Diabetes Forecast

Gary Johnson Lost 42 lbs By Focusing on the Positive

By Benjamin Page , , , ,

Gary Johnson

Age: 53
Hometown: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Secret to Success: Focusing on the positive

When you work for the FBI, being in shape is practically a job requirement. During his 21 years working cases in anti-corruption and gang violence, Gary Johnson jogged 4 to 5 miles most days of the week and spent time lifting weights to stay in shape for the agency’s periodic physicals. Healthy agents are productive agents, and Johnson always considered the bureau’s attention to well-being a perk of the job.

But by the time he left the FBI in 2016 to work as a compliance manager with a multinational engineering company, Johnson’s weight had begun to creep up. Two years into his new career, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He immediately thought of his father, who had a number of health conditions, including type 2.

“My dad died when he was 64,” says Johnson. “I watched how he conducted his lifestyle, and I vowed to [live differently]. I never smoked, never drank,” he says. With the diagnosis, he thought, “I’ve blown it. I’ve got diabetes. I’m still going to die young.”

He didn’t wallow for long. A career in law enforcement came with another unspoken job requirement: discipline. Johnson locked in on a solution right away.

The problem, he realized, lay with his unhealthy eating habits. He cut out sweets almost entirely, enjoying a single chocolate malt every few months. He substituted water for soda and began cutting back on bread, avoiding croutons and the bread basket when he ate out.

Curiously, the biggest sacrifice was cereal. Before his diagnosis, he ate three cups of sugary cereal for breakfast virtually every morning. “I started each day with about a day’s worth of carb,” he says. After looking at the nutrition label of his favorite brand on the day of his diagnosis, he went cold turkey and hasn’t had a bowl since. These days, he prefers scrambled egg whites with a side of bacon.

Eliminating his favorite foods wasn’t easy. “I felt like it was almost a death in the family,” he says of that initial stage.

Johnson never gave up the jogging and weight lifting of his FBI days, but his diagnosis inspired him to boost his exercise routine. He began running even more and enrolled in exercise classes with an instructor who pushes him to work harder than he does on his own. 

The changes worked. He’s lost over 40 pounds, his A1C went from 10.9 to 5.1 percent, he lowered his triglycerides to a healthy level, and he’s able to keep his cholesterol levels within or near a healthy range, all without medications.

Now that he feels he’s in control of his health, Johnson has a different outlook. “I try to focus on the things I can eat, not the things I can’t.” When going out to dinner with his family, he looks forward to ordering salmon, salad, and unsweetened iced tea. “It’s not a diet,” he says. “I look at it as a lifestyle change.”

More stories of weight-loss perseverance



Take the Type 2
Diabetes Risk Test