Participant Success Story:
Veronica Thigpen (Junction City, Kansas)
After living with family members for all of her life, Veronica Thigpen, age 38, is now living in her own apartment. She credits Living Well with a Disability with helping her reach this goal of independence and learn new, healthier habits. She took the workshop through 3 Rivers Center for Independent Living, which is based in Wamego, Kan.
“I love my apartment,” said Veronica, who has an intellectual disability and a physical disability. “I cook for myself. I changed all my fried food into baked and broiled food. And I used to eat lots of snacks. I’ve cut down a whole lot.”
This is a major change for a woman who was raised in North Carolina on a diet that centered on fried foods and high calorie items like biscuits. “My family is proud of me, because my blood pressure was high and my health was going down,” she said.
Veronica also added exercise to her life by walking twice a week with others from the Living Well workshop. After taking the class, she lost 20 pounds and her blood pressure decreased significantly.
In addition to improving her health and gaining independence, Veronica developed the important ability to be with people more fully.
“One of my main goals was to be around people without having panic attacks,” she said. “The class helped my self-esteem. I learned how to be around a lot of people. Now I can actually go around strangers and strike up a conversation with them.”
She is using her new confidence as an advocate for people with disabilities and an active member of her community. She became president of 3 Rivers’ Peer Support Group in Junction City, Kan., and has recruited 11 new members. The group is creating a cookbook as a fundraiser.
She is also active in the CIL’s Youth Mentoring Day. At the 2010 event, she talked to many people and shared something she learned through her Living Well experience: “How people with obesity let other people put them down.”
With the support of Jo Turner-Moats at 3 Rivers, who was also her Living Well facilitator, Veronica is continuing to work on other goals she set during the workshop, such as getting her driver’s license. Although she didn’t pass the written test the first time, she knows she will be able to pass it, just as she knows she will continue to lose more weight.
While this winter’s many storms and an illness made exercising hard, Veronica said that she has made a very basic change that helps her continue to grow and improve: “My attitude used to be negative. I’ve changed my attitude.”