When losing means winning

Sisters team up to take back control of their health.

Written by Joe Stumpe

The doctor’s words hit Maggie Barth like a brick: Either change her lifestyle or she was nearly certain to develop diabetes.

“It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when,’” Barth said. The idea of depending on pills or shots to control diabetes “kinda scared me,” she added.

Barth’s reaction was to radically change the way she eats, giving up all forms of refined carbohydrates such as bread and pasta, along with potatoes, rice and corn. She calls it a “protein and produce” diet. “It’s not just meat,” she said, but meat, lots of vegetables and some fruit.

And it’s been successful. Not only has Barth gotten her blood sugar level under control, she’s lost 80 pounds and feels full of energy.

“I’m at a lower weight at 35 than I was at 13,” she said.

Barth works out four to five times a week, lifting weights and doing cardiovascular exercises, but she believes changing her diet played a bigger role in her transformation.

Barth said she had lost weight before and gained it back. This time, she was determined to maintain a healthy weight.

“Every day I have to make good choices,” she said. “I put my health first no matter how crazy my life gets.”

Barth is a real estate agent and mother of an 8-year- old son who sometimes shows houses all day without the opportunity to sit down for a real meal. To counter hunger cravings, she packs healthy snacks like turkey jerky, cashews and almonds, rather than pulling into a drive-through for a cheeseburger. If she has to grab something from a convenience store, she knows what the healthy options are.

Barth knows her approach might not work for everyone.

“In our culture, we have this idea that anything is okay in moderation,” she said. “But for me, it’s just easier to say ‘I don’t eat white things.’ It’s not even on the menu.” So what’s a typical day of eating look like? On a recent day, Barth fixed herself a omelet with vegetables and cheese for breakfast. For lunch she had a small salad and some meatballs made with chicken. Between meals she snacked on cashews and string cheese. And for dinner, she ate leftover pork roast.

Barth used one more life-style changing tip that experts say is crucial: support from friends and family.

Her older sister, Danielle Dillon, embarked on the weight-loss journey with her, after receiving a similar warning about diabetes from her doctor.

The disease runs in the sisters’ family. Dillon saw a chance not to just change her life, but to set a good example for her children, who are 8 and 18 years old.

Dillon has lost 90 pounds and feels like a new person, jumping out of bed to work out in the morning.

“In addition to weight loss, I have more energy,” she said. “I don’t get winded going up stairs. I’m a happier person in general.”

Dillon works as an inside sales associate for Select Homes—Mike Grbic, the same company that employs her sister. The pair doubt whether they would have succeeded without one another.

“If we’re not able to get in a workout together, we hold each other accountable,” Dillon said. “She might say ‘make sure you go tonight.’

“It definitely helps. My sister’s my best friend.”

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