"I hate you. I don't want to be here. And I'm not going to show you what I eat. Period."
That's what he said. That's what Eddie Gulley told Lori Gibbons on his very first day of class at Yakima Valley Memorial's Diabetes Prevention Program. Lori is the program's facilitator and she's heard a lot over the years. Folks beginning their journey out of obesity, being out of shape and dangerously close to becoming diabetic are often fearful and intimidated. But she had never heard "I hate you."
"Yeah," says Eddie, 61. "I did say that, but it was in a loving way!" It's been eight months since Eddie met Lori on that first day of class. And in all that time, Eddie Gulley, who has weighed as much as 315 pounds in his life, never missed one class in the year-long series. Not one.
Why? Because Yakima Valley Memorial's Diabetes Prevention Program is a lot like group therapy. And group therapy works for Eddie.
"I lost my job 5 years ago at Longview Fiber (after 35 years) and I lost my insurance. I didn't go to doctors for quite some time. I weighed 315 when I left work. We lived out in the hills, though, and I walked those hills and got down to 252. But my wife has multiple sclerosis and then was diagnosed with breast cancer, so we moved into town to be closer to doctors. Then I got really depressed because we weren't out in the country anymore.
"I was an emotional eater. There are so many things in life that can throw you off: The first time I blew my back out at work, that screwed my head up. While waiting for surgery I blew up to 270 pounds just sittin' around drinkin' beer.
"After the first surgery, they gave me a job as a janitor. It was a physical job, and I lost weight until another slip, trip or fall, and then it was surgery again.
"Then our first-born son died of SIDS in March 1990."
After the death, the Gulleys were referred to Memorial's SIDS support group. Eddie found comfort, a way to live on. The couple became group facilitators.
"Also, couple of years ago I went to a psychologist who had a group for men who have had bad accidents and couldn't work. We would meet once a week and talk about losing our jobs, our lifeline and our families. It helped me very much: Group therapy has really helped me. First, the SIDS group, then the men's group and now Diabetes Prevention.
"I got into the Diabetes Prevention Program when I went to see Dr. (Nicola) Bocek (at Family Medicine of Yakima). She said, 'You know, you've had a second round of blood work and your A1C is out there. You need to change your way of eating and so forth.' This wasn't my first rodeo. I had doctors tell me stuff over the years. Dr. Bocek hooked me up with the DPP classes. I'm thankful for that. Support groups have worked for me. At 57 I was like, I really don't care. But at 61 I suddenly care!
"After I filled out the paperwork for class, though, I became diabetic. I thought, I don't want to die. It would take eight people to pack me into the casket! You get so big that you think, who are you?
And now? Eddie eagerly shows Lori his food log.
"What turned me around was after I started with the My Fitness Pal thing. I couldn't write stuff down in little books: What I wrote down, I didn't want Lori to read, too personal. But the My Fitness Pal app took the personal away. A month later, you look at what you ate and you think: Wow, why did I eat that? 89 fat grams? Why did I do that? It's teaching me a different way to eat. And it's tracking my footsteps: I don't even have to put that in.
"I feel much better mentally. The weight weighs on your brain massively: Am I going to have a heart attack, something else? When the weight began to fall off I thought, this is a much better way to live. I don't groan getting up in my truck. And sleeping? The first day we went camping I slept 12 hours! And I can breathe easier.
"I have the food basically under control, but I need to walk more; every day at least 2 miles so my body is in a daily rhythm. The type of pain I have is horrific, but I can still walk."