Early in 2013 the Community Diabetes Team (Dietitians and Diabetes Specialist Nurses) launched a pilot programme of Low Carb Diet Groups, offering education and support for people with Type 2 Diabetes who wished to follow a healthy low carb diet and have the necessary support with their medication changes.
From this tiny group, the numbers have grown and we now have a very large group and have regular monthly meetings where everyone can share their experiences and recipe tips and offer support and advice to other members. Everyone has a chance to be weighed and records their personal progress in a hand-held journal.
Harpal Baines, who is a member of the group, contacted NHS Change Day as she wanted to tell us about the group and how it has enabled her to make huge changes for the better, in managing her diabetes:
“I’d like to share with you the positive changes that I have made with the help of an initiative that has been in the community. It’s called the Very Low Carbohydrate Diet Group. I lost five stone in five months, which is phenomenal for me; and, even more phenomenal, I’ve kept it off.”
The Low Carb Diet Groups offer regular education sessions, with guest speakers who are experts in their chosen spheres; such as oral/dental health, physical activity, psychological health, and offer on-going education on dietary issues and many other Diabetes-related topics.
Harpal's story is a brilliant example of what can be achieved by diet alone, with bags of personal commitment and with the right support.
Explaining why this group worked for her, Harpal told us: “It’s a very positive group, with lots of different people, different ages, kind of like an informal group; and people meet every other week, share ideas and they learn from each other, and they learn how to control their diabetes in a better way, and manage it better, through group support. This project is less formal, less overwhelming.”
“When you first get diagnosed with diabetes, you get overwhelmed with all of the information that you get. You’re making a change anyway and it’s so hard; so in this initiative you’re with people like you, talking to them, making friends and sharing recipes. That kind of thing.”
“The Very Low Carbohydrate Diet Group provided the information and the diet, and they kept an eye on you, but everything was so informal: there was no pressure, it was entirely up to you, and you wanted to do it."
"For me, this was the first time I was informed, after seven years of being a diabetic, that I could possibly come off the insulin injections. I didn’t know that, so that for me was my initial incentive: to go back to the way I was before having injections. Also, I was able to reduce all of my other medication, my blood pressure medication and my thyroid medication, so it had a good effect on my whole well-being, and it gave me great confidence – as you can tell."
For those who can't cope with the idea of drastically reducing their carbohydrates, the Community Diabetes Team in Coventry do offer another group programme in the community called 'REFRESH' which offers education and support with reducing carbohydrate intakes to more moderate amounts and offers great benefits to people who would like to achieve much better Diabetes control through diet alone and potentially reduce their medication and weight at the same time. This has also proved to be highly successful for people who are motivated to make changes to their diet.
The Community Diabetes Team in Coventry are committed to empowering our patients to make the necessary changes to their diet and lifestyle, rather than increasing medications, to regain control of their Diabetes and improve their quality of life.
For Harpal, being a part of this group has allowed her to make an additional, personal, change for the better: “I’ve just got a job with Diabetes UK, a part time job with my diabetes nurse, helping people to learn about this information and pass it on, so I think that’s good for NHS Change Day.”