Staring at my doctor, I tried to take in what he was saying. I could see his mouth moving, but his words seemed to evaporate in thin air. I blinked, trying to shake off the shock. My GP had just told me I was diabetic and I needed to drastically change my lifestyle.
I don't know why I was so surprised. I was 47, and weighed 83 kilos, which at 160cm, was the heaviest I had ever been. I'd always been slim before, but suddenly at 40 I realised the kilos had somehow slipped around my middle unnoticed.
I am a community nurse, which means long drives between visiting patients. They would always offer biscuits, tea and chocolates and my hand would go out without me taking a moment's pause. After a long shift I would be too tired to cook anything, so I lived on chips and pizza. I loved desserts, especially cheesecake, and didn't skimp on portions either. I would even go back for seconds if there were any. I could easily eat as much as my grown-up children put together. All this was on top of the snacks I'd devour to make my journeys between patients more bearable. I'd have a cake mid-morning and a bag of crisps after lunch.
The nature of nursing means that you tend to care for yourself last. The weight and sluggish feeling crept up on me until, despite sleeping extremely well, I noticed that I was tired all the time. I was always thirsty and drank two or three cans of cola a day. Although I had some of the classic symptoms, it really hadn't crossed my mind that I could be diabetic. No one in my family had it so I just never imagined that I could be suffering from it. I'd been feeling off-colour and washed out. I thought I was anaemic, which is why I'd gone to my doctor. I really was quite shocked when my GP showed me the results of the blood tests that showed I had type 2 diabetes.
As a nurse, I knew I was reducing my life span, increasing my risk of a heart attack, kidney disease, as well as problems with the blood vessels in my eyes. The diagnosis sent me into a spin, but even though I knew I had a chronic disease that I'd caused through my bad habits, I didn't do anything differently for a while. I was overwhelmed at the prospect of making any changes to my lifestyle and eating habits. I procrastinated and was far too busy feeling sorry for myself to take any action.
So my UK size 16 nursing uniform stretched further and further, until I realised I had to take the advice about my diet and exercise seriously. I tried to cut down what I ate but found myself feeling hungry and longing for sweets and stodgy foods. I started walking with a friend at the weekends but deep down I knew it wasn't enough. Then I was hit with a bombshell; one day about eight months after my diagnosis, I was out shopping when I bumped into an old friend from nursing college who asked me when my baby was due. I was devastated having to explain my large tummy wasn't a baby but a result of all the cakes and pies I was eating. Something had to change.
I didn't know exactly what to do; which diet to follow or which exercise class to go to. It was all foreign territory to me and I was lost. Then I met an old friend who I almost didn't recognise. I hadn't seen her for years and she had lost so much weight, about 20 kilos, that she looked years younger and completely different. "What diet did you go on?" I asked, desperate to follow it. But she'd tried something else - hypnotherapy.
She explained that after years of trying different diets she went to see a hypnotherapist, Russell Hemmings, for treatment. Following his advice she told me how the weight just started to fall off her. "The best thing is I first went to see him two years ago," she said, "and I haven't put any weight back on."
I was so impressed - would I be able to get rid of my love handles, and, more crucially, control my diabetes? Luckily, I managed to get an appointment, but I was nervous about what was going to happen. I didn't want to be put into a trance, but Russell made me at ease. I had no idea what to expect - this was my first experience with cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy which, he explained, helps challenge barriers and allows for long-term change. What Russell did was very simple - he'd spend the two hours each session getting to know me, finding out what motivated me, and what I wanted to do to help myself. He didn't tell me what to do, we discussed it, he listened to me and together we came up with an individual plan of what I had to do. At the end of the session, he would put me in a trance and tell my subconscious everything we had agreed upon to ‘embed' it. During this time he would also give me lots of practical advise to follow so that once I came round, I would want to eat healthier and exercise. It had an instant effect too - I came out feeling motivated and joined a gym right away, which is something I'd never thought of doing before.
I saw Russell for four sessions which cost £595 (Dh3,457) each, which was a lot, but it was the best money I have ever spent. I tried some new fitness classes and loved working out. I used to envy people who were motivated to go to the gym and work out, but suddenly if I ever had to work late or miss a workout class I became quite annoyed. It wasn't just about losing weight, I wanted to be healthier.
Russell's weight-loss programme was far easier than I'd imagined. I'd never been able to stay on a diet before, but Russell trained me during the sessions to crave healthy foods. He helped me see how I had developed my cravings for desserts and to change it. It had been a tradition to always have them at family gatherings, and he made me understand that while it was nice to follow tradition I could meet family without having the pudding, which was sugar and fat.
I was able to give them up because what he was saying made perfect sense. I don't know why I hadn't realised before that I didn't have to eat sweet things to feel happy and full. My food choices were improving daily and I lost all interest in the ‘bad aisles' in the supermarket.
Russell advised me not to think that I was on a diet. He helped me make healthy choices instead. He said that the majority of dieters put the weight back on, and more, after they finish dieting. Instead the hypnotherapy helped me see a bag of crisps for what they were - plain fat. I lost my desire to eat them, puddings or have cola.
Within six months I lost 26 kilos, but the best was yet to come. My GP told me that by losing the weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle I had reversed the effects of my diabetes and all of my blood glucose test results were showing pre-diabetes readings. I cried, I was so grateful.
I'd had a lucky escape and I am proud of what I have achieved. I want to share my experience to let others know that you can change and you can change for the better.
I know that I will never ever go back to being overweight or having a sedentary lifestyle because if I do my diabetes will return.
Russell gave me an array of hypnotic downloads to reinforce the message, which I use from time to time so I don't ever feel tempted to snack or overeat.
All my dark old clothes went to the charity shop and I bought some new trendy ones. When I look in the mirror - which is quite often now - I just can't believe it. I am thinner now than I was in my 20s and I feel great. Most importantly I'm healthy and have cured my diabetes by changing my lifestyle.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Diabetes Mellitus or type 2 diabetes occurs in adults and is characterised by insulin resistance. When this happens, insulin (the hormone that is produced by the pancreas to metabolise glucose) is unable to enter the cells and convert glucose into energy. This is different from type I diabetes where the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas are destroyed and the body is unable to produce insulin at all.
Type 2 or adult onset diabetes is caused mainly by lifestyle factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle and eating oily, sugary and fatty foods that cause insulin resistance. Symptoms include frequent urination, a feeling of constant thirst, increased hunger and rapid loss of weight. It can be controlled by a proper exercise and diet regimen. If it's not controlled it can damage kidneys, cause poor circulation in the extremities, impaired vision and can affect the heart.
What Linda ate before
Breakfast - nothing
Mid-morning - a bag of crisps, sausage roll, cake and can of cola
Lunch - sandwich, bag of crisps, chocolate bar
Dinner - pie and chips, two large slices of cheesecake, can of cola
Night snack - can of cola and bag of crisps
What Linda eats now
Breakfast - porridge oats cooked in water with a little milk
Lunch - fresh fish, salad and fruit for dessert
Dinner - grilled chicken, steamed vegetables