Lifestyle Advice




Helping you make positive lifestyle choices - diabetes and beyond

Although primarily aimed towards patients with diabetes, those at risk of diabetes and those looking for support around their weight, this page is also for everyone. Applying the tools and resources here can help put diabetes into remission, reduce the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer, and help you to feel better, happier and healthier. They can also have a significant positive impact on mood, improving anxiety and low mood and improving the fatigue that many of us experience because of our frantic lives and lifestyle choices.

Are you keen to understand the causes of the diseases we are living with in the modern world and to help reduce your risk of developing them? Do you want to feel better and healthier, improve your mood and reduce fatigue. Then read on!


Did you know?

healthy foods

"A balanced diet can reduce chronic diseases by 70%" - taken from Dr Tim Spector’s podcast with Dr Rangan Chatterjee (chronic diseases include hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer).

There is so much exciting new understanding and science about the causes of chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and cancer that is helping us to help you take control of your health and wellbeing, and to reduce your risk of developing problems later in life. We are passionate about getting this information to our patients at West Walk Surgery in a way that is easy to understand and simple to apply to our busy lives.

A low carbohydrate, Mediterranean style diet has been shown to control diabetes and even put diabetes into remission, to reduce the need for medication and to prevent the development of diabetes in those at risk.

It can help significantly with weight loss, which has a positive impact on blood pressure, reduces the risk of cancer (obesity is one of the major risk factors for many cancers including breast cancer), improving fatigue and joint pain (amongst other positive benefits). This approach is very different to the traditional dieting approach (counting calories/ eat less/ move more) which is over simplistic and can lead to yo-yoing of weight. If you are someone who has tried all sorts of diets and got frustrated with these as they have not led to sustained weight loss, then this approach can be a refreshing alternative.

A lot of people focus on weight loss – it can be much more useful to shift the focus to improving health through making positive lifestyle changes, and weight loss can often be a result of these changes.

Learn about a Mediterranean diet


What is a low carbohydrate diet?

It is not just reducing the obvious carbohydrates (bread/ pasta/ rice/ potatoes)...

It can be delicious – especially once you get a few go-to recipes in your repertoire and have the right ingredients in your kitchen.

And once you feel the positive effects of eating well you will be inspired to continue...

Here are some principles of a low carb diet:

  • Eat real food (home cooked, plenty of vegetables, fruit, unprocessed meat and fish, nuts, eggs, cheese, wholegrains (in moderation!) – what some people know as a Mediterranean style diet)
  • Reducing sugar to a minimum (fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, hidden sugars in processed foods)
  • Eating ‘the rainbow’ - different coloured foods contained different micronutrients
  • Avoid ultra-processed food (you can identify this if you look at a food label and see a long list of ingredients including things you do not have in your kitchen)
  • Minimising starchy carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and cereals)
  • Eat healthy fats (including olive oil, full fat yoghurt, unprocessed cheese, nuts, eggs, oily fish)
  • Avoid snacking between meals – if you eat the right food at mealtimes, you shouldn’t feel so hungry between meals)

One of the most useful websites we have found is the Freshwell low carb project, follow this link to find out more

Here you will find clear explanations about what a low carb diet is, the basic principles behind it and loads of useful advice including recipes. They offer a free app which includes meal planners and low budget options.

Amongst the insights you can find on the website is why traditional calorie counting and weight loss diets can be ineffective and how the low carb approach is different.

The Freshwell low carb project was developed by an NHS GP, Dr David Unwin. He has developed some sugar infographics which can really help to understand the impact of different foods on your blood sugar levels – see the Public Health Collaboration website to explore this and help you make good dietary choices.

An NHS approved app is also available, see Low Carb Programme - our local NHS trust has not signed up for this so there is a cost.

Another website with good recipes can be found here

We have a variety of some of our favourite low carb recipe books at the surgery that we can show you, including:

Of course, one size does not fit all, and the strongest evidence we have at the moment suggests that type 2 diabetes is mainly put into remission by weight loss, and by maintaining that weight loss. If other diets suit you better and achieve this, then what is important is what works for you. Diabetes UK has lots of information and recipes to help guide you if you have diabetes or are at risk of diabetes.


Gut Health

Evidence in the last few years has helped us to understand the relationship between the composition of the gut microbiome (gut health) and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, low mood, and our ability to fight infection.

We have trillions of micro-organisms living in our gut (more than the number of cells in our body) and these organisms have vital roles in maintaining a healthy digestive system, in releasing important hormones that our bodies rely on, and maintaining steady glucose levels. Our modern diets do not support this amazing eco-system in our bodies, and this is adding to the epidemic of chronic disease. Poor gut health explains why some people struggle so much with maintaining a healthy weight and is contributing to the current increase in obesity. It is complex but very interesting – one way you can find out more is by listening to the Zoe podcasts

You do not need to buy expensive supplements and probiotic tablets from health food shops to improve your gut health. It is much better done by:

  • Eating a high fibre diet
  • Eating a diverse diet – including 30 different plant-based foods a week
  • Eating ‘the rainbow’ - different coloured vegetable contain different nutrients that feed the good bacteria in your gut
  • Eating fermented foods (yoghurt, keffir, pickles, saurkrout...)
  • Drink coffee – in moderation!
  • Avoiding ultra-processed foods (think of these as feeding the ‘bad’ bacteria)
  • Avoiding a high sugar diet (sugar also supports the ‘bad’ bacteria)

Much more detailed information can be found here

What we put into our bodies is hugely important, but it is also what we do with them that helps us to stay healthy...

There is powerful evidence emerging to explain why relaxing, moving and good sleep is so important - not only in making us feel better but also the impact on maintaining a healthy weight.

Dr Rangan Chatterjee has written some good books about this, for example ‘The 4 Pillar Plan'. He also has a website with links to his free podcast ‘Live Better. Feel More’.

Insomnia could play a direct role in causing type 2 diabetes, recent research led by the University of Bristol has shown. We are still trying to understand the cause of this, but it is likely that the increase of certain hormones caused by poor sleep leads to increased insulin resistance. Getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging – if you struggle with poor sleep there are lots of things that can help. Exercise, avoiding alcohol and caffeine and general ‘sleep hygeine’ are important (see the NHS website). CBT can be very useful – which you can access via NHS talking therapy, or via app-based platforms. Silver Cloud is free to patients registered in BNSSG.

Sleepstation and Sleepio are similar apps, but these are not currently funded in BNSSG and there is therefore a cost.

You can read more about the findings on the Diabetes UK website

Local support including NHS weight management referrals, local groups (eg walking groups, running groups, exercise classes) can be found via the One You South Gloucestershire website

Good luck on your journey of improving your health! We look forward to hearing your stories of the results of positive changes – please share them with us.