Taking Control of Your Diabetes features a team of experts giving you the inside scoop on diabetes. Today, meet nutrition expert and host of our nutrition segment “Fit to Eat,” Janice Baker.
Janice Baker: As a teen in the 70’s, the significant rise in popularity of nutrition,wellness and health food stores caught my interest. My friends and I loved eating at our favorite health food restaurant, indulging in avocado/alfalfa
sprout sandwiches and date shakes. And that was followed by carob candy bars for dessert (teenage metabolism and cheerleading kept the weight under
Additionally, I grew up watching my dad constantly struggle with
weight. He tried many different diets and diet programs, with very limited success. I loved to read through his Weight Watchers cookbooks and try some of the recipes – not always successful. As a high school student I worked at Arby’s making and serving fast food. Three years of this gave me plenty of “behind the scenes” experience about what people are actually eating. Having my skin and hair coated with a layer of grease after each shift is a feeling I won’t ever forget – at least that can be showered off! In choosing my major in college, which I was required to do upon starting Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, nutrition science was a natural choice. It was very challenging, but never boring! My passion for nutrition science and education has continued ever since!
UCSD-TV: How did you get involved with TCOYD?
Janice Baker: As a member of San Diego Association of Diabetes Educators for the past several years, the request for volunteers for the “Ask an Educator” program at the TCOYD conference came up. I attended the conference for the first time about 6 years ago. I was thrilled and so excited to be a part of it and have been ever since!
UCSD-TV: Diabetes care is closely aligned with a healthy diet. When someone who is newly diagnosed with diabetes comes to see you, what is the first thing you tell them?
Janice Baker: Actually, as a diabetes educator, I don’t tell them anything when I first meet someone newly diagnosed with diabetes; I ASK them about what they would like to learn, about what their daily life is like, what may be the biggest challenges with improving the healthfulness of their diet and lifestyle. In many cases, those with diabetes only need to change a few things to make a big difference and it makes no sense to overwhelm them with information that confuses them even more. This is much more effective and people want to be heard and to ask questions. They are often very fearful about what they think I will tell them. My job is to make this a pleasant and informative experience so they leave thinking, “I can do that!”
UCSD-TV: What has been your most rewarding moment working with diabetic patients?
Janice Baker: There are too many to mention. Being in practice for 27 years, I have had many many rewarding moments. But generally, giving people hope and confidence in their ability to make better choices to improve the quality and quantity of their lives while also incorporating fun into it, makes every day rewarding.
My father passed away at age 65 of diabetes complications. He was diagnosed in the 70’s with type 2 diabetes and had very limited diabetes education. I saw first hand the toll this took on his mind and body – the eye, kidney, heart disease, amputations of his toes, inability to walk, and his depression over not being able to be an independent person. Every day that I work with people to educate them about diabetes and how to take care of themselves the best they can is the best way I can honor the memory of my dad. I think he would be very proud and this is a big part of my passion. My father was also a patient at the San Diego VA hospital. He loved that place. From speaking to Dr. Edelman, coincidentally, he was likely one of my dad’s physicians.
UCSD-TV: Busy schedules and hectic lifestyles often make it a challenge for people to make the best choices when dealing with their diet. What advice do you have for managing a busy schedule while maintaining a healthy lifestyle?
Janice Baker: Being too busy to take good care of yourself will shortchange you on time and money sooner rather than later. It does not take a lot of time to eat healthfully and it is not expensive either. Eating out at restaurants and fast food places frequently is expensive and skipping meals often leads to overeating on unhealthy foods later on, leading to weight gain. Taking more and more medication because of this means more and more cost and time for doctor visits. Planning simple, regular meals and having healthful food on hand that is quick to prepare saves a lot of time, money and health care costs. I always advise bringing one’s own lunch every day, drinking water instead of juice or soda, having fruit in season or small boxes of raisins or nuts on hand for snacks, and moving in any way possible each day. These things do not cost much and save lots of money over the long run.
UCSD-TV: What do you hope viewers will gain by watching the TCOYD series?
Janice Baker: Viewers will gain insight into the realities of diabetes management – that they do not have to be perfect to improve their health, that very real people can accomplish lifestyle change goals without disrupting their lives. I want viewers to think and say “I can do that!”