A Denbighshire man who feared he’d ‘eaten himself into an early grave’ after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has undergone a life-changing transformation.
Gary Jones, from Prestatyn, says he’s been given a new lease of life after shedding 3.5 stone in just seven months and sending his diabetes into remission, with the help of medication and support from his local GP surgery.
The 50-year-old is sharing his story in a bid to help others who are overweight, or have had a recent diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a condition that causes blood glucose levels to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2. Type 2, which is most common, occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body's cells don't react to insulin. It is often, but not always developed as a result of obesity and a lack of exercise.
Left untreated, type 2 diabetes can get progressively worse - causing serious long-term health problems, but it can be managed and even reversed by improving eating habits, losing weight and being more physically active. A range of medications may also be needed.
Gary was diagnosed with the condition in November 2020, tipping the scales at 19.1 stone after putting on weight over a number of years.
“I knew there was something wrong because I’d been drinking lots and lots of water, peeing lots, and I’d gained a lot of weight in the last few years,” he explained.
“My blood glucose levels were 96 mmol/mol, which is very high, but it didn’t come as a huge shock to me because I’d lost myself a long time ago.
“Food can be your best friend sometimes, particularly if you’re lonely, but it can also be your worst enemy.
“When I was diagnosed I was so embarrassed and thought I’d let myself down because I was so out of shape and so overweight. I felt like I’d eaten myself into an early grave and I couldn’t tell my family or friends about the diagnosis.”
With the support of Julie Lewis, a Nurse Consultant at the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board run Healthy Prestatyn GP practice, Gary was given medication and encouragement to make lifestyle changes to get his blood glucose under control.
“I’d never heard of a calorie deficit before and I started looking at food in different ways, eating healthily and making tasty recipes with new foods that I never thought I’d eat, to help me lose weight. I also started walking over 10km every day.
“I knew I had to make sure the right amount of certain foods were going into my body and I was getting the right amount of exercise to bring my bloods down.
“After a month, my blood count had reduced to 72 and I’d lost half a stone in weight. I knew I was doing something right and I was on the right track.
“Two months later, in February 2021, Julie phoned me three days after I had my bloods taken and asked if I had a tissue ready. When I asked why she said my blood count had come down to 38, and anything below 42 is enough to send the diabetes into remission. I just burst into tears on the phone.
“By May I’d come off all medication and sustained the normal levels of glucose in my blood to keep the diabetes in remission. I’ve gone from weighing over 19 stone to 15.5 stone. I’ve now got more energy, I’m sleeping better, and I’m just loving life.
“I’ve always been proud of family and friends, but never myself. I was always the jolly fat man on the outside and miserable internally, now I’m actually happier and healthier inside and out.
“I’ve still got some weight to lose, but I’ve got my diabetes under control, which was the most important thing to conquer.
“Julie has changed my life and the support I’ve received from her has been nothing but positive. I never felt judged by her and I knew I could always contact her if I had any questions or needed support.
“If I can help anyone with the panic and embarrassment they may be feeling after a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes then I will. People should talk about it and be open that they need a bit of help, because there are so many people out there that can help you.”
Wales has the highest prevalence of diabetes in the UK with more than 209,000 people living with the condition. Estimates suggest a further 65,501 people in Wales have type 2 diabetes, but have not yet been diagnosed, while a further 580,000 people could be at risk of developing the condition.
Julie Lewis, the Nurse Consultant who has supported Gary to send his diabetes into remission, said:
“Gary has been on a remarkable journey to achieve remission. He has not seen this as a quick fix diet, but as a lifestyle choice. He is certainly benefitting from his efforts, both physically and psychologically. I say his efforts as he has done all the hard work. I have had very little input other than to offer options, guide and encourage.
“Gary’s experience reflects an increasing number of people at risk of developing, or already have a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes who are asking for support with weight management.
“Using weight loss as an effective treatment for Type 2 diabetes is gathering momentum in clinical practice.
“My aim is to promote better integration between specialists and primary care so that access to education, support and effective treatments for conditions as common as diabetes are readily accessible in primary care for the person living with this condition.”
Here are some useful links to high quality education for diabetes and for weight management services in our health board:
Please click on the links below to access short information videos for people living with diabetes in Wales:
Type 1 Diabetes: www.medic.video/w-type1
Type 2 Diabetes: www.medic.video/w-type2
Gestational Diabetes: www.medic.video/w-gest