Hoda Hannaway

Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes

Growing up in a Middle Eastern family food has always been central to my life.

Eating together is very much at the heart of our community. Food facilitates conversation and our culture revolves around gathering together to graze over shared plates. There’s a lot of pressure to eat, and by the time I was eight years old I was already overweight.

At 15, I started cooking at home to help with the care of my younger siblings while my parents worked long hours. I loved cooking, and it turns out I was quite good at it.

By 19 I was married and within a few years both myself and my husband were working in management positions that required commitment, long hours and travelling. Unfortunately, it also resulted in an unhealthy lifestyle with lots of takeaways and convenience meals that contributed to continued weight gain for both.

At my heaviest, I tipped the scales at 110kg.

I tried every fad diet imaginable. But nothing worked. While I’d get fantastic results I couldn’t sustain the diets, and the minute I stopped the weight would pile back on. It was a depressing battle of yo-yo dieting.

In my 20s a few months after the birth of my first child, I had gastric sleeve surgery. I lost 28kgs in four months but, once again, after the initial success, the kilos began to creep back on.

During my second pregnancy I experienced gestational diabetes and needed insulin to keep my blood glucose levels steady.

At the same time I my husband was drinking litres of water and urinating frequently. I suspected diabetes and insisted he go to the doctor to get checked.

My instincts were right and at the age of just 32 and weighing in at 130kg my husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

He went into denial, but I’d decided I’d had enough. After the birth of our second child I was determined to change our lifestyle. I went back to the doctor and decided to have a full gastric bypass.

Following the surgery I lost 55kgs in seven months. But that also bought problems as my diminished appetite meant I couldn’t eat a full meal and was eventually hospitalized with malnutrition.

Incredibly, while I was in hospital I was also accepted onto MasterChef!

The entire series was filmed while I was attached to a feeding tube. I had to have a spit bowl under her bench because I couldn’t swallow any of the food she was tasting.

It’s an amazing achievement to make it onto MasterChef but I was disappointed to leave at number 11. But, I am surprised I lasted as long as I did given the extraordinary circumstances.

My husband, also underwent surgery, lost 35kgs and his type 2 diabetes has gone into remission. We’ve made significant changes to our family’s lifestyle. We always cook at home, use fresh produce and even when we’re both busy we still don’t reach for a takeaway. We keep leftovers in the freezer so we know there is always something good to eat. We don’t call it a diet. It’s actually our lifestyle that’s changed. They are small changes but they make a big difference and it has done wonders for us.

Her own health challenges and her husband’s journey with type 2 diabetes are what drive me to create recipes that are healthy yet tasty. I love experimenting with ingredients to modify traditional recipes and create dishes that are full of flavor, but not full of calories. I’m constantly working to develop recipes that are low GI and nutritious.




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