If you don’t believe those words, if you think they’re hyperbole or overly optimistic, then you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Sharon Mason.
At 75, Sharon walked herself back from the brink of diabetes. She altered her entire lifestyle, including not just her diet and exercise habits, but also her state of mind. She’s happier today than she was 40 years ago. And healthier too.
After a lifetime of yo-yoing on the scale and fluctuating immobility, Sharon joined the Hoag Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center’s Health Lifestyle Program. There, she didn’t so much learn something new as unlearn something that had been with her for her whole life.
“My first choice was to lose the word ‘guilt’ out of my vocabulary,” says Sharon, who credits the Healthy Lifestyles Program with her new outlook. “I would feel guilty about breaking a diet, so I’d just keep eating. I decided that guilt was not going to be there. I made a life change.”
Instead of putting all the emphasis on what the scale says, the Health Lifestyle Program helps pre-diabetic patients take control of their overall health, addressing the issues that have led to poor habits and risky health choices.
Through a combination of education, accountability, technology and support, the Healthy Lifestyles Program has helped Sharon to lose weight, avoid diabetes and enjoy life more.
“I’m glad that I cared enough to make a choice, and that the people in this program cared for me back,” Sharon says. “They cared for me and made me care for me.”
A team-based program, Hoag’s program offers ongoing support from a health coach, registered dietitian, and clinical social worker. Education sessions focus on maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle, nutrition and fitness recommendations. And monthly group meetings create a supportive “team” feeling among the participants.
If Sharon has a single regret about the program it’s that it didn’t exist 40 years ago. Sharon says she, her husband of 56 years and her daughters “have been blessed to travel around the world,” but Sharon’s weight literally slowed them down during each trip.
In Prague, she was too out of shape to climb a set of stairs of a tower that would have afforded her an incredible view. Out of deference to her, the rest of her family stayed behind too. From Korea to Europe to Boston, Sharon remembers key moments when her weight and lack of energy caused her to miss parts of tours.
“I remember not being able to go on, and my family wouldn’t go either. I would tell them to go on, but they didn’t want to go without me,” she says. “They missed a lot of things, too. There are so many horrible feelings and emotions that I could have avoided through the years if I had just taken care of myself.”
But, Sharon is quick to mention, those horrible feelings are in the past. With the help of the coaches at the Healthy Lifestyle Program, Sharon is focused on improving her strength and her mindset every day.
“I made a choice to feel good inside, that’s what they helped me do,” she says.
On a recent trip to Mount Rushmore, Sharon had no trouble traversing the 422 stairs of the Presidential Trail. She is making healthier food choices even in difficult circumstances, such as during the holidays, and she has taken up line dancing.
“I think I was the oldest person in the program, and the thing I want to tell everyone is to do it now,” Sharon says. “It’s never too late to make a life change. I did, and I hope telling my story can help someone else do it, too.”