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Peter’s story: Taking part in an NHS pilot put my type 2 diabetes into remission

peter jackson


Losing all that weight and being in remission felt great, both physically and mentally. And I can only describe my initial feelings as a positive regret that I didn’t address my weight years ago.



I distinctly remember it was 9th April 2021, a Friday, when I got a phone call from my GP. It was the first time a doctor had ever called me, and the news wasn’t good. She told me that I was standing on the precipice of type 2 diabetes and they had spoken to me about this twice before; this was basically the last call on the matter.
That conversation really hit home with me. While I was on the call, the GP also told me that Dundonald Hospital in Belfast were running a pilot scheme for diabetes remission, and would I consider participating in the programme, which could help remove the risk of type 2 diabetes. I didn’t give it a second thought – I wanted to take part.
At the time I was 19 and a half stone, and I knew that I wasn’t leading the healthiest of lifestyles. I had worked in sales for a tobacco company for over 43 years and although I had retired in 2018, my habits were eating on the hoof. I had meetings and overnight stays across the country meaning my eating and socialising wasn’t very conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

Journey with diabetes

Getting on the programme 

Although I was keen to be part of the pilot scheme, my GP wanted me to think about it and discuss it with my family. She explained in a lot of detail what it would entail and mentioned the soups and shakes. A week and a half later I went to see her at the surgery still adamant that I wanted to take part. I discovered that at 65, I was at the age limit to be accepted for a place.
The next step was to have an interview with the doctor running the programme at the hospital, as well as a dietitian. I was also required to meet with a psychologist, which was important. We had a relaxed chat, just to see if I had the right character and commitment to see the course through. It was expensive for the NHS to support me on the programme, so they needed to know that I was serious.

Following the diet

Finding out about my diabetes was a wake-up call and as a result I lost a stone in weight through my own volition, by cutting out all my favourite snacky foods and fizzy drinks – even beer. It was the first time in 15 years that I dropped below 19 stone, which was a huge motivation and a real incentive for me.  

I began the remission programme in August 2021 at a starting weight of 18 stone 6. My diet consisted of soups and shakes adding up to 800 calories a day for three months. There were 10 of us on the programme, and it was the fourth pilot scheme of its type.  
By the beginning of November, I weighed 14 and a half stone, having lost a total amount of five stone. My routine was a shake in the morning, a soup at lunch time, a shake in the afternoon and then a soup at teatime. I also had to drink two and a half litres of water throughout the day. It was quite strict, and I found drinking all that water the hardest thing to do, having not been much of a water drinker.  
From November, we were gradually weaned back onto real food again by reducing the soups and shakes and building in food only then were we able to do some exercise. This is when I noticed I wasn’t getting the same stiff joints, which was a big bonus, and I wasn’t out of breath walking up the hill to my house. I seemed to benefit in so many ways and this was a real feel-good factor. 
After three months, I had a check-up and blood test and my HbA1c had come right down. I was fortunate that during the programme we were supplied with NHS scales, a blood pressure monitor, and a kit for checking your blood glucose levels at home, which was really handy to keep across your progress. The other big win for me was my blood pressure tablets were reduced, which I’ve maintained.  


Benefits of remission

Losing all that weight and being in remission felt great, both physically and mentally, and I can only describe my initial feelings as a positive regret that I didn’t address my weight years ago. We had moved from England back to Northern Ireland and my excuse was bringing up the kids and not having the best lifestyle in terms of work.   
When I lost that initial stone that was a huge lightbulb moment, as well as the feeling of not being breathless when walking. The target I wanted to achieve after three months on the programme was 15% weight loss. Both myself and a couple of other people had reached our 15% weight loss with about three weeks to go, but were encouraged to keep going until the end of the 12 weeks.

I think being part of the programme and in a team environment was really motivating. There were so many different characters, which worked really well for me. 
My target weight had been 15 stone 3, however I went down to 14 stone 5. It was visibly a lot of weight to lose and living in a small village I noticed people looking at me and thinking I might be seriously ill, so I would have to tell people not to worry and that I was on a managed NHS programme and feeling great. 

Getting support

I’ve received great encouragement from my wife, three children, their partners and my grandchildren. Once a week I would text them all and share my progress, and they were each so supportive and equally inspired, too. When the grandchildren visited, they would say, “Papa you’re looking great, keep it going,” so that was wonderful to hear and another incentive. 
The professional support from Diabetes UK has been invaluable and has definitely helped to keep me focused and on track with my remission. Throughout the programme, Diabetes UK facilitated regular online Zoom meetings which were very motivational.

I thrive on having that ongoing contact when someone is really interested in me and my wellbeing. I have continued to receive support from Diabetes UK on a once-a-month basis at my local community centre, with the local team organising for podiatrists, ophthalmologists, and various clinicians to pop along and see us at the centre. 
Just being able to chat, and share our experiences and any concerns, as well as find out about other aspects of diabetes, is so beneficial and serves as a place for constant learning, so having that support is great.   

Life after the programme

I’ve been in remission since the programme ended and currently weigh just over 17 stone, but my personal target is 16 stone 7, which I feel will be my optimum weight. That’s a goal for me to aim for but it’s ongoing and I just need to keep chipping away at it.

The positive is that I’m still a couple of stone lighter than I was previously. It’s also about changing habits. I was never a person that would go out walking but now with having the dogs, I do a lot of walking – they’re a great incentive to be out and about.  

I feel really proud about making these changes. I also feel very privileged to have been given that lifeline, and just from how people respond to meeting me in the street, they could see the effort and change that I’ve made and say how good I look for it. 

Advice for others

For anyone facing a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes I would say be prepared to find that part of your character that enables you to dig deep.

You need to have the right mindset as it takes a lot of effort and control, but the benefits at the end are so great and worth all the challenges. For me it has not been about just escaping type 2 diabetes; remission comes with so many other benefits, like coming off your diabetes medication and not feeling joint and back pain. Just having a healthier outlook on life and your wellbeing.  

My advice is to go in all guns blazing and then slowly but surely chip away at it making a real effort along the way. Instead of going for coffee and scones, I now just have a coffee. Find out what motivates you. Someone like me needed to be pushed, even my family saying I should try and lose some weight didn’t have the impact. For me, it took my GP taking the trouble to phone and say, “get yourself sorted” that did it.

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