Once you have been diagnosed with Diabetes then a whole process clicks into place starting with a meeting with a specialist nurse. Now while my experience of professionals has been mostly excellent this first encounter was deeply depressing. I am intelligent and more than capable of researching a subject so I went into the appointment looking to try and reverse the condition by radical changes in diet and life style. Instead of supporting that I was patronised and in effect told I was on a road to steady decline ending with daily injections and an early death. Now it wasn’t said or intended in that way but it was how it came across and if I had less will power I might well have succumbed.
I came out of that meeting in the first of a series of bouts of depression and generally threw things into trash cans from the kitchen shelves and retreated to inwards reflection and tears with the cat, who has been a great comfort and distraction. I now had to face a battery of tests to see if I was going to go blind, have a leg amputated or suffer kidney failure among other potential side effects.
In reading up on the Newcastle programme (which has shown evidence of reversal) the sense of hopelessness is one of the factors that impacts on people who have been diagnosed. Now I came out of that, but it was not easy and I think this is the first time I have owned up to how I felt in that period. I took a different route, helped in a way by the need to work with a physio on what had proved to be arthritis of a lumbar joint. It was the symptoms of that which had triggered the Diabetes diagnosis in the first place. The Consultant told me not to worry, if I built up the muscle then I would never feel it, along with increasing the exercise regime. So I started pilates classes, worked with the physio every few days and also started sessions with a dietician. If I had not been able to afford that I am not sure where I would have gone as that small group of professions more recently supplemented by an ever cheerful podiatrist (all from the excellent James Hatt) kept me going during that period.
Thinking back I did a few key things:
- I was ruthless in excluding whole groups of foods from the diet. No potatoes other than new, no white rice, no ice-cream lots of fish, salad and beans and little or no alcohol. I did't start calorie counting until August as I was getting pretty rapid weight loss without monitoring.
- I moved to three regular meals from a more mixed regime and made eating something I had to do to live rather than something I wanted to do for enjoyment.
- I made it a rule to spend one or two days a week on a long walk, the Wye Valley walk was great for this. For the previous eight years work had always intruded, I now put personal health first. I also created there 7th story rule for hotels, anything less than that and I used the stairs.
- I didn't take up any fad diet or try and cut out carbs, I just ate less and avoiding anything on the do not eat list.
- I allowed myself an ice-cream only if I was upgraded on American Airlines. On doctor's advice I continued with G&Ts on flight but then no red wine or brandy. Keeping one indulgence was an important part of this
- I walked everywhere, whenever I could regardless of weather
All of that resulted in one wonderful day when my trousers fell down in a motorway service station. I had been staying in the Travelodge and went across to get a frugal breakfast without putting on a belt. Everyone laughed; I was exhilarated, it was working. Small events like that create milestones that allow you to progress.
So I got to a routine, but it took three weeks longer than it should have. I have some ideas about that and it relates to the feedback loops we are looking to build into a health and well being app. More on that tomorrow.