BROWNSVILLE – Obesity and family medical history play a big role in the diabetes epidemic in the Rio Grande Valley. Some people are choosing to make healthier choices for their lifestyle.
A CHANNEL 5 NEWS employee shared her story about her decision to make changes in her life for the better.
“At 225, I was very sluggish. I was tired. I would spend my entire weekend sitting on the couch watching TV, you know, not being present so to speak for my family,” Rachel Deen said.
About three and a half years ago, Deen – a wife and mother to a young son – decided something had to change. She had a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure. She knew the change would have to become her new lifestyle.
“My 40th birthday was coming up and it was one of those things that I wanted to do something big for 40. And one of the biggest things I could do was lose weight,” she said.
She’s 42 years old and lost 75 pounds. Deen said she’s more confident and has more energy than ever.
“I’m just happier. My life is happy now,” she said.
It wasn’t easy to shed the pounds, Deen admitted. The cravings for burgers and pastas creep in every once in a while. She stays on track by focusing on the girl she never wants to be again and eating in moderation.
“I enjoy eating pizza with my son, or having a Whataburger, or you know going to Chick-Fil-A or wherever. But I just limit the amount that I eat and I don’t do it as often,” she said.
When the busy sales associate doesn’t have time to prepare a healthy meal at home, she makes sure to choose a healthy alternative.
“I had a no turn back policy. I went from a size 18 to a size four. So what I’ve done is every time clothes don’t fit anymore because they are too big, I donate them. I don’t have what normal women, say my fat clothes. I don’t have those. I get rid of them because I don’t want to turn back,” she said.
That’s exactly what Dr. Rose Gowen pushed for – a healthier alternative for people to adopt and never turn back.
Gowen, a Brownsville city commissioner, works with organizations and nonprofits, like the UT Health Science Center School of Public Health, for the past decade encouraging people to eat healthy and exercise.
She said research shows one in three Valley residents are diabetic and 50 percent of them don’t know they have the disease.
Dr. Gowen added the majority of people in the Valley are overweight.
“When 80 percent of your people are either obese or overweight, then the definition of the community shifts. And what was considered normal weight is now underweight, and what is considered overweight is now considered normal weight. So it’s very hard to motivate a community on a population level when they feel normal,” she said.
Genetics, lack of exercise and processed food all contribute to the issue. Gowen said the city of Brownsville is giving people resources to take control of their health.
They are forming partnerships with organizations to provide free activities and services and looking for grants to fund projects.
“We’ve been able to fund great, many miles of trails in Brownsville without touching the general fund. And we’re seeing now some really cool stuff, if you will, which are protected bike lanes, and elevated bike lanes, cycle tracks that make every one safer when they ride their bike, when they walk or jog and safer when you drive,” Gowen said.
The goal for the city, she said, is to have green space within a half-mile of every home in the city to get people moving.
Deen said it was tough journey but her battle with weight loss was worth it.
“I keep focusing on my family and my son and it just keeps me going,” she said.
Deen said it’s a goal anyone can accomplish if they commit to improving their life.[“Source-krgv”]