Christopher Biggins is a vivacious figure in the entertainment world, with notable credits including his portrayal of Lukewarm in the sitcom Porridge and numerous pantomime performances over the years. His affable demeanour captured new audiences back in 2017, when he was crowned King of the Jungle in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. The actor’s optimism may have helped advance his career but it has also helped him to overcome personal challenges.
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Christopher was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2010 – a life-changing diagnosis that prompted him to reevaluate his lifestyle.
To raise awareness about the condition for Diabetes Week earlier in the year, Christopher spoke to Diabetes Digital Media about his condition and how it has altered his outlook.
He said: “If I knew someone who’d just been diagnosed with type 2 and the fear of doom was put on them I would say ‘don’t panic’. As long as you’re aware of what you eat, things can only get can better.”
According to the NHS, Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.
It’s caused by problems with a chemical in the body called insulin and is often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.
If left untreated, high blood sugar can act as a deadly precursor to life-threatening complications such as heart disease and stroke so it is important to make healthy lifestyle decisions to keep the condition in check.
Christopher is acutely aware of the risks and has taken steps to overhaul his diet, drastically reducing his sugar intake, losing a stone in the process.
He said: “When you’re diagnosed you of course don’t realise that sugar is everywhere. I used to drink fresh orange juice in the morning, which is like drinking two pounds of sugar. Now I drink coconut water, and I don’t get cravings.”
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As Diabetes UK explains, you don’t have to cut sugar out completely because sugar is found naturally in naturally in fruit, vegetables and dairy foods.
Free sugar, on the other hand, pose a greater risk to blood sugar levels – these are simple sugars added to foods by the manufacturer or consumers.
“It’s the hidden sugar lurking in many foods, such as baked beans, pasta sauces, tomato ketchup, yogurts and ready meals. Some drinks are packed with sugar, too,” explained Diabetes UK.
To watch his sugar intake, Christopher examines the font of food packets while he is out shopping, avoiding foods that contain 54 percent of sugar, for example.
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Cutting back on the sugar intake and eating a healthy, balanced diet also helped to control weight – a key measure in blood sugar management.
As Diabetes.co.uk explained: “Eating a healthy, real-food diet and getting regular exercise can help people lose weight, improve their blood glucose levels and, most impressively, even come off medication and put the condition into remission.”
The NHS recommends aiming for at least 2.5 hours of activity a week and this can be any activity that gets you out of breath.
For Christopher, committing to weight loss and dietary changes may be difficult at times, but he is acutely aware of the stakes: “I personally don’t want to die,” he said. “So I want to help my body.”
What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?
According to the NHS, many people have type 2 diabetes without realising because symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell.
- Urinating more than usual, particularly at night
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- Feeling very tired
- Losing weight without trying to
- Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
- Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
- Blurred vision
You should speak to your GP if you have any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes or you’re worried you may have a higher risk of getting it, advises the health body.
It added: “The earlier diabetes is diagnosed and treatment started, the better. Early treatment reduces your risk of other health problems.”
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