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Joe's story: going on DiRECT helped me achieve diabetes remission

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Joe McSorley

Diagnosed in 2015.

Going on DiRECT was a difficult decision to take, but it was the right one as my life has changed so much.

Joe, 58, is based in Glasgow, where he works for BT. His diagnosis of type 2 diabetes was a bolt out of the blue as he hadn’t experienced any symptoms of the condition up to that point. Joe thought long and hard about going on the DiRECT trial before committing to it. But the motivating factor for Joe was the feeling that he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life on diabetes medication. Taking part in the trial and going into remission has been a valuable experience for Joe and has turned his life around – changing his attitude towards diabetes and his lifestyle.

Journey with diabetes

Joe's journey with diabetes

  • Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in January 2015.
  • Prescribed metformin.
  • Although he had no symptoms before diagnosis, Joe knew enough about Type 2 diabetes to make lifestyle changes to manage the condition.
  • Managed his diabetes with, what he thought, was a sensible diet alongside his medication.
  • When he was invited to take part in DiRECT, Joe’s determination not to be on diabetes medication for the rest of his life was the deciding factor.
  • Lost 3st 1lb (about 20kg) as a result of being on the low-calorie weight management programme and has put his Type 2 diabetes into remission.
  • Now exercises every day and has achieved a level of fitness that he would never have imagined he could reach before DiRECT

Diagnosis

An unexpected diagnosis

Before being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2015, I hadn’t shown any symptoms at all. So my diagnosis was quite out of the blue in that respect. But I wasn’t scared or shocked when I found out. I thought that I’d just get on with my life as best I could.

At the time, I knew bits and pieces about diabetes – that type 2 could be caused by lifestyle choices. So I acted upon it by looking at my lifestyle, which seemed to be the most logical thing to do. From then on, I managed my diabetes with metformin and being on – what I thought – was a sensible diet.

I used to think I had a healthy lifestyle, but, in hindsight, it wasn’t healthy enough – I wasn’t eating all of the right things.

Treatments

Going on DiRECT trial

The invitation to take part in the DiRECT trial came through my GP – the DiRECT team had contacted GPs in my area of Glasgow as they were looking for people to get involved in the trial.

But it wasn’t an immediate decision for me. I spoke to my wife about it and it took me about two weeks to take the decision that I wanted to be involved in the trial. Part of the reason was that I wanted to make sure I’d be fully committed and that I could really do this. I’m not someone to give up half way through. So I wanted to make sure that I could see being on this trial through to the end – and be able to go 12 weeks without food!

But thinking about being on diabetes medication, and continuing to be on it, made me commit to DiRECT and to participate in the trial. To this day, since being on the trial, I’ve continued to be off it.

 

DiRECT challenges

Looking back, I found DiRECT to be a very good experience for me. I didn’t have any drops in energy levels as I was trying to keep to a fairly normal routine.

I am generally a happy person, which helped, and I focused on the end goal and just got on with it. That said, I found the first week of the trial difficult. But – after that – I got accustomed to the flavours of the soups and shakes, and I realised this is what I had to do. I was on them for 10 weeks because I hit the weight loss target earlier. And when I did get to 12 weeks, I still used soups and shakes to some extent. At that point, I started with one meal a day, initially, for the first week and then went on to have breakfast and dinner.

After that, I finally went back on to normal foods. The trial also made me realise I was eating too much. That was probably a contributing factor to the way I was before I went on DiRECT.

Remission

DiRECT results

As a result of being on the trial, I lost just over 3st 1lb (20kg) in weight. My current weight is 12st, as I put 6lb back on. My blood pressure went down as it was slightly high before. Now it’s on the lower side, and I’ve actually been told that I have the blood pressure of an athlete at the moment. And now I don’t even have to think about going to the gym anymore. I come home pack my bag and go for it!

Being on DiRECT now makes me think ‘I can do’ and ‘I will do’. There’s no longer a mindset for me of ‘I will try’, it’s ‘I will do it!’

It’s been a life-changing experience for me. DiRECT was funded by Diabetes UK, so I have a lot to thank the charity for. But to succeed in doing this, you need to get it into your head that ‘You have to want to do it’.

 

In remission

When I was told that I had put my type 2 diabetes into remission, I couldn’t believe it. It was such a feeling of relief, and it felt so, so good! I couldn’t wait to share the news. I’d done something about having diabetes, it was like all of my Christmases had come at once. That’s why I believe in sharing my story. Anything I can do to help, I will do.

Food and healthy eating

Making lifestyle changes

Since going on DiRECT, I still have weaknesses when it comes to food, but the biggest change in my life is the exercise I do. I now exercise on a daily basis – the trial re-educated me on what a healthy lifestyle should be. I’m a much more active person – a totally different person, with totally different fitness levels. In fact, I’d never have imagined that I’d be as fit as I am now, at my age – I’m as fit as I was when I was 21.

In hindsight, there was a certain amount of denial when I got on the trial. It was a difficult decision to take, but it was the right decision as my life has changed so much.

I would recommend the programme for everyone, even those who won’t put their diabetes into remission – it will still improve their lifestyle!

Don’t feel that once you have the weight off you’ve achieved your objective – you need to continue to maintain the weight. You can’t just think, ‘OK, I’ve done this and that’s the end of it’. It has to be a complete lifestyle change.

If you’re happy with it and you like what you’ve seen, you need to keep that focus. I look at who I was and I think, ‘I’ll never go back to that again.’ I’m going to the gym almost every day – I always do some sort of exercise. I’m considering cycling from Glasgow to Edinburgh to raise money for Diabetes UK.

Life with diabetes

Support from others

I got a lot of support from my family – especially my wife because she did a lot of things in terms of the cooking, and making changes to our diet so the temptation wouldn’t be there.

I also received a lot of help from dietitians. I’d see them every month and they’d always be very encouraging, helping me to maintain my focus.

 

The future

Becoming a personal trainer or a lifestyle coach is something I’m thinking about doing two years from now, when I’m 60. As much as possible I want to spread my story and to help other people turn their diabetes around, as I did.

It’s made me realise that as a society, we need to think about what we can do to help ourselves. And what actions we can take to turn this Type 2 diabetes crisis around. We want to do things fast and buy pre-made food, but this type of attitude – as a society – has to change.

 

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