My name is Paul Chesworth and I live in the North of England, I have been overweight from around the age of 6, at the age of 50 my weight peaked at 26.5 stone(168Kg), in my mid-forties I developed Type 2 Diabetes to accompany my Obesity. The co-morbidities started to impact my future health, circulation problems, high blood pressure and joint issues leading to reduced mobility.
In 2012 I was taking the maximum in oral diabetic medication with the next step being insulin, this medication was prescribed to control my Diabetes and minimise the detrimental impact Diabetes was having on many other organs within my body.
Along with taking the medication three times a day, I would monitor my blood sugar levels by pricking my fingers to smear blood on a test strip, insert into a little blood monitor and hey presto a number appeared to inform me if I was controlling the Diabetes well or if I was doing badly.
When it was bad, I never felt any different to when it was good, my body just felt the same. I couldn’t see or feel what Diabetes was actually doing inside my body, never realising the serious consequences that Diabetes was having on my health.
I always kept my appointments with the diabetic practise nurse from day one of the diagnosis. I would see a dietitian to help control the Diabetes, this did help I stuck to the diet and I did lose weight. However, over time I would regain the weight and more. I spent a fortune on diet books, joining gyms and support groups, all in the hope to reduce my ever increasing weight. Looking back, with the education and learning I have gained on how to live a healthy life, I now know that my body is not and never will be 100% under my control. I will always need to take responsibility for what I eat and how active I am.
To eat healthy and keep active will help some people live a healthier life, unfortunately that’s not the case for everyone. I would joke that I have to thank my parents for passing on our family hereditary line. I now know this is not actually a joke. My DNA and Genetics dictate my health struggles just like the colour of my hair and eyes, my height and the size of my feet.
When diabetes was diagnosed I was well and truly following in my father’s footsteps.
He struggled to control his weight, developing Diabetes in his forties, becoming insulin dependent following the removal of his gallbladder, suffering with high blood pressure, circulation issues, affecting his mobility, developing eyesight complications and finally heart disease that killed him, ALL brought on by the disease of Diabetes.
For me it was Time for action! I researched Bariatric Surgery in the hope it would assist me to achieve and maintain a healthy future once and for all. Some people may see Bariatric Surgery as Drastic or the Easy Option.
Seeing my father suffer with Diabetes for many years which lead to poor quality of life and witnessing 1st hand how this unseen disease impacted on his major organs. There was no doubt at this point in my mind I needed a major change to reverse the impact and ultimately improve my future health, to avoid replicating my father’s suffering.
I had an RNY Gastric Bypass in November 2014, it was the best decision I have ever made, but it was the first of thousands that I have had to make on a daily basis ever since. My operation has only given me a “tool” that significantly reduces the volume of food I can eat.
From the day of my surgery my Type2 Diabetes was put into full remission. I have not needed to take any diabetic medication to date. Within the first year post op I achieved an 11 stone (69.5Kg) loss, now 6 years post op, a regain of 1 stone I am successfully maintaining 10 stone loss.
On my journey I have discovered that the strongest thing in my body is my mind!
All the decisions I have made and continue to make are totally controlled by my mind and every day brings challenges. Some days are easier than others to stay on track, I remind myself that Bariatric Surgery is a tool to help me control my weight, just the same as insulin helps control Diabetes, if my weight increases then potentially my Diabetes will come out of remission.
When I first started losing the weight family, friends and work colleagues would be commenting and encouraging me daily which gave me a real “feel good factor” but when I reached what is seen to be a “normal weight” the compliments stop because I’m now seen as “normal” – Great!
The stigma and bias a person living with Obesity faces has a huge impact. The name calling, pointing and laughing, verbal and physical abuse, the feeling like you don’t belong, that it’s all your fault, that you are a failure, that you don’t fit into society. That you choose to live in this body. That you are not “normal”. The narrative around Obesity for many years has been “Eat Less Move More” however this is not effective if you are a person living with Obesity.
It soon became clear to me that the initial focus in my head was the number on the scales, not realising that the most important achievements where actually None Scale Victory’s (N.S.V’s):
•Walking 10 miles without breaking a sweat
•Fastening the seatbelt on a plane without the shame of asking for an extension
•Buying a 3-piece suit off the rack
•Choosing a restaurant to eat in because the menu looks good not because they don’t have plastic chairs that could collapse under my weight.
These are just a few NSV’s that now make me secretly smile to myself. Why? Because pre-op they were my struggles I tried to hide these from the people around me. I was ashamed to say the words “I won’t fit in the chairs”. Why? Because the stigma attached to being overweight is that I’m Greedy and Lazy, not that I’m suffering with Obesity.
I now live by the 80-20 rule, if I can stay focused 80% of the time, prioritising protein, veg, cooking from scratch, keeping my fluid intake up, staying active and honest with myself, leaving 20% of the time to enjoy life without punishing myself. This rule works for me and keeps me happy & healthy. Nothing in life is 100%, I find people get so focused on everything being perfect – The perfect weight – The perfect BMI – The perfect body – The perfect home – The perfect relationship. I believe What’s really important is finding a balance, I continually remind myself how valuable my health actually is.
The reason I share my experiences of living with Diabetes and Obesity is to empower people to speak out about their health. Many health conditions can unfortunately develop into others. If I had ignored my Diabetes and Obesity I would now be facing a higher risk of Covid-19. I understand it is so easy not to ask medical professionals for help, not wanting to bother them with something that you think maybe miner.
Not wanting to be at risk by visiting GP surgery’s or hospitals. I believe this is more dangerous to our health than covid-19.
It highlights to me the importance of keeping up regular checks, having flu vaccines, and reaching out with any physical or mental concerns. We need to keep ourselves in as healthy position as possible.
Saturday 14th November is World Diabetes Day and I’d like to raise awareness to how important it is to seek medical professionals help, remember we’re in this #AllTogether.
Written by Paul Chesworth, Thursday 12th November 2020