MURRELLS INLET (WBTW) – Lorraine and Larry Schertel, of Murrells Inlet, have always been competitive siblings.
So when Lorraine, who has struggled with weight her whole life, decided to improve her health, Larry wasn’t far behind. Unlike Lorraine, he didn’t face problems with weight until he retired, but he found himself getting winded just walking from his recliner to the bathroom. He knew he had to do something.
Suddenly, more was on the line for this brother and sister than a simple sibling rivalry. And in a competition for better health, both came out winners.
The pair lost a combined 225 pounds through the year-long Tidelands Health diabetes prevention program, a community-based effort that teaches healthy eating habits and the importance of regular exercise to improve health and reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Classes are held throughout the region.
“I’m feeling healthier,” Lorraine said. “It changed my life. No – make that saved my life.”
For most of her life, Lorraine struggled with her weight. She repeatedly heard the warnings about diabetes but quickly dismissed them.
“Diabetes wasn’t something that would ever touch me,” she recalls thinking. “I didn’t take it seriously at all.” That changed a little more than a year ago when – lured by a free lunch – Lorraine attended a Tidelands Health seminar about diabetes in her community clubhouse.
As experts talked about the life-threatening problems the disease can cause – from kidney issues to heart failure – Lorraine finally started paying attention. “The bells started going off in my head,” she said. “That really scared me and pushed me into reality. I was going to have to make a lifestyle change to enjoy this retirement I worked so hard for.”
It’s a day that changed her life. Before leaving the lunch seminar that day, Lorraine signed up for Tidelands Health’s free, year-long diabetes prevention program in her Murrells Inlet neighborhood,
Seasons at Prince Creek. Step by step, the program guided her to a healthier life by teaching her better eating habits and inspiring her to begin a regular exercise routine for the first time in her life.
“I used to never exercise – ever. Now, I feel bad if I don’t go to the gym,” said Lorraine, who will walk to her neighborhood fitness center then log an hour on a bike and lift weights. “Once I started to lose weight, it really encouraged me.”
The result? Lorraine is down 104 pounds. She has improved her cholesterol levels and greatly reduced her risk of diabetes. Oh, and she feels better and has a new zeal for life.
Now, the exercise routine and healthy meal choices come naturally. “I don’t even think about it because that is just the way I live now,” she said.
Unlike his sister, Larry didn’t battle weight issues – and the associated health risks – until he retired. In a blink, his weight had shot up to 305 pounds.
“My exercise was getting from the easy chair to the refrigerator,” he said. “I couldn’t walk to the bathroom without starting to breathe heavy.” He knew he had to do something. The Tidelands Health diabetes prevention program came at just the right time.
Lorraine decided to bring her brother to a meeting. He had tried fad diets to help him lose weight – many of those you see advertised on TV. They worked – briefly. But the weight always came back quickly and with a vengeance.
“I knew how to lose weight,” Larry said, “but I didn’t know how to live. This taught me how to live.”
But it took time, patience and determination – he had to build up stamina. But with every small step, he took a big step toward better health.
“When I started, I couldn’t walk 10 minutes,” Larry said. “But then I got up to 10 minutes, then 10 turned into 15 minutes, then 30 minutes then I was up to 120 minutes a day. “For 62 years old, I feel fantastic.”
Not that it was easy. The pair, like all participants, meticulously detailed every morsel of food they consumed so they knew how and where to improve their eating habits. They embraced an active lifestyle through routine workouts. The camaraderie the program creates helped push and inspire them to keep at it.
Beyond helping participants lose weight, it also has a dramatic effect on overall health. In addition to lowering diabetes risk, many participants see their cholesterol levels return to normal. They may be able to stop their blood pressure medicine, and some may no longer need a machine to help with sleep apnea.
“We can fix it with diet and exercise instead of drugs and doctor visits,” said Dr. Phil Nicol of Tidelands Health Diabetes Center.
Larry and Lorraine also credit their group’s mentor, Mary Gianforte with Tidelands Health, for contributing to their success through her encouragement.
Larry and Lorraine were among participants in the Seasons diabetes prevention program who gave their testimony during a recent celebration of the program’s completion. The 16-member group lost a combined 536 pounds, or 9.8 percent of their overall body weight. With 121 pounds lost, Larry was deemed the biggest loser.
As is tradition, each participant received a certificate for his or her successful completion of the program. But by no means is the journey over. Participants will continue to embrace the healthy habits they’ve developed over the past year – most feel so good now they vow not to fall back into unhealthy choices.
“This is not an end at all,” said Carla Wham, a community health manager with Tidelands Health. “It’s a lifestyle change.”
Want to participate? For more information on upcoming Tidelands Health diabetes prevention program classes, call 843-520-8288.