“It was the best thing that could have happened to me,” said Steve Johnson, referring to his diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in November 2018.
For Johnson, motivation didn’t come from relatives in the dietary field, or other relatives who have had diabetes for a while. A diagnosis of prediabetes in late 2017 didn’t serve as a wake-up call, either.
“But once I was diagnosed with diabetes, I knew I had to do something,” said Johnson, 66, of Corvallis. “I went to the internet and learned what diabetes can do to my body. At first, I essentially cut all carbohydrates and switched my diet drastically.”
Johnson’s health issues stem from his work – he owns a copy center and supports command stations at large wildfires. He and his staff are on scene at fires across the western U.S., printing thousands of pages of reports in the field for the command team throughout the fire.
He eats with the fire crews, who eat high-carb meals for energy. And the work demands lead to lack of sleep.
“At fire camps, they feed everyone the same,” Johnson said. “That means we get the mega-sized meals meant for the firefighters. And if they had cheesecake, I would take two. I thought that if I was tired, that eating sweets would give me energy to keep going.”
This led to a BMI in the obese range and a hemoglobin A1C result of 8.8 when he was diagnosed. But after a couple of months of lifestyle changes, he has lost 25 pounds and reduced his A1C to 6.6.
Johnson took the Diabetes Education class series at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, and he’s met individually with the hospital’s Diabetes Education team. They set him up with a glucose monitor and provided him with more information.
He learned that carbs are also essential for many body functions including energy and disease prevention, and he began to add in moderate portions of high fiber sources of carbs such as berries, beans and seeds as well as other carb sources such as milk and yogurt.
“I thought the class would be like a weight-loss class, where maybe I’d learn a thing or two,” Johnson said. “But it was a great opportunity for us to ask any questions we had, like how often should I change my lancet? I didn’t realize you’re supposed to change it often or even every time.”
On the Diabetes Education team’s recommendation, Johnson writes down what he eats and takes pictures of his meals. He does a lot of skillet-cooked meals with vegetables and healthy meats like turkey and salmon, then some yogurt for dessert.
He’s working on getting more sleep, and he’s getting more exercise in the form of construction work on his wildfire response trailers.
“My FitBit says I’m getting more than 10,000 steps in a day, and my numbers keep improving with exercise,” he said.
What’s his long-term goal? “To get rid of my diabetes, to get my A1C to a non-diabetic level,” he said. “There’s still room for improvement, but I believe I can get there with my improved diet, exercise and getting more sleep. It’s hard to do when I’m at a fire, but my diagnosis reminds me that I need to do the right thing for my health.”
Get inspired by other patients who are successfully managing diabetes in their lives.
Learn more about diabetes services at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.