Name: Byron Gunter
Hometown: Ashtabula, Ohio (home of Urban Meyer!)
Job title: Owner, Buckeye Entertainment Event Group
Passions: Anything that lights up or makes noise. Oh, and license plates.
Q: How would you describe your current state of health and wellness?
A: Much better than it was a year ago! Since I’ve lost weight and started exercising I feel years younger. I mean, kicking my diabetes to the curb most certainly helped, but more on that in a minute!
Q: Have you always been healthy… or did you “flip” your life? If so, what was the catalyst for change?
A: My freshman year of college (1999) I gained 70 pounds. 70. I started at 140 and ended up at 210 pounds. I discovered beer—well, that and Catfish Biff’s pizza across from my dorm—and never lost that weight. At my heaviest I was 250 pounds, and that’s a lot for someone that’s 5’8” (on a good day).
About two years ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and I kind of put my head in the sand and ignored it. The kick in the a$$ that I needed (or catalyst, as you called it) was around March 2016 when I began to feel tingling in my hands and feet from diabetic nerve damage. That’s when I decided to “flip” my life. I’m the father of two young kids—I’m not a drunken college student anymore—and I needed to get myself healthy so I could watch them grow up. So, I stopped eating the fast food (Skyline was hard to kick—not going to lie), empty carbs, sugar, basically everything I was used to eating. I lost 60 pounds just on diet change alone. And that was enough to not only stop the tingling in my feet, but actually “cure” my diabetes. My A1C was slightly BELOW normal the last time I was at the doctor! To date, I’ve lost 80 pounds and I’ve gone from a size 42 pants to a size 32.
It’s weird–many problems that I had in the past that I kind of just lived with I didn’t realize or attribute to being obese or diabetic, but now that I’m thinner and healthier they are gone. For example, I’d often feel “foggy” or almost like I was hungover when I hadn’t been drinking. Turns out, that was attributed to my blood sugar being all over the place. Or if I’d been standing for more than an hour my feet would kill me. Turns out, that’s because I was fat and (later) diabetic. Who would have known?! Seriously, it’s amazing how much different (and better!) I feel now.
Q: What helps you make your change “stick”?
A: This is going to sound nerdy as hell, but Pokemon Go. After I lost the first 60 pounds, I decided that I wasn’t done losing weight and being healthy. So I started walking. Each day I walk 4+ miles. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or 15 degrees, I go for my daily walk. And my “motivation” to put those miles in is Pokemon Go—it’s a game based on being outside and rewards you for walking. I’d like to say that I could do 4 miles a day without the game, but I’m not so sure.
The other thing that’s helped is that my wife has joined me in the quest to get healthy. We’ve changed the types of food that we bring into the house. We’ve both started exercising. It’s easier to make a lifestyle change if everyone you are around is committed to that change. If I were eating a salad for lunch and she was eating a Big Mac, I’m not sure that I’d be where I’m at today. So having that support definitely helps.
Q: How did your diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes impact your opinions about fighting the disease?
A: Honestly, I’m lucky. There are two types of diabetics out there—Type 1 diabetics who unfortunately can’t cure this horrible disease no matter how much they change their diet or exercise. And then there are Type 2 like myself, who are lucky enough to at the very least potentially mitigate the effects or in my case completely kick it to the curb. Diabetes runs in my family. My father has it, both of my grandfathers lost limbs because of it—and I knew that I could potentially get diabetes as well. Yet I ignored the heredity aspects and all of the other warning signs until it became “real.” I brought this on myself, all things considered.
So I followed my doctor’s orders, checked my sugar daily, went to the dieticians, etc etc. And it worked! My doctor told me at my last visit that I was a “poster child” for type 2 diabetics. So, kids, when the doctor tells you something, you listen.
Q: It’s great to get advice from experts; But, it’s more important sometimes to hear advice from ordinary people that we can all relate to. So… what’s your advice for someone that wants to make a change in his or her life?
A: For me, it’s feedback and repetitiveness. For example, I literally roll out of bed each morning and step on the scale. And I record that number in an app on my phone. I keep track of my steps with a smart watch and set goals. I challenge other friends with step-tracking apps (S Health, specifically). Pokemon Go. All of these things give me feedback and, more importantly, motivation. You need to set goals. For example, I started out with a daily step goal of 2,000. Then 5,000. 10,000. I challenged myself to get to 200 pounds. Then 175. I’m currently aiming for 160. Keeping yourself accountable by checking your weight daily and having apps that record your movement have seemed to help me immensely.
Q: Inspiration is a powerful weapon in our fight against cancer…. help us pass it on. Who is someone that inspires you that you believe would be a good fit for our next INSPIRE interview?
A: Since I post my progress heavily on social media, I have many friends that have been inspired by my journey and have started losing weight, eating healthier, just changing their life for the better for whatever reason. We’ve all started documenting our journeys, and them being inspired by me in turn inspires me to keep going. It’s kind of like a giant snowball effect. Everyone has their struggles in life, from simply wanting to get their weight in check to fighting a serious disease like cancer, and any time I can be inspired by or cause inspiration to someone going through something—anything—I call that a win.