By Laura Scruton
Determined to be Healthy
My food and health story really started when I went to university. We had heart disease, type 2 diabetes and autoimmune conditions in the family and I wanted to avoid all of that, if I could. So, I read up on it and everything told me to become a vegetarian, eat wholemeal bread and beans, avoid fat and above all, I must keep an eye on those calories! So that is what I did.
I followed the Food Pyramid, based my diet on starchy carbohydrates, made my own wholemeal bread and chose baked potatoes when eating out. But this didn’t work out for me – I just kept on putting on weight and despite my best dieting efforts and a lot of worry, I was chubby. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t understand why all that science didn’t work for me – so I lost confidence, blamed myself and just kept on trying and failing; it was a vicious circle.
Starting a Family
I really enjoyed my pregnancy to start with, until I went to have my blood sugar tested. The next day I was on insulin and my pregnancy became a bit scary. It was gestational diabetes (high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth). I understand that is becoming more common now, but if I had known how to avoid it I would have done what I needed to do; it has so many consequences for both mother and child.
I was then diagnosed with type 2 diabetes shortly after the birth and again I buckled down and went back to following those Healthy Eating Guidelines; I did not want my daughter to have a sick mother all her life! The doctors told me I must keep trying to control my blood sugars, but that I would fail, it would get worse and that I must accept the pills and ultimately, when needed, take insulin.
A few years later I developed rheumatoid arthritis; my days were painful, my finger joints got damaged and I was so tired all the time. I used a lot of willpower to get through each day, but I wasn’t having much fun. Despite all my efforts I was at least two and a half stone overweight and taking medication for both conditions.
Finally, the internet came to my rescue and I found out that my body didn’t need all those carbs! I discovered that healthy fat was indeed healthy and that I really should eat some. It wasn’t easy to change. I added some good quality meat and fish to my diet and gradually cut down on starchy carbs, while allowing myself to eat delicious full fat dairy.
I read about the work of Dr Alessio Fasano on gluten and the gut, started to use dietdoctor.co.uk, watched Dr Robert Lustig’s The Truth About Sugar and started to figure out what suited me, an N=1 experiment. This was scary, but there was clearly science out there that was not in the guidance I had been given. I realised that I was insulin resistant, and that I could do something about it, so I did.
Fast forward to now, I no longer take any medication, although I will if I need to one day. I am pain-free and with a bit of swimming and walking, I have ‘excellent fitness for my age’ (58), as kindly described by my Fitbit. My HbA1c is generally in the pre-diabetic range; it is very sensitive to stress so following a recent injury it popped back up to just within the diabetic range, but it is already on the way back down again, because I now know what to do.
And the best news for me? May 2019 was the 25th anniversary of my diagnosis and I have no complications! Here’s hoping for the next 25…
- Well, firstly don’t eat too many takeaways!!
- Real Food hits the spot. All those processed ‘healthy’ meat replacements did me no good at all. I make the food that suits me best from scratch now, often vegetarian, and eat only tasty quality food. It’s inexpensive, comes with very little packaging and doesn’t harm the planet.
- One-size-fits-all guidelines fit no one as we are all different. Find out what suits you and find out what is done to produce your food – do you want to be responsible for that?
- We did not evolve to eat all the time. Since reducing the carbs, all my body’s natural feedback mechanisms that tell me when I have had enough to eat work properly. I don’t have cravings and I’m not hangry! No snacks needed, no calorie counting, only a healthy appetite!
Click here to download the Real Food Day family activity pack and watch Laura’s presentation from the Public Health Collaboration 2018 conference below.