“Apply what you learn about self-awareness to what you eat” was the highpoint for the 2017 Fall Diabetic Program graduation in October.
After 18 weeks of following lesson plans from a nutritional handbook collaboratively prepared by Chief Medical Officer Elena Tootell, 17 incarcerated men at San Quentin received a Certificate of Completion.
Charles Spence is a Type-2 diabetic. He loves potato chips. His passion for these crispy carbohydrates changed when he learned how it affects his diabetes.
“I had to back off,” Spence said. “This class has taught me how to read what I eat.”
After learning he was diabetic in 2010, William Anderson started taking medication and insulin shots to stabilize his blood sugar levels.
Retired UC Berkeley Professor Dr. Sharon Flemming has taught aftercare courses on “emotional eating” and how it impacts participants’ daily nutritional intake.
There are so many different problems to overcome when diabetics don’t understand that emotions are oftentimes linked to food consumption, Dr. Flemming said.
“I have to warn them about the dangers of eating because they are struggling with their daily problems,” Flemming said. “Every day brings a new emotional issue, so they have to be reminded about those bad eating habits.”
Facilitator/mentor Aaron Martin said he temporally lost his eyesight once and shared with the audience how difficult it was to read an eye chart.
“I came close to having a diabetic coma had I not received the proper care in time,” Martin said. “After I transferred to San Quentin and took this class, I’m a lot more comfortable with how to handle my diabetes. The department needs to have a class in other prisons.”
“I’m a lot more comfortable with how to handle my diabetes”
Changing eating habits was one of the biggest obstacles the men struggled with as they learned about self-awareness.
“I lost 15 pounds after changing my eating habits since taking these classes, and I’m ready to go home,” said Steve Pascascio.
Darryl Kennedy said, “There is so much to learn from these classes. I’m encouraging other inmates to learn more about diabetes and the effect it has on their life styles, I’m happy I took this class.”
Theodore Potter learned about his diabetes in the early 1990s. His parents both passed from diabetic complications.
“Coming to San Quentin gave me an opportunity to learn more about the problems related to the disease,” said Potter. “I’m learning and talking with other guys about the class and encouraging them to take it. It’s important to know how to eat. I love eating burritos, and I had to learn how not to eat so many of them.”
Dr. Flemming said, “Applying self-awareness as a motivational factor in recognizing the dangers of being a diabetic is an important component in Dr. Tootell’s diabetic program.”
The course covered:
Carbohydrates intake Part 1
Carbohydrates intake Part II
High/low blood sugar
High blood pressure
Medical health and diabetes
Healthy food choices
Meditation and breathing
Flemming will continue supporting these individuals in an aftercare program now that the classes are finished.