Sitting opposite my GP, I didn’t know what to expect. A day earlier, she’d told me I wouldn’t get the results of my blood tests for at least a week, but that morning I’d got a call asking me to come in for an urgent appointment. “You have type 2 diabetes,” the doctor said. “We’ll start you on medication, but if you don’t make some big lifestyle changes, there’s a chance that you won’t be here in five years.”
I was shocked. For the past few weeks, I’d been feeling incredibly tired (at one point I actually fell asleep in the middle of chatting to my sister, Dawn!) but I’d put it down to getting older and my high blood pressure. I’d watched my brother struggle with type 1 diabetes, eventually needing a kidney transplant, and, while this easy type 2 diabetes, I was scared my health was about to go a similar way. I had three children who still needed me to look after them – what if I didn’t live to see them grow up?
One thing that didn’t surprise me was that my weight was a contributing factor in developing type 2 diabetes. I’d started putting on weight as a teenager and then I began working 11-hour shifts at a call centre, which meant eating all of my meals in the office canteen. I’d start each day with a fry-up, followed by fish and chips for lunch and a chicken curry with rice for dinner. In between, I’d snack on pastries and chocolate.
At one point I joined Slimming World and lost 6st, but I started missing sessions and eventually stopped going to group altogether. Without that weekly support, I slipped back into my old eating habits and put all the weight back on. Although my GP kept encouraging me to lose weight – especially as my blood pressure was rising and I was taking more and more painkillers to ease the aches in my joints – I just didn’t believe I could do it again.
When she warned me that my weight was putting my life at risk, though, I knew I needed to do something. Dawn had been going to a new Slimming World group for a few weeks, and she was already looking slimmer and healthier. As soon as I got out of the doctor’s surgery, I phoned Dawn and arranged to go to group with her the following day.
Walking in that first time was nerve-wracking, but my Consultant, Linda, welcomed me with a big smile and sat with me to have a wee chat about how Slimming World’s eating plan worked. When I stepped on the scales and saw 26st 2lbs, I was mortified. I couldn’t imagine being able to lose enough weight to make a difference to my health, and I was ready to walk out and never come back. Thankfully, Linda was there to put a reassuring arm around me. “We’re going to do this together,” she said. “Just focus on getting your half-stone award, and take it from there.”
Breaking my weight loss down into smaller goals made everything seem more manageable, and I went home determined to do my best. I started each morning with a bowl of chopped banana and berries topped with fat-free natural yogurt. Then for lunch and dinner at work I’d heat up a Food Optimising meal I’d made at home – maybe a beef lasagne or spaghetti bolognese. I loved still being able to enjoy my favourite pasta dishes on Slimming World and, because pasta is a Free Food, I could eat as much I wanted to fill me up.
If I didn’t have a meal prepared ahead of time, my work canteen had lots of healthy options available. That was a new discovery – I’d just never looked for them before! Because I was filling up on hearty meals, I found I didn’t need to snack, and if I ever did feel peckish I’d buy a pot of fruit from the canteen to eat at my desk.
As the weight started to come off, I noticed I was feeling less tired, and my joints didn’t ache as much at the end of the day. When I went for a routine check-up a year after joining Slimming World, my doctor was delighted to tell me that my blood sugar levels were coming down and that I could start to reduce my medication. Six months later, my blood sugar levels had dropped again and my tablets were reduced even further.
By now I’d lost over 7st and felt confident enough to try Body Magic. I couldn’t walk to the end of my garden before joining Slimming World, so I eased myself into activity by walking a lap around my office building at lunchtime. At first, I could barely make it once around the building before I was too exhausted to go any further. It gradually got easier, though, and I found I could do two laps, then three… Before I knew it, I was spending my lunch breaks looping around the building. Some of my colleagues even started joining me, so that we could have a good blether while we walked.
I gave a few other activities a try, too. Spinning definitely wasn’t for me – I couldn’t walk for days after the class! I also had a bash at Zumba, but soon realised that I must’ve been born with two left feet. Happily, walking was something I loved from the very start. As well as my lunchtime strolls, I began taking long walks along the beach and through the countryside near my house – and I walked a Race for Life event with some friends from group.
Three years after joining Slimming World, I reached my initial target weight of 10st 8lbs, and just a few months later, at a routine check-up, my doctor told me my type 2 diabetes had gone into remission. Plus, my blood pressure was back at healthy levels and, while I’d still need to have regular check-ups, I no longer needed to take any medication. I’d done it!
I’ve lost another 8lbs since then and lowered my target weight – which means I’ve lost 16st 2lbs altogether! Although Slimming World groups are temporarily suspended, I’m still able to get lots of support in my virtual group, which really helps me to keep up those healthy habits and lifestyle changes that have got me where I am today. I’ve gone from being told I may not be around in five years to having a second chance at life, and I’m going to make the most of it.
We’re proud to share Tracy’s inspiring story this Diabetes Week, alongside new Slimming World research that shows how many members with type 2 diabetes are also reporting how losing weight is helping them reverse the condition. It’s not just Tracy who’s turned her health around, either… our fantastic member Jason was told he wouldn’t live to see another Christmas unless he changed his lifestyle – and now he’s medication free after losing 14st!
If you think that losing weight could transform your health, our virtual groups are continuing to help members while local groups are temporarily suspended – or you could join our friendly community at Slimming World Online. Take the leap and together we’ll make those important changes for a healthier, happier future.