Me and Diabetes: Becoming an Ambassador for Diabetes UK

6 Mar 2013 at 10:59

Don’t laugh but I have finally made it as a cover boy! Back in January Diabetes UK asked if I would become an Ambassador for them and they asked me to be interviewed for their magazine BALANCE. And this cover is the result! I guess I really ought to be some new pictures done, as this was my official LBC photo, done back in November 2009! I don’t mind admitting, I struggle to control my diabetes and my diet. My weight has now been fairly constant for a few years, but I know I need to lose more. I want to buy a rowing machine, as I hate running, but will I have the self discipline to use if often enough? We’ll soon find out. To find out more about Diabetes UK, click HERE Anyway, here’s the article which appears in the March edition of BALANCE.

Before his nightly show with London station LBC, Iain admits to often grabbing a 10-minute nap but says his tiredness is more due to his hectic lifestyle than the Type 2 diabetes he was diagnosed with five years ago. “When I go to LBC four nights a week after working at my publishing company all day I have to have a lie down,” he confesses. “This morning
I was up at 4.30am to be interviewed on ITV’s Daybreak about the vote on gay marriage, I was on air with LBC until 10pm and didn’t get to bed until 2am. I have Fridays and Saturdays off, but my producer will often ring me at home,” Iain adds, “so it’s rare I switch off from work altogether.”

Following the Commons vote, Iain was delighted that MPs backed the bill to allow everyone, regardless of sexuality, the right to marry in England and Wales. “It’s not about gay marriage, it’s equal marriage,” he says. “That is all gay people are asking for. Huge strides forward have been made on gay rights issues in recent years and this legislation will
be welcomed by thousands. If we believe in stable relationships and equality of opportunity, then I see no reason not to introduce it. To those who are against it, it’s quite simple, don’t marry a homosexual!” Iain didn’t ‘come out’ until 2003, when he became the first Conservative candidate to tell the selection panel he was gay. “I had never made an issue about my sexuality but decided to be upfront about it as I didn’t want to live a lie. I told my parents first as I didn’t want them reading about it in The Telegraph.”

If Iain hadn’t gone into the media he would have liked to have been a politician. After graduating with a degree in German in 1985, he was research assistant to the Conservative MP,
Patrick Thompson. In 2005 he stood in the General Election as Conservative candidate for Norfolk North, but lost to Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb. However, he decided to give up on his political ambitions in 2010, mainly because he ran out of money, he says, but the edge was taken off his disappointment when he landed a dream job of hosting the
evening show at London radio station LBC. ““I always had two ambitions – to be an MP or have my own radio show – so I am happy I achieved at least one. It might sound trite, but I
really think this is what I was put on this earth to do. I normally have the attention span of a flea, but I still really enjoy the work. I was hired because I know a lot about politics but we talk about lots of different things on the show and it can be quite emotional,” Iain explains. “After my mother died last year we ran a show on bereavement and I broke down on air. I was embarrassed at the time, but I think listeners are more able to open up to you, if you can share something of yourself."

Having diabetes has never been an issue for Iain and after having classic symptoms for a couple of years his diagnosis was hardly a shock. “I was always thirsty and having to get up in the night to go to the loo, so when the GP told me I had diabetes I wasn’t at all surprised,” Iain recalls. “She told me it shouldn’t impact too much on my life if I made some lifestyle changes and took all the right medication, so I wasn’t too concerned. Other people were more worried, but one of my friends was diagnosed with MS and another with cancer, so I count myself lucky.”

Although 50-year-old Iain has lost two stone since his diagnosis, he admits there is still plenty of room for improvement. “The worst thing the doctor said is that I should still be able to eat the things I like, as all the things I like are bad for me! I have got better. At one time I was drinking three litres of Fanta a day, but I have switched to mineral water and I love crisps but now I eat the baked variety.”

Iain thinks there are a lot of misconceptions about diabetes. He has written about it on his former blog, Iain Dale’s Diary, which closed in July 2011, and he hopes to create better
understanding of the condition in a proposed new role as ambassador for Diabetes UK. Iain thinks people with diabetes need more positive support from the government. “At the moment the approach is to lecture people into what might happen to them if they don’t follow government advice, but I think it would be better to demonstrate the benefits of following a healthy lifestyle by giving people examples of how people have successfully controlled their diabetes.”

As far as practising what he preaches, and leading a healthy lifestyle goes, Iain tries to incorporate exercise into his daily routine, but is realistic about what he can achieve, given his hectic schedule. “I used to play golf once a week but gave that up about two years ago. My life is so busy I find it hard to make the time, though in the summer I often hop on a ‘Boris’ bike to ride the two miles between my publishing company and the LBC studios.” And – as far as eating food that is off limits goes – his philosophy is simple, “It’s ok to have a little of what you fancy – just don’t eat the whole packet!”

Quick fire…

What three things would you abolish from diabetes life?
A nagging partner, a nagging GP or nurse and blood tests! I have a dreadful sweet tooth and hate being told I can’t have things and they can never find a vein and end up having to put the needle in the back of my hand.

What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with diabetes?
Don’t think you’re going to die and make changes gradually. There can be a tendency for people to be a bit zealous when they are diagnosed, and to try and give everything up all at once. But people have to realise this a long-term condition and they have to change a little at a time.

Has diabetes brought anything positive to your life?
I would say having diabetes have given me more knowledge about what I eat. I now look at the sugar, fat and carbohydrate content of the food I buy and have changed my diet quite a lot. I have lost about two stone since I was diagnosed and try and make healthy choices most of the time then I go and spoil it all by eating a load of chocolate biscuits!

What’s the strangest myth you have heard about diabetes?
I thought it was a joke when someone told me you were entitled to free Viagra on the NHS if you have diabetes, but then I found out it was true! I haven’t had to use it yet, though.

What’s the most and least healthy food in your fridge?
Melon and Leerdammer cheese.