Reclaiming Our Health: Kaiser Permanente Members Share Defining Moments in Their Quests to Get Healthy

Apr 05, 2013, 12:18 ET from Kaiser Permanente

OAKLAND, Calif., April 5, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Sometimes getting healthy takes a wake-up call.

For nurse Darin Miller, that moment came when he rolled over on his waterbed to pick up his newly crawling baby daughter. At the time, Darin weighed 270 pounds, and because of his weight, a wave rippled in the waterbed, bouncing his daughter into the sideboard.

"It broke my heart," he said. "That was the defining moment. I woke up in the morning, broke open the emergency credit card and walked into the gym."

Darin found himself enjoying his workouts. But it was a conversation with his Kaiser Permanente doctor about running a marathon that made Darin take his exercise a step further. "My doctor encouraged my interest in exercise," said Darin. "And by the end of the day I knew I wanted to be a triathlete.

Focused on the level of health and fitness needed to achieve his goals, Darin changed his entire diet, giving up his usual fried fare for more nutrient-dense foods like salmon and steamed vegetables.

He's come a long way since that waterbed incident 20 years earlier. Three years ago, Darin ran his first marathon. "It took me five hours and 45 minutes," he said. "I couldn't walk for two days. I finished last in my class — but I finished."

In March, Darin completed his first triathlon. The event included a 2.4- mile swim, a 114-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.

"It has definitely improved my interactions with patients," Darin said. "Now, if a patient tells me, 'I really need to lose weight,' I can say, 'You can do it.' I have a better quality of life all around."

Watch Darin's story at

Warm weather brings opportunities for new goals
Getting healthy isn't always easy. Spending quality time with a treadmill or elliptical machine indoors can get old during the winter months. But spring weather makes outdoor activities more doable — and inviting. This April, Kaiser Permanente celebrates spring by highlighting members who took control of their health and made the decision to get healthy for good.

April's stories include:

When Albert Hernandez made a bet with a co-worker to lose his extra weight, his wife, Adriana Hernandez, joined him.

"We used to get a pizza and to not leave any leftovers, I would just finish the whole thing," Albert said. "She would just try to keep up with me. It was just overeating."

Albert and Adriana supported each other's weight loss goals. "The secret to my success is my wife," Albert said. The couple began measuring their food and keeping track of what they ate. When they started to see results, they began an exercise regimen as well.

Adriana swears by portion control. "We do eat what we want," she said. "We can still have pizza...but it really is taking the time to measure it or to stop after one or two pieces."

Walking has played a role in the couples' weight-loss journey too. "We go for walks around our block, around our neighborhood," Adriana said. "We live near some great open space." To mix up their routine, the couple takes advantage of nice weather to go on bike rides.

After losing more than 50 pounds, Albert feels great. "We no longer fit in our old clothes!" he said. "I think just about anybody with a little support and commitment could lose the weight."

Watch Albert and Adriana's  at

In 2010, Sandra Mendez of La Mirada, Calif. was feeling very sick and sought help at Kaiser Permanente's La Palma Medical Center. Diane Pham, MD, found Sandra was pre-diabetic and therefore at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

With an elevated blood-sugar level, high blood pressure and a family history of diabetes, Sandra knew her situation was serious. Dr. Pham told Sandra that she could take medication to bring her blood-sugar level down, or she could try to make changes to her lifestyle to get healthy. Sandra considered that encounter a turning point. That very day, she went home and told her family that she was going to take control of her own health and change her lifestyle. She dramatically altered her diet by choosing fish, fruit, salad and vegetables instead of her typical diet of fried chicken, burritos and tacos. She also committed to daily exercise.

Sandra brought her new-found enthusiasm for healthier choices to her job at Easter Seals, Southern California. She and her colleagues used Kaiser Permanente's online wellness programs to get healthy. They started bringing more nutritious food to group potlucks and other meetings. Her efforts have paid off — Sandra has shed nearly 200 pounds. "With the help from Kaiser [Permanente] and the support of family and friends, you can lose weight and you can keep it off," she said.

Watch Sandra's story at

Taking control and meeting our goals

Finding time to be healthy during the work day can be tough. But according to Joseph Luftman (,MD, chief of Sports Medicine at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, there are ways for all of us to fit exercise into our busy schedules.

Exercising throughout the work day can help us reach fitness goals, strengthen our muscles and improve our joints. And the benefits are more than just physical — a few minutes of exercise can drastically improve mental health, too.

"People who exercise tend to have less emotional and psychological problems," Dr. Luftman said. "Across the board in terms of health in general, exercise seems to have benefits above and beyond for patients who are doing it versus those that aren't."

Dr. Luftman recommends the following quick and easy tips to stay fit with a busy schedule:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park farther away; even an extra three to five minutes of walking to work can make a difference
  • Take a two-to-three minute break for a chair-based exercise
  • Do exercises that don't take up much room, like squats and lunges

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America's leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 9 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to:

Contact: Farra Levin

SOURCE Kaiser Permanente