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Clinic offers weight-loss support group

By Greg Summers

Diabetes has been in the national spotlight in the last two weeks, thanks to Paula Deen.


The “Queen of Southern Cuisine” came out of the kitchen broom closet on national television by admitting she has Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes.

Diagnosed in 2008, Deen didn’t made her condition public until Jan. 17, while simultaneously revealing she is the new paid spokesperson for a non-insulin Type 2 diabetes medication for adults.

While Deen’s decision and timing has raised the ire of some and support from others, Brenda Lynn of Fort Lawn isn’t about to get caught up in the controversy. Lynn, 63, could care less.   

When it comes to diabetes, Lynn – a mother of two and grandmother of two – focuses on herself. In been that way since August 2011.

And after taking advantage of the programs offered by the Health Services Diabetes Education Clinic at the University of South Carolina Lancaster, Lynn has a new lease on her condition, along with a healthier lifestyle. She was diagnosed with diabetes in 1999. 

The one thing Lynn has learned is there is no magic pill or miracle cure for a disease with a prevalence that increases with age.   

“I’ve had diabetes for at least 13 years, possibly before then,” she said. “I felt kind of bad but I thought it was old age.

“I have to admit, when the doctor told me what it was, it was a big shock,” Lynn said. “I knew what it (diabetes) entailed, because I’ve had relatives with diabetes, but I didn’t realize that it took a big change.”

Lynn learned she had diabetes in 1999, but readily admits taking the diagnosis with a grain of salt. However, after the death of her father in June 2011, and learning her A1C blood glucose level was 9.9 percent, Lynn got serious about getting her diabetes under control.

Checked every 90 days, the golden rule for diabetics is to keep an A1C blood glucose level at 6 percent.

Given that, Lynn said she knew if she didn’t get serious about getting her diabetes under control, she was a candidate for blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, strokes and amputations – complications that go along with the disease.

“That really scared me,” she said. “I knew I had to do something.”

Six months ago, Lynn’s doctor referred her to USCL Diabetes Education Clinic.

Recognized by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the clinic offers a wide range of services to help people learn about and live with the disease.

“I can honestly say they really saved me,” Lynn said.

Lynn exercises five days a week at USCL’s  Gregory Health and Wellness Center. Lynn said her monitored workout takes about 90 minutes per day. She also walks on Saturdays.

The combination of educating herself about diabetes, eating right and exercising and proper medication is reaping dividends.

Since August, Lynn has lost 45 pounds and her A1C blood gluscose level has dropped to 5.9 percent.

“I feel so much better,” Lynn said. “I can touch my toes. When I’m watching TV, I even do sit-ups and arm exercises. The first thing I want to do when I get up in the mornings is go to the gym.

“One thing I’ve learned is when you exercise, even if you overeat, you can work it off,” Lynn said.

Support groups 

The clinic also hosts three support groups each month.

They include morning (second Tuesday at 10 a.m.) and evening (first Thursday of the month, 6 p.m.) support groups for diabetics.

A weight loss support group meets at 10 a.m., on the third Tuesday at the month. Lynn attends two of the three. She especially likes the “recipe makeovers” at the weight loss support group.

Funded by a J. Marion Sims Foundation grant, there’s more to this weight loss support group than talking about carbohydrate intake, fat content and paying attention to food labels. They also have guest speakers who discuss topics ranging from exercise and exercise safety to managing stress, as well as weight loss.

Sandie Kent started meeting with the group at Dr. Bill Duke’s office after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Kent said the three support groups are under-utilized community resources that residents need to take full advantage of.

“A diabetic diet is a good plan to follow anyway. I may have been a diabetic for almost 20 years, but I’m still learning things,” Kent said.   

“The average attendance is between eight to 12 each month but we’d love to have more,” said Pam Giardiello, diabetes education clinic marketing and grants coordinator.

They also sample and cook more nutritious versions of recipes in the clinic’s basement kitchen at the meetings.

Giardiello said having diabetes doesn’t have to limit you to a lifetime of bland, tasteless foods. It’s all about learning new, healthier ways to prepare meals.

“The thing is, none of it (lifestyle changes) has to be drastic or done overnight,” Giardiello said. “It’s about taking things one step at a time.”

For example, the recipe makeovers include using honey instead of sugar and egg substitute as ingredients.   

“These meetings are out of sight,” Lynn said. “To know you can prepare food for yourself is a blessing in itself. I have to give them an A-plus.”

Kent said she enjoys the fellowship and knowing that the battle isn’t one  she fights alone. Kent prefers to call diabetes a syndrome instead of a disease.

“A disease sounds just awful,” she said. “Diabetes is really not that bad because it’s controllable. 

“You are the one in control of what you do. If you exercise, follow a sensible diet and do what you’re supposed to do, chances are you’ll keep all your toes,” Kent said. 

By the numbers

Accoring to South Carolina DHEC:

– Every 25 seconds, someone in America is diagnosed with diabetes.

– There are 23.6 million Americans living with diabetes, almost 8 percent of the United States’ population.

– South Carolina ranks 10th in the nation in the number of cases of diagnosed diabetes.

– Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in South Carolina. Figures show that 9.6 percent of the state’s adults are diabetic.

– There are nearly 6 million more people living with diabetes who don’t know it, incuding more than 215,000 South Carolinians.

Today’s recipes

Today’s three recipes were prepared during the weight loss support group meeting Jan. 17. 

Apple Cinnamon Muffins produce a smell so good in the oven that you’ll be making more than one batch a week. They can be served cold or hot. Kent is a fan of the Feta Shrimp Spinach Quiche.

“It’s easy to make,” she said. “Besides, I like feta cheese.”

This Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole recipe can be made ahead of time and makes a great early-morning meal or tasty brunch.


Apple Cinnamon Muffins


1 1/4 cup oat bran cereal, uncooked

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup apple, peeled, cored and diced

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


– Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat 12 medium-size muffin cups with vegetable oil or line with paper baking cups.

– In a medium bowl, combine oat bran cereal, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, soda and salt.

– In a large bowl, combine applesauce, honey, oil, egg and vanilla extract. Fill prepared muffin cups almost full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.


– Recipe from DiabeticGourmet.com


Feta Shrimp Spinach Quiche


1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

1 (10-ounce) package spinach

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons mince garlic

1/4 cup fat-free sour cream

1/4 cup light soy milk (or fat free)

1 cup egg substitute (or equivalent of four eggs)

1/2 cup feta cheese

4 ounces tiny shrimp


– Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake pie crust for approximately five minutes to thaw. Saute spinach and garlic in olive oil until wilted. In a bowl, whisk together sour cream, egg beaters and milk. Add spinach/garlic mixture, feta and shrimp to egg mix and stir together. Pour into crust. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Makes six servings.


– Recipe from recipes.sparkpeople.com


Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole


3 cups refrigerated or frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) finely chopped lean ham

3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated fat-free skim milk

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1 cup cholesterol-free egg substitute

1/2 teaspoon black pepper


– Lightly coat an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Layer potatoes, ham, cheese and onions in prepared dish.

– Gradually whisk evaporated milk into four in a medium bowl. Stir in egg substitute and pepper. Pour into prepared baking dish. Cover and refrigerate four to 24 hours.

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered, 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.

– Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes six servings.


– Recipe from www.diabeticconnect.com