Being diagnosed with diabetes can be devastating but Carolyn Jarrett was determined not to give in to her condition. Here, she reveals how overhauling her diet helped her combat the illness.
Waking in the night as my husband Hugh slept soundly beside me, I reached for my bedside glass of water. After glugging it down, I still felt thirsty, so I crept out of bed and downstairs to the kitchen, where I poured myself another pint.
It was November 2004 and for months, I’d felt constantly thirsty, often getting up in the night several times. I felt tired, too, only I put that down to having a busy job as a training manager at a careers company and looking after my two daughters, Laura, then 16, and Sadie, 11.
But then, a routine check-up at the doctor a few weeks later revealed something surprising – my blood -glucose levels were abnormally high, and the doctor diagnosed type 2 diabetes. I sat there, stunned, as my doctor handed me a diet sheet and told me I needed to cut sugar out of my diet completely – even from cups of tea – and instead eat a low-carb diet with plenty of vegetables.
I’d always had a sweet tooth, loved chocolate, sugary tea and biscuits, and I’d often cook up big, stodgy meals of meat pies and home-made chips. In my 30s, I’d been 26st and a dress size 32 – and, at only 5ft 4ins, I’d been considered morbidly obese. But, although I’d joined a slimming group and managed to shed 6st, at 20st and a dress size 26-28, deep down I knew I was still overweight.
The doctor didn’t say diabetes had anything to do with my weight, but he stressed that the change in my diet would make all the difference. Reluctantly, I swapped to sweetener in my tea and found a website that sold sugar-free chocolate and sweets, but family meals were still pretty much the same. I took a daily tablet to lower my blood-glucose and, apart from bi-annual check-ups, I carried on as normal, enjoying cheese, pasties and pizza. But, as the years went on, I started noticing that my eyesight was sometimes blurred, especially when driving home from work at night in the dark.
My wake-up call
An eye test in 2014 confirmed my eyesight had deteriorated, and my optician put it down to my diabetes diagnosis. I was prescribed glasses and left feeling devastated, the enormity of my condition finally starting to sink in. I tried hard to change my diet even more by cutting down on carbs and sugar, but my portion sizes were always big, and food was still my comfort blanket. When I got home from work feeling stressed and tired, I’d cook a huge meal and felt better.
I got a wake-up call at a check-up in April last year, when my doctor told me my blood-glucose levels had risen sharply and I needed to start injecting myself daily with insulin to lower it. ‘If you don’t, you’ll start seeing more and more symptoms of diabetes,’ she warned, explaining how my eyesight could deteriorate further and – worst case scenario – I could die prematurely.
‘I’m not giving in to it,’ I cried to Hugh later that night, searching online for more information. By then, there was a lot more available to read up about diabetes and ways to improve the condition, and I read about one man who had managed to completely reverse the disease by doing the LighterLife diet.
‘Give it a try,’ Hugh encouraged. I’d lost count of the number of diets I’d tried over the years – even one where I’d tried to survive on eggs alone – but I was desperate, so I contacted my local LighterLife consultant Debbie. When she weighed me, I discovered I was 17st 13lb and a dress size 26. With her help, I threw myself into a 650-calorie-a-day diet, while Hugh agreed to cook his own meals.
‘It’s like astronaut food,’ Hugh frowned sceptically as he watched me add water to packets of dried meals of spaghetti bolognese or shepherd’s pie. The portions were tiny – I could finish the plate in just eight teaspoons, and for the first few weeks, I had headaches and felt groggy as my body adapted. I was on the Total plan, which means having no other food – not even lemon in tea – just the meals, shakes, soups and a nutrition bar.
Within a month, I’d lost a stone and, during my fortnightly meetings with Debbie, I learnt about my eating triggers, which were usually down to feeling stressed with work. Instead of eating in response to the triggers, I found other ways of dealing with things, like going for a walk or to my local gym. I lost around a stone a month until last October when Debbie weighed me, and I was down to 12st 10lbs. ‘I’m the slimmest I’ve been in decades!’ I told her in disbelief. I’d lost nearly five stone and, that same week, I even managed to squeeze into a size-12 top.
A new chapter
I switched to the Management diet with LighterLife, slowly introducing normal foods like salads and fruit, But best of all, a few months later when I went for my regular check-up with my doctor, she had some good news. My blood-glucose level was back within normal range and, after 16 years, I was in remission from diabetes. I cried with joy and felt so proud of myself.
Combating my diabetes was a dream come true and, of course, the weight loss had given me a real boost, too. It’s taken me a while to get used to my new figure, though, and I’ll often second-guess myself when I try on a fitted skirt or a tighter-fitting top. ‘Do I look OK?’ I’ll ask Hugh nervously before heading out, but he always reassures me about how great I look, and my confidence has soared.
Now I think nothing of going to a yoga class or putting on a swimming costume and going to the local pool, whereas before I’d never have had the courage to do anything like that. In January this year, I celebrated my 60th birthday, feeling healthier and looking better than I had for years. Now I’m 11st 10lbs and a size 12, plus I’m no longer on any medication for diabetes at all, and my eye-sight has even improved a little, too. It just goes to show that you really are what you eat. Now I’ve achieved my weight loss, I’m never going back!
With virtual meetings and home delivery, there’s no better time to start your weight-loss plan. For more information visit LighterLife.com
Diet before – 17st 13lb
Breakfast: No breakfast
Lunch: Seeded bread sandwich with butter; yogurt for dessert
Dinner: Chicken curry (large portion)
Snacks: Cream coffees, nutty snack bars, cheese
Diet After – 12st 9lb (Weight loss 5st 4lb)
Breakfast: LighterLife Banana Shake
Lunch: LighterLife Shepherd’s Pie
Dinner: Healthier versions of pasta dishes or one of the LighterLife Chicken Fastpots
Snacks: I rarely snack but, if I do, it’s usually a piece of fruit