At age 47, Tamara Simmons knew she needed a heart transplant for a congenital defect but when the doctors asked her lose weight to help her heart before surgery, she knew time was running out; her heart was working at 50% capacity. At her first visit, Dr. Jennifer Kirby from UVA told her she also had prediabetes. Tamara was shocked. As a child of eight, Tamara’s parents taught her never to use her heart condition as an excuse and now that she had prediabetes, she was determined not to feel sorry for herself.
Almost as a miracle, soon after being diagnosed, she heard about a National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) being offered by the Highland Medical Center in Monterey County, Virginia about an hour away from where she lives. Caponeia Jackson, her National DPP lifestyle coach, welcomed her with open arms and Tamara joined a group with 4 other people with prediabetes in early October, 2018.
“I learned so much”. For starters, Tamara learned about eating healthy in a way she could sustain. “I use to drink six, 20-ounce Pepsi’s a day. I never thought about it, it was just a habit.” She also started becoming more physically active. Starting with Chair exercises, Tamara has gradually increased her physical activity to 14-17 hours per week. She began losing weight. The more weight she lost, the greater her motivation to eat more healthfully and continue moving her body. “The program really works-the accountability, information and support from the group are so helpful.” The drive was worth it.
Today, Tamara has lost 32 pounds and reduced her waist circumference by 11.5 inches. She eats more vegetables and fruits, lean meats, and other healthy foods and moves her body regularly at the local YMCA. “I don’t feel like I am denying myself at all. I feel so good. I just love learning about food and health.”
Her blood glucose is down putting her out of risk for developing diabetes and her heart is now working at 80% capacity! Tamara wants to spread the word so she just trained at the Virginia Center for Diabetes Prevention and Education to become a diabetes prevention lifestyle coach. The local YMCA is working with her to help her start teaching her first program. “I am so grateful to the entire team that helped me along this journey, I can’t wait to start helping others.”