WHEN Christine Milne was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2001, she buried her head in the sand for years. But now the 47-year-old from Stanley, County Durham has discovered the benefits of exercise which, she says, has improved her condition no end.
“Having two young children, a husband, a house and a job to look after, my illness was the last thing on my mind,” says Christine, a medical secretary who is married to bus driver David and has two sons, David James, 17, and Connor, 15.
“I didn’t want to acknowledge it at all.”
By 2008 Christine was taking medication to keep her blood sugar levels under control as well as tablets for high cholesterol.
At 16 stone, Christine admits her weight was as out of control as her blood sugars.
So when a nurse suggested a free two-hour exercise group run by the NHS diabetic service at the Louisa Centre in Stanley, Christine jumped at the chance.
“I found it a bit tiring at first as I was not only overweight but I was very unfit,” says Christine.
“We started with a warm-up routine, then we had to do a circuit of exercise equipment designed to help with various parts of your body, to get the circulation moving and to get your heart pumping.
After the circuit came the cooling down routine and then finally the relaxation routine.”
Afterwards some of the group started to test their blood sugar levels, but Christine was still reluctant.
“My illness was still the last thing on my mind,” she says. “So when Barbara the diabetic nurse asked if I was stopping for the education I said no I had to meet my mother.”
However, the next week Christine did stay on afterwards.
“I got the shock of my life at the contrast between my readings before and after the class,” she says.
“I couldn’t believe how much exercise can have such an impact on your blood sugars.
“I learned a lot about my illness and now I am able to accept it for what it is. Now I have the understanding and confidence to monitor and adjust my medication myself.”
The fun and friendly atmosphere was another reason to keep returning each week, and Christine built up a good rapport with Barbara and trainer Harry as well as making lots of new friends in the 20-strong class. She’s even been known to write a jokey note from her mum if she ever misses a class due to work.
“It’s not cliquey at all,” she says. “We have a huge laugh and a good time while we do the exercises. The regulars help the new people who come for the first time by welcoming them into the session and making it a good experience.”
Since starting the classes two years ago, Christine has lost three and a half stone and gone down two dress sizes.
It’s also improved her health as she only needs to take one drug rather than a cocktail of medication like before. “I found if I tried to diet it would come off but go straight back on again,” she explains.
“This time because I am still attending the exercise sessions it’s staying off.”
It’s also inspired her to take up Zumba and swimming – so now she’s exercising three times a week.
Although Christine hasn’t changed her diet drastically, she has reduced her portion sizes and started eating little and often.
“That helps a lot,” she says. “So you’re not binge eating at the wrong time.”
Christine is just one of the 2.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK – almost 5% of the population.
It’s estimated that 850,000 further people have the condition but don’t know it.
According to research last year from Imperial College London and Harvard University in the US, the number of adults with diabetes in the world has more than doubled since 1980.
In the US around 8% of the population are affected by diabetes and as obesity rates climb in the UK, it could only be a matter of time before we follow suit.
Type 2 diabetes, which often develops later in life, is often caused by a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits, although genetic factors are also at play.
However, this type of diabetes can be reversed in some cases through exercise and diet, and certainly improved in most cases.
It’s vital to get the right balance of insulin and food before exercising, so taking an exercise class that’s overseen by the diabetic service can be very helpful.
Page 2 - James Batey's story >>
James Batey's story
HAVING been medically retired for many years after an accident at work which damaged his back, James Batey was unable to do much exercise to help his diabetes.
But instead he found that shedding over six stone was just as effective and has led to rapid improvements in his health.
Just nine weeks after starting his new diet, he no longer needed blood pressure tablets and now his diabetes has gone entirely. “I’ll never be off the diabetic register but I haven’t got diabetes any more,” says the 55-year-old dad to Annemarie, 25 and James, 29. “But if I put the weight back on, it could come back.”
James was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes seven years ago, having been borderline for years. His weight ballooned over the years until in 2009 the 6ft 3in dad reached over 24 stone. His weight was literally off the scale. “I was too heavy for the doctor’s scales,” says James. “It really shocked me into losing weight so I joined Slimming World.
“I couldn’t walk very far at all. I would just drive everywhere. The doctor told me I should exercise until I got out of breath – well that wasn’t going to take long!”
James admits he used to drink too much beer and was a chocoholic with a penchant for chips, bacon sandwiches and crisps. “I’d have a Mars bar and a glass of milk before I went to bed every night,” he says. “And if I had one Quality Street I would eat the entire tin.”
Now he’ll typically eat two poached eggs and a slice of un-buttered wholemeal toast for breakfast, some chicken with cabbage, leeks and potatoes for lunch and a dinner of Slimming World chips cooked with one-cal spray and curry powder, plus eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions.
As a result he managed to lose 6st 9lb in just over a year, meaning by Christmas 2010 he’d reached his target weight of 17 stone. Although he put a stone back on last year due to the stress of his divorce, James is hopeful for the future and knows he can lose more weight with the support of his group.
“I have a different mindset now,” he says. “I can walk down the aisle in the supermarket with all the chocolate and crisps and it doesn’t bother me.”
James admits that his excess weight “compounded everything that was wrong with me” but now his health is much better. Adding more exercise into the mix is the next step. “I can’t do that much because of my back but I’ve started walking a lot more,” he says. “And although I’d be embarrassed to go swimming at the moment, it’s something I’d like to do when I’ve lost more weight.”