Megen Smith, 58

In 2002, Megen was diagnosed with hypertension and prescribed medication. In 2017, high cholesterol and prediabetes were added to the list. Concerned by worsening health and medication side effects, she tried to shift to a whole foods, plant-based diet but found it difficult to stay motivated. She started Better in May 2018 to address these cardiometabolic diseases and get off of medication.

MEDICATIONS

  • Lisinopril 5mg per day (blood pressure)

  • Levothyroxine 50mcg per day (thyroid)

OTHER HEALTH CONDITIONS & CONCERNS

  • Overweight

  • Hypothyroidism

FAMILY HISTORY

Megen has a family history of cardiometabolic diseases. Her father has advanced heart disease, requiring 6 bypassess (open-heart surgery) and 4 stents (angioplasty). Her mother has type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Watching both parents struggle with their health, Megen had a strong desire to take a different approach.

Behavioral Treatment

CHALLENGES & CONCERNS

  • Megen struggled to resist junk food, particularly when feeling stress.  A new job in August 2018 contributed to the challenge.

  • In social situations and away from home, she felt uncomfortable asking for plant-based options because she didn’t want to be viewed as difficult or different. She lacked knowledge and skills to navigate eating out with confidence.

BEHAVIOR CHANGES

  • To discover habits that would work best for her, Megan took the time to set short-term goals and reflect on her experience working towards those goals every few weeks. This behavioral process, guided by her Better coach and app, generated the insights that led to Megen’s success.

  • She initially set a goal to reduce dairy to twice per week, but was surprised to learn this was easier than expected, so decided to cut them out altogether.

  • Megan was prompted to plan meals and batch cook - a behavioral strategy that is effective for most - but learned that she valued more flexibility and variety than batch cooking provides. She realized that she would need new skills to make healthy last-minute meals.

  • She discovered that when she spoke up about what she needed,  friends and restaurants were far more willing to accommodate than she feared. This made socializing and eating on the road easier and more enjoyable.

  • Megen developed a plan to incorporate exercise into her week. She used an elliptical machine and trained with weights 4 - 5 days per week. She discovered that setting rules for herself felt natural and made sticking with changes much easier.

  • Megen used Better’s app 2 - 3 times each day to track her blood pressure, weight, exercise, plant-based meals, and use skill-building tools.

  • Over time, lifestyle changes became part of her routine and she no longer needed the app for daily behavioral tracking.

"I’m on the right track, let’s keep this going!”

- Megen, Week 8

Results

  • Within two weeks, Megen experienced an increase in energy, improvement in sleep, weight loss, and a more positive outlook.

  • After one month, her blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure returned to normal.

  • She noticed meaningful improvements in her fitness, becoming faster and stronger -- “Exercise no longer feels like a chore; it is actually enjoyable!”

  • Megen felt like the “mental fog was lifted” and she had greater mental clarity.

  • After four months, her physician reduced her blood pressure medication by half. Six months later, her physician recommended a trial to remove the blood pressure medication altogether. As of April 2019, her blood pressure is still in the normal range without medication.

  • Megen continues to see additional weight loss seven months after completing the program.

“This program has been totally life changing”

- Megen, Week 12

Takeaways

  • Megen’s weight, blood pressure and energy improved within a few weeks of beginning Better. Within the first month, her blood pressure and A1c were both back to normal. She no longer requires blood pressure medication or other prescriptions for cardiometabolic diseases.

  • In contrast to some Better participants, Megan started the program already aware of the clinical value of plant-based nutrition for her conditions. Yet she was unable to sustain dietary changes on her own.  Once Better’s app and coaching provided behavioral strategies, skill-building methods and accountability, she was able to tap into her strengths and motivation to make lasting lifestyle changes.

See Megen’s story in her own words.