By Debbie Koenig
Originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of Diabetic Living magazine
In June 2017, William McLeod’s doctor ran out of patience. McLeod’s 65th birthday was looming. His A1C had been a roller coaster for almost 20 years, and with his latest reading at 8.9 percent, he was running out of time to keep diabetes from doing long-term damage to his body.
His doctor wanted to put him on insulin. McLeod asked for one last chance to manage his diabetes without it, via a data-based health coaching program called Livongo that he’d just heard about through his insurance plan.
Livongo provided McLeod with a “smart” glucose meter and paired him with a certified diabetes educator, Diabetic Living advisor Toby Smithson, M.S., RDN, CDE. Smithson checked in with him monthly to discuss his meal plan and help him find—and stick with—activities he would enjoy. “I’m a contemporary inspirational music artist,” McLeod says, “and Toby helped me incorporate music into my exercise. Now I dance daily at home to up-tempo music.”
McLeod also received immediate feedback through his smart meter every time he tested. When his blood sugar was high, the screen would suggest a low-carb meal; for results within range, it encouraged him to keep up the good work. The device also transmitted his results to Smithson and the Livongo team. If Smithson spotted something amiss, McLeod knew she would call him immediately.
“I didn’t want to disappoint that other set of eyes on me,” McLeod says. In the three months he took part in the program, Smithson never had to make that phone call.
When McLeod returned to his doctor in September, his A1C had dropped two full percentage points, to 6.9 percent. Insulin came off the table.
Even during a hiatus from the program due to a change in insurance, Smithson’s voice stayed with him: he stuck with his meal plan and he continued to dance and walk daily. “I imagine that Toby’s watching,” he says. McLeod is now back on the Livongo program through the Family Care Plan—which allows PWDs whose insurance doesn’t cover Livongo to join for a monthly fee.
Believe that you have a problem that needs attention. For years, McLeod shrugged off his doctor’s advice. Nothing changed until he accepted that he had to do something.
Make yourself accountable. If you don’t have access to a coaching program, ask someone in your life to act as that second set of eyes—a friend or loved one who inspires you to succeed.
Treat diabetes management like a job. McLeod talks about Smithson almost like a supervisor—he worked to accomplish each goal they created together.
Support is Key
Research shows that app-based coaching programs can help lower A1C. Your employer or insurance plan may offer one, or you can join programs like Livongo for a monthly fee.
“I’m a contemporary inspirational music artist. Toby helped me incorporate music into my exercise. Now I dance daily at home.”
Flemington, New Jersey
A1C Before: 8.9%
A1C Now: 6.9%