Steve Vaughan has had to make dramatic changes — and they’re working!
Nine years ago, Steve Vaughan went to his healthcare provider because his feet were stinging. Badly. But the problem, it turned out, hadn’t started in his feet. What was happening was just a symptom of what was really going on in his body — his blood glucose levels were climbing.
Steve had type 2 diabetes, which was causing the neuropathy (nerve damage) in his feet. It was also a signal to him and his provider that he needed to make some dramatic changes.
So he stopped drinking sugary sodas, a lifelong habit that had him guzzling three or more per day. He stopped eating carbs. He started going to the gym and was able to lose 40 pounds. He even tried to quit smoking, but initially found this too much of a struggle.
Until last year. That was when he had a heart attack.
Adults with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease and are twice as likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than those who don’t have diabetes. Smoking greatly increases that risk, something Steve knew but couldn’t fully internalize.
“They told me, ‘Don’t smoke or you’ll die.’ But there’s a difference between knowing it intellectually and almost dying,” he says. “I haven’t smoked in ten months. To go back now would be really idiotic.”
The truth is, some changes are harder to make than others — whether you have diabetes or not. Steve found motivation the hard way, but now he’s trying to pass it on to his family, by modeling lifestyle changes and talking frankly to his ten-year-old son, Alex, about what’s happened to him.
He takes Alex grocery shopping, for example, where having a helper is both useful (Steve has mobility challenges) and a positive lesson for his son, who is reluctant to make some of the dietary changes Steve has been introducing into the family diet.
“I’ll ask him to go to the produce aisle and pick me five good apples. We talk about why we have to do it, why it’s not good to drink soda all the time. But like all kids, he likes the sweet stuff.”
As the cook in the family, Steve has some control over what the family eats and tries to include as many vegetables as he can. “My wife and son don’t want to eat anything that’s green,” he says. “I find the few things we can work with and run those through a lot of repetitions,” such as mixing almonds into green beans, tossing them into a salad or stir-frying them with peppers and snow peas.
He also makes accommodations for himself that he doesn’t impose upon his family, such as letting them order Chinese food but not putting his over rice, or making tacos for the rest of the family but serving himself a taco salad.
Living with diabetes, he says, “is a fight, and it doesn’t go away. It’s a lot of work. But you make compromises. Some days I know I’m going to have my coffee with sugar in it. But that just means the rest of the day I have to make sure I make up for it.”