Kris Hedges abides by a no-nonsense mantra. “You always have two choices,” she explains. “You do something about it and you stop bitching. Or you do nothing and you stop bitching.” 
 
A few months ago, when the single 42-year-old looked in the mirror, she didn’t like what she saw. Hedges wasn’t quite as naturally slender as she used to be, but that wasn’t the issue. She was still well within her ideal weight range. She wondered when her genetic luck might run out, though. Plus, she rarely ate healthy foods and she found herself winded after one flight of stairs. As the director of the diabetes program at Poway’s Palomar Hospital, and a committee member for Icansandiego, a social marketing campaign developed by the San Diego Diabetes Coalition aimed at diabetes and obesity prevention, Hedges wasn’t exactly setting a good example. “I wasn’t walking my talk,” she admits. “How could I work for an organization that promotes health when I’m not taking care of my own health?”
 
Not only that, but she worried that her two sons — ages 18 and 20 — might follow her lead, even though she’d always taught them to eat lots of fruits and veggies. Hedges isn’t at a particular risk for diabetes, but her children are. Their paternal grandfather had Type I diabetes, and their father is obese. 
 
She decided it was time to practice what she preaches. In August, Hedges joined a gym and hired a trainer. The first day, she couldn’t even do eight minutes of cardio. “I was so humiliated and frustrated,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘I can’t do this!’”
 
But she pushed herself, and talked to her trainer about how he better could motivate her. Soon she was going to the gym five days a week. She worked her way up to two brisk miles on the treadmill and learned how to lift weights. The self-professed junk food addict also incorporated healthier foods into her diet — with the occasional treat, of course.
 
“I feel so much better now,” she says, proudly showing off her biceps. “I have so much more energy. Endorphins — I tell you, they’re my new drug of choice. It’s infectious. I look forward to feeling better.”
 
Add to that all the compliments she’s been getting, and she’s become a healthy-life convert. She even convinced her parents to join a gym. “I’m selling the Kool-Aid,” Hedges quips. “The sugar-free Kool-Aid.”
 
It’s also given her a new perspective on the Icansandiego campaign. “This is about how anybody can do anything,” she says. “It’s all about little changes. You don’t have to go to the gym. You can walk outside. But really, I don’t know how you can’t afford to make the time.”  ANNAMARIA STEPHENS
 
The San Diego Diabetes Coalition was formed in 2004. Programs are funded from 85% of donations with the remaining 15% going to administrative costs. While they function largely through the time and expertise of 135 volunteer members, the organization’s biggest challenge is a need for more volunteers as well as funding. Most staff time is dedicated to programs rather than development, making funding projects an ongoing challenge. (858/614-1542, www.icansandiego.org)