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Going on the NHS low calorie diet programme and into remission: Julie's story

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Julie Taylor

August 2019

“I was told I had put my diabetes into remission after about 10 weeks. I was so happy that I started dancing around the room.”

When Julie, 52, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in August 2019, she was sluggish and tired all the time. Her GP enrolled her onto an NHS weight management programme to help her lose weight. Ten weeks into the programme she was told she had put her diabetes into remission.

Diagnosis

Struggling

Before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in August 2019, I was on the Healthier You NHS programme for people that were in the prediabetes stage so I knew that it was coming. At the time, I wasn’t really trying to prevent it because I was suffering from clinical depression and unfortunately it coincided with me having prediabetes so I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. 

When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes I was put on metformin and was initially taking one tablet a day. During this time, I was very sluggish, particularly if I had a lot of starch and carbohydrates. I would struggle to stay awake at times. I used to fill up on rice, potatoes, pasta and not very many vegetables. My blood pressure was 154/85 and I was overweight. 

Treatments

Starting the low calorie-programme

Because I am a scientist I knew about the research Professor Roy Taylor had done around following a low-calorie diet and type 2 diabetes remission, funded by Diabetes UK. I got in touch with my GP and they said that I could be enrolled on the next NHS low-calorie weight management programme. I jumped at the chance. 

The programme involved an initial meeting with two NHS staff – a nutritionist and a sports scientist. They let us try out the flavours of the soups and shakes. Then they explained how hard it would be when we first started, they said that the first week is usually the hardest to cope with but if you make it through the first week then most people can keep going. 

Initially, I was allowed four soups or shakes a day, which came to around 800 calories.

Complications

Challenges of the low-calorie diet

My motivation for doing this was my family. Most of my family on my mother’s side have type 2 diabetes and I’ve seen the results of complications such as leg ulcers. I thought to myself that I can’t face being in that much poor health so I need to do something about it. 

At the very start of the low-calorie diet I was extremely tired. I found that I had so little energy that if I stood up too quickly, I would feel a bit faint. I was working full-time and so it was hard for me to see everyone eating around me. I asked my colleagues if they could try and keep food away from me and thankfully everyone was really supportive. 

But after the first week I felt really positive and I thought to myself that the worst is over so I can keep going with this. 

Remission

New energy

I was told I had put my diabetes into remission after about 10 weeks, this was in early December 2019. The NHS dietitian told me when I went to one of the fortnightly meetings and she had double checked with my GP. I was so happy that I started dancing around the room. 

I feel at least 20 years younger, I have so much energy now and I sleep like a log. Previously I used to wake up because I needed to go to the toilet and I was always tired. I used to get exhausted just by climbing the stairs and now I run up them. I’m exercising as well and have started walking and swimming. We were warned in the liquid phase not to do more than gentle walking in case we passed out. 

My weight has gone from 127 kilos to 99.6 kilos and my blood sugars have come down from 51 mmol/mol to 37 mmol/mol. 

But, I never once thought about giving up. I just keep telling myself that it’s a short-term pain and I can get through it.  
 

Food and healthy eating

Reintroducing food

I’m still on the trial now, roughly 14 weeks in, and this is the food re-introduction phase. I can have no more than one soup or shake a day and two small meals. I eat the meals off a side plate – half is filled with vegetables or salad, a quarter with lean protein and the rest with carbs. The idea is to not exceed 1,200 calories daily.   

Seeing my numbers improve has spurred me on, it’s one of the brilliant things about the programme. They check your blood sugar and weight every time you go to one of the meetings and they give you a graph so you can see how it’s changing all the time which is really motivating. 

I’m now allowed to have two small meals a day, alongside a soup or shake. The small meals are based on NHS guidance for healthy eating, so I eat my meals off a side plate.

Half the plate needs to be vegetables or salad, two varieties of each, and a quarter of the plate should be lean protein and the other quarter should be carbs. We have also been told to drink one litre of water or a sugar free drink a day – I never used to drink water so this is a new thing for me. My skin is a lot healthier now and the water fills me up between meals. 

The liquid phase of the programme ended just before Christmas so we could eat Christmas food but there was a warning that if we went back to our old habits then we would just have diabetes again. This stage of the programme was a lot harder and I started writing down everything I ate and drink on a fitness app to make sure I didn't go over my calorie allowance. It’s easy to eat sub-consciously and you don’t realise what you’ve been eating until you’ve finished so this helps keep me on track. 

Keeping weight off

The trial finished in September and the final three months was about keeping your weight down. You have much better habits and so it’s easier to maintain a low weight. I now understand that energy in your body and energy out of your body must be a balance. 

I don’t worry about maintaining the weight. It makes complete sense and I feel so much healthier and happier – it’s life changing. 

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