Self Health Spotlight

Self Health Spotlight (9)

Patient - September 2015

Welcome to our final monthly spotlight on an organisation or resource that can help us all in our quest for better health!

The September spotlight's on......Patient 

Read on for all the details and/or download your personal copy here!

What is it?

Patient refers to itself as ‘one of the most trusted medical resources online’ and seems to have many credentials to live up to that claim. It’s owned by the medical IT company ‘EMIS’, who supply information systems to many medical organisations, such as GP practices and who care very much about making sure their product helps practitioners do their job well.  It’s also been nominated for Website of the Year, 2015!


Patient started life as a patient information portal and was invented by 2 doctors who wanted useful information to be available for people to find themselves.  Its content is now put together by an editorial team consisting mainly of UK doctors, supported by and website editors and managers.  The information is both for patients and health professionals, with a dedicated professional reference area and professional blogs


There is information about every possible condition you might come across (we tried and even the most unlikely we could think of was there!) and is regularly reviewed and updated. It is presented in a number of ways, for example, in fact sheets, information pages and a series of videos with Dr Sarah Jarvis. In addition, there are many discussion forums where people can ask and answer questions of each other and share experiences and tips.


The site has comprehensive information about itself and what it provides, including terms of use and how it is funded (no drug companies, but advertising banners, with all revenue going to EMIS to support the site).  Site users can create their own ‘my health’ account, download Apps and use the symptom checker among many other activities related to your health.  The ‘wellbeing’ section covers healthy living as well as responding to what’s in the news about health, including food and medication stories.

How can it help me with living with diabetes?

The diabetes section is extremely comprehensive, and as an independent, medically written site, you can rely on its content.  Its style is very easy to read, so if you’re looking for a new angle or refresher on diabetes, this might be a good place to start. The food section in wellbeing is very helpful, too and of course, you can discuss issues and aspects of your diabetes with others on the discussion forums and hear what others’ think and experience.


One aspect of the site that could also help is the shop, which rather than selling products, acts as a price comparison site, so if you regularly use over the counter medicines, this might be helpful.  It’s worth noting that if you search for products such as ‘blood glucose meter’ (as we did), a range of adverts also comes up as well as the shop’s response to the search term.

How can it help me with working with diabetes?

As diabetes rarely exists on its own, the whole range of medical information both for patients and professionals on this site might be very helpful in keeping you up to date in a very accessible way.  it’s also a site you can pass on with confidence to the people with diabetes you see, if they have information needs

The discussion forums can be very illuminating in showing how people living with diabetes are feeling and the kinds of experiences and concerns they have and are sharing

Finally, as we regularly say here, being a professional doesn’t necessarily mean you might not be in need of medical help yourself, or a reminder about healthy living – it’s very much in vogue now to focus on the health and wellbeing of NHS workers, in particular – so you might find something helpful for yourself or your family and friends here, too!

Our 3 top reasons to give it a try

1.    It’s full of variety, but easy to read and navigate


2.    It’s serious and clear about its intentions and limitations


3.    It’s run and written by UK doctors and other health professionals

Any down sides?

We may not have searched hard enough, but we couldn’t find out if the discussion forums were purely for people to talk to each other or if the moderators/medical authors ever contributed or answered questions.  It wasn’t in the terms of use details and we felt this would be useful to know in case any user thought that they would get a response from a doctor. 

Hope you like our take on Patient, which forms the final instalment of ‘Self Health Spotlight’


All the ‘Spotlights’ and ‘SD Signposts’ itself are both still available. Just follow the links!





Diabetes UK - July 2015

Welcome to our all-new monthly spotlight on an organisation or resource that can help us all in our quest for better health!

The July spotlight's on......Diabetes UK 

Read on for all the details and/or download your personal copy here!


What is it?



Diabetes UK is the country’s largest organisation for support for living and working with diabetes.  It offers a massive range of support services and investment in research to improve and save lives with diabetes. It also campaigns for improvements in diabetes care.  Its strapline ‘Care Connect Campaign’ puts in a nutshell, its aims and ambitions.


Diabetes UK is one of the oldest support organisations for individual conditions, having started in the 1930s as ‘British Diabetic Association’. It’s also one of the only organisations to have been started jointly by a physician specializing in diabetes and a person with diabetes.  These two were, respectively and none other than Dr Robin Lawrence and HG Wells. Robin Lawrence himself had type 1 diabetes and was one of the first to be treated with insulin in the 1920s. 


Today, Diabetes UK is the ‘go to’ place for help, support and problem solving, whatever aspect of diabetes is of concern.  The CareLine answers questions every day from people newly diagnosed and experienced with diabetes and all ages alike. Living with Diabetes days are held around the country and support holidays are also run. Apps and websites for particular groups, such as teenagers and young children are available. The professionals are equally well catered for with an annual conference and year round guidance, position statements and the all important research into every aspect of diabetes, from how individual cells are affected, to treatments and psychological and emotional effects.


For our particular purposes this month, Diabetes UK has information about all aspects of living with diabetes, including travelling.  The link to the relevant website pages is here and you’ll also find it a starting point for a wealth of other information on the rest of the site! 


How can it help me with living with diabetes?

As we’ve mentioned, there’s a vast amount of information on every aspect of living with diabetes as well as personal support from the CareLine.  Each evening, peer support is also offered, where you can talk in confidence to someone living with diabetes themselves about day to day realities.  Importantly, you can become a member of Diabetes UK, which not only helps it campaign on your behalf but also gives you regular updates and the chance to take part in research or help you find the best care and treatment for you.   You can also become involved as a peer supporter, on the council of people living with diabetes or in a local support group.

Diabetes UK has offices in all the countries of the UK, so there is something specific for your part of the country, as well as the national organisation which these regional offices makes up.

How can it help me with working with diabetes?

Diabetes UK is an organisation made up of professional members as well as those living with diabetes.  Keeping up to date in clinical practice is vital if people are to get consistent, reliable advice from you, so it’s a great source of all the latest evidence.  Annual conferences, study days, position statements and guidelines are all available to you. Becoming a professional member also entitles you to a regular copy of ‘Balance’ magazine so you share the same information as people with diabetes, and a dedicated health professional area where you can keep up to date with clinical issues and developments.

Diabetes UK relies on its professional members equally to make up its committees and working parties as well as organize the annual conference, so you can play an important role in shaping and developing policy and practice in the organisation.  It also loves to celebrate successes in service development so communication about this is also vital.  You won’t regret becoming a part of this key organisation!


Our 3 top reasons to give it a try


1.    It’s for people with diabetes and health professionals alike – showing its equal commitment to both perspectives

2.    It’s the leading organisation funding research into diabetes in the UK

3.    It is the authoritative voice of diabetes care in the UK and deserves all our support to maintain this




Any down sides?

It seems a shame that Diabetes UK does not offer a structured diabetes education programme training of its own or develop a national programme to offer to the NHS. Having said that, it has funded a great deal of research into education and strongly promotes good practice in education and learning.


That’s it for now! Hope you like our take on Diabetes UK and watch out for another ‘Self Health Spotlight’ in September!



Change4Life - June 2015

Welcome to our all-new monthly spotlight on an organisation or resource that can help us all in our quest for better health!

The June spotlight's on......Change4Life 

Read on for all the details and/or download your personal copy here!


What is it?


Change4Life is the NHS website devoted to helping people and families live healthier lives in terms of eating, drinking and moving.  Its slogan is ‘Eat Well, Move More, Live Longer’.  It has sections devoted to food and drinks, alcohol and physical activity.  It’s more than just an information site, though - it’s presented in a bright, friendly format and is thoroughly practical!  Each section includes tips, ideas and suggestions, inviting the visitor to decide what would be right for them to change. The underlying message seems to be one of ‘nudge’ – that is trying out new things, little by little, choosing just one thing at a time to do differently.


There seems to be something for absolutely everyone, whatever your starting lifestyle. You can go from ‘couch to 5K in nine weeks’ or download a ‘Step-o-Meter’ app to count your daily steps, even if you are already very active.


For families in particular, the messages of the website include making changes together, such as being active at the weekends as a family, but also healthier cooking and packed lunches and picnics.


The site is very engaging and welcoming, with not a judgmental comment in sight. It’s all about encouragement and enthusiasm, and above all, ease, explaining that simple food or drink swaps and a bit more activity everyday can make a huge difference to your health.


To maintain your enthusiasm for changes, there are lots of supporting gadgets and programmes, for example a series of free apps and a version of ‘LazyTown, getting the messages across in an enjoyable way, while young!


We think it’s well worth a look to find out what inspiration you can get personally – and maybe also spread the word to your family and friends.


How can it help me with living with diabetes?


Most of life with diabetes is about healthy living, including all the aspects covered in Change4Life. Having diabetes doesn’t make healthy choices and lifestyle changes any easier for you than for anyone else though – in some ways it can even be harder, because there is so much extra to take into account, like medications, testing and hospital appointments etc. So, anything that helps you add a little extra healthy living without much effort has to be a bonus, yes?

How can it help me with working with diabetes?


You can heartily recommend Change4Life to people you see in your clinics and visits – perhaps especially for families and young people.  It may help to reinforce the messages you are giving as well, and it means that people can also independently find information that is just right for them.


You can also, perhaps, use Change4Life as the basis for conversations about healthy living in general and how peoples’ personal diabetes treatment and monitoring fits in with its messages.  It could turn out to be something you look at together, say in a consultation and so help people make choices about what changes they wish to make?


Finally, as we regularly say, there might be something on there for yourself and your own health or that of your family. Your own wellbeing is just as important as that of everyone you help!

Our 3 top reasons to give it a try


1. It’s easy and quick to read and ‘dip into’


2. There’s a place to start for everyone, younger, older, fitter, completely unfit and everything in between!


3. There’s a great directory of local activities, just choose your favourite, or one you wish to try, enter your postcode and a list will pop up!     




Any down sides?


Nope – it’s all good! Enjoy and be inspired!   






That’s it for now! Hope you like our take on Change4Life and watch out for another ‘Self Health Spotlight’ in July!



Circle D - May 2015

Welcome to our all-new monthly spotlight on an organisation or resource that can help us all in our quest for better health!

The May spotlight's on......Circle D - Support for 18-30s with Diabetes

Read on for all the details and/or download your personal copy here!

What is it?

Circle D is an online and face-to-face support group for people living with diabetes aged 18-30 (ish!).  It grew out of an initiative from Diabetes UK to help young adults support each other, by setting up groups to share the feelings and experiences of being diagnosed with diabetes.  The founders, Shelley and Sally, both have Type 1 diabetes and had previously met at an education course at their hospital in Kent. They were keen to help others feel less alone, as they had done, through their friendship. 

After attending the training, they set up Circle D, which now has a regular face-to-face meeting (known as the ‘rant room’!) along with periodic social outings and celebrations.  Those who live outside Kent have been inspired to set up their own Circle D locally, and many join in on the website and in social media.

The group has received awards and interest from a number of organisations and invites visitors from time to time, including the local MP. More importantly, Circle D offers much needed support and encouragement to young adults with diabetes – and a lot of fun! Which all adds up to feeling less alone in coping with diabetes. 

How can it help me with living with diabetes?


Circle D is an inclusive, friendly group which aims simply to support anyone aged 18-30 living with diabetes.  If you need someone who can sympathise exactly with the demands, pressures or even the oddities of having diabetes, this one’s for you.  There are lots of ways of being in touch as well as meeting up in person.  Sometimes the best advice is from someone who knows what it’s like to be your age with diabetes.


How can it help me with working with diabetes?


Knowing about organisations like Circle D can help you help people in this age group get some reliable peer support.  Reading the website can give you a flavour of the kind of activities which appeal to young adults. Most of all, if you don’t have a support group or Circle D near you, perhaps you could contact the organiser (it’s now run by Shelley and her details are on the website) and ask for their help in setting one up?  Circle D is only too delighted to spread the word!


Our 3 top reasons to give  a try:

1.’Meeting, sharing, comparing’ is a great way to feel supported and more confident about living with diabetes, especially at the young adult stage. This can continue into later life with diabetes, too.

2.Diabetes support is not all hospital based – it can take place in cafés, theme parks and shopping centres!

3.It’s not just for people with Type 1, those with Type 2 can join too! 


Any down sides?


It’s a shame there isn’t a Circle D support group everywhere! Can you help with that?


That’s it for now! Hope you like our take on Circle D, and watch out for another ‘Self Health Spotlight’ in June!


Sane, Mind and Samaritans - April 2015

Welcome to our all-new monthly spotlight on an organisation or resource that can help us all in our quest for better health!

The April spotlight's on......Sane, Mind and Samaritans - 3 mental health and emotional support organisations

Read on for all the details and/or download your personal copy here

What are they?

All these organisations are charities which provide help and support for mental health. In each case, their websites will tell you more about them but here is our overview.

Mind ( has the ambition to support people with mental health problems and ensure they are respected.  Mind is a national organisation with affiliated local Minds – each local mind provides services and resources tailored to the needs in their area, for example, practical help with housing, benefits, advice as well as counseling and advocacy. 
Mind runs two helplines - an ‘info line’ and a ‘legal line’ and a text information service, all open from 9am to 6pm weekdays.  Staff help callers to find the right services or information locally. Mind supports mental health in the workplace and provides training and consultancy to businesses to help promote and raise awareness of mental health wellbeing. Information packs are also provided for teachers and lecturers.
Mind also has a wide range of resources to download or buy, covering all aspects of mental health, helpfully covered on its website ‘mental health A-Z’.
Sane’s ( aim is to help reduce the stigma of living with mental health problems. It also runs a helpline, which is open every day from 6pm to 11pm and hosts a discussion forum so that people can share their stories and get support from each other. 
Sane promotes the idea of seeking help early to prevent relapses in mental health conditions and runs a ‘black dog’ programme for people with depression.
Sane also provides information and resources and undertakes a great deal of research, for example into suicidal feelings and self-harm behaviours.
Samaritans ( is also an example of a national charity with local branches. It is open 24 hours every day for confidential emotional support and listening for anyone in distress or despair, whatever the cause. Its service is provided by trained volunteers. 
People can telephone and email nationally or locally, or visit any branch in person during its opening hours. Samaritans is non-judgemental, confidential and committed to people making their own decisions about their needs, wherever possible.
Samaritans works nationally to raise awareness of emotional support to reduce suicide feelings and behaviours, for example by providing a partnership with Network Rail, workplace courses and work in schools. It also provides its listening service at many national and local events, for example, festivals and county shows.

How can it help me with living with diabetes?

Diabetes can often bring with it emotional issues – for example anxiety at the time of diagnosis, worry about the future, fear of complications, relationship or work problems. Sometimes diabetes comes along when you already have a mental health diagnosis or experience, and vice versa.  It’s quite common for anxiety and depression to develop when you have diabetes, for example.

All of these need help and support, but it can be that the medical needs of your diabetes tend to take centre stage, with less attention to your mental and emotional health.  So one way these organisations can help is to reverse this and help you prioritise your mental and emotional health in more detail, talk about your feelings and reactions to having diabetes and / or look at treatment and therapy options, depending on your situation.

Another way they can help is by providing you with information to help make sense of your feelings and to better understand any mental health problems you have or develop. In the case of Mind and Sane, discussion forums help you to get and give support to other people and they have a range of practical services you can access.  In the case of Samaritans, you can call any time of the day or night, so you can be confident of getting someone to talk to about your feelings, even ‘out of hours’.

How can it help me with working with diabetes?

Most obviously, knowing about these organisations and how they help, will help you to pass on this information to people with diabetes you are in contact with, when you think they may need the kind of support they offer.  In turn, this will help people to look after themselves and get support that may not be easy to access or provided in the NHS, for example, counselling or therapy, advice on preventing relapses, detailed information about treatment options.  They can provide a useful point of contact between your scheduled consultations, perhaps.

As a health professional or staff member, you will have skills which are valued by these organisations among their volunteers. It may be that you are looking for a new outlet for your skills and volunteers in these organisations are always being sought.  In turn, you may also gain new skills and perspectives from volunteering, which can help in your NHS work with diabetes.

Finally, working in diabetes can be stressful and bring its own effects on your mental health and emotions. These organisations are for everyone and their resources and services may offer you ways to help you look after yourself in order to carry on caring for others.

Our 3 top reasons to give  a try:

 1.    They can provide additional support, information and services, which help both people with diabetes and health professionals

2.    Emotional and mental health issues are often the ‘poor relation’ in diabetes care. These organisations can help to change that and give people ‘somewhere to go’

3.    All the organisations are highly respected, freely accessible, respect confidentiality and anonymity and, in the case of Mind and Samaritans, have a local presence

Any down sides?

None that we can think of:  among these 3 organisations, there seems to be something for all of us. 

That’s it for now! Hope you like our take on Mind, Sane and Samaritans, and watch out for another ‘Self Health Spotlight’ in May!


'my health apps' - March 2015

Welcome to our all-new monthly spotlight on an organisation or resource that can help us all in our quest for better health!

The March spotlight's on......'my health apps' website

Read on for all the details and/or download your personal copy here

What is it?

‘my health apps’ is a website featuring a collection of health related apps ‘tried and tested by people like you’, as the strapline to the site explains.  The site is an educational resource provided by an independent UK company called ‘Patient Voice’, who specialise in ensuring the user voice is heard in all aspects of healthcare. Their work includes providing advice and resource on what people want from their healthcare and in particular from technology and help to improve this. The company has offices in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands and work with organisations and individuals, to help provide trustworthy, convenient information about the apps available to help with health – as they say, the site provides ‘the best healthcare apps, recommended by empowered consumers, patients and carers’.

Each app featured on the website is accompanied by testimony from organisations or individuals, and given ‘heart ratings’, according to what they like most about the app.  There can be up to 5 ‘hearts’ awarded,  using the following criteria:  helps to control your condition; trustworthy; easy to use; gives the chance to network with others; can use regularly.  This feature gives an instant visual idea of what is liked most in an individual app.  Other information about the app includes its developer, country of origin, languages it is available in and its cost.

The apps included on the website are ordered according to a wide range of different categories of health – arranged on the home page and ranging from ‘bones and muscles’ through ‘staying healthy’, ‘mental health’,  ‘sexual health’ to ‘other long term conditions’ and many others in between!

Selecting the category of your choice, brings up a sub menu of topics – for example, diabetes is included in ‘other long term conditions’, anxiety is included in ‘mental health’, etc, which means that it is really easy to navigate to the apps that relate to the condition you need. You can then order the apps included in your category by alphabet, number of ‘heart’ ratings, cost, language and platform.  Once you’ve narrowed down in this way, you can investigate each individual app’s details, including more reviews and which ‘hearts’ it covers, and make your choice!

How can it help me with living with diabetes?

People often say how difficult it is to make sense of the vast array of information about diabetes, including support tools such as apps – which are reliable? how well do they work?, for example.  This website provides some answers and makes it easier to filter what’s available, and gain reliable testimony from those who’ve tested them out.  It could be a really useful ‘cross reference’ for apps that you’ve seen elsewhere, too.

‘my health apps’ also covers many other aspects of health that might affect, or be affected by your diabetes, for example, digestive disorders such as coeliac disease or heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation.  There are sections with apps relating to ‘staying healthy’ and ‘me and my doctor’, which both feature heavily in living with diabetes. In this way, the website is a kind of ‘one stop shop’ for helping yourself.

You can also submit apps for inclusion on the website, so if your favourite one isn’t featured, you can let the team know.  There’s a section for developers, so if you have an idea or have built an app to help you in living with diabetes, there’s opportunity for that, too. Patient Voices want to alert developers to what apps people need and want.

How can it help me with working with diabetes?

It’s becoming a bit of a theme, but these apps can help healthcare staff as much as anybody, to stay healthy or deal with your personal health related conditions – the website is for everyone, so do try it yourself!

Apart from that, you can reliably recommend the site to people, because it is endorsed by NHS Choices and carefully edited by a reliable company.

Knowing about ‘my health apps’ could also give you the opportunity of starting a conversation with people (in consultations, clinics or education sessions, for example) about the apps they use, prefer or maybe would like to see developed.  This is an area that people, especially young adults, say is not always explored with them, and also that healthcare staff are not always confident they understand enough to broach the subject.  So, the site can help on both counts!

Our 3 top reasons to give  a try:

1.    It’s very quick and easy to access and navigate

2.    The ‘hearts’ rating system helps give a personal view

3.    It includes apps for both mental and physical health

Any down sides?

As ever, just a couple of small things:

1.    Some of the diabetes-related apps are American or European, making the terminology or measurements (eg HbA1c) different from those in the UK, so this is worth bearing in mind

2.    It’s useful to remember that hearts are given for what is liked most about the app, so, for example, where the ‘is trustworthy’ heart rating is not given, it doesn’t mean it’s ‘untrustworthy’!

That’s it for now! Hope you like our take on 'my health apps' and watch out for another ‘Self Health Spotlight’ in April!


Diabetes Stories Website - February 2015

Welcome to our all-new monthly spotlight on an organisation or resource that can help us all in our quest for better health!

The February spotlight's on......The Diabetes Stories website

Read on for all the details and/or download your personal copy here

What is it?

Diabetes Stories is a website set up by the Oxford Centre for Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM). It consists of stories and experiences of people with diabetes, families and health professionals from each decade between the 1920s and early 2000s. There are 100 stories, including interviews, video clips and downloads. Together these stories form an oral social and medical history of diabetes in the 20th century.  Its intention is to show how diabetes services and technological developments have affected the lives of people living and working with diabetes over successive decades, but it also serves as a contribution to the history of medicine itself.

Diabetes Stories was the brainchild of Professor David Matthews of OCDEM. He was inspired by the memories and experiences he heard from the people with diabetes attending his clinics and felt that there should be a collection of such memories.  This developed into a way of also capturing the stories of those working in the field of diabetes care.

Diabetes Stories was a collaboration between OCDEM and an oral historian, Helen Lloyd and was funded by 2 project grants from the Wellcome Trust.  As well as the website, copies of the recordings have been archived in the British Library and at OCDEM itself.

The website is easy to navigate and search, by person, by topic or by decade, for example. Each of the stories has a series of short extracts from the interview, highlighting different topics covered in it, or you can play the whole interview or download its transcript.  Some of the interviews have ‘extra content’, such as photographs and examples of equipment, supplied by the interviewee.

Diabetes Stories is a vast and absorbing resource which has something useful for everyone living or working with diabetes and for researchers both now and in the future

How can it help me with living with diabetes?

Many people say that one of the most helpful aspects of learning about living with diabetes is to share the experiences and feelings and practical tips from others who also live with it.  With Diabetes Stories, you can learn from others, not only currently, but from the past.  You can also get an insight ‘behind the scenes’ from health professionals and care workers and see how history has shaped the services you receive today.

You can use the topic search to look for any aspect of diabetes from any interview, which can help when you are looking into aspects of your own condition or experience.

Finally, you can gain motivation and inspiration from the stories, either because you can see how life has turned out for those who did not have access to our modern-day treatments or because of their successes in managing their condition, ‘against all the odds’

How can it help me with working with diabetes?

You can learn from health professionals who have pioneered new treatments or ways of working, and be inspired by their careers or research.  Diabetes Stories serves very well as a history of diabetes care, so you can become more aware of where developments you may have seen have come from.  If you’re studying diabetes, it can really help you find evidence and quotations to bring your assignments to life!

The best insights for health professionals are often those of people with diabetes themselves and this site gives you easy access to a whole variety of these, which you can listen to and reflect on  - and maybe even share with people you are currently seeing now, who might be experiencing some of the same sort of challenges – a kind of virtual ‘friend with diabetes’!

You can spread the word in your clinics and consultations that this resource exists, so that people have a different context for their diabetes and an opportunity to look at it themselves and find what is most useful to them

Our 3 top reasons to give Diabetes Stories a try


1.    It’s really easy to read and navigate

2.    It’s a mine of useful information and resource for many aspects of living and working with diabetes over the years

3.    You can dip in and out of it, whenever there’s a specific aspect you’d like to hear about


Any down sides?

As ever, just a couple of tiny things:

1.  When you listen to the recordings, there is just a blank screen, where it would be nice to have a picture of the interviewee, to link the story with the person         

2.    The recordings end in the early 2000s, around 2007, so more recent developments and experiences aren’t included.

That’s it for now! Hope you like our take on Diabetes Stories and watch out for another ‘Self Health Spotlight’ in March!


'My Fitness Pal' website - January 2015

Welcome to our all-new monthly spotlight on an organisation or resource that can help us all in our quest for better health!

The January spotlight's on......The 'My Fitness Pal' website

Read on for all the details and/or download your personal copy here

What is it?

My Fitness Pal (MFP to its friends) is a free online food and activity tracker, which, as the name suggests, aims to help people to lose weight and become fitter.  You set your own weight and / or fitness goals, which it then converts to daily calorie and exercise recommendations. Then you simply add your daily activity and food intake and it automatically makes the calculations, so you can see your progress! 

There’s a vast, calorie-counted foods and activity catalogue, and you can store your regular foods, meals and activities, which makes it very easy to be exact about tracking these. The site also summarises your progress, either publicly or privately, according to your wishes. It has a friendly and supportive, rather than bossy or critical, approach and encourages you to make your own use of all that it has available.

For support from others as well as self-help, there are blogs, success stories, forums and communities, where MFP members can meet, share and compare their progress – or lack of it! – so as to keep motivated. 

It’s an American site, run by a fitness-orientated company, which encourages its employees to ‘walk the walk’ of healthy lifestyle. They’re so concerned about service that their support department styles itself ‘The Customer Happiness Team’!  However, the site runs in different languages and can be customised to the country of use (for example in terms of weights and measures). 

My Fitness Pal seems dedicated to excellence and, importantly, has both volunteer and staff moderators for the discussion forums, which also have prominent ‘terms of use’ rules.  The company are constantly adding new ways to make it easier to use the site and recently have launched several Apps in order to make continuous tracking on a mobile device even easier.

How can it help me with living with diabetes?

Maintaining your ‘fighting weight’ is one important dimension of managing diabetes of any type.  Another is taking regular, aerobic activity.  Both have been shown to help prevent long-term complications and other health conditions. which in turn can make diabetes more difficult to live with. This site not only helps with keeping an eye on food and exercise, but also gives reward (in the form of feedback) for doing so – both really important to prevent ‘sliding’ away from weight and fitness goals.

Losing weight is one of the most difficult aspects of life in general but in particular, it’s often the first recommendation on being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Many people struggle to succeed and My Fitness Pal offers a really quick, easy, attractively-presented way to help. 

Logging your food intake is well known to be a predictor of success in losing weight and the success stories the site features, can also help you stay motivated. Your motivation is increased further by the option to share your progress on the well-laid out discussion forum. 

Best of all, My Fitness Pal is free, so you can, as the site itself says ‘stop wasting money on other dieting programs’!

How can it help me with working with diabetes?

Most obviously, you can talk about the site to the people  with diabetes whom you meet in your clinics and education sessions and encourage them to give it a try if they are looking to lose weight or become fitter.  This will not only help them to help themselves in a very practical way, but also reassure you that they are following a reliable source of support.

And…as the recent NHS ‘Forward View into Action’ implementation programme has specified, it’s not just people with diabetes who need to look after their weight, activity and general health and who sometimes struggle to do this!  These are universal experiences for us all, including health care staff, so if you are looking to improve your own eating and activity habits and / or tend to be short on staying power or motivation, this could be the site for you!

Logging your progress and sharing the ups and downs with others are equally effective in losing weight or getting fitter, for those without diabetes.  And after all, if you think this site will be good for the people with diabetes you see, it makes sense to try it out yourself - doesn’t it?!

Our 3 top reasons to give My Fitness Pal a try

 1.    It uses well-known techniques for success in losing weight, made easy and accessible

2.    It lets you use its resources your way, while offering loads of support from the company and other members

3.    It’s free!

Any down sides?

Only a couple of very small things….

1.    The nutritional information about foods tends not to include fibre content, which would be a useful addition  

2.    Some of the feedback could be worded better – for example ‘(your name) has not visited for 3 days’ could possibly make a user feel guilty and demotivated. When you return, it might be better to translate this as ‘welcome back’!

That’s it for now! Hope you like our take on My Fitness Pal and watch out for another ‘Self Health Spotlight’ in February!

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