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How a Realise Health Assessment changed my life – Jo’s story

Tags: Diabetes

How a Realise Health Assessment changed my life – Jo’s story

Jo has a sales job she loves, she is happily married and has 3 lovely children. For the last 18-19 years, when it has come to work, kids and family she has always put herself last.

But there has been a seismic shift in Jo’s world in the last 6 months. She’s now putting herself first, and it’s had incredible results.

“I’d always been a yo-yo dieter. The ‘quick-fix’ kind. Usually just for 2-3 months. I think I’ve tried every diet out there. I’ve done Weight Watchers and Slimmer’s World. They all worked, for as long as I was on them.”

Since her children were born, Jo’s weight has fluctuated dramatically.

“I have both size 14 to size 24 clothes in my wardrobe. My husband used to suggest he’d put the clothes that no longer fitted me in the attic for when I needed them again, but I’d just go and buy more.”

Dieting was all about deprivation.

“The night before I started a diet, I’d treat myself to all the food and drinks that I wouldn’t be allowed to have on the diet. Hundreds of calories…then I’d deprive myself until the weight came off. As soon as the weight was off, I was back on the crisps and sausage rolls. If I tripped up and ‘fell off’ the diet, in even a small way, I’d use it an excuse to give up entirely, thinking I’d failed.”

“I had so many excuses. I always blamed other people for my weight gain. It wasn’t my fault I had to spend long hours in the car for work. That was why I didn’t exercise more. If my husband wanted to go out at the weekend, I’d blame him for making me blow my diet. We’d go to the pub, and I’d end up eating junk food because my willpower is non-existent after I’ve had a drink.”

“I was always focussed on what I looked like in the mirror. If I lost weight, I’d feel better about myself, more confident. I haven’t worn a skirt in 18 years, I hate my ankles. I carry a lot of my weight in my legs.”

So what broke the cycle of weight gain and loss for Jo?

Diabetes.

Jo signed up for a Realise Health Plan -- a blood-test-based health and lifestyle assessment which is supported by one-on-one coaching on the phone with a registered dietitian. Jo’s blood test revealed that she was pre-diabetic.

“I still get emotional when I talk about the day that I got the results of the blood test. When I saw the word diabetes, I felt physically sick. I was terrified. I’d read on the internet the worst-case scenarios for people with diabetes…They’re going to chop off my feet. I’m going to go blind. For the first time in my life, I realised that my weight was no longer about how I looked, it was about what was going on inside of me. It could kill me. I was devastated.”

“We were going on holiday the day after I got the news. That whole trip, I didn’t tell my husband. I looked on the internet and started to make some changes immediately to what I’d eat and drink. I turned down the ice cream, drank vodka or wine instead of beer. My husband noticed that something was wrong.”

When I got home I went to see my GP, who did a second blood test and confirmed that I was pre-diabetic. He told me to diet and exercise and come back in a year.”

“That was it. Unbelievable, right? I felt lost. I didn’t know where to start. I needed a plan.”

“Then I started the coaching sessions with Philippa at LiveSmart, and everything changed. Now, I’m not dieting, I’m living. I’m more present at home. I’m a better person at work. I don’t feel guilty all the time. Now I don’t blame anyone else, I’ve taken control of my actions. Most importantly, in just 7 months, I’m in the normal zone and no longer pre-diabetic.”

“Philippa helped me make lifestyle changes. She taught me that lifestyle isn’t about a short term goal, it’s a way of living.”

“She showed me how to make good choices. I used to read the calorie count, not the nutrition information, on food packaging. So now I’ll eat multigrain bread, or bread with seeds in it, rather than white bread. I know it has more calories, but it’s better for me. I never used to eat salmon, because it had fat in it, but now I know they are good fats. Omega 3s. I used to think that I could only order the salad on a menu, but now I know that there are main courses – like fish -- that I can choose too.”

“It takes a while to see the results, but eventually people start to notice. I don’t worry what other people do or think, the only person I’m competing with these days is myself.”

What needed to changed?

“Basically my knowledge about healthy eating wasn’t great. Growing up, I saw my Mum struggle with her weight Dad died young, at 44, of a heart attack. That was a hard time. When Mum lost Dad she struggled with her weight more. 

“Mum also died young, of breast cancer at 52. After that, the idea that life is short probably made me want to ‘seize the day.’ I was thinking more of the short term than the long term which meant allowing myself to continually choose the unhealthy choices as I could justify why I was doing it. 

And Jo’s life now?

“I’ve lost 53 pounds so far. My waist is 16 cm smaller and my BMI is down by 9%. I feel happier, revitalised. I don’t have that feeling of heaviness that I always had.”  

“I’m easier on myself too. If I haven’t had a chance to exercise I’ll go and dance around the living room for a bit. I allow myself treats, just fewer of them. I sleep much better too. I used to be very wheezy at night.” 

“There’s a broker I used to visit who had lots of steps up to their office. I used to dread them. I’d get to the top, panting and out of breath and have to go straight to the loos to catch my breath and sort myself out. I’d always make a joke of it, ‘Those stairs are going to be the end of me!’ that sort of thing… And then I noticed the last time I went, I got to the top and I wasn’t out of breath! I haven’t used an inhaler in months. I can’t remember the last time I felt that crushing in my chest.” 

“I’m a better version of me. My husband has always loved me for who I am, he’s never commented on my weight. It doesn’t matter to him. But this year, for our holiday, I’ve bought a bikini! I may not wear it, but just buying it shows how much more confident I feel now.” 

“And I’m running a 10K next month. Or walking it. It doesn’t matter which, but it’s a new thing for me. These days, I get my hair and nails done, and I‘m getting contact lenses. I’m focussing on me, not my weight.” 

Jo’s top tips:

1. Do it yourself

“Don’t blame others for making you do this or that, taking responsibility puts you in control. I see now that my children don’t always eat as healthily as they could, but they are grown up now (age 18, 20 and 21) I can’t make them. I can only set a good example and be there to answer questions if they need help.”

2. Share your plan

“One of the big things for me was not being afraid to say I needed help. Sharing my results with friends and family was a key difference because when I was ‘on a diet’ I used to be embarrassed, thinking everyone would be watching what I ate.

3. Prepare for your coaching sessions

“I would write down loads of questions for Philippa before every coaching session. I’d ask about sweeteners and sugar (are they safe? what’s healthy and what’s not?) about pasta and bread (can I eat it? What kind? What are the healthiest recipes?) I’d send her menus for my favourite restaurants and ask her to highlight the best options for me. She also taught me a lot about portions. We did a lot of work portion size. I’ve learned so much.”

4. Identify your ‘danger’ zone

“For me it was my car. I drive miles for work (I’m on the road 3 to 4 days a week) and I’m not sure why – boredom probably – but I’d just snack all the time I was in the car. When I stop off for food now, I feel I naturally go for the health snack rather than the crisps.

Looking at the year ahead, what’s next for Jo?

“I have been doing some thinking about the new campaign and owning your fears #OwnYourFears as it has really made me think about what my fear actually is. Why did the risk of diabetes affect me so much?

I think it is the fear of dying young and not seeing my children get married and have kids. My parents missed out so much.

I am still living for today but I am now also living for a healthy future. I want to see my kids get married and have their own families, which is something that my dad totally missed. My Mum didn’t see my kids grow into the adults that I am so proud of today.

This whole process has really made me think and analyse what and why I do things. It has been such a great experience and I do feel I could now take on anything.”

Learn more about Realise Health Plans today and let us help you to improve your health.

Further reading

Just+

Active+

Realise health plans and assessments

Fitness and exercise centre

Diet and nutrition centre

Diabetes centre

Own your fears

Useful links

AXA Members – Online Servicing 

NHS Health Check 

NHS Screening   


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