It’s been a year since I unexpectedly ended up in hospital…
It all started with what seemed like a case of food poisoning. Two days later and that had cleared up but it had been replaced with something else, I had vertigo and my leg had started to swell up. Something wasn’t right.
I decided to sleep on it and go to the doctors the next day if it hadn’t got any better. Predictably, it didn’t miraculously cure itself overnight. 😂 In fact, you won’t be surprised to hear it had got much, much worse. My leg was now severely swollen, red and very painful. Fast forward a few hours and I’m being admitted into hospital and end up on a drip administering strong antibiotics for a severe case of cellulitis. I won’t go into details of the infection but it was a very uncomfortable week in hospital followed by about a month of not being able to sit down without pain.
Unfortunately, the cellulitis is not the end of this story. On my second day in hospital, the doctor came to see me and she had some very bad news. I had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as part of the blood tests they had done the day before.
Even if you don’t know me personally, if you’re reading here you might have seen a picture of me and know that I was significantly overweight. In fact, let’s be honest and use the correct term for it. I was morbidly obese.
I have felt fat for as long as I can remember. Looking back at old pictures from my childhood this wasn’t always true, but I’ve always felt it. That doesn’t matter much now, because over the last 25 years reality quickly rose to meet my perception and there I was in hospital with a serious diagnosis, because of my weight. Fuck.
The NHS was amazing, as usual, and as well as the incredible care I received for my very sore leg I also received advice and guidance on diabetes. I was given a blood tester, started on medication to manage it and I was booked on to education sessions on living with the disease.
It took me a few days for the news to really sink in but in the days after being discharged from hospital I read plenty of material about diabetes. Actually, I mostly failed to read it, getting half way through a book or an article and just having to give up and come back to it another day because I couldn’t face the horrible things I was learning. Eventually I persevered enough to get the information I needed, and it really scared me.
In hospital, the doctor had talked about my weight but only once, and in a very gentle way saying “You should really lose some weight” in a consultation with me. I have thought a lot about why she wasn’t more firm with me about this. Maybe it just doesn’t work to tell people to lose weight? I don’t know. Anyway, in almost everything I read about diabetes there was a common phrase:
“If you are the correct weight…”
The ends of sentences that started like that were much, much better than the ends of other sentences that ended up in amputations and blindness.
I had experienced no symptoms of the diabetes. No increased thirst, no excessive urination. Really nothing at all. Only looking back once my sugars were under control (Spoiler: I get my sugars under control 🎉) did I notice what was really wrong. For example, about 6 months before my trip to hospital I had started getting seriously out of breath at even the smallest incline when walking. I had told myself there was no need to go to the doctors with it, I knew what it was. It was the fact that I had been grossly overweight for 20 years and was terribly unfit. Fat and unfit people get out of breath when walking up hills. I knew what the doctor would say. Lose weight. I knew it.
The truth is I had given up. I’d been pretty low for a long time. I presented myself both personally and professionally as doing fine, and you’d never have known but I really wasn’t doing well in my head.
I’ve tried to lose weight before, of course. Sometimes I even had some success but it’s a story that you’ve heard, and possibly experienced before. Some weight comes off, but it takes time and motivation fades over weeks/months and soon you’re right back where you started. I had tried calorie cutting, low carb when Atkins was popular but nothing had worked for more than a few weeks.
Alright. I’ll try to lose weight…
A change of lifestyle
I really hate that phrase. Even as someone who has undeniably had a change of lifestyle I hate how those words made me feel. Maybe it’s because it implies that you didn’t know how to live properly before? The truth is, I had never got the hang of living healthily and that’s very probably why hearing it made me so uncomfortable.
After getting out of hospital, I cut out all obvious sources of sugar. I knew that wasn’t enough though and I needed something more serious. One name had come up over and over when I talked to people about diabetes, Michael Mosley so I bought his book.
The diet is described as “Mediterranean Style Eating”. That doesn’t sound too bad! I love Mediterranean food, especially pizza! Wait, what? Only 800 calories a day and no carbs at all? That doesn’t sound very fucking Mediterranean to me. 😀
I read the marketing words on the front of the book when it arrived:
“Average weight loss in 8 weeks, 14kg”
I remember thinking that marketing is a wonderful thing but 8 weeks later and I was above average with a loss of 17kg. It definitely worked for me.
As well as that initial weight loss, the diet got my sugars well and truly under control. Actually, they maybe even went too low as I ended up having a hypo one night, which shouldn’t have been possible with the medication I was on. Anyway, I had one, but after another trip to the doctor where my HbA1c came out as 30 I was taken off all the diabetic medication and since then I’ve managed the disease entirely through my diet, which I’m really happy about. My last three HbA1c results have been 30, 28 and 32 which are all down at non-diabetic levels and a very long way from the 88 that it was at diagnosis.
Since then, I’ve kept up with a very healthy diet and got quite seriously into exercise as well (more on that in another post, this one is already way too long). I definitely have things to say on that subject though!
I’m approximately two thirds of the way there with my weight loss. When I was diagnosed I was 139kg (or 22 stones / 306lbs) and now I’m 99kg (or 15½ stones / 218lbs). I want to get to 80kg. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m really happy with my progress so far and I feel so much better.
Time for the obligatory before/after photo! 😄
Why did it work this time? Well, I wish you could bottle the motivation of a serious medical diagnosis.
Last year at this time I remember thinking that it’d probably take two years to actually lose as much weight as I needed to and that thought was absolutely crushing at the time. Turns out that I was probably about right with the timescale, but now that I’m a year into it, it doesn’t feel like a long time like it did back then. It feels like a short time, and it feels totally doable.
I still really fear slipping back into my old habits (which is probably a healthy thing), but I’m determined that I’ll never be the same again.