The Chaser Mark Labbett: ‘My sin was chocolate and sweets’ – on his diabetes

The Chase: Mark Labbett says ‘no chit chat’

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“I was a little bit numb,” recalled the ITV star about finding out about his diabetes diagnosis back in 2017. Type 2 diabetes is a common condition, causing your blood sugar levels to become too high. Mark is one of the 4.9 million in the UK diagnosed with this disease. He spoke exclusively to about navigating the diagnosis four years later and the changes in his life.

Mark told “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, gamble, God knows, there’s no loose woman in my life. My sin was chocolate and sweets.

“I’ve always had a ridiculous amount of sugar, so my view was I’ve done the crime so it’s time to do the time.”

Mark got diagnosed back in 2017, after a nurse spotted the skin on his legs that had trouble healing.

For Mark this was the only warning sign of the chronic condition. He explained: “My lower legs, the skin bruised very easily when I was playing football.

“But other than that, I never suffered from any sugar highs or lows.”

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Since then, The Chase star has lost a lot of weight, changed his diet, and joined this year’s Diabetes UK One Million Steps Challenge, in which Fitbit and Diabetes UK want to educate about the importance of leading a healthier and more active lifestyle for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

But being active was never the Chaser’s problem, he said: “The irony is I’m less active than I was a few years ago.”

Mark said he’s been doing sports his whole life including rugby. “The drawback of being such a big man, playing a lot of sport, they actually want you to be up at 20, 21 stone because it’s quite useful,” he explained.

Even though Mark was leading an active life, weight was one of the factors for developing the condition.

Mark said: “In 2003, I was 29 stones and they were considering giving me blood pressure pills because it was up high, well obviously at that weight.”

Now, Mark has lost a lot of weight which he attributes to looking after his son during lockdown.

He continued: “It almost killed me because 24/7 looking after a hyperactive four-year-old, I can see why people have children in their 20s and 30s.

“That’s one of the reasons the weight fell off then because I just didn’t have time to eat.”

The Beast said part of the reason could also be his diabetes medicine called metformin designed to lower blood sugar levels. “I drink a lot more fluid than I used to and I think it kind of helps [with weight loss] without going into too much graphic details,” he added.

Although Mark is a lot of stone lighter, he’s still got “a fair bit to go”. He explained: “Now when I do my diabetes check, I’m in the red zone still for the weight and the BMI. But everything else is in the amber or the green, so I’m fairly healthy.”

The hardest part about getting used to the new lifestyle was quitting sugar, Mark confessed.

He said: “The biggest problem was the 20 minutes after main course because I’ve always had a pudding or a sweet, so the craving was there.

“The one thing I did find is sugar is almost its own appetite type of thing. If you did have sugar, you wanted more an hour later.”

Now Mark has swapped sweets for fruit. “I like grapes, those are my thing. What I try and do is berries, so raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries. My boy loves them so that works quite nicely,” he said.

The one thing he still struggles with is tiredness. He says this is because he’s “carrying all that weight around”, but fatigue is one of diabetes symptoms as well.

Some other main symptoms according to the NHS include:

  • Peeing more than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling thirsty all the time
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision.

To anyone newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Mark shared: “The good news is it’s over. It’s very much treatable, you can weaken it or even reverse it.

“It’s an interesting thing that people have got to realise, I’m not going to blame anyone because ultimately I did the eating and I didn’t mind doing [it].”


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