Wednesday, January 18, 2012

5 Strategies For Successfully Managing Diabetes

As a follow up to last week’s post on my most recent blood work, here is the 5 step system I have used for successfully managing my diabetes.

1. Eat whole, unprocessed, and nutritionally dense foods.

Chalk this one up to Captain Obvious, but it would be remiss of me not to include it as its importance cannot be understated. For all the fuss about regulating food labels etc., more often than not if what you are eating even has a food label, it’s probably something you shouldn’t be eating anyway. Think about what foods generally don’t have labels: fresh produce, fresh meat/poultry, etc. Now think of where all these items are located at the store. Hint: the perimeter. Not much of value exists in the middle of the store, only obstacles to your success. Avoid them and make your life easier. There are obviously exceptions to this, don’t be a food nazi and use common sense. Two more thoughts on food labels:
• If the label lists ingredients which look like they are spelled in another language or give you bad flashbacks of your high school chemistry class – avoid it!
• Anything possessing more than 3-4 ingredients total would be another indicator of something to avoid.

2. Sit less/Move More

Notice I did not say exercise more. Appreciate the difference between exercise, and simply not sitting! Place a premium on incorporating this into your new lifestyle immediately after meals to start, and then gradually look to add more movement and less sitting to the rest of your day. Not only does this strategy help with diabetes, it also markedly lowers your risk for cardiovascular issues as well. Take a walk. Wash the dishes. Do a load of laundry. Do some of that house cleaning you have been neglecting, just don’t sit. Aim for 15-20 minutes following a meal before you allow yourself to sit.

3. Manage Stress/Sleep

Without getting all science geek on you, I’ll just keep it simple and say that insufficient sleep and/or chronic high stress have hormonal implications that cause you to overeat as well as more apt to store what you do eat as fat. This all happens primarily through an increase in circulating cortisol, but recognize all hormones interact with each other. Therefore, once one hormone is out of whack, it begins a cascade of events with negative implications for your health. Be sure to get at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night. Recognize the difference between quality sleep and laying there with your eyes closed. If you don’t wake up feeling rested, chances are the sleep wasn’t all that high in quality.

Stress - there is no one catch-all strategy for managing stress, everyone deals with it differently. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Breathing/meditation, massage, reading a book – find what works for you! For me, it was making the tough decision to remove a long-time friend from my life due to the consistently high level of stress this person caused me. It was an unhealthy relationship for both parties. Very unfortunate, but also a common occurrence if one lives long enough. Re-evaluate the people you surround yourself with from time to time and make changes if necessary. On the other side of that coin, I feel I also received a similar benefit by re-connecting with old friends I hadn’t seen in over 8 years. I have this listed as number 3 on this list, but in my personal experience it had the most profound effect on my blood sugar numbers.

4. Decreased Meal Frequency

Some time ago I came across IF, or intermittent fasting. Other places have documented IF in great detail, and so I will not look to re-invent the wheel here. If you wish to know more about IF, I suggest reading here and here. Essentially, there has never been any scientific evidence that eating 5-6 small meals per day as is so often prescribed by ‘professionals’ offers any measureable benefit in terms of blood sugar or metabolism. Until someone offers up some better evidence, it will remain nothing more than old gym dogma to me. All small, frequent meals did for me was result in finishing meals unsatisfied and still hungry, ravenous hunger throughout the day, and additional insulin injections - sound fun to you? Not to mention the preoccupation with food caused and the inconvenience of carrying around all this food all day to work and elsewhere. It’s simply not practical for most people’s lifestyle. It’s ok to be hungry every now then, and what you may find is most often the feeling will pass and just arose in the first place because of boredom – sometimes from sitting too much! That being said, if 5-6 small meals a day works for you, then stick with it! Only you know what works best for you and your body. But for those of you out there struggling, perhaps it’s time to give IF a try?

5. Consistency

Without consistent execution, every strategy is doomed to fail, no matter how sound it is. Make good food choices, sit less, go to bed and wake up at the same times everyday, etc. But also realize 100% compliance isn’t necessary to achieve success either. As it relates to stress, it’s important to enjoy life. Indulge in a guilty pleasure from time to time, just don’t do it 5 days a week. That’s not an indulgence, it’s a habit.

The results, in addition to the improved A1C noted on the bloodwork:
• ~50% reduction in use of Novalin-R
• ~50% reduction in use of Lantus
• Eliminated use of Metformin entirely.

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