When I found out I was diabetic,
like I remember my mum in particular, she was really worried— and my dad. My mother had nursed her mother through diabetes and had been at home with her… She desperately wanted me to be able to— to manage it. Sorry. [Tom] When I was really young I didn’t
realize what was what. I didn’t realize that diabetes was such a bad thing. When I was young I didn’t realize there were two different types of diabetes and I
didn’t realize the difference between them. I knew it was genetic thorough mum’s side of the family. But I didn’t realize that the environmental factors were having such a bad impact on it. [Ellen] I was severely overweight and to do anything socially, physically I had to think about it a lot. Any ordinary illness I had became more complex because I didn’t heal as well. I knew what diabetes could do. I’d lived it. I’d seen it in my family, but I just didn’t have the personal strength. I didn’t have a community, or the dedication and strength within myself to control my emotional dependency on food. As the years went by, because I wasn’t exercising, because I wasn’t exercising the right way or sustaining it, the complications of the diabetes became worse and I ended up going from just diet controlled to tablets and then eventually on to insulin. At my worst, when I was seriously seriously diabetic, I’d be injecting hundreds of units of long-term insulin and probably about a hundred units of short-term insulin as well over the course of the day. As you became more dependent on the insulin, that makes you hungry, so you eat more. Insulin makes you lay down fat, so it’s very much a vicious circle. And you just can’t get out of that then. The people I’ve had experience of— the actual health professionals have been
incredibly supportive and encouraging. When I was being fully committed to
their programs and all their different types of advice then I’d lose two to three stone. What I was doing was still not enough. It wasn’t making a lifestyle choice, I was on a diet. Only when I deviated from that
established advice that I got beyond losing three to four stone that I really
saw the big turnaround. I could see that perhaps the dietary advice I’d been given— although well-intentioned perhaps wasn’t the best to suit me. And because I was getting better results, it became more of a lifestyle choice then. When you’re as big as I was, you do tend to put on a facade. And helps to everybody else I was big and
ugly, but on the inside it was horrible. I felt very lonely, really lacked an awful
lot of confidence in any new setting, any new environment. Because I felt people were judging me, people were making opinions about me because of my size and it was one of those sort of “wake-up moments”, really when you think, “I don’t really want to feel like this again.” [Samantha] It wasn’t a hard sell to convince her to do CrossFit at all. Lucy and I had both been doing CrossFit for a while. [Ellen] She was on her phone and she said, “Oh sorry I’m late, I just had to take a message from my personal trainer just been trying to sort out my training.” And as a throwaway remark I said, “Oh, he doesn’t want a personal challenge, does he?” [Samantha] And I stopped and I was like, “I’m sure he would. Um, are you serious?” And she says, “Yeah.” So I said, “Well, let me speak to him and see when he can meet you.” [Ellen] Well, that little throwaway remark ended up with me agreeing— and I’m still not quite sure how, but agreeing to go and meet this personal trainer. My friends said to me like, “You coming now?” And I said, “Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if CrossFit is for me, I’ve looked it up. I’ve looked on the Internet. I don’t know if I’m ready yet.” And then she said, “Well, what are waiting for?” And that was— that was it. I can remember turning up the training and the shutters on the box were open, and I could hear all the the barbells bouncing and hammering on the floor, and all the
shouting and screaming and encouraging and really loud banging music. “This isn’t you. You don’t do this.
You don’t throw barbell around. You don’t listen to the loud music. You sing in the church choir and you cook cakes. And you do cross stitch. You don’t do this!” [Dafydd] When she first came in, I think she was extremely nervous like any— any new person regardless of
what you’re there for. You know, she came in and saw these people doing handstand walks and muscle-ups and snatching without any shirts on and all this kind
of stuff and it scared her. But before she got the chance to let the feeling come in, she got a big hug and a big smile and realized that nobody— nobody cares.
Nobody’s got a big ego in this place. They want you to come in and be a part of it. [Tom] I instantly felt comfortable here and then meeting everybody else, I felt safe and I didn’t feel judged or anything. And that for me was a big thing, and I know it’s a big thing for mum as well. [Ellen] Nobody looked at me and thought, “God, look at the size on her. What on earth is she gonna do?” It was not like any other gym experience. I was terrified. Absolutely terrified to my core. And from the minute I sat down, I just felt at ease. I’d never been so exposed and so vulnerable. But on the other hand because of CrossFit and what CrossFit is— so supported and so included as well. My necks started playing up, big time. And then when I was diagnosed with my discitis and my osteomyelitis, the first thing I said to the consultant was,
“But I’ve got to train.” And he said, “Well, if you’re not careful with what you do, you will be paralyzed.” It was just the worst, and my new life that I’d really worked hard for, that I’d really invested in, it just felt really threatened and because of— I think the strength— that mental strength that CrossFit gives you, I was able to deal with that a lot better. And then I was put into a four bed with three other ladies who were much more incapacitated and I was. So I became the legs of the outfit, really. And everything that went on the floor it was, “Okay, I got it! I can squat, I can pick it up.” Because I gotta do something, I can’t just sit here. I used to disappear off the ward, and instead of doing step-ups I’ll be walking up and down six flights of stairs… If this would have happened two to three years ago, I certainly wouldn’t be recovered as quickly. I certainly wouldn’t have recovered as fully, and I think the outcome could have been far more tragic, really. [Lucy] If Ellen didn’t do CrossFit, the position that she’d been in before, I think that outcome of that injury would have been totally different. Mentally she wouldn’t have been able to cope with that. It’s given her this whole different mental attitude to her life as well as all she’s been able to do with her body. [Samantha] She’s been absolutely phenomenal. She’s the consistency. She’s the person who’s always been prepping her own food. Has always been getting herself to training. [Ellen] What I haven’t been able to manage until recently is the link that food plays in your emotional health, and the link it directly has on your
physical health as well. Through CrossFit, I’ve been able to join that cycle up together and I can see now that I was using food very much as an emotional crutch before. Whereas, now if I’m fed up, I’ll go and throw a barbell around. I won’t go and head for the fridge as much. There’s a big misunderstanding I feel among a lot of type II of diabetics they really don’t understand the role that not just pure,
raw sugar plays, but carbohydrates in all its forms. They just don’t see it as sugar. [Dafydd] The fact that you can eat in a completely different way to what the medical community advises you as a patient and lose more weight just because of what you put in your mouth or exercise you’ve done, is a kind of “proof in the pudding”, really. What else do you need to know? [Ellen] What you eat significantly affects what you can do in the gym. In terms of strength, energy, stamina. And what you do in the gym doesn’t just stay there. It’s functional. It becomes part of your life. If two to three years ago you would have told me I would willingly be going to a gym, lifting weights, throwing myself on the floor, running, running out on the road in public… I’d say you’re mad. Absolutely mad. Not only do I do it, I love it. [Lucy] You’d never see anybody work
any harder than Ellen in the gym. She’s brilliant to go with. If you’re sitting next to Ellen in a WOD you just think, “I’m going to have to give it 100 percent.” Because Ellen always is. [Ellen] If you think you can’t. You’ve got no coordination. You’ve got no balance. You’ve got no sequencing. You can’t mirror any movements. You can’t follow more than three instructions… Then CrossFit is for you, because I can’t do any of that. Anyone can do it, and not just do it, enjoy it. Technically, I will always be diabetic. But I take nothing for it. My diabetes now is completely controlled by diet. The difference in how I feel, the difference
in how I can just live life is amazing. And I know my mum would be really pleased now.