Submitted to the Herald Review

REED CITY — Dick Witbeck, of Evart, has been down more roads than most of us — he’s visited every Canadian province and every state but Hawaii. It is, after all, tough to drive an RV to Honolulu.

But there’s one road he and his RV are determined not to take — the one that leads to diabetes.

Witbeck retired more than 20 years ago from his property and casualty insurance firm. Four years ago he found out he’s one of 86 million Americans estimated to have prediabetes — that’s one in three adults. But Witbeck is one of the lucky ones — he knows he’s headed for diabetes if he doesn’t maintain a determined effort to head it off. Nine out of 10 people with prediabetes don’t know they have it.

Witbeck isn't a sedentary guy. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school and has been on the move in his RV since 1988, now spending winters in Arizona.

When he was diagnosed, he signed up for the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) offered by Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals, led by diabetes educator Layla Noordhof, RD. Under Noordhof's guidance, he started bike riding in good weather and walking each weeknight in the local elementary school. The results were good, and Witbeck became an advocate of the program.

The free program will be offered at both hospitals in 2018. The series of 16 weekly sessions will begin March 7 in Big Rapids and May 14 in Reed City, led by Noordhof and Laura Rush, RN. The initial series is followed by six additional monthly sessions.

“My biggest challenge was diet,” Witbeck said. “I was amazed by how much weight has to do with diabetes. Being part of a group, all working toward the same goal and supporting each other, was very important."

He said the group learned how to be “label investigators,” finding the culprits lurking in food packages. Other key ingredients of successfully preventing diabetes were logging food intake each day, mandatory exercise, the support of others on the same path and having a good “coach.”

“Layla is a great coach, very knowledgeable. She motivates you to do the work, but in a very pleasant way. DPP has made a big difference for me. I’m a strong believer,” he added. “I recommend the Diabetes Prevention Program to anyone — I know that it works.”

For information and to sign up, the diabetes education department welcomes calls at (231) 832-6636.