By Katie Caldesi
Something was seriously wrong with Giancarlo Caldesi. The successful, energetic, larger than life character was listless, overweight and depressed. He had excruciating pain in his joints and everything was an effort.
Business was going well; he was an award-winning restaurateur and cookery school owner. He’d been awarded the honour of Cavaliere by the Italian Government for his work in promoting Italian food and he’d co-authored a number of critically acclaimed cookbooks.
The answer came in 2011 when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Together Giancarlo and his wife, Katie, tried many ways to combat his diabetes; he struggled to reduce his portion sizes and cut back on sugar but still his blood sugar levels rose. He looked and felt even worse. Three years later he weighed 17 stone and his HbA1c levels (blood sugar count) was 79 millimoles per mole; things were not good.
On top of this he was diagnosed with a severe gluten intolerance by nutritionist Jenny Phillips. It felt like his world of food and everything he loved was forbidden and although determined to fight, he felt very low. No pasta, no pizza, no choux buns or bread. Imagine an Italian man who, for almost 60 years, was used to eating his beloved pasta at least once and often twice a day being told to stop. What he didn’t realise is that this diagnosis would probably save his life.
When Katie met Giancarlo she used to describe him as having the energy of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, but by 2011 he’d lost this energy and now his demeanour more resembled that of Eeyore.
However, as soon as Giancarlo gave up wheat, dramatically reducing the amount of carbohydrates in his meals, he felt better. The swelling in his joints disappeared, his blood sugar levels dropped, and he began to lose weight.
Rather than being crushed by the diagnosis Giancarlo took to the challenge. He developed a gluten free pasta recipe as well as finding alternatives to pastry, bread and pizza.
At this time he and Katie were commissioned to write a book about salads which meant they were constantly testing recipes made primarily from plant sources such as salad leaves, herbs and vegetables; inadvertently following a low-carb diet.
Katie was constantly online looking for information and recipes and came across a world of low-carb eaters, most importantly low-carb eaters who were diabetic and who had turned their conditions around.
Through diabetes.co.uk the Caldesis became familiar with Dr David Unwin, who runs a GP practice in Southport and his wife, Dr Jen Unwin, who holds a clinic to support diabetics and people with other conditions which can be helped by a low-carb diet.
The Unwins, Jenny Phillips and the Caldesis are keeping in close contact to exchange ideas about this low-carb way of living and held one of their popular Sunday Sessions at Caffe Caldesi to promote this way of life.
Now eight years on from Giancarlo’s diabetes diagnosis, his HbA1c levels have dropped to just 38 (back in the ‘normal’ range), his diabetes is in remission and he has lost over three stone in weight. It’s been a difficult journey but Giancarlo thinks if he can do it then anyone can, and it’s never too late to make a start. He truly feels healthier in his mid-60s than he did in his 40s.
The resultant book from Giancarlo and Katie’s successful exploration of a low-carb diet ‘The Diabetes Weight-loss Cookbook’ was published in April 2019 by Kyle Books and became an instant Amazon best seller.
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