It’s World Diabetes Day on November 14 and we hear from an inspiring lady who dropped 8 stones and 5 dress sizes, all of which helped her swerve a Diabetes Type 2 diagnosis.

Words: Rachel Tompkins

Ashley Strachan, 35, from North Lanarkshire, was morbidly obese and at risk of Diabetes Type 2, but found a diet and exercise plan that worked for her.

I was always larger than average, being 6ft, but I maintained a healthy range until I left school and passed my driving test. Then, a good social life meant that I ate lots of convenience food and enjoyed drinking with friends. My weakness was carbs such as bread, pasta, and noodles.

Ashley on her wedding day, when she was at risk of Diabetes Type 2

Ashley on her wedding day weighing 19 stones

As the weight crept up and up I hid how I really felt behind my big personality and everyone assumed I was OK. But I hated being so big and felt incredibly self-conscious.

By the time I met Barrie in 2008 I weighed 19 stones. Barrie loved me regardless of my size and when we married in 2014 I was 21 stones and wore dress size 28.

BMI much too high 

As we settled into married life the fact I ate man-sized portions of dinner every night with Barrie meant the weight continued to pile on. In the evenings I could easily get through a sharing size bag of crisps and a sharing chocolate bar along with a litre of full-fat fizzy drink. 

Ashley was at risk of Diabetes Type 2 due to her weight

Ashley with her husband Barry

At a doctor’s appointment in April 2015, I discovered my BMI was dangerously high at 43.4; at 24 stones I was classified morbidly obese. The doctor explained this was contributing to my fertility issues. He told me I was in the at-risk category for type-2 diabetes and that my chronic heartburn was attributed to my morbid obesity that was caused by pressure on the oesophagus and stomach due to the huge amount of weight.

I used to binge on carbs

Mortified, I tried different diets but whenever I lost a stone or two I quickly gave up and put it back on. By then I was used to breaking chairs and beds under my weight, using the seatbelt extension on flights and having to shop in larger clothes shops.

I knew I needed to lose weight but it wasn’t easy to do.

Then, in 2017 I saw a friend losing weight on The 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan and I signed up. On my first appointment with my consultant in September 2017 I weighed 23 stones and 3lbs and my size 26 clothes were too tight.

Following the plan meant swapping my usual carb-heaving meals of bread, pasta and noodles, and evening chocolate binges, for four calorie-controlled products totaling 800 calories a day.

I had porridge or a shake for breakfast, soup for lunch, spaghetti Bolognese or macaroni cheese for dinner and one of the chocolate bars in the evening to satisfy my sweet tooth. In the first six weeks I lost 2 stones, and continued losing 4-5lbs a week.

Feeling fitter and stronger

As the weight came off I noticed my energy levels rising and being able to get up and going much quicker in the morning. I didn’t have to stand at the top of the stairs at work to catch my breath before I went into the office. I stopped having chest pains and excessive sweating when I exerted myself.

And in January 2019 I even started to go running. It was something I hadn’t done since school and to begin with I “lamp post ran”, in other words running the distance between two lamp posts and then walking the distance between the next two.

It got my heart pumping and I felt so energised I couldn’t wait to go again.

Next time I extended the distance between lampposts and was able to run to the top of the road. Gradually the more I went, the less I needed to jog slowly before picking up the pace and running again.

No longer obese

I carried on running regularly and sticking to the diet plan, and by April 2019 I reached my target of 15 stones 10lbs. By December, I had lost even more and was down to 15 stones 2lbs – this meant I’d lost an incredible 8 stones and 1lb in total.

With my BMI down to below 30 I was no longer morbidly obese and felt fitter and healthier than I had done in years.

I maintained my weight by working my way up the 1:1 diet steps. Each step increasing the amount of conventional food I ate in place of the products. I eventually got back up to 1500 kcals a day and had a much more balanced approach to food and eating. 

No longer at risk of diabetes

Losing so much weight has transformed my life, so much so that when we went on holiday I felt confident in my swimwear by the pool for the first time ever. I was able to use the water slides on the ship and wear sundresses, which no longer had to be to the floor. I even took part in a virtual bungee, which had a weight restriction. I didn’t even need to think twice about it. 

In addition to my improved energy levels my mental health has been positively impacted. I love being able to run after my nieces and nephews and not feel out of breath or embarrassed about my size. 

For the first time in my adult life I’m happy with my weight. I’ve dropped five dress sizes as well as 15.2 BMI points while gaining a whole new life! I walk every day now. Barrie and I enjoy cycling at the weekends and also going for long walks together. I’m no longer in the at-risk category for Type 2 Diabetes either. 

I’ve also trained as a 1:1 consultant and have my own team of slimmers. I love using my experience to help people in a similar situation. I’m proof that it’s never too hard to change!

Ashley’s daily diet before:

Breakfast: Nothing or a few breakfast biscuits.

Lunch: Something from the canteen at work like chips, noodles, a sandwich (always carbs).

Dinner: A normal meal but she would eat the same size portion as Barrie.

After dinner in the evening snack: Sharing size bag of crisps, sharing size bar of chocolate 

Then at the weekend Ashley would eat constantly i.e. 2 donuts as a snack, or 4 cakes without thinking. It was a very carb-heavy diet.

Daily diet after:

Breakfast: Porridge or a shake

Lunch: Soup

Dinner: Spag Bol or macaroni cheese

Evening snack: A 1:1 chocolate bar