A-Z

Stuart

Age at interview: 70
Brief Outline: Stuart started to gain weight in middle age. Although he lost weight for a heart bypass operation, he has since gained some again. As Stuart suffers from type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and back problems, he would like to lose weight for health reasons. Although in the past Stuart used a “starvation diet” to lose weight, he is now making changes to his diet, as well as taking advice from healthcare professionals on managing his weight in the context of his wider health conditions.
Background: Stuart is 70 and is a retired electrical engineer. He is married with 2 adult children and is white British.

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Stuart began gaining weight in middle age, which he feels was partly because of a family history of weight issues, as well as lifestyle factors. In his job, he drove long distances up and down the country. In order to save time, he would eat fast food, “it was easy to pull into the car park and have a McDonald’s”. After getting breathless at work, Stuart was sent for tests by his GP, and was told he needed a heart bypass. Stuart’s consultant suggested that losing weight would aid his recovery. Following this, he lost around 22 kilos for the operation.

Stuart lost this weight through “a starvation diet”. He would skip breakfast, and eat when he felt faint, avoiding certain foods like bread, “At two thirty I go, [whoosh] I start getting lightheaded and feeling pretty rough. So, then I know I’ve got to eat”. Although Stuart has been warned of the dangers of losing weight this way, he found his health remained stable at this time, “everybody tells me that’s bad and I know it’s bad, but it doesn’t have any particular effect on me”. Stuart has since put on some of the weight he lost.

Stuart suffers from high cholesterol, which is now controlled with tablets. Around 2 years ago, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, after being “borderline” for many years. He initially tried to manage his diabetes through a strict diet, avoiding certain foods, though has since started taking medication. Stuart was given diet sheets for his diabetes and cholesterol. However, these offered conflicting guidance, “when you put them side by side, they don’t marry up”. Stuart went to his nurse practitioner for advice, and was referred to an NHS course which helped him understand what he could and couldn’t eat. Stuart found this course “very useful” but was frustrated by other members who were not following the advice given.

In the past, Stuart has found that health professionals have encouraged him to lose weight. However, he feels GPs are under time restraints, and don’t address weight issues, “the problem is they don’t really talk about weight”.  The diabetic nurse at his practice has been particularly supportive, “if you’ve got a problem… she encourages you to go in and see her and talk about it”. At the same time, Stuart feels that individuals have a responsibility over their health, “Who’s putting the food down my throat? Me”.

Stuart feels that as he’s got older, “I’ve found it very difficult to keep the weight down”. Nonetheless, Stuart is trying to lose weight for “health reasons”. Aside from his diabetes and cholesterol, he suffers from back pain, “if I’m lighter, I know that those back problems lessen”. Although Stuart has injured himself at the gym in the past, he intends to try this again. Stuart has been referred to a program by his doctor that tailors the exercise regime to his medical conditions.

Although Stuart has not tried any particular diet plans, in recent years, his diet has changed. Stuart is trying to cut down on portions sizes, which he feels has “a big impact on being overweight”. He also avoids foods including fatty meats like salami, which he only has on special occasions, “if it’s got fat in it, I don’t eat it. That’s my principle”. Stuart has also substituted certain foods in order to make healthy choices. He makes sweet potato chips in an air fryer, and uses a sugar substitute to reduce the calories in his coffee. He plans to try a diet which includes having apple cider vinegar, cinnamon tablets and honey. However, Stuart goes abroad on holiday for 3 months a year, and finds the eating culture difficult to manage without putting on weight, “I spend the other nine months losing the weight I’ve put on”.

Stuart is not overly concerned about his weight, but is aware of the impact it could have on his health, “I’m conscious of the fact that if I want to live a bit longer I need to lose some more weight but it doesn’t worry me”.
 

While travelling a lot for work, Stuart got into the habit of eating a couple of times a day at McDonalds.

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Now this has come about because during my working life, I had about twenty years where I used to travel up and down the country. I used to work forty thousand miles a year going to look at projects, seeing clients etc.

So I got into the habit of sort of dri-, you know, your boss wants you to get there and back as fast as you, so going, not eating anything going and then coming back after the meeting just grabbing a sandwich or something or a McDonalds.

Now in fairness it was probably the McDonald’s that put the weight on because I became, in later years, I sort of became addicted to McDonald’s. I, I used to go in for breakfast and, when I say breakfast, 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock and then I’d probably at 3 o clock, 4 o’clock, go and have a burger because I was feeling a bit peckish again.

 

Stuart attended an NHS course which gave him perspective on how to ‘marry up’ the dietary advice about his type 2 diabetes and cholesterol.

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So do you think that was very important for you to become aware of…?

Yeah, it was, it was a big life change for me because I had this diabetic health plan. I had this cholesterol health plan. But if you look at the information the NHS give you, if you overlap it, it doesn’t, it doesn’t marry up. It, the diabetes health plan doesn’t marry up with the cholesterol one. If you, if you, if you ate as, as, if you ate as on the cholesterol plan and you weren’t diabetic that was fine. But if you’re diabetic and you hadn’t got high cholesterol, that was fine. But if you had both, like me, and, and I was very keen to know everything, like I said to you at the beginning, if you know what it is you can set your stall out and alter things to make yourself better. But I had two conflicting bits of information and I couldn’t make them, I couldn’t see how they could marry up.

This course put that into perspective, in terms of, “yes, you’ve got to eat some, you’ve got to eat some fat, you’ve got to absorb some fat but just keep it to a minimum.” It’s impossible to live without eating but we went off, we made a big change, we use a lot of olive oil, but we also use, very rarely we fry in actual fact, very rare apart from them peppers [laughs].

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