Over the years, however I began to notice the weight building up. The new clothes would be in slightly larger sizes than the year before despite my efforts to stay physically active but surely my diet wasn’t to blame? In time I had a beautiful wife, 4 young children and a flourishing career but still no time for my diabetes. Then, one day driving home from work my blood sugar dropped so low that I lost consciousness at the wheel of my car. I came to in the back of an ambulance with my car wrapped around a lamppost and a traffic policeman asking me whether I had intended to commit suicide. I still have a chill down my spine when I think of what might have happened. I had no recollection of even getting in the damn car, let alone the 7 miles I had travelled to get to my lamppost. That was my wake-up call.
I woke up the very next day with a to-do list that suddenly included finally facing up to the complexities of a life threatening illness, attempting to normalise my blood sugars and losing quite a few pounds in weight at the same time. Simple.
At first, I’d have been happy simply to have settled for the weight loss. I’d had enough of getting breathless climbing stairs and wobbling in an unattractive way as I came back down again. It’s not a good look. But neither could I imagine myself as the sort of person who could go hungry for very long, so the idea of ‘going on a diet’ was a bit of a non-starter. How did people do that?
Of my 27 years of diabetes, 16 of them were as a committed vegetarian. The principles of animal welfare appealed to me as a leftie student and of course it also sat comfortably with what was, and still is broadly perceived to be a healthy diet. In other words, these were 16 years in which wheat, rice and potato were the daddies. Breakfast would invariably be cereal or toast, lunch a sandwich, pizza or something under the ‘convenience’ label. Dinner of course almost invariably had to involve pasta. Oh, come on, I was a student for Christ’s sake!
None of this is a million miles away from what would be considered normal for many people in the West today. In fact, it could almost be described as low fat so would probably meet with the approval of many of the agencies that advise us on healthy living. As a student, I still had no time to test my blood sugars, so I was blissfully unaware of the affect my diet was having on my blood glucose.
However, in September 2000, I came across a newspaper article that suggested, for the first time in my experience, that the carbohydrates I’d been eating were a part of the problem - not the solution. This was just before the rebirth of the Atkins diet but the basic principles were broadly similar. They need no explanation here.