When losing is winning – Tash Minto

Natasha Minto, who does not have diabetes, openly speaks about her struggle with her weight, weighing 155kg at the age of 23, and how she came to lose 70kg and how her weight loss has positively affected her relationship.


Natasha Minto (30), better known as Tash, originally comes from Boksburg, South Africa but moved to Hampshire, England in 2012. She lives with her partner of six and half years, Tony Waterhouse (35).

I didn’t feel like I had to lose weight for Tony but it was because he loved me at my worst that I felt he deserved me at my best.”

When did you start battling with your weight?

I started getting a bit chubbier than my friends in my last year of primary school. I was always a bit bigger than most of the people I knew. Though, it really escalated when I finished school. When I was younger, my grandad would spend the afternoons with us and treated us to sweets. I think I associated this with feeling safe.

As a child, I was was the fussiest eater. I never ate cooked vegetables, onion, and no food could touch on my plate and don’t even think of giving me a salad.

Unfortunately, I made my parents life very difficult and since we had a lot of other stuff going on at home, my mom let it slide most of the time. I was so fussy that I would eat crisps and slap chips but not roast potatoes or jacket potatoes. This also applied to fruit. I never used to eat mango or kiwi fruit.

Only at the age of 23, did I stop picking onions out of my food. I also now eat tomatoes because I enjoy them rather than I must.

Did your weight bother you? If so, how did you deal with it?

My weight bothered me more and more as I got older. Older kids would pick on me and then when I went to high school, other people would too.

I always had a good group of friends, though, who made me feel welcome and comfortable. So, for the most part it was never a constant thing. Only on occasion. Shopping for clothes, especially for parties, was tough.

Sometimes if my friends and I went out for the night, my friends would get attention from boys and get asked out. But, I very rarely did and this is when it hurt the most. I knew and still maintain that people (guys) wouldn’t give me the time of day because I wasn’t slim and pretty. It was a harsh lesson to learn but made me tougher.

I learnt very early on that if I wasn’t going to be the prettiest, I had to be the funniest or the nicest, or something else for people to like me. So, I worked very hard on that.

I did try dieting and have possibly done every single diet you can think of. Banting, high-carb, low-carb, cabbage soup, popcorn diet, Gummy Berry juice, juicing, shakes only, fruit only, meat only, appetite suppressants, hypnosis. Everything!

This unfortunately has resulted in disordered eating on my part and my relationship with food is still quite damaged. I work on it every day.

What was your heaviest?

I weighed in at 155kg when I was about 23 years old. I tried to avoid the scales when I could.

When did your weight loss journey start and why?

In 2012 my father passed away suddenly three days before Christmas. Then the following year, I developed alopecia (hair loss) and was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism (thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone). The Hashimoto’s was the cause of the alopecia and hypothyroidism.

This was a real wake up call for me and after losing my dad, it really hit home how important it was to stay healthy and for weight loss.

I started really trying in November 2014. Tony and I used to eat out a lot and we were very much in the honeymoon phases of our relationship so we didn’t really try to be healthy. This is when the light came on. Something was working and for the very first time in a long time, I stuck with it. When the weight came off, it was easier to be active and I had more energy so I enjoyed it for the first time ever.

Plus, Tony is a vegetarian so I started exploring vegetables for the first time and my pallet started to change. I enjoy broccoli now!

When did you meet Tony?

We met in 2013. I had just come back from my dad’s funeral in South Africa and was vulnerable. My friend said I should try online dating. By this point, I was probably about 135kg so felt a lot better about myself and gave it a go.

After six months of going on a few unsuccessful dates, I decided to cancel my account. The day I went on to do so, I saw a message from Tony. We got talking and chatted for about four weeks before we met in person and have been together ever since.

Was your weight an insecurity in your relationship with Tony?

My weight was and probably always will be an insecurity of mine. Though, Tony has a way of making me feel like nothing in the world matters other than us. He has never treated me any differently and never even commented on my weight until one day I did.

We did lots of activities and he never once said, “We can’t do this because of your weight or we can’t do that.” And so, we did so much more than I have ever done and this was a huge eye opener.

Tony’s family also treated me like gold. They made me feel very welcome and it was comfortable to talk openly about my feelings with them.

I didn’t feel like I had to lose weight for Tony but it was because he loved me at my worst that I felt he deserved me at my best.

How much do you weigh now?

Since my heaviest of 155kg, I have lost 70kg and now weigh somewhere between 85/90kg depending on the day.

What does your exercise regime consist of?

I developed a real love for exercise and it’s constantly changing. As it stands now, I run three times per week (about 5km), go to Bootcamp three times per week and sometimes add in a boxing class or fit club of some sort.

I tend to have one or two days off a week but even then, I make sure to walk every single day and try to at least hit 10k steps.

Outside of this, Tony and I try to be as active as possible. We go hiking, do outdoors sports, water sports, etc. and I really enjoy it.

What does your diet entail?

Again it depends on the day and I don’t proclaim to be a saint. But, for the most part I stick to a low carbohydrate diet. Very little bread, rice, pasta and potatoes. Low sugar where I can and moderate fat/protein.

For the most part, my weight came off when I reduced my calorie intake. It’s that simple and honestly, I feel the only sustainable way to lose weight is eat less and move more.

I have completely curbed my crisp addiction and went from having a packet a day to almost one per year. Though, I still enjoy chocolate but try to keep it low sugar where I can, and I will almost always have a piece of cake on someone’s birthday.

I really try to live an 80/20 balanced lifestyle so that it doesn’t feel like such hard work.

Have you reach your goal weight?

I haven’t really got a goal. This is very much my life now so if weight loss is a by-product then great but I will keep going regardless. I have always had 80kg in my head as a goal number but as long as I am active and healthy I am happy. I’m trying not to get hung up on a number.

How has your confidence changed?

I’ve always been a fairly confident person, as I explained before. I’ve never battled for friends or jobs, etc. but being able to shop for clothes in normal shops (my mom used to have to make clothes for me at my biggest) and being able to take part in so many adventure activities has completely changed my outlook on life. I have so much to live for.

With extreme weight loss comes the battle of the excess skin. Do you have plans to get it removed?

I have no immediate plans but it’s on the wish list. It’s very heavy and weighs me down and pulls a lot when I exercise. So, I must wear compression gear to stop it from hurting.

Does the excess skin interfere with intimacy with Tony?

The excess skin is a constant battle. I will be honest as it has moments of affecting our intimate moments. But, I am quickly reminded to be proud of my hard work and to enjoy my new body, thanks to the weight loss, as I never would have before.

Tony loved me when I was much bigger and has never been bothered by it. So, why should I be? He truly does love me for what is inside and for that I can’t dare to bring myself down when all he does is lift me up.

If I had the money I would have it removed tomorrow but until then I make peace and enjoy this new lease on life. I won’t let my old body hold me back any longer. How can I let excess skin hold me back when I’ve come so far?

How do you feel being 70kg lighter?

I feel like for the first time in my life, the inside matches the outside. For so long I felt trapped inside a body that didn’t belong to me. Like I was a prisoner. But now, I have a freedom and a future I could only once imagine.

I wouldn’t say I feel sexy but there are moments when I am so proud that I could burst. It’s not always like that and I often must remind myself of how far I’ve come.

I think as women, we naturally will always find something wrong but for the most part I feel like I am the prettiest, healthiest and definitely happiest I’ve ever been.

We chat to Tony

When you first met Tash, what attracted you to her?

We initially met online so it was mostly her personality. She only had a couple of pictures to view. While I was attracted to her physically, I needed a lot more than that to be truly interested in her and didn’t trust online pictures completely.

When we got chatting, we found that we both had a love of music, travel and shared a real interest in different cultures. It was really easy conversation between us that flowed well with just the right amount of laughter. It was only when we first met face to face that I knew I was physically attracted to her.

Did her weight ever bother you and did you want her to lose weight?

I certainly didn’t need her to lose weight. But, I was aware that she wasn’t happy with her size. Wanting her to feel good about herself led me to want her to lose weight.

I was never bothered about her size but did notice her getting a bit out of breath when we would go on walks and stuff, although this never stopped her.

How has Tash changed since she her weight loss?

Tash has found a real love of exercise, which wasn’t apparent at all in the first couple of years together.

She has also started eating a much wider variety of foods but I’m not sure that’s due to the weight loss. Could just be changing taste buds through time.

She has also started to experiment with fashion and is getting more confident wearing brighter colours.

How do you motivate her?

I don’t need to motivate her much as she has great personal motivation. On the odd occasion when she has a down day or a moment where her confidence isn’t great, we might have a little conversation about being proud of what she has achieved and how far she has come with her weight loss.   

I believe there is diabetes in your family. Please explain.

My Nan had Type 2 diabetes in her eighties, and my uncle and father have been diagnosed in the last couple of years with Type 2. So, I’m very aware that I may be genetically prone to the disease, albeit later in life.

We have a rule in our house that anything with over a 10% sugar content we avoid but that doesn’t always stick. A bar of chocolate or a couple of beers isn’t uncommon once a week. 

With Tash’s weigh loss, did you ever get insecure?

No, I don’t mind other men looking or chatting with Tash because I’m confident in our relationship and trust her completely. It makes me happy that she feels more confident in herself. I would never want her to be miserable just because I was insecure. 

Have you ever battled with your weight or health?

I’ve been lucky that I have never had weight or health issues. Although, I did consider myself too skinny in my early 20s. As I get into my late 30s though I’m more aware of healthy eating and keeping fit.

MEET OUR EDITOR


Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on editor@diabetesfocus.co.za


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Life after a heart attack – Vaughan Wood

Vaughan Wood, who has Type 2 diabetes, tells us how he survived a heart attack and about his recovery process.


Vaughan Wood (55) lives in Port Elizabeth with his wife, Gail, and their son, Cameron.

Watching my mom suffer with Type 1

My mother passed on at the age of 67, in 2003. She was diagnosed at the age of 16 with Type 1 diabetes and used Humalog insulin.

She first lost a toe with gangrene, then a foot, the first leg, and then the second leg was also amputated.

As a young child growing up, I often came to her rescue with glucose tea when she had a hypo. Sometimes it was quite difficult as she would clench her teeth refusing help, saying that she was fine.

With her last amputation, she was too weak for general anaesthetic. She had some sort of epidural type of anaesthetic, and she said she could hear the instrument of the surgeon as it cut the bone of the leg.

My diagnosis

I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, at the age of 52, after struggling for energy at the rear of a mountain bike race.

The doctor sent away the blood sample for an average test. Later, he prescribed metformin and Diaglucide, including a complimentary diet sheet to follow.

My wife and I run a small care home and approximately one quarter of our residents are on diabetic medication.

I considered my diet to be relatively conservative. However, I had been known to polish off more than one cake at one sitting. Comfort food was my thing.

I managed to control the obvious process, and sweet products, with my glucose levels being mostly in the correct ranges with the new medication.

I decided to enter the Karoo to Coast Mountain Bike Race, which I last rode in 2004.

Heart attack

One night, on the 17th April 2019, my breathing was a little strange. With the weather becoming colder in the evenings, I presumed it was the result of a virus.

As a precaution, I missed an evening ride, not realising that I would be rushing to hospital with a heart attack later that night.

Dizziness, shortness of breath, and a panic attack off the scale. I made the emergency room in survival mode, not even checking in, just making my way to the nearest bed.

I was handled very well. Although in my mind, I wondered why they were taking so long, and why the nurse was so insistent on drilling me on whether I had taken any Viagra.

Later I found out that Viagra does not mix well with the medication they were to give me, before placing me in cardiac care. LuckiIy, I responded well and the next morning I received two stents, one of which, even the cardiologist seemed excited about.

Recovery

Heart medication was added to my list of medications, and all was going well until the panic attacks started. The first one, in my mind, was another heart attack. I would easily have passed a lie detector as this was so real.

The heart was like a tree, I was told, and the roots would have to feed it, till the affected part recovered. No strenuous activity for seven weeks until my treadmill test. At first, just walking from shop to shop was tiring enough.

After a couple of weeks, I started short walks, progressing a few hundred meters every time. Eight weeks after saw my first short cycle. I was given the go ahead to exercise after the cardio test which was hugely uplifting.

Best advice

I was advised to smell the roses by someone who had a similar experience.

There are two other bits of advice that stick out for me. The first from our regular dietitian at the diabetic support group I attend, was to make one change at a time.

The second was from a Canadian doctor. He told me that our taste buds can change with time.

Not only am I making positive changes, but I am starting to enjoy making better choices with food.

I am not sure what has made diabetes the epidemic it is today. However, I know that we have more information at our disposal than my mom had in her day to deal with it, and live a good life.

I decided to walk a trail instead of riding this year. While walking I saw a Knysna Loerie in beautiful natural surroundings. That is me smelling the roses.

When I am ready, I will collect my number for the next ride, in my own time.

Vaughan's wife, Gail.
Vaughan and his son Cameron.

MEET OUR EDITOR


Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on editor@diabetesfocus.co.za


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Diabetic Athletic – Nicholas Caracandas

Nicholas Caracandas, a Type 1 diabetes patient, tells us how he is paying it forward with his Diabetic Athletic programme.


Nicholas Caracandas (32) lives in Pinelands, Cape Town with is partner, Deborah. They have one daughter.

My diagnosis

Back in the early 2000s, at the age of 12, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at my aunt’s house for the weekend. She had just opened a Greek restaurant and we decided to go as a family to celebrate. I remember spending the weekend with an unquenchable thirst. I had a dry mouth and a thirst that just wouldn’t go away. Anything I could find, I would drink and just seconds later be as thirsty as ever before.

My vision started to blur and I was urinating every five minutes. I put the frequent urination down to the fact that I was drinking a lot of liquid. The fact that I was drinking sugary drinks to quench my thirst wasn’t helping me in any way.

Mom also a diabetic patient

My mother had been a Type 1 diabetic patient for five years prior to this day (my diagnosis). She wasn’t with me on that weekend so when I told her in the week, she took me for tests immediately.

Due to circumstances, I was taken to a government hospital and tested for diabetes. It was confirmed, I also had Type 1 diabetes, just like my mom.

I remember staring out of the hospital window which overlooked the highway and thinking to myself how life was going to change. I didn’t understand diabetes very well, if at all. As a 12-year-old boy, I had seen my mother try and deal with the exact thing, with much difficulty. I knew I had to try and tackle this for the rest of my life.

Even at that age, I knew that my choices from then on would determine every outcome that would come my way.

Good foundation set

I was fortunate enough to have a good professor help me manage my diabetes initially. The lessons he taught me have stayed with me until this day.

After talking to him, I knew I stood at a crossroads but I also knew where I wanted it to go. He said to me that I needed to make a choice as to whether I was going to allow the diabetes to control my life, or if I could be brave enough to step up and choose to control it. I chose to control it.

Helping each other

My mom helped me with the basic things like finger pricks, bedtime meals and insulin. She also shared her daily experiences with diabetes; this was of great help.

Unfortunately, my mother struggled with managing her diabetes. I saw her in multiple diabetic comas as a child. Though, somehow it taught me more about the importance of management. Plus, our situation worked because we helped each other.

Getting into fitness

Going through school with an endocrine disorder that affected energy levels, overall moods, muscle gain, and just being a kid in general, I knew that whatever I chose to become after school would have to revolve around my diabetes.

I knew that I had to choose a career that would put myself and my diabetes first. My fitness journey started when I was 17 and I became a personal trainer at age 18, and have gone on to owned three successful fitness facilities over the past 10 years, learning many important lessons through victories and failures.

Early on in my career, it was clear I had the natural ability to take the specific industry jargon and explain them in ways my clients could understand, remember, and apply. This is a skill most don’t see as being very important.

With the years of experience, I have been able to share my knowledge of how fat loss works and help those needing to achieve it.

Diabetic Athletic

I decided to merge my two worlds: fitness, strength and conditioning and living with diabetes. I knew that one day I would turn it into a programme that could help people living with diabetes in the same, if not better, manner as it did for my clients needing to lose fat successfully and sustainably.

Diabetic Athletic is over 10 years old. Today it is a fully interactive, educational video course that arms people living with diabetes with all the tools they need to achieve and manage diabetes through nutrition, exercise, education and support.

The Diabetic Athletic video modules are aimed for people wanting to reverse pre-diabetes and overcome their struggles with diabetic overwhelm, diabetic management, obesity and fat loss.

I noticed most programmes address very few of the much-needed facets of diabetic and fat loss success.

Fat loss, diabetic control, education, nutritional guidance, general guidance and 24/7 support are the foundational needs to your success. As diabetics we need them all, not just one or two. The Diabetic Athletic programme provides them all

Us, diabetics, are faced with hundreds of decisions each day, all the while still trying to lose fat and regain our health.

The support and guidance provided by Diabetic Athletic allows people to not only educate themselves as to how fat loss works, what diabetes is, and how to manage it, but also how to use the tools they are given.

The triangle of control

You will hear me speak about the triangle of control at my academy as well as in my video series. The triangle of control is all about managing your weight and diabetes through exercise and nutrition before medication.

Now, where diabetes is concerned this means eating foods that keep glucose levels constant. Being active, to keep glucose levels controlled and using whatever medication needed to make up for the rest.

If you get the triangle of control mixed up, you eat bad foods which results in less than optimal activity and you will need to administer far more insulin than a non-diabetic would need.

Keep in mind insulin is a hormone. Every action has a reaction. More insulin leads to a heap of processes that lead to weight gain, energy lows, and overall issues.

Pre-diabetes and obesity

For those dealing with pre-diabetes or obesity, the triangle of control is still my holy grail.

For these individuals, the medication aspect is not insulin but rather the marketing gimmicks and magic pills people are sold every day. They are made to believe that the fat burners, meal replacement shakes, and all the other crazy things (that do not work) are the answer.

These big corporations need to make money and do so by playing on our needs and, at times, desperation to lose weight and regain our health.

Pay it forward

I have dedicated my life and profession to doing for others what that professor did for me 22 years ago.

You can be in control and you can lose weight, properly, sustainably and for good. You can take charge of your health and live your best life.

There are many that are standing at that very crossroads I once stood at. Diabetic Athletic is a support system and the final stop to life-long fat loss, management and success.

Managing my diabetes

Since I was diagnosed, I have been using a glucometer to test my glucose levels up until 2018. I now use a Dexcom G6 and have been using it for just over a year now.

I currently use Toujeo long-acting insulin pens and Humalog as my short-acting insulin.

My exercise regime consists of walking each day. I am a 10 000 steps-kinda-guy throughout the day. This is an accumulative 10k steps per day. Not a-get-it-all-done between 6am – 7am.

I lift weight three times per week and play as much sports as I possibly can. Fitness needs to be fun. We cannot and will not sustain anything if we don’t enjoy it.

Having a supportive partner goes a long way. She supports and encourages me in every way possible and enjoys that she can monitor my glucose levels as well. She uses the Dexcom Sharing App to do so, and is very clued up about diabetes and helps maintain healthy habits in the home.

I am proud to say my mom follows my programme and content and says she has learnt about glycaemic index, fibre, salt and carbs.

For more info on Diabetic Athletic, visit www.diabeticathletic.com or www.facebook.com/diabeticathletic/

MEET OUR EXPERT


Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on editor@diabetesfocus.co.za


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