control me or my choices. I know I can do it now. I feel a tremendous sense of community at the Wang YMCA and know I will stay focused to continue losing and redefining my body mage until I reach my goal. Then I am confident I will be able to maintain my fitness level.”