Bendigo Community Health Services is celebrating 10 years of the diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention program Life!

Staff at Bendigo Community Health Services have delivered more than 40 Life! group courses since 2012.

The Life! program is co-ordinated by Diabetes Victoria and supported by the State Government.

Our community health nurses use the Life! Program to support people in making positive and healthy lifestyle changes through a series of group course sessions and one-on-one support.

Life! uses the AUSDRISK tool to identify the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Do you know your diabetes risk? To take the Ausdrisk click here

Our experience is that people who use the Life! program see positive physical and mental health outcomes with increased motivation and a better understanding of healthy living.

Lloyd Watson-Jones turned to the Life! program after a routine check up found his glucose level was unusually high.

“I was borderline diabetic,” Lloyd remembers.

“My doctor said losing weight was essential but also the Life! diabetes and cardiovascular disease program at Bendigo Community Health Services would be very helpful.

“The only way to improve my health was to take action, so I joined the five-week Life! group sessions with positive results.

“The course is about making healthier lifestyle choices regarding food, nutrition and exercise.”

Lloyd said the group received expert coaching about setting personal goals to improve wellness by understanding what types of food help our body to function well.

“We were coached on how to read packaged food labels and the importance of food portions,” he said.

“I put into practice the knowledge gained from dietician, nutritionist and group facilitator Heather Hinton and started a daily exercise regime of walking, skipping and jogging for 90 minutes.

“While I enjoyed the physical exercise, it was challenging making conscious decisions about what I eat, when I eat and portion size of main meals. However, with the support of family and group members, I maintained my goals and at the last session I was rewarded by being eight kilograms lighter and my waist five centimetres less.

“I am overwhelmed by the outcomes of the Life! course.

“The sessions are conducted by a caring, professional team of diabetic educators and the Life! group members soon become supportive of each other.

“You'll not only lose a few kilos but gain a healthier lifestyle. Go for it!”

Robert McCaughan found his way to the Life! program after seeing a health promotion stand at a shopping centre in Epsom.

“I spoke with the community health nurse regarding the sugar and fat display and was amazed at how much sugar and fat I was consuming each day. They also had a realistic clump of body fat, the reality hit home how much weight I was carrying around my stomach,” Robert said.

“I was consuming two 600ml cokes per day and that equals 26 teaspoons of sugar. I was not aware of how much sugar I was consuming and the effects of the sugar on my body and risk of developing type two diabetes, let alone the weight of body fat I was carrying around.”

Robert saw the Life! program as a way of identifying risk and improving his overall health.

“I never used to eat breakfast but I make sure I have a healthy breakfast every day and have noticed the increase in my energy level. I would never eat fruit and I now consume two pieces of fruit per day. I have also started eating nuts as a good source of protein but also choose the unsalted nuts in order to reduce my salt intake as I now have awareness of the impact of salt on my body,” he said.

“The Life! program provided information that was easy to understand. The session that covered nutrition, including the food groups and portion sizes, enabled me to understand what my body requires in energy and how energy in (eating food) equal the energy you need to output (exercise) per day.

“The exercise session provided me with an overview of how to incorporate physical activity into every day and that just 30 minutes per day can make a difference in your health and wellbeing. I started out with one 30-minute session per week and I now complete 30 minutes every day on my home gym. I feel so much better and I feel I have so much more energy.”

Robert said he found the new lifestyle easy to maintain.

“I am losing weight slowly which I am happy with and I believe this is a healthy way. I don’t find I have the desire to eat the potato chips and lollies. I have substituted these for nuts, avocado and dips. I’m not starving myself and the bonus is over the past four and a half months I have lost 5.2 kilograms, seven centimetres from my waist and reduced my blood pressure back into a healthy range.

“I feel better, more energy and not as tired.

“My overall health and wellbeing both physically and mentally has improved so much since participating in the Life Program. My family and friends have noticed the different since commencing the Life! Program and have commented on my weight loss.

“The results speak for themselves. I’m so happy and it really wasn’t hard.”

To learn more about the Life! program visit www.bchs.com.au or call our Eaglehawk site on 5434 4300.