Mindful Eating Helps OurHealth Employee Reverse Diabetes

Dave Smith of Indianapolis calls himself a gamer. In the past, a typical weekend for Dave often meant hours in front of the TV, controller in hand, junk food by his side and a never-ending supply of Mountain Dew and Red Bull.

“I really never paid a lot of attention to my healthcare as well as I should have,” says Dave, a database administrator at OurHealth. “I’m a Midwestern guy. I love my tenderloins and lots and lots of terrible foods.”

But Dave was starting to think about his health. His father had been diagnosed with diabetes a few years prior and warned Dave to be on the lookout. And, in 2016, Dave fell and suffered a tibial plateau fracture that required surgery and a titanium plate being inserted into his leg. During recovery, he developed blood clots and was laid up for six months with little to no activity, leading to a 50-pound weight gain.

In the spring of 2017, Dave scheduled a biometric screening offered as part of OurHealth’s wellness incentive program, including a hemoglobin A1c test. The results showed his blood glucose A1c measured 7.2, revealing he had Type 2 diabetes. A hemoglobin A1c test correlates to a patient’s blood sugar over the previous 90 days. A reading above 6.5 indicates a diagnosis of diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“When I got my diagnosis, I thought, ‘This will not stand. I’ve got to take care of this.’”

Dave didn’t waste any time. He went home that night and threw away all the junk food in his house.

“I knew I didn’t have the willpower to not eat it,” he says. “Because, that’s what I did—Hostess cakes, chips, no portion control. I had to learn to break that habit.”

Dave had access to a health coach and a Certified Diabetes Educator through his OurHealth benefits, so he began meeting with them regularly, and together they created a plan to improve his diet, increase his activity and ultimately reduce is A1c.

Dave Smith, OurHealth

Dave Smith has lost 35 pounds since changing his diet. His ultimate goal is to lose another 15.

Dave says the main goal—and most challenging—was improving his eating habits. He began eating at regular times and portioning out his food, and instead of eliminating all his favorite foods, he switched to healthier alternatives that were low in carbs, sugar and fat.

To replace the sugary soda, Dave says he tried just about every sugar-free soda on the planet until he found one (Zevia) that didn’t taste disgusting. For those hours-long gaming marathons, he fueled up with sugar-free Red Bull.

“It’s a lot of minor things like switching from white potatoes to russets and reds because they have less sugar and less actionable carbs in them,” he says. “Boneless, skinless chicken is what I subside on. But I’m very fortunate because my roommate is a former professional chef. He can do amazing things with boneless, skinless chicken.”

Dave’s leg injury left him with permanent loss of flexibility, limiting his exercise options. He focused on yoga and walking at least 3,000 steps per day, including taking strolls at lunch and venturing out around the neighborhood with his dogs.

By the following spring, Dave says his lifestyle changes began to pay off. OurHealth’s 2018 incentive program had just begun so Dave scheduled his annual biometric screening at MyClinic @ 96th St. in Indianapolis.

“When I got my most recent labs for our new incentives, my A1c was 5.4, which is non-diabetic,” he says. “[OurHealth physician] Dr. Pallekonda told me if I get two more in a row out of the diabetic range—the diagnosis comes off my chart.”

Dave credits his success to working with the clinic staff and the incentive program at OurHealth, which contributes money to an employee’s health savings account if they complete a biometric screening and other healthy activities.

“The staff at the clinic and the diabetes educators and health coaches have all been instrumental to me to do this,” he says. “For one, I wouldn’t have known that I needed to do it, and the support and encouragement I received made a big difference.”

Dave says he feels fortunate that he never hit any major roadblocks along the way and believes he was successful because he focused on small, attainable goals that added up to a larger cause.

“It’s a lot easier when you break these things down into smaller chunks,” he says. “You also get that ongoing sense of achievement. It’s like in a video game. You beat all the mini bosses on the way to the big boss. You know, it’s like, ‘Hey, I just took out the boss’s lieutenant. I’m ready to fight the big fight.’”

Today, Dave says he has more energy and no longer feels sluggish in the afternoon. He’s sleeping better and doesn’t drink as much caffeine. He’s shed 35 of the 50 pounds he gained after his surgery, and he’s committed to maintaining a healthy diet and losing the remaining 15 pounds.

“It’s funny because now even ketchup tastes way too sweet,” he says. “Now I’m like, ‘I don’t want that. That’s awful.’ I’m trying to eat more whole foods and more vegetables—I had no idea I like asparagus.”

Ultimately, Dave says it was the biometric screening that was the catalyst for his health transformation.

“That one lab result literally changed my life,” he says. “I’m glad I had the screening. One blood draw, and the results were life-altering. If I didn’t have the clinic benefit and the incentive program, I’d probably still be where I was—over 300 pounds and sluggish and unhealthy.”