‘Lifestyle Assassination’: 2 Men Who Embraced Health and Turned Their Lives Around

Jodi Davis

| 6 min read

Gene Butcher, left, with Jon Stanton and Jodi Davis at the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure event.
What a great day it was in Brighton this past weekend! I was given the opportunity to support several individuals who were included in this year’s American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure. I made some new friends, many of them cyclists who participated in this year’s event, and congratulated a few good friends of mine that gave their all to ride many miles towards a cure for diabetes.
Today, I would like you to meet two of my friends, Jon Stanton and Gene Butcher, who happen to be very familiar with Type 2 diabetes. Both were once obese but changed their lifestyles and lost over 100 pounds each, allowing them to be diabetes free! They were introduced to each other during last year’s Tour de Cure and since then, have become good friends – two friends who participated in this year’s ADA event. Both also hold the title of ADA Ambassador.
Please take the time to read each of their stories, excerpts taken from their personal websites. I’m sure you will find their stories as incredible as I do.
Jon is a fellow blogger on aHealthierMichigan.org. From Ovid, near Lansing, Jon once weight 430 pounds and was a Type 2 diabetic and is now an ambassador for ADA’s Michigan branch. Jon says that Type 2 diabetes is almost entirely lifestyle driven, with being overweight probably being the most significant risk factor. Jon knows that one in three children in America can be expected to develop diabetes if we keep going at our current rate.
Here’s Jon’s story in his own words:
“August, 2007, I tipped the scales at nearly 430 pounds. By that time, my weight had started to have a significant negative impact on my health. I was constantly tired, short of breath, would break into cold sweats. My whole body ached, especially my joints, and my lower legs were turning dark blue because of poor circulation. When my hair started falling out and I started feeling strange flutters in my chest, I decided I needed to pay the doctor a visit.

“I was already taking medications for high blood pressure and I thought my thyroid was out of whack. Well, the blood work came back, and I was definitely out of whack. It wasn’t my thyroid, though, it was my blood sugar. My A1C rating was 8.2; 7 and below is considered normal. The doctor wanted to put me on oral diabetic medications. However, it is what he said that changed my life for the better.

“Many of the weight loss stories I read involved some sort of “turning point” or “wake-up call.” My doctor looked me in the eye and said:“If you continue to follow the same lifestyle, you will be dead by the time you are 50, and the last 10 years of your existence will be miserable. However, if you make changes now, you can enjoy a long and happy life.”

“I asked him to give me a chance before we started medicine. I immediately began exercising and changing my diet. I eliminated most sweets and desserts, ate more fruits and vegetables, adopted a mostly “organic” diet, and began a walking program.

“The first few weeks were hell. My legs hurt, I thought I was going to keel over at any minute, and I struggled with what I ate. I refused to give up, however, and have continued to make forward progress. As of this writing, approximately 11 months later, I am down to 260 pounds. I never needed diabetic medication because my sugar returned to normal within three months, and now registers on the low side.”
Gene is a professional firefighter from Waterford who no longer suffers from the effects of Type 2 diabetes because he chose to start bicycling and eating healthy two years ago to fight the disease.
Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at 34, Gene decided to take matters into his own hands, stop making excuses, and fight back. He lost more than 100 pounds over a year and a half by changing his lifestyle and eating habits, and he has maintained a commitment to riding his bike year-round. Gene is an avid cyclist who rides through sun, sleet, rain and snow. He wants other people to know that they can overcome Type 2 diabetes as well.
Although it has taken a tremendous amount of dedication, persistence and hard work, it has been worth the challenge. He has been an inspiration to many family members and friends already.
Thanks to Gene’s commitment to taking responsibility for his health, he will ride on to being a healthy father, husband and friend.
Below is Gene’s story in his words:
“ … I used to make fun of people that took their health seriously (read again the part about being ignorant and stupid). That changed one day in a doctor’s office when the question was asked of me ‘“Do you want to live to see 40?No lie, that is exactly what he said. Now on a good day I have a deep disdain for doctors, but this guy was different. I was a new patient and this was our first meeting. He was genuinely concerned for my health more so than I was in fact. He is a young doc and has a propensity to interject cursing into his normal conversation (sic) he lacks that certain smug attitude that makes me dislike most doctors. He does not beat around the bush he gets right after it. The other bonus is he can, and will, spend a ton of time talking with you unlike the rest of the Hippocratic Oath crowd that spend on average 4 minutes in a room. He sat down and started reviewing my record, then he cursed me out… loudly I might add.

“That’s when he said it ‘Do you want to live to see 40?’ I had never thought of it that way and I admitted that to him. I was told I need to be on the long term health plan not the 5 year plan because the 5 year plan was just that….5 years. I left the office more angry at myself than I think I have ever been. I had been thinking about going on a diet for a while, now was the time. So later that week I started it, I don’t call it a diet though I call it a lifestyle change or a lifestyle assassination. Everything had to change, no more smoking and no more eating the same way.”

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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