A Two Minute Chat …

A two minute chat with TV director turned health educator Eddy Marshall about Type 2 diabetes and ‘Dia-Beat This!’, interviewed by his wife, Claire.

What’s ‘Dia-Beat This!’ about?

When I was diagnosed with Type 2 in January 2015, it seems ridiculous now but I wasn’t expecting it at all. I’d been quite overweight for years, around 17 stones but I was active and fairly fit. I have a pedometer (a device for measuring how many steps you take every day) and only a few weeks before I was diagnosed, we moved house. I did the move myself, did most of it on my own and I clocked up 33,000 steps on the big day, that’s about 15 miles, most of it going up and down stairs carrying stuff, some of it quite heavy. I felt absolutely fine the next day, so I wasn’t in terrible shape. So, when the doctor sat me down to tell me the results of a blood test, I really wasn’t expecting to be told I had Type 2 diabetes and it was quite advanced.

Immediately, we decided to read up on the disease and fortunately the first thing we came across was David Cavan’s excellent book ‘Reverse Your Diabetes’, which gave me a lot of hope. I realised I needed a big change to my diet and lifestyle but I accepted that, made the changes and the reversal was surprisingly easy. I lost 50lbs in five months and in February 2016 I was signed off the Diabetic Register.

After that, I’ve become a bit obsessed by the fact that there are a lot of people who don’t know that it’s both possible and necessary to reverse Type 2 diabetes. It’s a horrible disease with very unpleasant complications but for most people I reckon it’s reversible.

I’m a filmmaker, so obviously I want to make a film on the subject. I’ve already had the privilege of meeting some of the people who inspired me, particularly David Cavan and a health writer called David Hack, who wrote ‘The Back to Basics Diet.’

However, I struggled with the fact that diabetes reversal is potentially a fairly dry subject, lots of talking heads. So you, Mrs Marshall, who I refer to one-and-all as ‘the brains of the outfit’ said, “Why not form a reversal group and see if other people can do what you’ve done?”

The result is ‘Dia-Beat This!’ – a series of four talks this January, followed by a programme of reversal for people who seriously want give it a go and, ultimately, a film on the subject. I’m not one to do things by half measures, so I’m looking to set up four groups, each meeting once a week, in Barrow, Grange-over-Sands, Kendal and Morecambe/Lancaster. (See below for the full details).

Do people who do the course have to be in the film?

No, not if they don’t want. Initially, I’m doing it as a not-for-profit programme. I might ask participants to chip in a couple of quid each week towards venue costs but that’s it. I reckon the programme will be 16 weeks long, so those who join up and give it their best shot may be Type 2 reversed, or well on the way, by May. I’m saying 16 weeks because that’s roughly how long it took me to see a big change in my weight and health. I’ve broken the process down into three phases. I’m in it for the experience. And for people who are happy to be filmed, it’d be great to show their journey from illness to health.

Do you have to lose weight to reverse Type 2 diabetes?

Probably, yes. Some people don’t look overweight but can still be fat on the inside. Considering how common Type 2 diabetes is, there’s still a lot that’s not known about it. The science of reversal, such as it is, is even more obscure but it’s possible that a build up of fat around the internal organs, especially the liver and pancreas, is a big factor. Certainly, the right diet is essential. That said, not everyone has to lose the same amount of fat to reverse Type 2. Some people need to lose a lot, some less, it depends on their situation, on their metabolism and probably their genes. What do know that lots of people have reversed their Type 2, sometimes almost by accident. These people often set off just to lose weight, usually doing something low carb / high fat like the Atkins diet and lo and behold, no diabetes.

Have you done this kind of project before?

Sort of. I’ve always liked doing awareness-raising work. I did a great episode of Hollyoaks …

You did a lot of that, didn’t you?

93 episodes, man and boy! I won’t hear anything said against Hollyoaks. I directed this episode where Esther attempts to commit suicide. We had strict guidelines from The Samaritans on how to approach the subject, about how to represent the suicide attempt for what it was, as lonely, unpleasant and unglamourous. It really worked. The episode got huge viewing figures, the show’s fans were blown away by it and, more importantly The Samaritans told us that the average figures for suicides and suicide attempts after the show dropped. It’s not often you get to make something as a filmmaker when you know it might change someone’s life but that Hollyoaks episode was one. It’s a buzz. I also did a film for Basis, a Leeds-based charity, for Secondary school-age girls, warning them about being approached by slightly older blokes inviting them to party. It’s called ‘Sick Party’ and it’s done really well, been shown all over. Again, some pieces you make can definitely affect people’s lives. I’m hoping ‘Dia-Beat This!’ will be another.

If someone’s skeptical about coming along to ‘Dia-Beat This!’, what would you say to them?

Just come along to one of the talks. If you don’t like what I’m saying, no problem. I think there’s a logic to the argument I’m making, it’s all about the modern diet, about reversing the conditions that cause Type 2, about making it as easy as possible to achieve results and of course I’ve tested it out on myself! No quack ‘cures’, no nonsense. If you like it and decide to get involved, it could change your life. Again, it’s not often you get to say that … but in this case, I think it’s true.

Do you know if this has been done elsewhere, getting people together to reverse their Type 2 diabetes?

No, this is a world first, as far as I can tell. It’s never been done before. It feels right to doing it here, in the North West. The Industrial Revolution started in this part of the world and in a smaller but still very significant way, this could be another revolution.

 Thanks!

Thank you Mrs Marshall!

For more information, contact Eddy on 07562 414643, on Facebook at diabeatthismovie, email him at info@diabeatthis.co.uk, or check the website at www.diabeatthis.co.uk.

No blame, no shame …

I just re-read the ‘Why Bother?’ post below and, although it was intended to be provocative, there’s a possible interpretation that needs clearing up.

‘Why Bother?’ was written with someone specific in mind, someone I know well, someone I’ve known for over 30 years, who has Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and who can’t accept the idea that their ‘treats’ might be worth trading in for extra healthy years of life. While I respect their decision, it seems a shame, as aside from their own life expectancy, this person has fantastic kids and grandkids, who’d certainly cherish those extra years.

‘Shame’ is interesting. It’s the emotion we feel when we fail to honour our conscience and in some respects, if it causes us to change our behaviour for the better, it has a positive function.

When I received my own T2D diagnosis, I felt angry and ashamed with myself for allowing my health to get into such a bad state, for possibly shortening my life.

Other than my wife Claire, I didn’t tell anyone about my T2D for months afterwards. I read up on the condition, set about reversing it and I changed my diet and lifestyle. Fortunately, it worked. Nearly two years down the line, after an up-and-down process which has been and continues to be educational, I’m 57lbs lighter and much happier and healthier.

In my case, what are often viewed as negative emotions turned out to have positive benefits. The anger and shame I felt, plus a smaller but useful addition of fear, turned out to be three of the engines that drove to make the necessary changes to my life. On the positive side, love for my wife and son provided crucial fuel too.

However, shame imposed on us from outside is far less useful and can be damaging.

T2D is often wrongly associated exclusively with obesity. While the build up of fat around the liver and pancreas seem to be a major causal factor of T2D, many people who don’t look at all overweight also have T2D, and equally many people who are overweight or obese don’t have the condition at all.

The ‘normal’-looking T2D people are sometimes called TOFIs – Thin Outside, Fat Inside. The journalist, broadcaster and T2D reversee Michael Mosley, who wrote the very useful ‘The Blood Sugar Diet’ is one such.

Despite this misunderstanding about T2D, there’s a common perception that it’s a self-inflicted illness caused by poor lifestyle choices, by greed and sloth.

Even within the community of diabetics, I’ve picked up a slight note of distain from Type 1s, who are keen to differentiate themselves from the Type 2s, possibly because they want to avoid this stigma.

The shaming of people with Type 2 diabetes is wrong and counter-productive.

We live in a world in which it’s all too easy to become ill and overweight. One word for it is obesogenic, a food environment overstuffed with cheap, sugary and carbohydrate-rich products, which make weight gain almost inevitable.

The result of this is everywhere to be seen – skyrocketing rates of overweight and obesity and rising figures for Type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart disease.

So, did any of the people attached to the headless bellies we see shuffling about on TV every time the media decide to run a story on obesity ever set out to become ill? It’s unlikely. No one decides to become overweight, nor would anyone ever choose to develop T2D, along with all its horrible secondary complications.

All the overweight and obese people, who are now comprise the majority in the UK, are the result of nothing more or less than the modern carb-rich diet of freely available fast calories, a diet that pretty much guarantees imbalance, overweight and illness.

Bearing this firmly in mind, where’s the point, use or kindness in shaming people?

For years, the NHS and various governments have been repeating a mantra of ‘eat less and exercise more.’ This is naïve, uninformed and it clearly doesn’t work, as the expanding national waistline proves. Diet and lifestyle is a little more complex than that and people need better information and support than they have so far been given.

We aim to start moving that mountain of misunderstanding back a little, starting in January.

I’d like people to coming to ‘Dia-Beat This!’ to know that they will be treated with kindness and respect and will not be judged, whatever their size or state of health.

The ‘Why Bother?’ post was personally important for me to write, as I know there are fatalistic people with T2D, who can’t or won’t face the seriousness of the illness and where it leads – something I obviously find problematic! T2D is truly worth fighting and worth reversing.

I also want to point up the fact that Claire and I, through ‘Dia-Beat This!’, won’t be the ones giving T2D people better health. The people who decide to take charge of their diabetes and reverse it will be the ones doing that, we’ll just be giving them some tools to help the process along and cheering from the sidelines.

Of course, this all starts with with the decision to do something different, to start a new day afresh and that decision is for each person to make.

If you can use whatever feelings you have about your diabetes to good effect, even feelings of shame and anger, great – do it. If it moves you towards better health, that’s all good.

However, shame and blame from the outside world, based on ignorance and prejudice, have no use and are not welcome.

No blame and no shame.

E.M 11.12.16

By the way, in writing the above I haven’t forgotten all the thousands of TOFIs with T2D, any of whom will be welcomed at ‘Dia-Beat This!’. I’m just down on fat-shaming, body-shaming, indeed shaming of any sort. I can’t see how kicking people when they’re down has any value. It’s not going to help them up, is it?

He’s a link here to a TED talk by US surgeon and T2D diet researcher Peter Attia, who reflects on the points I’ve raised very poignantly. It’s worth a look:

https://www.ted.com/talks/peter_attia_what_if_we_re_wrong_about_diabetes

About ‘Dia-Beat This!’

‘Dia-Beat This!’ is the world’s first open-access Type 2 diabetes reversal programme. Based on a mixture of recent research and personal experience, Eddy and Claire Marshall aim to guide four groups of people, with full Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, onto the path of lifestyle and dietary reform, to achieve reversal of an illness which is rapidly becoming the world’s greatest threat to human health and wellbeing.

They are also making a film about diabetes reversal.

Why Bother?

‘Reverse my Type 2? Why bother?’

It’s a fair question.

Few people like change and perhaps even fewer like the idea of giving up the things they see as life’s comforts, the little pleasures, the treats.

Our lives are often measured out in routines. The rhythm of those routines are punctuated by small pleasures – a cup of sugared tea, with maybe a biscuit or two on the side; a slice of cake, or a cigarette after a meal; a glass of wine at the end of the day.

In moderation, some of these pleasures are fairly benign, necessary even because what’s a life without pleasure? Without pleasure it’s not much of a life at all, only an existence. The idea of removing all of life’s pleasures is intolerable.

Everything though has a cost, or as far as things we consume are concerned, an effect.

This is worthy of everyone’s consideration but becomes an even more crucial thought once our health falls out of balance.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is in some respects a hormonal imbalance, caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The main environmental factor, and the most important one as far as the majority of T2Ds are concerned, is diet and in particular our consumption of sugars and carbohydrates.

It now seems we are simply not equipped to process the volume of sugars and carbohydrates we consume and that this is the key cause of our illness.

Until quite recently, sugar was highly prized, as a very rare commodity.

The Israelites fled Egypt and went in search of a promised land of milk and honey – rich presumably in the sugars lactose and fructose. We celebrate with sugar, we give it as gifts to those we care for, or want to impress or even seduce. Sugar is frequently a metaphor for romance. Sweet sugar is, in short, right at the heart of all goodness.

Unfortunately sugar is no such thing.

Sugar’s chemical cousin, alcohol, is tightly controlled in its uses and production, and correctly so. It seems far-fetched to imagine a time when sugar in all its many forms might be similarly controlled but maybe it ought, as the effects on the body and mind, while less spectacular than alcohol (as Ogden Nash said, ‘Candy is dandy / But liquor is quicker’) are no less corrupting.

So, while I wouldn’t condemn anyone for enjoying life’s consumable pleasures in moderation, I would encourage everyone to consider that the over-consumption of sugars – both sugars obvious and those hidden within processed foods, and sugar’s relatives in the wider family of carbohydrates (which interestingly are in their most refined forms often white – potatoes, white bread, white flour, pasta, white rice) – might have a deeper significance than we’ve previously been given to think.

All these foods are more than pleasant to eat, which is exactly the problem with them.

Tasty sugars and carbohydrates cause spikes in dopamine (one of the brain’s pleasure chemicals) and in blood sugar, which in turn causes sugar crashes, hunger and dopamine depletion. Inevitably, it leads to stronger and stronger cravings for more of the same.

If you apply this pattern to the consumption of drugs or alcohol there’s a simple single word that describes this situation very neatly: addiction.

Hobnobs, like heroin and hooch, are very moreish.

But just because some of us are thick around the middle, it doesn’t mean we’re thick between the ears. I think most people with T2D or pre-diabetes are well aware that certain food they eat or drinks they drink are bad for their health but somehow they experience a disconnect between what they know and what they do.

So maybe the question isn’t and shouldn’t be, ‘Why bother?’

Maybe it’s, ‘Why aren’t you bothered?’

‘Why bother?’ is insulation against having to confront the fact that ‘treats’ are often ‘threats’ to our health and that sleep-walking back and forth to the cake tin is a poor substitute for physical wellbeing and living without discomfort and the fear of ever-worsening illness.

‘Why bother?’ avoids confronting the fact that many so-called ‘treats’ are consumed without much real joy, that they’re just long-established habits, the maintenance of which gives little true pleasure, lasting barely as long as the ‘treat’ passes across the tongue, if that.

I think T2D people deserve better lives and better health.

I think part of the reason they’re T2D is partly because of a lack of decent public education about food and its effects on health, partly because of a food environment heavily weighted towards cheap, unhealthy products and largely because the manufacturers of those products are very effective at continually marketing and distributing them so they’re constantly available and in our sight.

So, if your body has been affected and shaped by the modern diet and if your health has been damaged simply by doing what you’re constantly encouraged to do – to consume – then the question needs to be asked:

‘Are you bothered?’

And if not, why not?

 

(The tone of this entry is deliberately provocative but maybe health is a serious-enough subject to be worth the risk ruffling the reader a little? You decide and leave a comment, if you like. Fortunately also, as I shall reveal, giving up old treats allows room for new ones … and quite right too, because a life without pleasure is no life at all! Credit also due to Harry Hill my adaptation of his gag about heroin being moreish).

E.M. 9.12.16