I was diagnosed type 2 just before Xmas and have just recently been able to read Mosleys “8 Week Blood Sugar Diet”; my diabetes was diagnosed following an eye test as my optician had concerns just how bad it was. My near sight was too bad for me to read even with glasses. When diagnosed my fasting sugar were over 20 and the HbA over 100.
I found Mosleys book fascinating, and as he himself had commented on how some facets of the medical establishment are still wary or discouraging about the 800 concept I wanted to let you know about a recent study I was part of.
As a recently diagnosed type 2 diabetic I was invited, via my local Medical Practice, to take part in the “GLoW” study; ‘Glucose Lowering through Weight Management’. This is a study being run by the University of Cambridge with two group studies; one group will be given full Weight Watchers membership for 6 months, the other will attend a one day ‘educational’ session.
I was allocated to the Weight Watchers “Live Well With Diabetes” programme. I would like to share my brief experience of it. Brief, as the programmes aims and goals seem little more than a marketing opportunity for Weight Watchers with those running it having no obvious awareness or indeed interest in diabetes.
The Weight Watchers (WW) programme gives participants access to full Weight Watchers membership for 6 months (currently online only). Despite being a research programme purely for recently diagnosed type 2 the Weight Watchers scheme has not been tailored in any way to better suit type 2 diabetics.
The programme requires you to keep track of your daily meals and activity with points being awarded for each. Your meals should fit into a daily allowance of around 30 points. It’s very difficult to pick individual foods (such as plain scrambled egg for instance) as almost all foods are already presented in a WW meal plan with significant carbs in them all. When I queried why a lot of meat was listed with “(raw)” after it’s description, eg “chicken breast (raw)” one of the dieticians running the programme responded “Ooh yum! Raw chicken! Make sure you choose the right one!” How exactly this answered my question still defeats me.
Other food / drink which our diagnosing health practitioners advised us to try and cut down on or avoid after diagnosis, such as fresh fruit juice and high sugar fruits would be listed as “0” points, suggesting that you could consume as much of it as you wanted.
Now that my near vision has finally settled down I recently read the “the 8-week BloodSugarDiet” book, and without being too dramatic it was a revelation. I now understand how I came to develop type 2 and how I can hopefully reverse it, as swiftly and safely as possible. I had been on the 800 diet for just under a week when I was contacted to say I had been accepted to the Weight Watchers programme. Initially I was delighted as I felt the two could combine very nicely. As the study is affiliated to the University of Cambridge I would have expected the people running it, all of whom on the participant contact level appear to be Weight Watchers dieticians, to be familiar with current research regarding weight loss and diabetes. Having read Mosleys book I appreciate his own trials are hardly unique and similar studies span decades now, all suggesting that rapid weight loss can help put type 2 into remission.
Alas, I could not have been more wrong.
The Weight Watchers group, “Live Well With Diabetes”, has a closed Facebook page set up for the participants where the various administrators (WW dieticians) would post diabetes related facts. This was pretty much the only contact there seemed to be, and it was scant at best. Frustrated that I was unable to assimilate anything remotely like the 800 calorie recipes I was following on the WW meal tracker I posted openly on this facebook page explaining that I had read Mosleys ‘BloodSugarDiet’ book, was following the 800 diet and asking how to create these meals when the components weren’t listed on the WW app. I also said that I was disappointed that the groups name was “Live Well With Diabetes” when all the research indicated that this could be reversed. -Our participating group was purely made up of those recently diagnosed with type 2.
Within seconds an open reply had been posted by “Emily”, one of the WW group administrators.
It read: ” 800 calories a day is dangerously low and unsustainable. We would never recommend that. Have you spoken to your dietician about this?”
(Part of the study with WW included two 45-minute conversations with a ‘dietician’ over the 6 month period. I hadn’t had this, in fact the dietician who was supposed to call me cancelled on 3 occasions, but from the comments I was reading on the facebook page I was rapidly losing confidence in the whole idea anyway.)
I replied to “Emily’s” post explaining that, no, I hadn’t spoken to my dietician but that there were numerous studies around the low calorie low carb idea and this wasn’t some newfangled trend.
There was no further comment.
Well, things came to a head this week when “Emily” posted on the facebook page with a link to a page on the Diabetes UK website about an NHS DiRECT trial which had participants following an 850 calorie a day diet to achieve rapid weight loss. Quote “If you have obesity, you are more likely to put your diabetes into remission if you lose a substantial amount of weight – 15kg – as quickly and safely as possible following your diagnosis”.
I replied to this post pointing out that this was effectively what I was doing and had tried to talk about. I was now 3 weeks in, had lost 4kg and hadn’t felt as well for a very long time.
It very quickly became apparent that whilst I had read the full article, the WW admin team had not.
This is the posted public reply I had from “Emily”.
“The way the LWWD programme is tailored is by using dietitians in partnership with the traditional WW programme which promotes a balanced diet with sustainable changes to lose and maintain weight. Although the article mentions fast weight loss, what they really mean is fast, within 18 months of diagnosis and in a way you can keep it off. Weight loss of >2-3lbs per week on average is generally not advised (without clinical supervision) as it is very often unsustainable (i.e. the weight loss will be re-gained, often with additional weight) and depending on other health conditions or medications you’re on, can cause challenges. When we lose weight very quickly it often is also muscle mass vs. fat mass which is not desirable, especially after the age of 60. What we try to emphasize in the programme is within 18 months of diagnosis you lose 5-10% of your body weight (if appropriate). With regards to carbohydrates, we all need them! The key is to watch portion sizes (fist-sized at meals) and choose high-fibre, whole grain options wherever possible to help with gut health, feelings of satiety as well as blood sugars. The LWWD programme is a study so we are following a specific curriculum, just as the DiRECT study would have been doing (with the addition of clinical supervision). Of course, if you feel the programme is not right for you please do call us on 020 3827 1557 and we can discuss options. Thank you and have a good weekend.”
I took that as a less than thinly-veiled “**** off”. !!
If Emily is somehow equating a 5% body mass loss of 15kg over 18 months, then I think someone with a starting weight of some 300kg would be gravely disappointed. I think diabetes would also be the least of their concerns.
With that response I politely left the group. I had no idea what the overall aim of the study was as no specific thoughts regarding current diabetes research appear to have been taken into account. As participants we were not told the details of a ‘specific curriculum’. They simply presented the standard Weight Watchers programme and left the group members to it. The study only runs for 6 months. Emily’s reply intimates an expected programme of 18 months; I wonder if after the 6 months participants are offered an extended Weight Watchers membership at a discount?
Cynicial? You wouldn’t bet against it would you. And at £22.95 a month membership it’s obvious why Weight Watchers would have no interest in a programme which would promote rapid weight loss.
Having left the study I looked into exactly what the studies aims were, I’m aware that links to outside sites aren’t allowed so please google it if you’re intrigued, its a bit long winded but quite interesting.
Essentially, it seems I was right. They’re looking at participants losing 5% of their body mass in 6 months and 10% after 12 months, so it’s no surprise they will actively discourage any regime which would dramatically exceed that.
When I was diagnosed I was 96kg. In 9 months I brought that down to 91kg largely by cutting out snacks. In the 4 weeks I’ve followed the 800 diet I’ve brought that down to 87kg (and know it could be better but I’m probably not consuming enough water and overdoing the bumper raspberry crop in the garden). So in 4 weeks I’ve already lost more than this study would want me to lose in 6 months.
I’m all in favour of research and test studies, but it strikes me that the aims of this one are already outdated and fundamentally flawed in having a co-partner whose primary interest is a weekly subscription service.