In 2009 I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes after becoming very ill over Christmas. I had been working around the clock as a successful Recruitment Consultant, not realising that I had put my own health and well being on the back burner.
I weighed 17.5 stone/111.2 kilos/245 pounds, my BMI was 41.5 and I was size 20-22, which was classed as obese. The results of a blood glucose test I had taken at Chorley Hospital confirmed I was Insulin Resistant and Pre-Diabetic – I was devastated.
I immediately changed my eating habits by reducing my portion sizes and cutting out sweets and alcohol. I walked our dog every day with my husband, Kirk, but I wasn’t getting enough exercise. I lost a stone after changing my eating habits, and was feeling hopeful that I could beat the risk of Diabetes.
But then I received my diagnosis after getting my most recent lab results from my nurse. I told her, I didn’t want to die this way. I had moved to England from California for a second chance at happiness. I was devastated as I had lost a close friend to diabetes and heart disease, and I had nearly lost my mother to a diabetic coma several months earlier. I didn’t even know she had diabetes or that I was at risk.
My wonderful Nurse grabbed hold of me and said, “You don’t have to die this way, Ramona. All you have to do is change your eating habits and become more active, and you can still live a long, healthy and happy life”.
This was a pivotal moment for me.
I immediately took ownership of my health & joined NHS “Activity for Life” a 12 week programme in Lancashire ran by the NHS in partnership with my local gym. The deal was, after 12 weeks you could continue going at a reduced membership.
I joined after completing the 12 weeks and went every weekend without fail. I didn’t want to over commit and go during the week as I knew that my job would consume my time. So I kept taking daily walks, eating nutritiously and working out at weekend. I also took a Diabetes education course called DESMOND, which was a full day course on the importance of eating the right foods and staying active.
In June 2009, I met Sebastian Coe at a networking event in Bolton. I asked him during a Q&A session what we could do as individuals to make London 2012 a success. He said “Volunteer, volunteer for your local community, help the youth, promote sport, and if you ever get the chance, become a Gamesmaker. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and you’ll never forget it”!
I was so inspired by his advice, that I immediately joined Bolton Lads & Girls Club, the UK’s largest youth organisation, and held a series of workshops to help the youth get into work. I also started fundraising for them which helped me get more active. I participated in the Three Towers Walk, which was a 23 mile trek starting at Peel Tower in Ramsbottom, walking to Darwen Tower, and finishing at Houghton Tower. My second challenge was The Great Manchester Run in 2012 just before I became a Gamesmaker for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I said I couldn’t run, but that I would walk the event for them. When I got to the 9th kilometre I asked myself, “I wonder what it feels like to run?” So I ran the last kilometre and came in with a giant teddy bear! I decided I would run it the following year from start to finish.
I was so inspired by London 2012 that I decided to start running, and found out about parkrun through my friend Annie, who is a regular at Mile End parkrun. I was staying with her during the games.
In August 2013, I joined the inaugural parkrun at my home park, Cuerden Valley. I had run and power walked Great Manchester Run in May 2013, so was keen to do a 5k run every week. It wasn’t long after, that I lost 7.5 stone (49 kilos) over 100 pounds, reduced my BMI to 24, and became a size 10-12. This improved my condition, and my doctor says that I have added 10 years to my life as a result.
My life has been completely transformed and I have learned the importance of staying active for the rest of my life. I have maintained my weight loss for 4 years now by regularly attending the gym, running 118 parkruns, 18 half marathons, hundreds of 5K/10K/22K road, Lakeland trail, XC and training races with my running club, Red Rose Road Runners, and my first full marathon. I was actually able to thank Seb Coe for inspiring me at the start of my first half marathon, Great North Run 2014. I have such a wonderful sense of achievement, and it continually inspires me to give something back through volunteering & campaigning and raising awareness for charities such as Diabetes UK and Active Nation.
I am now a parkrun UK Champion for Diabetes, where I work within a specialist team to make parkrun more accessible and inclusive to people living with Diabetes. This is all part of Project pRoVE (parkrun; Running or Volunteering for Everyone) that is funded by the Department of Health. The project has been created to remove barriers to participation at parkrun for people with a range of disabilities. The role will be instrumental in making parkrun a more welcoming and inclusive experience for all.
Ultimately, my aim is to inspire others to change their habits and become more active so that we can tackle obesity and diabetes, and live longer, healthier and happier lives!
I hope anyone out there who may be struggling with their weight or health condition, can find hope and inspiration in my story. Never give up. Always believe that if you set your mind to something, you can and will achieve it!
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