Frontline Initiative: Health and Wellness

I Saw It Was Time for a Change


Joe Meadours is a long-time leader in the self-advocacy movement and lives in Sacramento, California.

Two men standing together. The man on the left is Joe Meadours. He is smiling, wearing a blue, short-sleeve, blue button-down shirt, with a tropical island print of a palm tree, the ocean, and boats on the left pocket. He is bald and has a blue face mask pulled down to his chin to show his smile. The man on the left is Steve Pitts. He is wearing a green baseball hat with sunglasses on the brim. He is smiling and has short gray hair. He is wearing a polo shirt with a dark blue, white, and green design. His arm is over the other man’s shoulder. They are standing in a food market location with people standing behind them.

Joe Meadours with his friend of over 30 years, Steve Pitts.

About ten years ago, I was at the ballpark when I started to feel shaky. The EMTs checked me out and my blood sugar was really low, so they took me to the hospital. I was there for ten days and was diagnosed with diabetes. I learned this runs in my family and I knew I had to take this seriously.

I’ve heard stories about how lack of exercise and poor eating habits affect people later in life. I didn’t understand this at first, not until I saw friends and peers who got diabetes and how it affected them. I said to myself, “I want to beat this anyway I can.” I talked with my direct support professionals and my doctor about what I needed to change. They said I could eat many of the same things, and do many of the same things, but it mattered how much and when. They recommended I not eat at 8 p.m., for example, when I wouldn’t have time to exercise and burn off the calories. So, I needed to change my habits.

My number one goal is my health. Every time I go grocery shopping, my staff goes with me. I love PB&J, and my staff asks me to read the labels on the peanut butter and jelly and find out how many calories and how much sugar and fat it has. When I cook, I look for things to replace salt and sugar. When I do use sugar—I like it in my iced tea—I just use a small amount. And most food already has a lot of salt, so I really don’t need to add more. And I can still have that dessert, but not for every meal.

My daily habit now is that I eat my breakfast and then go for a walk or do some other exercise an hour later. I also look at the size of the portions. I try to eat less but I don’t starve myself or skip meals. I eat healthily and make sure I get my protein to keep me going. I still like having a cold beer, but just one, and only once in a while.

If I don’t show that I care about myself, what will they think of me? If I can fight this, you can, too.

I started to feel better after about six months after changing my diet and exercise habits. I’ve made a commitment to myself, and I want to stick with it. Today, my energy is pretty good. I feel like I have a purpose. I did before, but now I want to be a role model to my peers. If I don’t show that I care about myself, what will they think of me? If I can fight this, you can, too.

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