AS New Year’s resolutions to lose weight are made (and invariably broken), Duncan Leatherdale meets one woman who effectively cured herself of diabetes by shedding stones.
WEEKS before her 70th birthday, Ida Hopper feels fitter now than she has for over a decade.
“Life definitely starts at 69,” exclaims the glamorous grandmother as she sifts through plans for a biking holiday with her husband, David.
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This new-found zest for life is a far cry from how she felt a year ago when she was taking tablets and injecting herself on a daily basis as part of her battle with diabetes.
Ida was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes ten years ago. Doctors laid part of the blame on the fact that she was overweight.
The diabetes made losing weight even harder. “I just felt permanently tired, always wanting to sleep," she remembers. “I could not even get up off the couch. It was depressing, a lot of people with diabetes do go through depression and I did get depressed by it.”
Her condition worsened until she was on the maximum medication.
She did manage to lose some weight ,shedding around a stone and a half earlier last year, but when she stalled her doctor referred to her Slimming World.
Ida, who at her peak weighed nearly 17 stone, joined the group run by Sam Baronowski but admitted she was sceptical.
“I wanted to lose weight but did not really think it would work. I thought I will give it a try but I was not expecting much.
“However, what happened next was just incredible, I lost five pounds in the first week.”
Since she joined in May, Ida has lost a further two stone and reached her target weight on Christmas Eve.
But the best result is the effect it has had on her diabetes for, after a decade of enduring drugs and injections, she is now taking nothing.
Ida says: “I have a tablet to take just in case my glucose levels change, but I haven’t needed to take it yet. Once you are diabetic you will always be diabetic, you don’t rid yourself of it.
“But essentially I am no longer suffering from it, I am not taking any medication anymore which is amazing, I hated the injections.
“Of course when you are taking the medication you do not necessarily realise what that is doing to your body and what the side effects may be.
“It has been a total 180 degree turn-around for my life.”
Ida now enjoys walking and cycling with husband David, who has also lost some weight thanks to his wife’s new Slimming World-inspired cooking.
In fact, she says: “I feel better now than I have in years, it’s incredible. I might be diabetic but I certainly don’t feel it anymore.”
Mrs Baronowski, who runs the group at Bishop Barrington School, adds: “Ida has been an absolute inspiration to all of us.
“We often talk about overweight people losing weight as being a good thing for their health and self-confidence, well Ida’s case clearly shows just how much of a difference it can make.”
“I still eat what I want but I am making sensible choices and have completely changed my lifestyle. I am not on a diet, I have just changed the way I approach food.
“I might be approaching 70 but I genuinely feel like I am 35.”
Dr Paul Peter, a diabetes consultant for County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust says there is plenty of evidence to support the idea that losing weight reduces type 2 diabetes, but for someone to actually rid themselves of the need for all medication is a rarity.
“Losing weight will give you a much better control of your diabetes," he explains, "and in some cases, as with this lady, will effectively put you into remission where you do not need any medication.”
Around 35,000 people, between four and six per cent of the population, have type diabetes 2 in County Durham and Darlington, with being overweight a significant contributor to the illness.
More than ten per cent of people with a Body Mass Index of 35 will have Type 2 diabetes.
Dr Peter says a ten per cent reduction in a person’s weight will massively improve their diabetes and recommended people do at least half an hour of exercise five days a week.
“The best way to do it is by making up your mind and doing it for yourself. Of course you can do it, you have got to be driven and have strong will power.”