Spectrum Health Diabetes Prevention Program graduate Dick Witbeck wraps his arm around his program leader, Layla Noordhof, RD. Layla smiles.
Spectrum Health Diabetes Prevention Program graduate Dick Witbeck said program leader Layla Noordhof, RD, has a knack for pleasantly inspiring motivation. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Dick Witbeck has been down more roads than most of us.

He’s visited every Canadian province and every state in the U.S. but Hawaii. It is, after all, tough to drive an RV to Honolulu.

But there’s one road he and his RV are determined not to take—the one that leads to diabetes.

Witbeck, of Evart, Michigan, retired more than 20 years ago from his property and casualty insurance firm. Four years ago, he found out he’s one of the estimated 86 million Americans—or 1 in 3 adults—who have prediabetes.

Nine out of 10 people with prediabetes don’t even know they have it.

But Witbeck is one of the lucky ones. He knew he faced full-blown diabetes if he didn’t maintain a determined effort to head it off.

He saw the path ahead, so he developed a plan.

‘Label investigators’

Witbeck is not a sedentary guy. He developed an appreciation for physical activity in high school, when he enjoyed a stint as a multi-sport athlete. He has been on the move in his RV since 1988, now spending winters in Arizona.

When doctors diagnosed him with prediabetes, he signed up for the Diabetes Prevention Program offered at Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals. Diabetes educator Layla Noordhof, RD, runs the program.

Under Noordhof’s guidance, Witbeck developed a regimen that included bicycling in good weather and then walking each weeknight in the local elementary school.

The positive results inspired Witbeck to advocate for the program.

“My biggest challenge was diet,” Witbeck said. “I was amazed by how much weight has to do with diabetes. Being part of a group, all working toward the same goal and supporting each other, was very important.”

The group members learned to become “label investigators” who would identify the diabetes culprits lurking in food packages, Witbeck said.

He also identified other key ingredients in prevention of the disease: logging daily food intake, mandatory exercise, group support and finding a good coach.

“Layla is a great coach, very knowledgeable,” he said. “She motivates you to do the work, but in a very pleasant way.”

There’s no doubt the program has an impact, Witbeck said.

“It has made a big difference for me. I’m a strong believer,” he said. “I recommend the Diabetes Prevention Program to anyone. I know that it works.”