"When I first found out I had diabetes I was quite surprised. When I look back, all the signs where there - tiredness, constantly going for a pee and so on, but I just put it down to middle-age! I went to the optician and found that my eyesight had deteriorated dramatically. He advised me to see my GP who confirmed that I had diabetes.
HOW JOHN CHANGED HIS LIFE:
Cycled to work
Has three regular meals a day
Learned to cook
Got an allotment - for exercise and healthy food
I used to travel a lot on business, which involved lots of wining and dining, and then sitting in front of a computer. My job was very demanding so there wasn't much time for exercise and I spent my weekends watching telly, so my weight crept up. Losing weight was difficult. Making changes to my diet just wasn't enough to shift it. I decided to leave the car at home and buy a bike. I hadn't ridden one since I was about 12 years old so it took some getting used to, but I soon shed the pounds and I also feel like I'm doing my bit for the environment!
It was hard to manage my diabetes when I was eating out at odd times and was unsure of the ingredients. Since retiring, it has been easier to control my sugars because I have more of a routine. I try to stick to the same three mealtimes a day and have a snack between meals to keep my sugars up. I also make sure that I have a piece of toast before bed to stop me getting low in the night. Sticking to the same eating habits as much as possible has helped me regulate my insulin doses so I can now stick to the same dose.
I found self-testing particularly useful when I first had diabetes. I would try different foods and test myself afterwards to see how they affected my sugars. I was quite fascinated by it and soon learnt which foods I should avoid and the ones that keep my sugars steady. When I started the insulin, the testing helped me work out the right dose. I kept a log of how much insulin I'd had, my test results, what I'd eaten and how I felt.
I try to avoid foods that cause spikes in my sugar levels. In the old days, when I got peckish at around nine in the evening, I would eat half a packet of biscuits or a bar of chocolate. These days I'll have one really nice chocolate. Treating myself has become more about quality than quantity. I don't really miss dessert much because I'm a big cheese fan. I often have a nibble of cheese after dinner at home and can still join in for the third course with cheese and biscuits when we're out. It was harder to say goodbye to the booze but I do feel a whole lot better for it. I used to drink wine at lunchtime and sometimes also have a couple of pints after work. I now limit myself to a glass or two of wine at the weekends and a pint of ale on special occasions.
Learning to cook
Since having diabetes I have learnt a lot about food and cooking. In the old days, my wife cooked all the time and once in a blue moon I'd pour a "cook-in" sauce over some chicken and think I was chef of the century! I soon learnt these kinds of meals made my sugars go through the roof. When I retired, I had more time on my hands so I took on an allotment and started growing my own veg. It's great exercise and I'm keener to cook something I've grown myself.
The more I've learnt about managing diabetes, the easier I've found my diabetes to manage. The most important thing is to think ahead. If I know that I'm going to go for a long bike ride, I'll have a banana before I set off. You can't always predict what's going to happen, but you can take precautions. If you go out to eat, the food sometimes takes ages so I try to avoid getting anxious and always order some bread when I arrive to keep me going.
Before I had diabetes, I knew that I shouldn't smoke, I should be eating more healthily and probably should be keeping an eye on my cholesterol and blood pressure, but I always put it off. You hear about people getting all kinds of health problems but I suppose I thought it'd never happen to me. When it did it was a shock but it prompted me to give up smoking, lose weight and look after myself much better - it may well have saved my life!"
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