Diabetes Forecast

Faces of Type 2: India Harris

Camaraderie is the key to one woman's successful diabetes management

By Allison Tsai , ,

India Harris
Photograph by Gary Landsman

Encouragement is a recipe for success—at least for India Harris. She found her weight-loss groove in a program that promotes dialogue among women making lifestyle changes to overcome their type 2 diabetes risk.

Harris, 55, was diagnosed with prediabetes, high cholesterol, and glaucoma two years ago, medical issues her family history of diabetes and heart disease had taught her all about. Having seen her sister, several cousins, and her aunt develop type 2, Harris was determined not to follow that path. “I am at very high risk because it runs in my family,” she says. “It’s very important for me to take care of this and try to change my situation.”

Her doctor prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medication along with an oral medication to help control her blood glucose. She also joined a gym in order to lose weight—she was 203 pounds at the time—and lower her A1C.

False Start

A few months following her diagnosis, Harris had made a routine of going to the gym. And she saw results—at first. At her next doctor’s appointment, she had lost weight, brought her A1C down, and was able to stop taking medication. But the success was short-lived. Only a few months later, Harris’ A1C was back up and the weight back on. Her treatment once again included medication. “I was back to square one,” she says. 

An encounter with advocates from the American Diabetes Association’s Maryland office propelled Harris, a Baltimore resident, in a new direction. She was selected to participate in the Fabulous You program, a nine-month course that focuses on a mix of nutrition, exercise, and health education for women living with or at high risk for type 2 diabetes. A certified diabetes educator and a certified lifestyle coach teamed up to facilitate the sessions, along with the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, which provided medication management for all participants.

Camaraderie in Class

Every Tuesday for an hour or so, Harris sits with her classmates and learns about everything from the basics of diabetes to reading nutrition labels to experimenting with different exercises, such as yoga and Zumba. Her goals: follow a healthy eating plan and exercise for at least a half hour every day.

With these guidelines in place, Harris has seen consistent results. Five months in, and she’s down 25 pounds and plans to lose 13 to 18 more. For her age and height, Harris says her ideal weight is 160 to 165 pounds, and she is motivated to get there.

“I think the difference between [the program] and trying to lose weight and do things on my own is that you have the companionship of the other ladies in the program and you can talk with them,” she says. Encouraging each other even through failures and having positive reinforcements from the group has kept her on track.

Change From Within

Perhaps the biggest difference Harris and her family have seen is in her attitude.  “They’ve seen the changes in my mannerisms [and my] personality,” she says. “I’m happy. I’m more energetic. I’m much more motivated and driven to succeed than when I was doing it by myself at the gym.”

While Harris is happy with her progress, she’s still focused on two overall end goals. One is to get down to a healthy weight and say farewell to her diabetes medication for good. The second is an inner transformation that’s already taking root: “I want to become more self-confident in myself and my ability to achieve things.”

Fab You!

  • If you live in the Baltimore area and would like to participate in the Fabulous You program, please contact the ADA Maryland office at diabetes.org/adabaltimore.
  • For programs outside the Baltimore area, reach out to your local ADA office, ask your human resources department if your workplace offers wellness programs, find out if your local YMCA runs a Diabetes Prevention Program (visit ymca.net/diabetes), or ask your health care provider about any weight-loss programs in your area.


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