Susan Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE. is a coach with Yes Health and author of “Sweet Genes: Finding A Balance Living With Diabetes.”
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Reduce your risk for prediabetes
My journey with diabetes began 36 years ago when my oldest son, Jason, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He was the tender age of 17 months. I was six months pregnant with my second and armed with only my Dr. Spock’s “baby bible.” Even as a pharmacist, I was rather unprepared for what lay ahead.
I went on to become a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES). I needed to learn. Diabetes was not just a word in my textbook, it was real. I read, took classes, and developed a new awareness and respect for this challenge. Learning changed everything. It took away much of my fear and self-doubt.
Many of the same healthy lifestyle recommendations apply to both the management and prevention of diabetes. It may sound simple, but in our fast-paced world, healthy living is often overlooked. As a Yes Health Coach, I help our members follow some simple guidelines to live their best lives.
It starts with mindfulness
Mindful eating is a valuable tool to develop healthy eating habits. It means paying attention to the way food affects your senses, tuning in to how it makes you feel physically and emotionally, and any thoughts that arise as you eat.
Listen to your hunger cues. If you are truly hungry and ready for some fuel, add premium gas to the tank. Grabbing a candy bar at a drug store checkout or a cookie at work can be an almost automatic response. Pause for a moment before making a choice, and learn to recognize the difference between an impulse and genuine hunger. Enjoy your food, paying close attention to how it affects your senses and how it makes you feel, both while eating and afterwards..
3 keys to healthy eating
Timing of meals 🕒
Eating balanced meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day helps blood sugars remain stable. Try to give yourself at least two hours between meals/snacks to stabilize blood sugars (unless you need to treat a low blood sugar, of course).
Portion size 🥗
Attention to portions also aids your body in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. The Healthy Eating Plate demonstrates how you might build your meals in a way that supports blood sugar regulation and overall health. Aim to fill half your plate with fibrous vegetables or and sometimes fresh fruit. Fruits and vegetables are key because the fiber they contain slows down the digestion of your meal, helping to prevent blood sugar spikes.
Next, make ¼ of your plate a protein-rich food and ¼ of your plate a source of complex carbs, such as whole grains. Include healthy fats in moderation.
Quality of food 🍴
A healthy pattern of eating is one rich in whole foods. Whole foods are high in naturally occurring nutrients and void of added sugars and potentially harmful processed ingredients. In addition to supporting healthy blood sugar levels, whole foods may promote healthy digestion, strengthen your immune system, and reduce sugar cravings.
Numerous studies show that healthy eating has the potential to prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes. Most recently, a study found that a diet rich in whole fruits (but not fruit juices) may lower the risk of developing diabetes.
Move that body
Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. Aim for no more than two days in a row without exercise. Blending cardio and core work is the best way to keep your body healthy. Strength training helps keep bones strong, and the muscle mass that you gain as a result supports a healthy metabolism.
Consider setting aside a specific time to get moving. It may be difficult to get going at first, but you’ll soon notice increases in your energy level and mood.
In addition to structured exercise, aim to move your body frequently throughout the day. Research on exercise and diabetes stresses that breaking up sedentary time by simply “moving around” every hour or so can have health benefits.
Where to begin?
It can feel overwhelming to change your lifestyle all at once. Consider starting with one specific habit and setting a goal that is realistic for you. For example, maybe it’s an extra serving of veggies at lunchtime or a brisk walk after work 3 days per week. Write down your goal and share it with an accountability partner. If you’re not sure where to start or if you could use an extra source of accountability (who couldn’t?), enlist the help of a health coach to guide you through the process of setting and achieving your goals.
Having diabetes in the family really forced me to think about how our family was living. I believe my children are healthier than many of their peers who are not diabetic, because they were “forced” to adopt healthy habits early on in life. We are grateful for every day and, most importantly, healthy and happy.