How to reverse pre-diabetes

As the title suggests, this is going to read like a smug post. In fact, I feel more relieved than smug, and I offer it here in case it encourages others. As regular readers know, back in the summer I had blood tests which by chance revealed that I was pre-diabetic. My GP advised me to lose some weight and return for another test six months down the line.

I needed rather more support than that, so I did some searching, found that anyone with dodgy risk scores (gender/age/weight/waist measurement/height/ethnic background/family history) could enrol on the NHS pre-diabetes programme, and duly signed up with a programme organised by Xyla. Fortnightly Zooms in a group of 20 with a trainer, then monthly Zooms, over a total of nine months. I’ve found it useful to learn more about diet, exercise, hormones, stress, the psychology of eating, and more. I also wanted the actual numbers so I asked the healthcare assistant when she did a test for something else: she said ’44 – normal is under 42 – so that is eminently reversible’.

I liked ’eminently reversible’. I liked it very much indeed.

I told her I intended to lose weight and she asked what my target would be. ’80 kg’, I said, plucking a round number out of the air. ‘Oooh’, she said, ‘that’s quite ambitious’… At that point I was nearer 90 kg.

Well, I made it there. I shall probably linger at 80 kg for a while and see how it feels because – drum roll – I have now had my second Hba1c test and the magic number has dropped to 37! ‘No further action required’, said the receptionist reading me my results earlier today.

I could go out for a piece of cake to celebrate, but I haven’t done so. Giving up those pieces of cake was one of the ways I lost weight, and the thought now is just too sugary. Here are the other ways, offered in the knowledge that what works for one person isn’t going to help everyone.

  1. Intermittent fasting. I did the 5:2 diet to kickstart the weight loss thing. It fits my life – I can find two days a week to restrict myself to 500 calories, and then eat normally (but healthily) the other five days. It also re-set my relationship with food. I was terrified that, on the fasting days, I would faint, die or both. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to sleep. But it was all fine. I learned that I don’t need to graze all day in order to live. I am not doing the fasting any more but if my weight started to creep up, I’d do it at once.
  2. Extending the time when I am not eating. Breakfast later, dinner earlier, and – key point – no late night bowls of cereal ‘to stave off night starvation’. No chips at midnight on the monthly evening of being a street pastor. Give your digestive system a proper rest.
  3. Stuff I learned on the NHS programme: the importance of reducing your sedentary time; the simple method of eating so that one quarter of your plate is protein, one quarter carbs (good ones, like brown rice or brown pasta) and one half vegetables. That’s a lot of vegetables. It’s also more protein than I was eating at the time. Protein fills you up so you don’t get as hungry.
  4. Portion control. Just say no to seconds. You don’t really need them. Better to put things on your plate in one go (doing the quarters method, at least in your mind) than adding things over the course of the meal.
  5. Exercise. Continue with the tai chi. More daily walking. At least twice a week, this is augmented by the excellent 30 minutes (plus warm up and cool down) video from the NHS programme, which is the sort which starts as ‘Hey, this is a doddle’ and ends up with ‘I think I need a little rest now…’
  6. Support. Emailing my Monday weight to a friend every week; chatting to others on the programme via social media; talking to people and finding they are in the same diagnostic boat; having my husband join in the dietary things.

Most of all, I think all this worked because I took responsibility for myself, experimented and found what worked for the way I live. I wouldn’t want to join something like Slimming World (known to a friend as Fat Club); not because it costs about £6 a week just to be told what to do, but mainly because of its ridiculous concept of ‘syns’ – things like biscuits, sweets, alcohol and chocolate, with someone my weight being allowed 15 syns a day. How does allowing ‘syns’ help people to get into a healthier way of eating? Living for your syn allowance, thinking about it all day and eventually devouring it… A curly-wurly for six syns? I think not. On the NHS pre-diabetes programme, you are encouraged to have something like some celery or carrots or oatcakes with hummus if you need to eat between meals, which means you are being trained to stop craving sugary stuff.

Nor would I want to spend my life weighing things and counting calories. Even on those two 500-calories a day parts of the intermittent fasting regime, once I’d found what added up I just ate the same things – things I enjoy – every time rather than go through lots of counting. For the record, that meant breakfast of a very small amount of porridge and half a banana; a scrambled egg on a bed of mushrooms for lunch; some protein (fish, chicken) and veg or salad for dinner.

And this is about how you spend your life. Diet programmes are known for achieving weight loss then piling it all back on once you’ve reached your target. That won’t be happening here, not least because my main motivation for this is, quite simply, fear. I don’t want to be diabetic.

2 thoughts on “How to reverse pre-diabetes

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