As far back as she can recall, Aley Arredondo, a registered nurse and patient
safety specialist at Torrance Memorial, had been “heavy.”
But because she exercised regularly, she always told her herself she was
“I gained and lost 40 pounds here and there, but I always gained
it back—plus 20 more,” she says.
Recently though, after experiencing a difficult year with her son, she
visited the doctor and was “shocked” by what the scale revealed.
She had gained more than her highest weight during pregnancy. “I
didn’t realize it, but I wasn’t doing exercise anymore. I
kind of stopped doing everything,” she says.
When her doctor prescribed blood pressure medicine, she realized something
needed to change. “We took the clothes off of the elliptical, and
I started hiking,” she says. Through the exercise alone, she easily
lost 20 pounds. But with no change in her eating habits her efforts plateaued,
and a familiar feeling of frustration returned.
Last fall while at work she spotted a computer screensaver promoting a
new Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) for employees identified as prediabetic.
Torrance Memorial developed the program as an offshoot to the Diabetes
Self-Management Training Program. Its launch followed feedback about the
need for a course angled on prevention for those who hadn’t yet
developed the full-blown disease.
“I met many of the qualifications as a prediabetic. But I wasn’t
sure if my A1c [a blood glucose level test used to diagnose diabetes]
was high enough,” she says. “I have never been prediabetic
before, but I took the test and shockingly I qualified.”
The results were a wake-up call because of Arredondo’s family history
with type 2 diabetes, including her husband, his parents and her grandmother.
Her husband’s parents were currently on dialysis and had problems
with vision and leg wounds—all symptoms of advanced diabetes. “Diabetes
is so limiting and life-changing. It scared me,” she says.
She was grateful for the program’s timing and signed up immediately.
“My kids are older. It was time to put myself first,” she
says. To her surprise, much of the curriculum resembled advice she had
given to patients through the years but had neglected to follow herself.
The program breaks down larger goals into small, manageable steps through
weekly, individualized action plans. The biggest “aha” moment
for Arredondo was learning about portion control. “I learned that
I can still have everything they have, but just a little of everything,” she says.
She continues, “I used to eat six tacos; now I have two. And soda—I
gave up soda with the exception of an occasional diet soda. One thing
I couldn’t give up was my coffee. I wasn’t going to force
myself on that because I really enjoy it. But I did change my creamer
to sugar-free. It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle change.”
Arredondo has also learned not to let small setbacks derail her progress.
Instead educators stress that there is “always the next meal. Forgive
yourself. And it’s OK to make a mistake. Move on,” she says.
“We are emotional eaters.” Because weight can fluctuate throughout
the week for various reasons, instead of obsessing over the scale she
now only weighs in twice per week instead of daily.
For Arredondo, another important component of the program is the support
and feedback she receives from other members. “We see each other
[regularly] and say, ‘How are you doing?’—give each
While her progress has been slow (often just a pound or two per week),
it’s also been steady. Eight months in, Arredondo is 43 pounds lighter,
just shy of her goal weight. Her A1c is just one point away from normal.
She has also increased her exercise from 120 minutes per week to more than 400.
While nervous about gaining the weight back, she says something within
her has definitely changed. “It’s nice to hear people say,
‘You look so different,’ but it’s what is going on inside
that matters the most.”
Previously after she lost or gained, she hid her “big” clothes
or “small” clothes in the back of the closet “just in
case.” “I told my husband I’m not doing it this time.
I’m not going to allow myself to go back. I called a friend and
offered them to her.”
Another big step in her journey was agreeing to participate in this article.
“Sometimes you don’t want to share you’re on this journey
because, ‘What if I fail?’ So this is another step in my accountability
to put myself out there,” she says. “I want people to know
that this program really works.”
Photos by Philicia Endelman