After casually living with type-2 diabetes for 20 years, the threat of insulin kicked Mike into gear and he decided to accept the offer to join the programme from his diabetes nurse. Mike was very sceptical about the programme at first, but soon realised that it was just what he needed to make simple, practical changes to his lifestyle and eating habits to get his type-2 diabetes under control!
A bit about you
I’m 58 and 20 years ago I was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. Most people I told either didn’t believe me because I “didn’t look fat enough” or breathed a sigh of relief because it “wasn’t the more serious type-1″. I spent the next decade pretty much ignoring it and complacently watched my HbA1c graph and blood pressure medication ratchet up a notch at each annual review with my doctor.
In 2012 someone got around to inventing a diabetes nurse. Mine was an Mk1 straight-talking prototype model. Complacency was banished. She suggested the best solution for my now seriously consistent HbA1c rise might be taking insulin? It was the shock I needed. I went from nonchalance to obsessive in a single stride. My HbA1c graph turned upside down and I’ve made sure it has stayed there ever since.
Sceptical at first, but won over!
I’ll be honest, when I got the invite to participate in the Second Nature programme I thought it pointless but I agreed to it anyway. Of course, I soon realised that I didn’t know as much about my condition as I thought and even less about nutrition.
I immediately felt I could trust the programme. The information provided is always backed up with quality evidence from credible sources. This is important for me and it allowed me to concentrate on the content and not whether I believed it or not.
I was able to adapt to what I was learning around my life almost immediately. Some things, such as understanding food labelling, have been so practically useful I do it instinctively now. Meal planning took more effort but was made easier by my partner becoming actively involved. She has lost more weight than me! That said, I’ve dropped 12lbs, which came as quite a surprise given I’ve been within my BMI range for many years. It gave me pause for thought. Discussing this with my health coach was so helpful. In reality, I’ve found my natural weight, and it was lower than my perception of my natural weight.
Knowledge is power
My energy levels and motivation have always been high and in recent years I have worked hard to maintain good levels of activity and management of my weight. The biggest thing that has changed for me is I feel in control. I know so much more about my condition than I did. My nutritional knowledge and the impact different food has on my body is no longer a mystery. Diabetes isn’t manging me anymore, I’m in charge.
What I like the most about the articles is the clarity. They counter myths with science and nutritional knowledge that is practical, simple to understand, and easily applied. They deal with the difficulties of changing behaviour head-on and provide strategies for dealing with them. There is always something in them that I find useful for my personal circumstances and over time they’ve built into a reference library that I can dip into whenever I feel the need. To my mind, the programme is worth it just to understand the healthy plate concept. It’s a great example of a whole lot of knowledge and science condensed into one very simple strategy.
Support of the health coach essential
My health coach has been pivotal to the programme. You know, most people with diabetes are used to only having a 20-minute annual review. Access to a knowledgeable nutritionist and health coach every day frankly feels like a luxury. This programme could operate without a health coach but I’m pretty sure it would be less successful. They help everyone navigate through it with encouragement and support.
What I really like about this programme is that it treats me like an adult. It doesn’t make assumptions about me and most importantly, it doesn’t talk to me like I’m a student on a course. I have absolutely changed my behaviour as a result of what I’ve learned, even with the subjects I’ve been sceptical about. But you have to go with it. Frankly, at the start of this programme, my opinion of mindfulness was some sort of fuzzy psycho-babble nonsense. Now, I find myself applying it all over the place; why am I accepting the offer of a biscuit with a cup of tea? Am I hungry? These questions come into my head naturally now where they didn’t before. That’s mindfulness to me and it sums up my experience of the programme; take what you need from it, but open up your mind to all of it.
Any advice to your peers?
You don’t need to study this programme as a syllabus that you will be tested on. There are things I found less useful. I’m not a journal writer. I’m never going to jot down three things I am grateful for each morning. I’m not that sort of person. For some people, they could be the most helpful strategies. The point is, use what you find useful. Equally though, recognise and acknowledge when you feel like giving up on something because you find it difficult. Maybe this shouldn’t be ignored but rather, you might benefit from seeking help from your health coach and group. There will be people in there wrestling with the same issues and a problem shared…
At the start of this programme, my expectations were very low. I thought I’d already cracked this diabetes management lark. What I’ve come to realise is that I could have been doing it in a much smarter way. Finally, I’d keep in mind that changing behaviour can be hard, but the benefits of doing so are far greater than the difficulties of changing them.
You can read more Second Nature stories here.