NEW ORLEANS -- A local politician says a hard look in the mirror, and a phone call from his doctor, was his light bulb moment to lose weight.

So he went full steam ahead into a program proven to work and it changed much more than his weight.

"I love me some Austin Badon, but it was a little too much Austin Badon to love," said Badon himself, a former State Representative.
Towards the end of his 12 years in the Louisiana legislature, Badon says his weight crept up to 264 pounds.

"In politics, everybody wants to take you to breakfast, lunch or dinner," he said.

And then he went to the doctor and got dangerous health news.

"They said I was one notch away from being classified as diabetic," Badon remembers hearing.

And what happened next, changed his health, weight, family and even his job.

"My blood pressure is at the level of a collegiate athlete. My knees feel great. I was having knee problems because I was carrying the weight around. I don't have that any more," Badon said. "I sleep better. My stamina. I get to run with my kid."

He joined the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program. After one year, at 52-years-old, he's 52 pounds lighter. He feels so good, he even applied to be the director of the East Jefferson YMCA in Metairie and got the job. He works out every single day.

And every day, he walks around the corner to the Rouses salad bar to follow the Mediterranean style diet and portion control that the program taught him. That way of eating rubbed off on his wife Therese, whose also lost weight, and his six-year-old son Ayden.

"He's sleeping better. His performance in school has increased," Badon said.

The YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program was studied nationwide years ago and with LSUHSC doctors in New Orleans and  Pennington in Baton Rouge. Its success rate is proven.

"There actually is no other intervention program that has been shown in randomized, controlled trials to be this effective. It lowered the risk of developing diabetes in the study participants, by 58 percent overall and in those over 60 years old, by 71 percent," explained Dr. Melinda Sothern of LSU Public Health who is an expert in exercise and weight management. She says there is a lifestyle coach to help people stick to the program, peer support in a group setting, sound nutrition help for diabetes and physical activity.

Austin's waist went from 44 inches to 37 inches.

"I'm being called skinny again and I love it. Back in high school, I hated being called skinny and now I love it," Badon joked,

Now he's on a mission to convert others.

"Look, I'll hold your hand and I'll walk in the door with you. I'll train with you. I'll get you started, you know, because if I could make somebody's life a little bit better, or help them with their health issues, you know, that's a good feeling," he said.

The YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program is a year long and costs $429. Some insurance companies do pay for it. There is also financial assistance from the Y.
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