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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Remission

Some people with type 2 diabetes are able to achieve healthy blood sugar levels without needing to take any medication. This is sometimes called reversing diabetes. Here we share their stories, as they recall the life-changing moment their diabetes was put into remission.

Snita SharmaDiagnosed with type 2 diabetes 10 years ago

Remission

I found out about the Diabetes UK-funded DiRECT trial, which was in its early stages at the time. DiRECT looks at using low-calorie diets for weight loss to help put diabetes in to remission. I wasn’t in the right geographical are to take part in the study, but then I found another very low-calorie diet that I wanted to follow. My GP was concerned that it might not be safe for someone with type 2 diabetes but I told her “I’m going to be 50 soon, if I don’t try, I’ll never know.”

After a couple of weeks, I got the most amazing release of energy. I started running faster, and my swimming and cycling improved too. Mentally, I’d never felt so good. My GP supported me to reduce my medication as I started to lose weight and a blood test shortly before my birthday confirmed that my diabetes was in remission.

Maintenance

The hardest thing was transitioning from a really strict diet to a whole new lifestyle. A dietitian helped me do that, and my older son was a great source of support as well. To begin with I tried a high-protein, low carb diet but then I started researching vegan diets.

I’d become scared of eating fruit, because I considered it high carb. But I got to a stage where I felt my body needed more natural foods. Now, I eat a lot of fruit, salads, vegetables, wholegrains. My favourite dish is probably a lentil curry with rice. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed my diet so much. I feel amazing.

Read Snita Sharma's complete story
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Lesley SlaughterWorks with type 2 diabetes patients.

The everyday benefits of remission

Being told by a family member or friend that they look amazing, or being able to play with their children without getting too out of breath were the kind of things that kept my patients going on a day-to-day basis.

The other thing is that their changes are also benefiting other members of the family. I would hear stories about families eating together more, preparing meals together, the children wanting to be more involved in the food shopping because they’ve seen their parents take more of an interest, that kind of thing.

There was one lady who wanted a particular dress to wear at a wedding which was from a shop that didn’t stock sizes above a size 18. After taking part in DiRECT, she managed to get the dress which was amazing. The main incentive is always achieving remission, but it’s the day-to-day reminders of how fabulously they are doing that give people a nudge to keep going.

 

Tips for success

In my experience, the people that are most successful at staying in remission are those who are monitoring themselves. So weighing themselves frequently, continuing to monitor their dietary intake using a diary or an app. Sometimes life can take you by surprise and can pull the rug from under you – so holidays, high stress situations or changes in circumstance can all be triggers for changing back into old habits. If you’re not monitoring, it’s easy to fall back.

If you're keeping a track of your food intake or weighing yourself, it’s easier to pick it back up quickly. 

We also talk about social support from the beginning and it’s really nice to hear when people say “I talked this through with my partner or friend, and they got me back on track”.

We always encourage people to get back in touch with us too if they’re struggling and need support, even if it’s just for a chat on the phone. The success of a weight management programme like DiRECT has to be, in part, due to the level of support people received. The total diet replacement is only one piece of the jigsaw – the change in behaviour and habits takes a long time. So get the right support is my biggest advice.

 

The future of remission

I’ve come full circle from feeling unsure about DiRECT, to an absolute advocate. With the DiRECT results being released, there’s increased demand and interest in remission. People are talking about it far more. I would absolutely support somebody if that’s what they wanted to do. 

I think more research and support is needed to help with maintaining weight loss. But that’s another ongoing learning curve, and will come out eventually with continuing practice. 

Read Lesley Slaughter's complete story
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Kathleen BroughDiagnosed in 2015.

Support during DiRECT

My husband was very supportive of the trial. Even he lost a lot of weight. My daughter was inspired by the changes in my body, and she also started losing weight. They were both very happy for me. It makes it worthwhile to do it when you can see all the dedication the nurses and the doctors have been putting in to the trial. I did it for myself, but actually for them as well. 

In life, you get out what you put in. And I did put a lot of effort in, but it’s certainly been worth it, and the support I had was tremendous. I’m so pleased to have taken part. Everyone’s been so helpful and I’ve gained a lot of knowledge from doing it. 

 

Positive news

When I was told I was in remission, it was brilliant. I felt I’d achieved what I set out to do. I thought, it’s all been worth it, going to the hospital, having all the blood taken and doing all the tests. When they showed me the scan of the liver and the difference in fat, I was elated. Ironically, I wasn’t bothered about changes on the outside, but the inside – the fat around the liver and pancreas. 

I’m aware that I’ve got to watch what I eat, but in general, I just eat healthily. We’ve got two allotments, so we eat lots and lots of vegetables. Dave grows them, and I cook them.

Where would I have been now if I hadn’t have done it? I consider myself very fortunate to have been on the DiRECT trial

 

Read more about diabetes remission

Read Kathleen Brough's complete story
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Joe McSorleyDiagnosed in 2015.

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.

Read Joe McSorley's complete story
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Edward MorrisonDiagnosed at 55 in 2010.

Edward's life in remission

When the trial team told me I had put my Type 2 into remission, I felt fantastic and it gave me that drive to make sure I maintained it. 
My HbA1c was 49mmol/mol, with diabetes medication, when I went on DiRECT. Since then, over the past three years, my HbA1c is either 34mmol/mol or 36mmol/mol.

 

Lifestyle changes

I found that my lifestyle changed when the DiRECT trial started. After dieting, things I used to eat in the past, I no longer ate. Everything now is cooked from scratch and I follow some of the philosophy behind the programme – looking at the amount of carbohydrates and fats I should be having. I’m checking that more and more now, and it’s something that I plan to continue doing. My weight has now stayed stable helped by the amount of walking I do.

 

The future

Bringing my blood pressure down through the trial means that I now have more energy – I no longer feel exhausted and I can do more, too.

I used to be keen on motorcycles and I’ve got back into that now. I love how good I feel overall. 

Read Edward Morrison's complete story
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