Tom Watson: how I lost seven stone and reversed my type 2 diabetes
Labour’s deputy leader cut out sugar, took up exercise and radically transformed his health. He believes Britain’s food system is broken and NHS advice needs to change – and says his mission is to help other patients
Earlier this year, one of Tom Watson’s local Labour party members emptied out his wardrobe and donated a load of clothes to the deputy leader so he would have something to wear for prime minister’s questions the following week. The keen-eyed member had noticed that Watson, who at his heaviest weighed 140kg (22st), had started shrinking inside his suits. In total, he has now lost 44kg (7st) and has reversed his diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
The reversal has been relatively fast – it has taken him just over a year. But it has taken more than 25 years to gain control over his diet and exercise. Watson was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in late 2015. It wasn’t a huge shock – there had been warning signs, such as his increasing weight and high blood pressure – for some time, but it was still a blow. “The overwhelming emotion was shame,” he says. “I felt frightened and ashamed that I had come to this point, and guilty. I’ve only admitted it publicly now, even though I’ve been in remission for a year, and I’ve felt quite nervous. I think particularly men find it difficult to talk about health.”
Sugar, Watson realised, might be the real problem. So, the first thing he did was cut out all refined sugar, and the processed foods that often have hidden sugar in them. He went through his kitchen cupboards and threw out all the tempting snacks and products such as pasta. “I would avoid, slightly more controversially, a lot of starchy carbs,” he says. “I do have some brown rice and occasionally pasta when I’m out. If I have bread, I have it made with almond flour.
“I started to feel really, really good quite quickly. My sleep improved after about a week and a half.” Watson’s blood glucose levels were normal within a month – he was still on medication – and after three months, his long-term blood sugar levels were also within normal range. Two months ago,he came off medication.