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Holt: Moorhead woman takes action after diabetic warning

Karla Underdahl, 27, of Moorhead, is pictured in June after losing 60 pounds. Special to The Forum

MOORHEAD- “Maybe I should lose weight.” “Maybe I should cut back on baked goods.” “Maybe I should go to the gym.”

It’s something Karla Underdahl had been thinking about for years, but last summer, after finding out her fasting blood sugar was in the pre-diabetic range, she realized just thinking about it was getting her nowhere.

“It’s one of those things where if you’re not ready, it’s never going to happen. You just have to admit to yourself, ‘Yeah, I have a problem,’ and do something about it,” the 27-year-old Moorhead woman says.

Well, she did something about it. Over the past year, Underdahl lost 60 pounds and brought her blood sugar down to a normal range.

When people ask how she did it, they’re often surprised to hear the answer: “Honestly, I didn’t exercise much, I just changed what I ate.” Exercise wasn’t a part of the equation until January, when she joined Planet Fitness.

In fact, weight loss wasn’t her primary goal, it just came with her dietary changes. She wanted to feel better, and she wanted to avoid becoming diabetic. Her doctor told her she wasn’t yet diabetic, but she would be if she kept going on the path she was on.

“I thought, ‘God, that’s the last thing I need. I’m only 26 years old,’ ” she says.

After a vacation, she cut her daily calories down to 1,200 at first and slowly reduced her carb and sugar intake. No more beer, bread and pasta; only on occasion.

“I still eat that stuff, just not every day,” she says. “That’s like a treat for myself. If I’m really craving it, I’m going to have it, otherwise I’m going to binge and it gets worse.”

She starts most days with coffee and a banana, likes soup, chili or Healthy Choice frozen meals for lunch, and usually has some combination of chicken, turkey sausage, eggs, beans and salad for dinner. She also likes sushi and anything spicy.

After the first six weeks, her withdrawal-like symptoms subsided and Underdahl started feeling better. She had more energy. Her overall mood improved. The weight loss came naturally.

“My biggest goal was to drastically reduce my sugar intake, then the weight just started to fall off. Boom, I was dropping 2-3 pounds a week,” she says.

Underdahl, a Tin Roof Theatre Company member and volunteer with Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre, says staying involved in theater helped keep her focused on her goals.

“Theater is kind of an escape for me, so it really helped me keep my mind off the fact that, ‘This is all happening at once, I need to do something about it, and I really need to stop feeling sorry for myself,’ ” she says.

Growing up in Newfolden, Minn., she was teased for her weight in middle school, but after hitting her stride in high school, her confidence has grown in the years since.

“I would just ignore it and go on with my life,” she says of the teasing. “That’s very much how I am now.”

She refuses to dwell on the past.

“I want to make myself better NOW,” she says.

Underdahl, an operations analyst for, says forgiving yourself is key to long-lasting change. If you dwell on what you did wrong, you won’t give yourself the chance to celebrate what you do right.

“If you move past that self-hatred and self-deprecation, you’ll be able to accomplish what you want to. I think that’s what hinders a lot of people when they go on a diet or start a lifestyle change,” she says.

Do you have a weight-loss story to tell? Email me at

Meredith Holt

Meredith Holt is a features/business reporter for The Forum who covers topics in health, mental health, social issues, women's issues, arts and entertainment, food and more. She also writes a column on health and wellness, body image and media representationShe was a copy editor/page designer for six years prior to joining the features team in March 2012.

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