Almost one in ten Americans has diabetes. If you have been told that you are “borderline diabetic,” (more accurately called pre-diabetes) then you will have diabetes in the future if you make no changes. It’s normal to resist change but if we look, we can find joy in every aspect of life, even change.
Diabetes is a systemic disease meaning that it affects our whole body. It starts when we consistently consume more calories than we burn in activity. The resulting weight gain and inactive lifestyle are the chief causes of type 2 diabetes. Here are some reasons why we want to embrace lifestyle changes.
When our blood sugar is consistently high, it damages tiny blood vessels in our hands, feet, eyes and kidneys. This ongoing damage gradually develops into tingling or numbness in fingers or toes which ultimately results in amputations. Changes in vision gradually lead to blindness. Unfortunately, kidney disease does not give us any symptoms until our kidneys begin to fail which if left untreated will require dialysis to maintain life.
The joy is that people with diabetes can avoid all of these health problems by managing their blood sugar between 70 and 120. This means daily monitoring with a glucometer, taking your medications as prescribed, following a healthy eating plan and doing a minimal amount of daily activity.
Most people with diabetes are overweight. Achieving an appropriate weight is a long term goal that we work at over time. Health experts say that most of the benefit from weight reduction comes from the first 10% of weight lost. For example, if you weigh 220 pounds, set your initial goal to lose 22 pounds. Studies show that gradual weight loss is more likely to stay gone. A plan to lose 1-2 pounds a week is most successful.
Walking for 30 minutes every day is one of the best changes you can make to manage blood sugar and achieve a desirable weight. This is an essential step for weight loss and it can be a moment of joy during these autumn days. Give yourself back this time to find joy in a daily walk. Sharing this walk with someone can double the joy and enhance a relationship.
The healthy eating part is not as difficult as you might expect. You don’t have to eat diet foods. You don’t have to give up everything you like. You do have to make changes but we all have to work at small changes every day to maintain an appropriate weight. Identify some high calorie foods in your typical pattern and replace them with healthier choices. Think of the joy of biting into a crisp apple. Little daily changes really add up.
Take a look at your meal pattern. Do you distribute your calories throughout the day in several feedings? “I’m not hungry for breakfast, I’ll save the calories.” People who tend to eat most of their calories in one or two meals will almost always end up overweight. An effective strategy: never come to a meal too hungry. We do this by eating frequently; a light healthy breakfast, light lunch, afternoon snack and a satisfying dinner. This pattern may at first seem foreign to you. But give it time. This is your body’s normal way of functioning that has been established over eons in our genetic programming.
With the holidays approaching, it might not seem like a good time to start. But is there really any good time to make changes? We all have to wrestle with the mental and emotional battles of change. We start by setting a goal and making a plan. Then we work our plan looking for joy along the way.
Tim Scallon is a registered dietitian nutritionist with St. Luke’s Health. In cooperation with Sodexo Food Service, The HC Polk Education Center and the City of Lufkin, Tim Scallon teams up with the celebrated Chef Manuel Marini and produces the nationally viewed TV series Memorial Cooking Innovations. The popular cooking show celebrates the joy of fresh food and healthy eating and can be seen on cable in 46 cities and online at http://www.memorialhealth.org. On the website find healthy recipes, past cooking shows and sound nutrition information.