“Martin lights up the gym when he arrives”

“Martin’s weight put him at an increased risk of further health complications, which I believe was the catalyst for change. Ultimately, Martin’s readiness to change made it the right time and allowed me to support him in making practical steps towards his health goals”.

These are the words of Jordan Egerton, a nutrition volunteer who has been supporting 68-year-old Martin to lead a healthier lifestyle since February. Martin lives in a supported living house in Taunton.

In June, Martin was diagnosed with diabetes and his GP prescribed a Mediterranean diet with a reduction in refined carbohydrates and Jordan incorporated this into Martin’s meal plan. Jordan based his dietary recommendations on Martin’s favourite meals and added healthy swaps to avoid being too prescriptive so Martin still had choice about what he eats each day.

Martin is now more involved in what he is eating and will chop his fruit. Locality manager, Di Trigger said:

“It’s been tremendously successful because it’s been easy for the team. It works with Martin rather than dictating to him. He is losing weight slowly every week, which is perfect. Jordan has made sure that the information is easy for his support team to follow”.

“When I met Martin he was in a home with lots of people who were not as able as him and because of his Down’s, he was influenced by that environment. We encouraged him to be on his feet and stand up independently rather than linking arms with staff and we replaced slippers with trainers so he became more mobile.”

Di has seen an improvement in Martin’s stamina as a result of his new healthy eating and exercise plan:

“He used to go shopping and be uncomfortable and he couldn’t wait to get out of the shop, but now he’ll have a good browse and use the self-checkout till, which takes a long time, but six months ago he wouldn’t have had the stamina to do that.”

Martin’s favourite day of the week is when he goes to the gym with his personal trainer, Craig Reaney. Craig said:

“Martin has been an absolute pleasure to work with. I understand there’s prejudice regarding people with learning disabilities in a gym but there really shouldn’t be. Martin has made many friends with members and lights up the gym when he arrives! The progress he’s made with his strength, boxing and coordination is fantastic.”

Martin suffers with various ailments and he’s on the dementia pathway. People with Down’s Syndrome go down quite quickly if they lose their mobility so this plan is important.

The Nutrition and Wellbeing Project has been introduced across the Dimensions group. It provides one-to-one coaching with menu plans and nutritional advice specifically tailored to individual preferences, empowering people with learning disabilities and autism to maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet. In addition, the programme gives support workers a greater understanding of how to manage health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease through diet and exercise.

Jordan said: “It is important to recognise this approach as a lifestyle change and not a diet. Diets often come with negative connotations and are generally viewed as restrictive in nature. I believed this approach has worked well because it allows Martin to enjoy the foods that he likes and still achieve his goals.”

People with learning disabilities and autism often face poorer health outcomes than the general population, with recent data showing that women with a learning disability die on average 27 years younger, and men 22 years younger than the general population. 1 Specifically, people with a learning disability are also more likely to have problems maintaining a healthy weight. 2

1Learning Disabilities Mortality Review 2019 Annual Report
2 https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/managing-weight-with-a-learning-disability/