When Help Isn’t Helpful


A couple of months ago, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The nurse I’ve been seeing asked if I would like to see a nutritionist to help get my head round dietary changes and I jumped at the chance. Combining diabetes-friendly food with gluten free food can be a little daunting (especially since so many gluten free alternatives contain extra sugar), and with little energy too, because of Fibromyalgia, any help I could get to make the job easier was very welcome. I also wanted to be able to lose weight, so thought getting one-to-one help from a nutritionist would be great.

Today was the day of my first appointment. It turns out I was not seeing a nutritionist at all today; instead it was a gateway appointment to a weight-loss program and one of the very first things he asked was if I would like to be referred for gastric band surgery! This was before we had discussed my needs, or talked about my efforts to lose weight on my own or anything.

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In fact, when I was asked, we had just been discussing the pain I get due to fibromyalgia and sciatica and then he asked “would you consider surgery?” Thinking we were still talking about the pain, and remembering conversations with my GP about treatments we could try if the current ones don’t work, I said I would consider it. It was only a little later in the conversation that I realised we were talking about a different kind of surgery altogether.

The conversation moved on to other things this program could offer me, including getting me on an exercise programme. I assume he thinks I don’t exercise, but since he didn’t ask, he didn’t know that I already go to the gym twice a week, and do an aquaerobics session each week as part of a referral programme for those with mobility-restricting illnesses. This is something I asked my GP to refer me for, and I’ve found it amazing.

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With the help of the trainers in the gym, I’ve been able to build a workout I can do. For instance, we’ve found I can use the recumbent bike, but the rowing machine exacerbates the pain in my knees. I can use the arm cycle and low row machines and have increased intensity/weight, but can only use the chest press on the 5kg setting otherwise my shoulders complain (my joints suffer thanks to the fibromyalgia). I’ve been able to build up from 30 minutes to an hour in the gym on most days.

I wasn’t asked any questions in today’s appointment about what I eat, what exercise I do, what I’ve tried to lose weight. So where I was hoping for advice from a nutritionist before rejoining slimming world, they were offering a group exercise programme and a support group (and it was made very clear my children wouldn’t be welcome) and possibly a referral to a dietitian and a definite referral to the gastric band team (I was told to go and research what this would entail).

Today’s appointment has really taken the wind out of my sails. I don’t think I’m asking too much in terms of the support I want, but it’s so hard to get it. I clearly don’t fit into the boxes the man I saw had in front of him – I know how to eat healthily, and have done for years, but I need some help in doing what’s best diabetes-wise, and at the moment, I struggle with the energy to cook all our meals from scratch. I do exercise. My main issues are the illnesses I have and the limitations they put on me. There’s not a box for that.

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