Risk of developing type 2 diabetes is at an all-time high. In fact, more than 84 million Americans have pre-diabetes, elevating their risk of developing diabetes.

It is critical that people with pre-diabetes or a high risk of developing diabetes act NOW to lower their risk. While diabetes has no cure, pre-diabetes can be reversed through proper nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle changes.

Changing your lifestyle is easier said than done, which is why the Y offers the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Designed to support participants each step of the way, a trained lifestyle coach introduces topics in a supportive, small-group environment. Participants receive continuous support and encouragement as they explore how healthy eating, physical activity, behavior changes and weight loss can reduce their risk of developing diabetes. 

42 year old mother of three, Sarah Maxey was one of these high risk Americans just nine months ago. Sarah has struggled with her weight her entire life, and making lasting lifestyle changes on her own proved frustrating and delivered unsatisfactory results. When she received an official diagnosis of pre-diabetes, heading into the New Year, she resolved to make lasting lifestyle changes.

Sarah was excited to find the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, which is part of the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program and uses a CDC-approved curriculum. As a member of Valley Health Plan, Sarah’s insurance covered the program fee, allowing her to participate in the program at no cost. In addition, the YMCA of Silicon Valley offers a free membership as part of the program, providing access to the gym, pool, and fitness classes to encourage participants to be physically active.

From the moment she began the Y’s Diabetes Prevention Program, she was fully committed. “I was doing everything they said. One of their recommendations is to watch your fat grams. With my weight, I get 50 fat grams per day. When you make nutrition changes by yourself, you wonder, is it sugar, is it fat, is it carbs? But with this program it’s clear. I started to lose the weight, and then once they opened up the gym membership it started to go off a little bit faster.”

The clear cut guidelines gave Sarah the tools she needed to make smart food choices, while still enjoying the foods she loves. “The instructors provide you with the guidelines. It’s like they know where you are mentally every session. They know when to ask, do you need to restart? Do you need to revamp your food choices? Do you need to go back and look at your notes?” With help from supportive instructors, Sarah was mentally prepared to make healthy choices at every turn. Sarah’s children are very supportive of her healthy lifestyle at home, making her health journey a family effort.

With every pound lost, Sarah’s energy level increased, supporting her motivation to keep up with the program and commit to the gym.

Currently, Sarah works out 6 times a week at Central YMCA, often joined by her daughter. With a starting weight of 271 pounds, Sarah is down to 229 pounds and still going strong.

“I’m finally able to shop in a normal store and that’s really exciting for me. One of my goals was to be able to ride the rides at Great America with my children. I used to hold the bags but now I actually can ride the roller coasters, not just the ones without a seatbelt.”

Sarah’s energy levels are at an all-time high. Just waking up in the morning to take care of her kids used to zap Sarah’s energy supply. Thanks to the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, she has the energy to be the mom she wants to be, and then some.

“I’m going to stick with it.” Sarah says of her new lifestyle, “The gym membership is a key part of it. You can’t eat well and not exercise — it doesn’t work. It’s a full picture.”

The Y’s Diabetes Prevention Program has helped Sarah turn her life around, but she feels confident that she now has the tools to support her daughter, who shares her higher risk of diabetes.

Sarah’s daughter has learned what foods fuel a healthy heart and body through her health journey. The two hit the gym together regularly, having fun with yoga balls, taking family ZUMBA classes, and encouraging each other on family hikes.

Sarah hopes to serve as a source of inspiration for her children, and other people with pre-diabetes. “It’s about health first. The way you feel inside is most important to me. Being able to sleep, not being in pain, having patience with my kids, and knowing that I don’t have to worry about health issues like a heart attack or high blood pressure. You have to focus on that.”

42 pounds lighter and so much healthier than when she started, Sarah isn’t done yet. She is determined to keep up her healthy lifestyle to lose another 80 pounds, and ultimately be healthy enough to summit Mission Peak, a Fremont mountain with an elevation of 2,517 feet, with her family by her side.