A diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes can feel like a prescription for a reduced quality of life. Often medical advice is conflicting and nearly impossible to follow. The amount of medications prescribed can seem to increase monthly as seemingly inevitable complications such as high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure set in. If you have Type 2 Diabetes, this doesn’t have to be the scenario. Many people are able to control their blood glucose levels, and reduce or eliminate complications without taking medications and while actually increasing their quality of life.
My partner and I are two examples. We have both lowered our fasting blood glucose levels, lost weight, and have increased energy levels and better health in general by following these ten tips. Even if your doctor feels that medication is the best route to diabetes control for you right now, these ten guidelines can help you be healthier and reduce the risk of diabetes complications in your future.
1.Carbs count. Diabetes is basically an inability of the body to properly use carbohydrates. The best way to minimize this affect is to eat less carbs. Count how many grams of carbohydrates you are eating each day and lower the number. It is not necessary or healthy to completely cut out carbohydrates. Most people find that they can significantly lower their blood glucose levels by eating between 85 and 150 grams of carbohydrate each day. Watch you glucose levels as you reduce your carbohydrate intake, and you will find the level of carbohydrates that is best for you.
2.Calories count. Yes, calories count too. Although not all of those with Type 2 Diabetes are overweight, many are, and those who are not are at risk for gaining weight. Again, it is not necessary to drastically reduce calories, but you should know how many you are eating and along with monitoring your weight, find the right amount for you to either maintain your weight if you are normal weight or to lose about 1 to 2 pounds a week if you are overweight. Don’t try to lose more than that, or it will be difficult to stay on track.
3.Don’t change too many things at once. When you are first diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, or if you decide to change your treatment plan because your current one is not working, it is easy to try to take every piece of advice out there and incorporate it into your lifestyle right away. This is going to overwhelm you and not lead to long term changes. Instead choose one change, and stick with that until it is habit. Then add another.
4.Mistakes happens. Don’t let mistakes or backsliding, whether small or large, become permanent. If you binge on sweets while vacationing or manage to down several thousand calories during Thanksgiving dinner, it is OK. Just hop right back on with your diabetes management plan as soon as you can. No one is perfect. It isn’t a momentary lapse or even a week off plan that is going to lead you downhill. It is not returning to the program afterward. Be determined to not quit no matter how many mistakes you make, and your reward will be in longterm good health.
5.Be active. Very few people like to exercise. If you are one of them, don’t worry. The key to improving your health isn’t in taking up an exercise routine, it is in incorporating normal movement into your life. Clean the house. Walk around the block or across the parking lot. Go up a flight of stairs or two. Play with your kids or grandkids. Tour the zoo. When you need something, get up and get it instead of asking someone to bring it to you. Break up long sessions at the computer or in front of the television with chores or gardening. As you get your blood sugar under control and your weight down from your dietary changes, you will find that you have more energy for movement. Use this increased energy to your advantage and figure out ways that are fun for you to move.
6.Be flexible. Strict rules are likely to make you rebellious in the long run. As you start to lower your carbohydrate intake and reduce the calories you consume, it is important that you allow yourself to have treats when you really want them. Otherwise your new eating plan will be impossible to stick with for the long term. If you want a piece of cake at a party, reduce your carbs and calories a bit the next day. Occasional treats are not going to undermine your long term success.
7.Limit portion size. When having treats, remember that the first bite tastes the best. Often a small serving of a sweet can be just as satisfying as a larger serving. Make sure that you savor your favorite. Enjoy every bit and then be done with it.
8. Stay organized. There are many tools that can help you stay organized and keep track of your carbohydrate intake, calorie intake, blood glucose levels, and weight. The easiest for me is using one of the many computer programs designed for this purpose. There are several available for public use online or for download to use on your computer for a small fee. If you would rather stay organized the old fashioned way, there are forms that you can print out or get from your doctor for the same purpose. It is best to write down your numbers right away so whatever method you use, make sure that it is readily available and that you are comfortable with it.
9. Commit to your food. Every bite that you put in your mouth has an affect on your blood glucose levels and ultimately your health. Don’t eat mindlessly. Don’t eat because you have been offered food. Don’t eat because others around you are eating. Choose to eat those things that you do. If someone is coercive, tell them that you have diabetes and that you are monitoring every bite. If someone repeatedly undermines your diet, you may have to limit your time with them. Your health is important, and your friends should understand.
10. Do your own research. Remember that your doctor is there to help you, but doctors are still just people doing the best that that can. It is your responsibility to ask questions, to stay up to date on best practices, and to find the methods that will work best for keeping your diabetes under control. If you limit your carbs and lose weight, there is a good chance that you will be able to have normal blood glucose and avoid diabetes complications. It may seem like a lot of work when you start, but step by step you can improve your health and limit the necessity of medications.