Helen's story

Photo of Helen

My name is Helen Thomas, I am 52 years old.  I live in Deeside North Wales with my husband Gavin and 2 cats. I work in Chester as an accountant and have been with the same company for 22 years. It's not the healthiest of jobs sitting down all day, but I am very happy there.

I lost my Mum last year due to complications from type 2 diabetes (end renal failure / cellulitis).  It was a horrible way to see someone you love suffer. Looking back Mum was, just like me, always on a diet.  My brother also had diabetes (although he had never told anyone). My brother was told 14 months ago, rather bluntly by his doctor, that he needed to 'have a word with himself' and sort out his diabetes and weight. His doctor suggested a few diets that were out there and my brother decided to go for the Newcastle Diet - he has now cured his diabetes and 12 months later is 7 stone lighter and walking mountains every weekend.

My blood sugars have always been fine, but I felt that I was sitting on a time bomb and needed to get my life turned around and getting healthy again. I don't want to end up like my Mum. What finally switched my mind into gear was watching the Fixing Dad programme - I cried a lot watching, thinking about my Mum and wishing we could have done the same for her.  It also frightened me that I could also end up like 'Geoff' one day if I didn't do something about my weight.  Something just clicked in my head and that's when I decided to join the 'Ways of Eating' programme.

As a child/teenager I was always very skinny but very active.  My Mother and Aunts were all overweight and whenever we got together, it was always time for cakes/sweets/buffets/fish & chips etc…  Food was always seen as a treat rather than fuel, so we grew up 'living to eat' rather than 'eating to live'. As a teenager I was an elite swimmer, training sometimes twice a day before and after school. I was always sporty and participated in any classes going (aerobics/step etc).  I also loved the outdoors and spent time on nature walks and bird watching.

When I was 22 I dislocated my knee badly, resulting in many operations over the years. It turns out that I had joint hyper mobility, so my kneecaps would dislocate easily. My exercise regime gradually went out the window but my social life and eating got bigger, and so did I. When I was 24 my Dad died of a heart attack aged 57. I took this very badly and just ate and partied more to try and get over it. When I was 28 I was diagnosed with PCOS. I was recommended by the consultant to try eating low carb foods.  However, I struggled with all the diets I tried and could never get my head into gear.  From my late 20's onwards I tried every diet going - my weight over those years went from 9st 5lb to 18st 1lb at my heaviest 3 years ago.

2 years ago I had a full knee replacement, this was mainly down to my earlier operations, but my weight gain didn't help either.  The few years before that I was on very strong painkillers and I think I was a bit depressed and of course comfort eating and drinking to try and cheer myself up. My other knee will also need replacing at some point, but I am managing it well at the moment.

My husband and I have always had a lot of friends, with a big social life and we love our holidays abroad (food and alcohol have been a massive part of this).  Not that I want to change the social life, but I am now in the right frame of mind to take control of my life.  I decided to cut out alcohol when I started the programme - the main reason being that I was drinking far too much. Also alcohol made me hungry and want to raid the cupboards.  We have just returned from a 2 week holiday abroad. We had a great time and for the first time ever on holiday I didn't gain any weight, in fact I lost some. I had the odd glass of wine, but it really didn't do anything for me so I drank sparkling water most of the time.

I have tried weight watchers / slimming world / Atkins / Cambridge / Lighter Life calorie counting - you name it I've tried it.  I always start off well, but don't have the will power to continue or the inclination.  I also joined up to gyms / exercise programmes then got bored and ended up wasting my money again.

I have found the programme quite easy - I find the slides easy to read and interesting.  It's great to log the food daily, I like the photo food idea too -  I incorporate this with FitnessPal to keep an eye on the carbs.  I've always believed lower carb is better for me and it's refreshing to read the information on the site, rather than the low fat / high sugar way. It all makes sense to me.

I now prepare food and try to be more organised - we have virtually no processed food at all and use only good oils / fats for cooking. I have not eaten bread / pasta or rice since I started the plan. I have bought a Fitbit and try to walk at least 10,000 steps a day - if it's raining I use the gym in work at lunchtime. I did a lot of swimming on holiday too. I no longer look in the fridge and pour a glass of wine or eat a bag of crisps when I get home from work. I say no to the office cakes and the holiday and charity sweets- people have got used to me now.I now make sure I walk to the upstairs loo in work and drink 2/3 litres of water each day.

I am enjoying my food, but only at mealtimes - I don't feel as hungry as I used to. I feel much fitter, especially since I have lost weight - I am enjoying my walks.

I found the program easy myself especially with help from the coach.  My brother (Jeff) is my diet buddy and he has been a great support.  The difficulty was getting other people to understand I was being serious about it for once (friends, work colleagues and family). Of course I've had the odd glitch, usually if I've overdone it on the carbs and had a snack attack. Aurora, the coach, was very helpful answering any questions I had and encouraging me. Her knowledge is excellent. I like to read the forums too where there are some interesting questions and answers from all the coaches.

The most challenging part was to cut out alcohol initially and also to try and fit in the exercise.  I also struggle with sleeping. This is still a problem and think it goes back to when I took strong pain killers before my knee replacement.

There have been lots of health benefits from the program. My recent blood tests were excellent, cholesterol, blood sugars and BP all excellent. I've also found that I have less joint pain - I think this is a mixture of losing weight and also the anti-inflammatory effects of a low carb diet. I often wondered if I had a slight gluten intolerance and I think this way of eating has proved that I did have one. I no longer have bloating / wind or stomach upsets. I have always felt that you should listen to what your body is telling you and mine is definitely saying it’s feeling better.

I am feeling very positive for the future, although a bit impatient now as my weight loss is slowing a bit.  I feel this is a sustainable way of eating, I don't feel like I'm dieting and I will continue to eat low carb and find suitable alternatives to carbs.  I still have 4 stone to go, but after losing 1.5 stone on the plan so far I will get there.  It was such a good feeling to get out my old clothes from the loft and use them for the holiday this time.  The clothes that are too big have been sent to the charity shop.

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