A healthy lifestyle centered on proper nutrition and fitness should be a goal for everyone to have in mind, but is especially important for people living with the challenges of life with Type 2 diabetes. I’ll start this post off with a little personal story. About 4 years ago, I was severely overweight and diagnosed with pre-diabetes. My doctor wanted me to start taking medication but I was afraid. Instead we struck a deal – I will start watching my diet and increasing my level of physical activity and we’ll re-test in 3 months. Talk about a wake-up call! I immediately enlisted the help of a certified dietitian and personal trainer.
Fast forward 3 months, my glucose levels are still high but I no longer would need to take medication if, and only if, I continue with my new healthier lifestyle. Today, 3 years later, I am down 150 pounds and my glucose levels are within normal-range. I am not saying that proper nutrition and exercise will cure diabetes but I am living proof that it can improve outcomes and make life better. In hopes that my little story can inspire others to get up and get moving here are 10 tips that I found most useful when I first started out.
1. Exercise needs to be fun or you won’t do it. You have to decide what activities you like to do. For me it’s running and strength training. For my father, a diabetic for over 30 years, it’s cycling and yoga. Find what suits you and go with it. It’s the only way you’ll stick to it.
2. Work with professionals. Enlist the help of your doctor, caregiver, trainer or anyone that has professional-level knowledge to get you started properly and monitor you as you move forward.
3. Muscles are made in the kitchen. Nutrition is the cornerstone of any wellness program. A well-balanced, healthy nutrition plan will not only help keep your sugar levels in-range but will also make you feel more energized throughout the day.
4. You don’t need to workout for 2 hours. The rule of thumb is 30-45 minutes a day of exercise. If this is too much for you to do at first in one time, split it up. Do three 15- minute sessions.
5. Find a Buddy. Working out with a friend is a sure way to enjoy it more and make sure you stick with it. Support and encouragement will help you succeed in meeting your fitness goals.
6. Track your fitness and nutrition. We are all guilty of this – we overestimate how many calories we burned and we underestimate how many calories we consumed. Tracking is the best way to know exactly where you stand and where you need to make changes to stay on track.
7. Be realistic. The goal here is not to compete in next year’s Mr. or Ms. Olympia contest. We are here to be healthy and manage diabetes as best we can. Set realistic goals and you’ll be sure to reach them.
8. Test your glucose levels regularly. Especially when you are starting out a new exercise and nutrition plan. This is crucial. The Dario Smart Meter is perfect for this – it’s small and compact and you can take it with you anywhere. It is important to know how your body is reacting to the change and better results will keep you motivated to continue!
9. Drink plenty of water. Other drinks like juices and sodas are loaded with sugar and empty calories. Even diet drinks are a poor alternative to a cold glass of water any day. To make water a little more interesting, infuse it with lemons or fresh mint.
10. Go Social. You have endless online resources such as websites, Facebook groups and online communities to help you create the right wellness plan for you. You will learn fun new ways of staying healthy and meet some pretty cool people, with common goals, in the process.