For Kevin Staunton, from Kilmallock, Co Limerick, sugar was the big culprit in piling on the pounds. As a hairdresser he was used to having coffee and biscuits with his clients through the day.
“I always used to get a packet of biscuits in the morning and by the end of the evening they were gone. All that went out the window when I was diagnosed. I kicked sugar big time and lost loads of weight. I went from 16 and three quarter stone, to 11 and three quarter stone in a couple of months. I’ve looked at pictures and think ‘oh my god, is that me?’ I’ve tried on some of my suits and I could fit two of me into them,” says Kevin.
It wasn’t easy to drastically reduce his sugar consumption and Kevin had felt a bit like the ‘cold turkey’ he felt when he gave up smoking 23 years ago. He thinks this sugar withdrawal was partly why he felt so rotten for the first three months after his diagnosis.
“The first two months I was in misery, when I think back. I was thinking ‘should I be eating this? Should I be eating that?’.
“But I was determined I was going to beat this thing. That was my goal. I have got very strong willpower,” says Kevin.
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Kevin and his wife Catherine have three children, two boys and a girl who are 21, 20 and 16. Kevin gives Catherine a lot of the credit for his successful weight loss, as she has tweaked the diet of the whole family to include more healthy food with lots of fruit and vegetables.
Kevin is now doing so well that his medical team just tell him to keep on doing what he is doing.
New breakfast regime
One of the changes to his lifestyle is breakfast. Kevin used to never have anything at home, but would buy a breakfast roll on his way to work.
“Since my diagnosis I kicked that out the window and switched to breakfast at home with porridge, or beans on brown toast. I religiously have a breakfast now, I can’t survive without one,” says Kevin.
Lunch has changed too. Kevin used to just keep on working as long as there were clients, and try to fit lunch in sometime between 12 and 4. One time he had no lunch, then went straight off to a funeral after work.
“My wife had to drive me home where I went straight to bed. So now I have my lunch at the same time every day and will say to clients: ‘Can you wait 10 minutes because I am having my lunch?’,” says Kevin.
Kevin has his evening meal at home with the family.
“Every food I pick up in the supermarket, I look at the label. We make our own pasta sauces, we eat brown bread and very few potatoes. Even the children adapted well to a fresher diet. Fruit, vegetables. I check the ingredients on everything at the supermarket.
“Maybe twice a week, I might have a bit of cake or chocolate. I’ve adapted to the new regime no problem. I have a glass of wine occasionally with our dinner,” says Kevin.
Checking blood glucose
At first Kevin was obsessed with checking his blood glucose – maybe four times a day. But now he checks it just in the morning.
“I’ve got it to a fine art of being between 5 and 7 maximum,” says Kevin.
“I had a Chinese one time and I went up to 10. The next time I rang I asked them did they put sugar in the food, she said ‘yes’, and I said ‘is it possible, no sugar?’ and they did the food without sugar and my bloods were fine after it,” says Kevin.
The whole family have got involved in the new lifestyle.
“My eldest son is hurling mad and he put me on a regime. He thought my muscles were fading away. He had me doing major walking and major stretching and quads. My arms had gone a bit weasly looking. He said ‘you’re going to waste away if you don’t start doing something’.
“He adapted his own strengthening and conditioning programme for me. It has been great. My legs are great. I walk maybe five nights a week, about three miles each night.
“I have some sensitivity in my feet. But other than that healthwise, I am feeling great,” says Kevin.
Kevin’s cholesterol and blood sugar levels are generally at the levels they should be for him.
“I have come to the conclusion that if you get rid of sugar, you are on a winner.
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I keep an eye on the fat, and I don’t have much. We don’t fry, we always grill. We just make sure that we have a few carbohydrates and protein. My wife just tweaked our whole diet to suit. The eldest lad is happy because it suits his training. The children love the wholegrain brown bread. Nothing in our diet is over the top.
“I feel much better now than I did before I was diagnosed. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I got this,” says Kevin.
Kevin’s typical daily diet
Breakfast: porridge, or brown bread and beans
Snack: 11-11:30, a banana
Lunch: 1 o’clock – no matter what: salad, pasta, or sometimes a sandwich
Snack: 5 o’clock, a piece of fruit
Dinner: 7 o’clock, for dinner Kevin and his family have, fish, chicken or meat and fresh vegetables.
“At first when you are diagnosed, you think the world has come down on top of you. And you are thinking, now I can’t go anywhere, I have to keep this on track. We like to go to Spain for our holidays, and I was thinking ‘I can’t go there now, what am I going to eat?’
“I was very mopey for the first couple of months.
“But now everything is fine. We can still go out for a drink. We can enjoy ourselves and we can go places.
“I was relieved at the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes because I was afraid it was something worse, like cancer. I felt Type 2 diabetes was something I could control, it was up to me. The first time I went back to the doctor she said to me, ‘I’m so pleased with what you’ve done. People think that once I give them the tablets they can carry on as before. But you have to work with the tablets’. She said: ‘Whatever you’re doing don’t change it, stay with what you are doing’,” says Kevin.
Look out fort our new “Living well with Type 2 Diabetes” book, soon to be released and available from GP surgeries in support of the GP Cycle-of-Care initiative