January is the classic month for setting all kinds of well-intentioned health-related goals and trying to ditch the post-Xmas pounds. For me, the healthier-eating journey started last year when I had a routine fasting blood test. It revealed that I had a blood glucose reading of 6.6mmol/l (normal is below 5.5) which put me in the so-called ‘pre-diabetes’ range i.e. at high risk of developing type two diabetes. It was a bit of shock to be honest.
Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in an NHS diabetes prevention programme run by X-PERT Health last September so I’m going to start sharing some of the tips and recipes that have already seen me shed 7KG in weight and shave 10cm from my waistline as well as helping me to better manage my blood glucose levels throughout the day. I’ll still be publishing delicious examples of #TheFridayRecipe but with an emphasis towards those that help to reduce carbohydrate intake as part of a balanced diet and the impact that has on blood glucose levels, weight and other health indicators such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Pre-diabetes? Moi? How did that happen?
I’m not a snacker. I don’t consume sugary food or fizzy drinks. I pretty much eat food that has been made from scratch nor do I eat commercially made junk food or takeaways. My blood pressure, cholesterol readings and blood sugar levels have always been fine in the past and I used to be naturally skinny. So, this blood test and my increased BMI result came as a bit of a wake-up call. As we get older, our bodies change and our ability to metabolise our food intake into energy changes too. Coupled with my age, my ‘apple’ body shape where fat tends to accumulate around the waist, previously high levels of stress at home and at work and a sedentary job/not enough exercise, it’s all been a bit of a toxic cocktail. It can happen to anyone. It’s happened to me.
So, what actually is diabetes?
Even if you don’t have diabetes, you’ve probably heard it mentioned in the media quite a lot lately and with good reason. According to Diabetes UK, more people than ever have diabetes and more people than ever are at risk of Type 2 diabetes. If nothing changes, more than five million people will have diabetes in the UK by 2025. Around 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. Around 8% with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes and 2% have rarer types of diabetes.
Put simply, diabetes is a common condition where the amount of glucose in the blood at diagnosis is too high because the body cannot use that glucose as energy. Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin (the hormone our pancreas creates which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood), or produces insulin but cannot use it properly.
Diabetes can cause serious short-term and long-term health problems such as tiredness and lethargy, impaired healing, blurred vision, heart disease, kidney damage and many more horrible conditions that are bad for us as individuals and cost the NHS millions and millions to deal with. *A recent research study of Covid-19 deaths in the UK has also found that up to 2/3rds of hospital deaths have been amongst diabetes sufferers amid warnings that the condition more than doubles mortality risk. So, I’m taking responsibility for my health in a refocused way and, hopefully, I’ll do my bit to relieve the pressure on our beleaguered NHS too.
The way forward
I’m now taking the steps that I need to follow to reduce my risk of developing Type 2. It hasn’t been a chore and it just means making the right tweaks to what I eat, when I eat it and staying really active. I’m not a qualified nutritionist or a Doctor but maybe I’ll inspire you to think more carefully about your diet and consider making some lifestyle changes too. We’re all different so, standard disclaimer, think carefully before embarking on anything drastic and don’t self-diagnose!
I’m happy to share my new-found tips and tricks because the programme I’m on was written by a Doctor and is delivered by health experts in their various fields. If I mention any health jargon or stats, I’ll make sure that they are referenced to official and credible sources, not flaky fake news sites, celebrity Instagram accounts or self-styled diet experts with no real substance. I’ve also been on the programme with about 25 other people (men and women of varying ages and backgrounds) so it’s been interesting to hear how others have coped and the difference that a few sensible and practical changes have made to them too.
Happy new year dear readers – here’s to a healthier 2020!
Pigeon Cottage Kitchen
NB: Always consult an appropriately qualified health professional before adopting a dramatic lifestyle change – we’re all different, what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.
*Research study led by the national clinical director for diabetes, Prof Jonathan Valabhji.
Further articles on #Eattobeatdiabetes
- Eat to beat diabetes | Getting started
- Eat to beat diabetes | Reading and understanding food labels
- Eat to beat diabetes | Breakfast tips
- Eat to beat diabetes | ‘Well-woman’ salad!