Bill's Story

Bill Richards finished a 2-mile race in this April, and he’s pretty proud. “This time last year I was still on oxygen full time,” he said. Richards, who battles Type 2 diabetes and spends part of his day in a wheelchair, had a health scare in 2013 when he was hospitalized with the flu for three days. His doctors put him on oxygen, and that was the last straw.

“That was kind of a wake-up call,” Richards said.

He knew he had to do something to change his health for the better, and decided to sign up for Healthy Living workshops through Spokane’s CHAS Health. Richards said the classes and curriculum were invaluable for helping him learn to exercise, eat more healthfully and manage his diabetes. He keeps busy working and caring for his wife, Jan, who has multiple sclerosis, and doesn’t always make time for his own health.

“I’d plan everything out for her and I’d forget about myself,” he said.

That changed when he took the workshop in 2013. He said the classes gave him tools to learn basics like scratch cooking and exercise. He also realized he didn’t have to do everything at once, and that made all the difference.

“The biggest thing was just to set small goals,” he said. “It’s okay to plan small steps.”

Richards wanted to begin exercising, but at the time he was still using an oxygen tank. He went to the pool at a gym twice a week and stretched and got into the water at first. Today he swims almost a mile three times a week. He’s also graduated to leading Healthy Living workshops himself.

He credits the cooking portion of the classes, held at Second Harvest, with making cooking fun and accessible.

“Jandyl made it look so much easier to cook,” he said.

Some days, he admits, it’s still a challenge to stick to his eating plan.

“It’s easy these days to take the shortcut and make something out of a can.” But while Richards enjoys occasionally treating himself to thin crust pizza and his favorite savory snacks, he says he’s learned how to enjoy his favorite foods with balance.

“I can have whatever I want. I just have to watch the portions,” he said.

His vigilance has paid off – he’s lost more than 70 pounds since November 2014. He credits his weight loss to what he’s learned at Weight Watchers, the Healthy Living classes, his newly acquired cooking skills and exercise. Richards said his new lifestyle is why he’s alive today.

“If I hadn’t turned myself around, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here anymore,” he said.

CHAS Healthy Living workshops are designed for people with chronic conditions like diabetes, depression or heart disease. Caregivers can also attend. The classes run in a 6-week series, are free and most are open to the public. For more information or to register for a class, call 509.444.8200 or email healthyliving@chas.org.