Losing weight and reversing type 2 diabetes on a plant-based diet.

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes turned out to be the best thing that happened to me.

After an annual blood check I was told that I had type 2 diabetes. Shortly after a practice nurse called to ask whether I’d be interested in a new study called the “GLoW study” GLoW (Glucose Lowering through Weight management) run by Cambridge University for newly diagnosed patients with type 2 diabetics. I was concerned because my chronic arthritis has made me quite disabled. I’ve also had bilateral hip and knee replacements. This and the pain in my back and hips make walking very painful and prevent me from doing any exercise. The nurse reassured me that exercise was not part of the GLoW programme and booked me for a one-hour enrolment appointment. The nurse took a number of measurements and asked lots of questions before referring me to another lady. I had an hour-long video call with her who explained the programme.

There were two different diet plans and I was put on a 12-week course with Weight Watchers free of charge. I was told that I wasn’t eating enough food. Before the programme I only had breakfast and dinner, but now I had to eat lunch and ensure to eat a certain number of points. The Weight Watcher advisor recommended that I eat more protein and add a small portion of chicken or cheese to my main meal. The foods I ate on the programme were mainly Weetabix with soy milk, vegetables and low fat curries, lentil cottage pies, dhal with brown rice or chapatis. For dinner I had whole or tinned fruits or home-made smoothies with 2 blue coloured fruits and 2 red coloured fruits. The diet plan was predominantly plant-based.

I followed the 12-week programme I was put on and lost 26lbs. The GLoW study recruiters were very pleased with the weight loss I had achieved and offered me a further 12-week plan which helped me to lose a further 23 lbs. So, all in all I lost 49 lbs and reversed my type 2 diabetes with no exercise, but by eating more plant foods.

At the start of the second 12-week programme my granddaughter and I joined Veganuary. I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t need to eat meat but was eating more vegetables on a daily basis. My husband is the one cooking our meals; he joined me. At the time I was still vegetarian because I couldn’t stay away from cheese whereas giving up dairy milk, yogurts and even chocolate wasn’t a problem. I tried many different vegan cheeses but didn’t like any of them. I was quite happy with all the diet changes I had made.

Then I watched a film by Plant Based Film makers and learned more about doctors who were fully plant based. This made us to delve more into veganism. On January 1st, 2021, I joined a 21-day Daniel fast in my church. The Daniel fast is based on the diet of Daniel in the Bible in which followers are advised to abstain from all meat, wine, desserts and cheese and only consume vegetables, grains, fruits and water for three weeks. After the fast I found it much easier to eat a plant-based diet although cheese was still calling my name. My church does the Daniel fast twice a year. I joined the fast again in June this year. Afterwards I found it easier to give up cheese. Then a lady from my church posted about another 21-day diet which was not a fast, but just eating a fully plant-based diet. I joined her and have been following a 100% plant-based diet since then.

I love my food now. I eat all sorts of fruits and vegetables. First thing in the morning, I have lemon slices in hot water. Usually, I have 2 Weetabix pieces with soya milk, a banana plus flaxseeds. Lunch is organic brown rice or potatoes, a green veg or salad, a mixed bean chilli or mock tuna made with chickpeas. I like dates and a fruit tea in the afternoon. Occasionally I have a low-calorie Fibre One Popcorn bar. For dinner I have fruits or if I’m very hungry I have a small portion of overnights oats with frozen mixed berries (raspberries and blue berries) with flaxseeds, or I blitz tinned apricots or pears and pour it over small amount of oats and the frozen fruits.

Nowadays I enjoy my food more; my constipation is resolved too. I try to do some exercise and go swimming 3–5 times a week. I mainly move my arms, but this is better than doing nothing. I’m very grateful to my husband who has done a lot for me and totally supported me on this plant-based journey, to the Plant based Food People whom I read and learn from on a weekly basis, to my church for the Daniel fast.

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes turned out to be the best thing that happened to me because now I live a very different life and am healthier than I’ve been before. I hope other people realise the many health benefits of a plant-based diet and change their diet because a plant-based diet can change their lives for the better.

Ros Hodgkins, October 2021

Consultant Haematologist and Lifestyle Medicine Physician. Founder and Director of Plant-based health professionals UK.