Sue Y

Age at interview: 69
Brief Outline: Sue’s Y weight became a problem in menopause, where she suffered from several health and personal problems. Sue started gaining weight, and although she lost this quite drastically, she put it on again and was diagnosed with diabetes. However, Sue has received excellent support around her condition, and has learnt to manage her diet. Motivated to improve her health, Sue has made small changes to her eating habits, and is now losing weight gradually.
Background: Sue Y is 69 and is a retired marketing manager. She is white British.

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For Sue Y, “everything started when I started going through menopause”. She had gained weight but started getting several health complications including atrial fibrillation, diarrhea, extreme sweating and started losing weight rapidly. Her weight dropped from 14 to 8.5 stone. She was diagnosed with autoimmune hyper thyrotoxicosis and started taking carbimazole. Several years later her partner passed away and Sue started to gain weight rapidly. She was diagnosed with hypo thyrotoxicosis and started taking levothyroxine. The weight increase went to 15 stone and she was warned she could become diabetic if she did not lose weight.

When Sue lost weight in the past, she wasn’t sure how to do this sustainably. Sue cut her food intake to one meal a day, often white meat or fish and vegetables. Sue also had one or two snacks each day, such as gherkins or peanuts, but cut down on carbohydrates like bread. Sue found a useful way to manage her eating was by keeping a food diary. Splitting everything she ate into portions, she would record and restrict her diet.

Sue is currently on the borderline for diabetes, but can stabilise her condition with her diet. Sue has received “brilliant” support from healthcare professionals around this, and has been to different diabetic sessions and a course to learn to manage her condition. The course, run by two nurses, offered lots of useful information, “It was second to none and it inspired me to start the diet proper again”. One activity where she was given 5 pounds of fat to hold helped Sue realise the impact of her weight gain, “it’s completely a no brainer when you realise it hits you and you think, ‘I’ve got to do something about it’”. Sue is now losing weight gradually, and feels her diagnosis has been central in this, “the reason for keeping it on track is finding out that I’ve got diabetes, I need to be focused on reaching a goal of losing the weight and keeping healthy as much as possible”.  

Sue has started eating smaller portions, particularly cutting down on carbohydrates and sugar, including fruit, after being advised to do this by a health professional. Sue has stopped eating prepared food, and makes everything from scratch, eating lots of steamed vegetables, and drinking more water. Although Sue allows herself occasional treats, she no longer uses holidays as an excuse to eat food she would not normally, “your attitude does have to change if you want to lose weight”. Sue finds that by not having unhealthy foods in the house, “that keeps you on track”. Although Sue finds exercise “difficult” as she suffers from osteoarthritis, she likes to walk and swim regularly.

Sue feels that weight problems in society are caused by lifestyle factors, including people eating fast or processed food. Indeed, Sue feels that many people struggle to lose weight because of an “overload of information”; she recommends courses like the one she attended as a way to learn about food and manage diet. Sue suggests that education programmes in schools could play a part in tackling obesity, as well as interventions targeting particular groups, for example clubs for women.

Sue has currently lost over a stone, but aims to reach between 9.5-10.5 stone. She wants to lose weight in order to improve her health and manage her diabetes and osteoarthritis. Sue is optimistic about losing weight, as she is in a supportive relationship, and feels motivated by her success so far, “It gives you a sense of achievement…But you’ve got to try and progress with small steps and keep going and, and keep focused and positive”.
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Sue Y tries to keep physically active despite her limited mobility, but it is hard and she fears having another fall.


It’s a problem when you’ve got arthrit-, such bad arthritis in my back, in my lumbar region and on my left hip and I didn’t realise I had osteoporosis as well which I’m taking something to hopefully stop that from getting worse. So, you know, just trying to keep healthy.

But you see, undertaking physical activity, is difficult for me.

Yeah, so how are you managing that?

Well as much as I can. Walk as much as I can, etc. So I do and, and there’s a reservoir just down behind those houses at the bottom where you can go and walk round which I often do but of course in the winter it’s, it’s difficult and as you get older and now of course, I’ve got the problem of I’m a bit afraid of going out where I might slip because I broke my arm and so, so that was, how are we doing on time?

But I try and walk as much as possible but there’s a limit to how far I can go now. I used to belong to a walking club, but I can’t now because I can’t keep up with them. So, but with this I can, I can do quite far because I’ve got something to lean on. But otherwise, I’ve got some walking sticks as well. I never thought I’d use walking sticks, you know, you don’t realise. Had an arthroscopy done on my, my left knee which, you see this side was injured in a terrible road traffic accident when I was fifteen. [Points to face] So, this side is paralysed…

Yeah, so, also, I like to dance. So, line dancing, all kinds of things like that. But I haven’t been recently because when I had the arthroscopy in my left knee it put strain on, on that knee so I stopped and of course you, you lose track of all the dance sequences. I’ll have to start again though. I’d love to get going and that helps lose weight. Gives you the motivation.


Sue Y describes the stress and health impacts of looking after a sick loved one.


Well, that’s, that’s when I got kind of big health changes when I was under so much stress. So much stress, it was just impossible.

Hm-mm. So you, you, do you think you became an emotional eater at that point?

I think when somebody’s dying and they’re in pain or, and very close to you, or when you yourself are, are ill and you can’t do anything about it because you’re focused on that other person completely. So, you don’t matter. It’s the other person that matters. When that situation occurs, and I should imagine it happens to mothers a lot and fathers. That, that’s really difficult to overcome and I think it’s almost impossible to overcome because you’ve got to go through the stress. You, you can’t help it. You’ve got to go through it. So obviously it’s going to affect your health and it certainly did with me, yeah.


Sue Y felt good getting dressed up, going out, and attracting men’s attention. Losing over a stone has given her the motivation to lose more.


But how did you feel within yourself when you look at the mirror and…?

Well I felt, felt really good because sometimes I could wear absolutely fabulous clothes and I could walk, even though I’m older, if I got dressed up and made up and, you know, all like glad rags and whatnot, you understand and you could walk down with your partner in what, whatever kind of venue that you were at and men would kind of look round at you and you could see that happening even though you’re an older woman, that still happens. Unbelievable isn’t it, Maria?

But sometimes it happens now [laughs] and I’m putting the weight on. So you can’t always, I don’t know but I did feel pretty good. But I still feel okay as I am because I’m in a loving relationship and that’s such an important thing and he’s slim.

… when you realise that you have lost over a stone? How, how did it make you feel?

More positive towards losing more. It gives you a sense of achievement that you, you’ve got. It can be like small steps, but you’ve got to take the steps, otherwise you won’t get there and sometimes you could take a large step and depending on what the result of my, next HbA1c is I’m hoping it’s not a step back. So, who knows? But you’ve got to try and progress with small steps and keep going and, and keep, keep focused and positive. It’s not always easy but just try and get rid of stress out of your life, that’s a big thing.


Sue Y attended a local commercial weight loss programme but “was not impressed” by it, describing the young leader as “the wrong person to give advice on weight loss”.


But you went to an introduction by…?

Yeah, I thought they were just out to get my money and I wasn’t impressed and then you have to kind of keep waiting around and, you know, you could be doing other things with your time that’s more industrious and product-, you know, more interesting things. I wasn’t, it didn’t impress me at all. Maybe it wasn’t as professionally done as it could have been. I suppose it’s different in different places but I wasn’t impressed.

So, I’d like to think that there’s some kind of system where people can get information on losing weight and, and one thing that I will say is that I did go to something, I’ve forgotten what it’s called. It was run by, it was given by a young guy who was a trainer, who’d been a gym trainer and completely the wrong type of person to give advice on weight, loss of weight.


Because he didn’t angle it towards being 1) a female; 2) older and 3) it was all very patronisingly put.

What do you mean? Talking down?

It was the way that it came over expecting us to do this and people to understand that and so on and being dismissive of some people’s questions and so on and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all. So, I didn’t continue and he particularly kind of talked to, mainly focused on the young people in the group because he was a young person and that was wrong. Do you understand what I mean?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very clearly, yeah.

He didn’t have empathy. He didn’t have the right empathy. It was almost as though he was just doing the job and anyway…

This was run by, by, which programme was this?

It was a private company and I can’t remember what the name of it was.


Sue Y was impressed with the X-PERT Diabetes programme she attended, which she felt made a positive difference to her health.


What, would you like to tell me more about this course that you did. Who recommended it? Did you have to wait to join it? How long you waited and what it was all about? I mean, can you just tell me a little bit?

I have a computer which I go on a lot and I was having a look at diabetes within [City] and it mentioned about this course, the X-PERT course and I brought it up with the diabetic nurse at the medical centre which I attended, and she said, It was a brilliant course. Would I, I like to go on it? She would put me forward. So, she did, and I got a call within a matter of a week or so to say they had a place on the next course and so got on it very, very quickly after being diagnosed with diabetes.

It all seemed to happen very, very fast indeed and the course was once a week and people sat round a table. They had the booklet and we worked our way through the through the book and talked about it and there were two nurses, really experienced nurses, who’d done this course many times. They knew everything that, that they talked about. It was so pertinent to, to the lifestyle of people and it, it gave so much information it was incredible. Really incredible. I was very, very impressed indeed with how good it was.

There’s not many times that I’ve been so impressed, but I was definitely with this course. It was second to none and it inspired me to start the diet proper again because with being with [partner’s name], he’s always accepted me as I am but then I thought, ‘Well, right, I’ve got to do something about my weight and blah, blah, and, you know, change for the better and get more exercise and, and so on and so forth.’ So, so that’s, that’s it really. It’s so good, it was just incredible. Very inspiring.

How would you describe the course to someone who was going to look at the website and who is going to be interested in joining something along those lines?

Yeah, if you want to find out information that will change your life for the better and be inspiring at the same time to make you feel better to help your health to improve things for you, then go on this course.

It’s fantastic the, the ladies who were giving the course were so interesting. So down to earth. They kept it simple. There was no pretentious overload of information. It was pertinent to each of us and it did make a difference. That’s what I would tell somebody.


Sue Y was diagnosed with diabetes a year ago. She is full of praise for the information and support she has received, including the Care Call service, which is enabling her to manage her diabetes through diet.


So, I started putting weight on again until I’ve got to the stage now where I’ve become diabetic and this was diagnosed just over a year ago.

But I’m on the borderline and I can stabilise it with diet. So, I’ve had two blood tests and I’ve just recently had a third, but I haven’t had the results yet. Both of the first two were just on the borderline and so I only keep to a diet. I’ve been to lots and lots of diabetic sessions that have been organised by diabetic nurses at the different surgeries that I’ve been to because with having moved, I’ve had to change doctors, and everybody’s been brilliant. There’s a diabetic care, care call that rings me up to keep me on track with the, with the X-PERT diabetes course that I took and it’s been fabulous.


So I’ve had all the tests, diabetic retinopathy and all kinds of tests and everything’s been absolutely great. So, fingers crossed, you know, I can really get on top of it.

Because when I was first diagnosed, you know, you think, ‘Oh, what do I do, you know, who’s going to help me?” and believe you me there, I have had so much help, it’s just untrue. Absolutely excellent.



The diabetes nurse?

Well the whole diabetes thing in [City] has been fantastic. I get, as I say, I get, I’ve had the courses and the follow up is the diabetes Care Call and they’ve been absolutely fabulous.

So they called you once…

I’ve had three phone calls and the lady who’s, who I speak to, [Name], she keeps me on course with talking about my diet, different things that I could be doing and all kinds of things, suggestions. Just a myriad things. So, I’m very, very lucky I count myself as being exceptionally lucky because I’ve got this and of course I see the diabetic nurse in the medical centre twice a year.


Sue Y’s advice is to make a small goal and take small steps to reach it.


Just take small steps to lose weight and to achieve a healthy status. To do small steps with exercise. To do small steps in maintaining stress levels. Just do things in small steps to achieve a positive conclusion to a goal that you want to reach. Doesn’t have to be a big goal. Make it a small goal and take small steps to reach it and be happy in the process. That’s all.

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