Stories

Second Nature Stories: an interview with Derek

Second Nature Stories: an interview with Derek

Derek joined Second Nature in January 2021, following a check-up with his GP which showed he had high blood sugar levels. Nine months later, he can’t believe the difference it has made to his life! After suffering with COPD and asthma for years, he no longer gets breathless and enjoys being active every day.

We had a chat with Derek about his inspiring journey and he shared his top tips for following the programme…

*A stock image has been used*

I’d love to start by asking, what led you to come to Second Nature?

Well, I’m in my 50’s and I went for my health checkup at the surgery which showed my blood sugars were high. The nurse who took my bloods told me about this programme, and encouraged me to sign up for it. I thought ‘yes, definitely, as I really didn’t want to become diabetic’. I knew something was wrong because I was feeling lethargic – I couldn’t be bothered to do anything, and everything felt like a chore. So on the 4th of January this year (2021), I started Second Nature.

It sounds like your test highlighted high blood sugar levels and you weren’t really feeling too well. What would you say is the biggest difference you’ve noticed in your health and wellbeing since starting the programme?

Definitely my fitness and breathing! I’m a straight talker, so I’ll be honest. I just never realised how idle I was. I live in a ground floor flat and my car is parked in the drive. The local shops are literally a 7-minute walk into town – I obviously know now because I’ve been walking since I started the programme!

Before I started, I used to just get in the car and go there shopping – even for just a bottle of milk, anything. I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Honestly, I didn’t realise how sedentary I was. I have an allotment approximately 12 minutes away from here, and I used to go in the car, there and back. I used the car for everything and I drive for a living. So it wasn’t a very good scenario or a place to be where I was. So when I started the programme, I thought ‘right, I need to start doing things!’

It sounds like using your car was a habit you’d got into. It’s fantastic to hear that one of the biggest differences you’ve noticed is an improvement in your breathing and your fitness – would you say this is down to you increasing your steps and daily activity?

Definitely, yes! Second Nature just opened my eyes to what I should be doing. I’m always up early – I’m on the road at 5 o’clock in the morning. So I’m always up from around 3am anyway, even on my days off. That part hasn’t changed, however I used to get up and just sit down to start watching the television. I look back and think, what was I doing?

So I decided to change my routine. I knew I would never get my steps in being a delivery driver, so I started walking more. And you know, I’ve really, really enjoyed it! It’s opened my eyes up and I really want to help encourage others to do the same.

That’s so encouraging to hear! I wonder if you can recall a specific time or period in the programme when you realised this was really working for you?

Oh, definitely, it was around the third or fourth week into the programme when I started noticing my breathing. And then a few weeks later, my wife noticed I wasn’t snoring in bed. And the pounds just started coming off! It really made me stand up proud and wonder why I didn’t start doing this years ago. I’ve got to be honest with you, I feel in my mind now that I’m back to being 25-30 years old – that’s how good I’m feeling!

That’s wonderful Derek – I’m so pleased this has had such a positive impact on you. As you say, you’ve noticed this big difference in your fitness and I wonder if you’ve also noticed any changes in mood and energy levels compared to before the programme?

Well, I’ve always been a happy, chatty person due to the nature of my job as I’m always meeting people. But what I have noticed is that I’m bending over backwards now to help people. If people are struggling, I’ll volunteer now if there are jobs to be done – no matter what job it is. For example, helping my elderly neighbours with their path – I would have shied away from doing that before as I had problems with my breathing.

Nothing seems to be too much trouble for me now. I seem to have the energy and feel really positive about things now.

Wow that’s brilliant – what a lovely change to reflect on. It sounds like you’ve really gained confidence and motivation to help others which is just great! Which features of the programme did you find to be particularly helpful and supportive?

The one area I keep coming back to is mindset, even more than exercising or anything else. To me personally, it’s the mindset that’s most important – once you’ve got this sorted, your body follows. I keep going back to this part of the programme and listening to all the articles and I’m sure I’ll continue dipping into these in the future, too.

This part of the programme really helped me set my goals. When I first started I thought ‘right, I’m going to walk 100 miles’ and then I realised that was too much – I couldn’t do that. And this is where the mindset aspect helps. It gives you help to break everything down so it’s more manageable and you can take smaller steps.

I really took that on board and not only did it help me understand the programme, I started to understand myself and my body. Instead of telling myself I’m going to do 150 press-ups, I started doing just one or two at a time and worked my way up. That’s how I did it – with Second Nature’s help, I broke it all down and did it in stages which made it all much easier to manage.

It’s brilliant this is introduced early on in the programme because it really helped me to understand what the programme was all about. I knew I needed to break things down and told myself ‘don’t run before you can walk’. I think that’s why a lot of people find change so difficult – they try to take on too much in one go.

I couldn’t agree more and I think you’ve proven that taking this approach really works in the long term. Although it’s natural to feel eager about making changes, if we try to take on too much we can end up burning ourselves out…

Yes definitely – and rather than it being a pleasurable experience, it can make everything feel like a chore. Once that happens, you might feel like it’s game over. So I look back to December and I was only managing one and a half press-ups before I collapsed. I told my coach, Gundeep, and she encouraged me to break this right down – I’m now doing 40 press-ups a day!

Wow, that’s fantastic – you must be really pleased!

I am, and it’s great to hear compliments from people who have seen the change in me too. I used to walk around with my head hanging low, now I feel lifted and so much better about myself.

The Second Nature programme should run forever, I’m such a believer in how well it works. I think to myself, ‘if this is what I can achieve in 9 months, imagine what I can do in the next couple of years!’

It sounds like all this is really motivating you to keep going with your habits.

Yes, absolutely!

I’m so pleased! It’d be lovely to know if you have any advice for fellow members on the programme or anyone looking to make a positive lifestyle change? If someone feels hesitant about joining, what would your advice be?

I would honestly say, take it one step at a time. Break everything down and don’t feel you have to do everything all at once. Because to begin with all the changes might feel overwhelming, but you can do it, just do it steadily.

That’s such good advice, you’ve made some really positive changes!

I have! Honestly, I look back and think how I used to get through two bottles of salad cream a week. I now make my own vinaigrette, which is lovely. I wish I’d started doing that years ago…I’ve also started introducing more garlic and onion with my meals for flavour and homegrown greens from my allotment. It really has opened my eyes!

Derek and I then had a lovely chat about how much he’s enjoying using his allotment and experimenting with growing lots of different vegetables.

We also talked about his old eating habits and how these had developed over the years. Derek reflected on how powerful his Second Nature journey has been as he can see how he got into this pattern.

It sounds like the programme has helped you to understand your behaviour and knowing this can be really empowering!

Yes, it really is! I have learnt so much and thank you all at Second Nature for opening my eyes. This is a new life for me I’ll always keep doing what I’m doing!

You can read more Second Nature stories here. 

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