Westwood Middle School security officer Tashika Baynes, wasn’t expecting bad news when she walked into her doctor’s office at only 30 years old on Jan. 8, 2019.
Yet, from the second she stepped on the scale, her heart became heavy with emotion.
“I went to the doctor and when I stepped on the scale, I hadn’t weighed myself in a while,” Baynes said. “I was 341 pounds.”
Battling her weight on and off again for years, the wife and mother of three hadn’t recently paid as much attention to her physique as she had in the past, but certainly wasn’t expecting the number she saw.
“I realized that I had gotten bigger, but I didn’t realize I had gotten that big,” Baynes said.
The bad news didn’t stop there.
“They were saying that I was prediabetic and of course I was obese,” Baynes said. “And I basically just starting crying. I was just very, very, very emotional because I didn’t realize I had gotten to 341 pounds.”
The diagnosis deflated her spirit. Her weight wasn’t for a lack of previous personal interventions. Over the years, Baynes tried several different pound shedding methods and had some success.
“I had tried so many times in the past — maybe four or five times,” Baynes said. “I would lose 20 pounds and quit or 30 pounds and quit. I never stuck with it.”
The weight didn’t stay off. Discouraged with the results, she lost interest as many times as she lost it, and the weight came right back.
“This time, I knew that I wanted it to be different. What I did different this time is I prayed. When I left the doctor’s office, I went and bought me a scale because I knew I was going to start off again on my weight loss journey,” Baynes said.
Motivated and determined, Baynes rose from her knees and got to work. Instead of going on a fad diet promising to lose 60 pounds in six weeks, the security officer broke her ultimate goal of weighting 199 pounds into smaller objectives she could achieve at her current fitness level. That didn’t mean it was easy or incredibly convenient, but having a more manageable routine — and some peppy Gospel music flowing through her headphones while working out — increased her chances of sticking to the plan.
“From that point on, I went to the gym every day I and started walking every day, even on Saturdays and Sundays. I started walking 3 miles on the treadmill,” Baynes said. “I’d have to stop and catch my breath and start over, but I made sure that I did 3 miles on the treadmill every day.”
Baynes also made some simple diet changes at the beginning of her weight loss journey.
“I started with SlimFast because that worked for me in the past. I would replace a meal every day with a SlimFast drink. And then I immediately cut off bread, fried foods, fast foods and hamburger meat,” Baynes said. “Basically the same thing I did in the past, but this time I knew I had to stick with it.”
The mother also didn’t go into her new routine with the expectation of reaching her goal within a matter of days, weeks or even months. Chipping away at the weight over time, her effective yet manageable routine helped the weight fall off and stay off. Baynes noted that prayer, perseverance and patience were also important aspects of her journey.
In addition to implementing lifestyle changes, Baynes also surrounded herself with positive, supportive individuals who cheered her on.
Her husband and kids are her biggest supporters.
“They have been by my side," she said.
Even with the best support system, Baynes still faced hardships during her journey. The most trying circumstance arose last summer, when her mother suffered an aneurysm in July.
“She was at the hospital in Roanoke for 49 days and I had to go every day to be with her. That was really, really hard not only because I was depressed and sad and stuff, but I still had to focus on my weight loss journey,” Baynes said.
Determined to keep her mom company through the serious medical emergency, Baynes stayed by her side. However, when her mother would doze off, Baynes took the time to focus on her own medical wellbeing.
“When she would take her nap, they had this little trail across the street beside the hospital,” Baynes said. “I would go over there and walk while she was taking her nap.”
With her goal in sight, Baynes preserved and on Aug. 8, she stepped on the scale again. This time, the number she saw brought a far different reaction — a celebration. That’s the day she officially reached 199 pounds, 19 months after her journey began.
A month later, she’s still keeping up her routine and never plans to relapse back into unhealthy habits.
Dedicated to sharing her attainable goal with others, more than 6,300 Instagram followers have joined Baynes along her journey. But she shares more than just photos — Baynes shares hope.
“I’m encouraging people to lose weight. I’m encouraging women to feel good about themselves. I’m encouraging people to make everyday count,” Baynes said. “That’s really helping me stick with my journey, too, because I’ve got a lot of people counting on me.”
Like Baynes, many prediabetes diagnosis come as a shock. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 88 million American adults — more than one in three — have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, more than 84% don’t know they have it.
Jennifer Dietz, owner of Dietz Nutritional Consulting in Danville, noted that doctors previously referred to the diagnosis as borderline diabetes, but the meaning behind the phrase wasn’t clear to many patients. In 2003, specialists coined the term prediabetes, which established clearer boundaries.
“When you’re trying to determine if somebody has blood sugar issues, you’re going to do a couple of different tests,” Dietz said.
Oftentimes, doctors first opt for a fasting blood sugar test, where the patient doesn’t eat or drink anything for a period of time before having their blood drawn.
“If their blood sugar was between 100 and 124 fasting, that would be a diagnosis of prediabetes,” Dietz said. “If it was, like, 70 to 99, that would be within the non-diabetic or normal range. So that’s one way to diagnose.”
Another option is called a hemoglobin A1C test, which measures blood sugar over an extended 90-day period.
“That is a test that can look back for three months and see how that person’s blood sugars have been averaging. It’s really an amazing test,” Dietz said. “There’s a certain amount of sugar that we all have that’s attached to our red blood cells and those red blood cells live for 90 days and then they die and then new cells are made. So an A1C is not a test you have to fast for.”
If a person’s A1C comes back between 5.7 and 6.4, that’s a diagnosis of prediabetes. A normal A1C slides into home base under 5.7.
Besides the blood tests, there are certain signs and symptoms that could alert individuals that there might be an issue. Low blood sugar is one of the factors to look for.
With prediabetes, Dietz explained that a person is making plenty of insulin, and insulin’s job is to unlock the cells and allow sugar to go into the cells for storage. What happens at the early stages of the disease is that the insulin and sugar can’t efficiently reach the red blood cells, causing insulin resistance.
“Our cells are very resistant to allowing the insulin to do its job, to allow the sugar to come into the cells. So what’s happening in that situation is that, what the body compensates for, it’s saying, ‘Oh, oh, the doors are locked to the cell. It’s not letting the insulin do it’s job. I tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to go back to the pancreas and tell the pancreas to make more insulin – a lot more. A lot more,’” Dietz said. “So now what happens is you have all this excess insulin circulating in your blood.”
There are certain factors, along with a family history of diabetes, that could make an individual’s insulin resistance worse to some degree. Those include becoming overweight or obese, being inactive, being over the age of 45, being stressed, not eating regularly, skipping several meals or maintaining a diet that’s high in sugar or high in fat.
Catching prediabetes early is the key to implementing a lifestyle change with the best possibility of positive results. But for many people, that doesn’t mean a drastic upheaval of their daily routine. Implementing small changes can bring about big results.
“I’ve helped a lot of people go from prediabetes to having a normal blood sugar just through diet and exercise and, you know, good eating behaviors and getting good sleep and weight loss,” Dietz said. “The number one is if you’re overweight, you need to lose weight for sure. You’ll see online, it doesn’t even take a lot of weight loss to turn this around, sometimes.”
The dietician noted that for some people, losing only 5% to 7% of their body weight could help normalize their blood sugar levels. She also encourages taking an honest look at eating habits — whether a person’s actually hungry when they’re consuming food, or whether they’re eating for another reason, such as out of boredom or depression.
Once a person nails down areas in their weekly diet needing improvement, Dietz encourages them to take steps toward a healthier plan.
Alani Adkins, Danville’s family and consumer science SNAP-Ed extension agent, encouraged those with family histories of diabetes or those experiencing blood sugar issues to seek a professional opinion sooner rather than later.
“The reason why you would want to know if you fall into that category is so you can try to take preventative steps to make sure you don’t get diabetes,” Adkins said. “If it goes untreated or you’re unaware, likely you’re more at-risk for diabetes.”
Adkins noted that there are resources available in the Danville area for people who have prediabetes, as well as full-fledged diabetes.
“First and foremost, just talking to their primary health provider — that’s probably the best way to start going about it,” Adkins said.
The agent further noted that local centers specializing in cancer research often see patients experiencing issues related to diabetes. There are also online resources available through the Family and Nutrition Program featured at www.eatsmartmovemoreva.org, where individuals may find healthy recipes, physical activity videos, tips for grocery shopping on a budget and more.
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