In early 2017 my husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is determined by analyzing A1C and glucose levels. Instead of medication, we chose to try the diet and exercise route and see how that went. Over 18 months there was enough of a change in levels to warrant a prediabetes classification. The steps we took are chronicled below.
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THE DIAGNOSIS – type 2 diabetes
January of 2017 my husband had an A1C of 6.8. The doctors wanted him to go on medication. Given his sedentary lifestyle, age, and weight we knew he was at risk of health problems. But we weren’t expecting Type 2 diabetes.
He arrived home with a baggie holding a glucose meter, strips, cholesterol medication, and a bundle of information. He was warned that he would have to stay on medication if he did not make changes.
WHERE TO START
Immediately I began researching. One of the first resources I used was the USDA ‘my plate’ guidelines and their online tools. You enter age, weight, height, and exercise level, the site then provides you with a printable of what you should consume in a day.
I created one for my teenager too. Both print outs are still attached to my kitchen cabinets. These create a baseline for menu planning as they give you substitutions and serving quantities.
Tongue in check, I ordered an actual ‘my plate’ plate. This is a visual guide of what should go on a plate at each meal. It is a 10” plate which tends to be smaller than an average dinner plate, with colorful reminders of what goes where. Using smaller plates also helps with portion size.
A scale, set of measuring cups, and measuring spoons is also important. Make sure you have measuring systems for both liquids and solids. You will use these for every meal until you get used to how portions look.
COOKBOOKS AND RECIPES
I purchased a few diabetes cookbooks and away we went. You don’t need to buy a whole library of books. With the internet and a few foundation cookbooks, you will soon learn how to prepare foods. I just love cookbooks.
Some of the recipes have a lot of steps and ingredients in them. I chose the recipes that sounded good, made them by the recipe, and then made notes on simplifying the process for quicker prep times in the future.
If you like cooking as I do, trying out new recipes is fun. Weeknights don’t always allow for extended food prep. Play around, and have fun with your recipes. Eating completely healthy takes a lot more planning than usual.
Between the USDA guidelines and the diabetic recipes, you will end up with foods in your cupboards that you have never used before. There are many alternatives for grains and starches, and substitutions to try. Some textures will be new too. Try something new at least once, being mindful of nutritional value.
We had fruit at every meal. Instead of putting it on the ‘my plate’ I served it in a small bowl. Most of the time I sliced up fresh fruit, it all depends on what is currently available. Other times I grabbed pre-cut or used a tin of fruit in 100% juice.
Always have healthy snacks on hand. Snacks in my house are bananas, other fruit, greek yogurt, nuts, and protein bars, and odds and ends. Buy whole grain bread with smaller size slices to make a quick half of a nut butter sandwich. Use your measuring devices!
When shopping, read the labels. Avoid anything with excessive amounts of salt, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, additives, or preservatives. You want to choose either fresh foods or foods with minimal processing
Each week make a meal plan. This makes shopping for and preparing meals so much easier. Shopping every few days for fresh foods has cut down on food waste and the amount of leftovers that never get eaten.
After a while, you will develop go-to recipes, and your weekly menu plan will be a lot quicker. You will be able to make changes to your own favorite recipes to make them healthier too.
Look up how to make some of your favorites from scratch. Homemade beats packet flavorings or store bought frozen meals every time. Substituting low fat, no fat, or yogurt in place of regular dairy products means less overall calories. Look for recipes with 5 or fewer ingredients to start making from scratch meals.
When making favorite recipes that have carbs, follow ‘my plate’ guidelines for portion sizes. Noodles, potato, rice, and bread, are all foods that are easy to over serve. Add extra vegetables or fruit to add more bulk to the meal.
Always, always shop off a list. Changing the way you grocery shop saves on cost. I now do a bulk of my grocery shopping at the local Grocery Outlet. The selection is not as vast as large chain supermarkets, but the prices are excellent. Eating healthy can be expensive. Grab the basics where you can.
A new Sprouts Farmers Market opened close to home. All the produce is fairly local, and the produce selection is vast. My only problem shopping there is I want to fill my cart with all the grass-fed, non-GMO, raw and tasteful goodies. It’s a struggle to stick to the list there. Irish soda bread… right by the front doors!
Fresh produce is seasonal and can be expensive. Buying flash frozen foods packaged at the peak of freshness is a great choice. These go on sale regularly. Stock up on vegetables that can be heated quickly, that make up stew or soups, or those that are hard to find off season.
Having a list, and sticking to the list, has a secondary purpose. You might think twice about grabbing unhealthy choices that are not on the list. If you are reading the labels, you will quickly learn how bad some foods can be.
CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT FOOD
Most fast food restaurants have a dollar menu. It doesn’t cost much to get a tray full of food. Just stop. This is not good for you. Instead, keep healthy snacks in the car, in a drawer, at home, in the fridge… so you have healthier options to grab.
If you precut fruit and veg to keep in the fridge, you have something ready to eat. You won’t have to think about it, you can grab a quick bite to calm the hunger down.
Looking at food as fuel is also helpful. What does the body need to fuel certain muscles, organs, bones or skin? Finding foods that meet the needs of your body will make you feel like you are doing something great for yourself. And you are.
You need to exercise to lose weight and increase muscle mass. A gentle amble around the neighborhood for half an hour a day is a good starting point. If you have health issues, consult with your doctor before beginning any activity.
Making exercising a part of your routine will soon become a habit. Recruit friends and family to join you. Mix it up. Try different local parks, neighborhoods, or even a local gym. If you are adventurous, look for local hiking trails.
Exercise can be as simple as making sure you get up and walk around on a regular basis. Do chores around the house that have you standing and moving… anything to increase your daily movement. Get out in the garden more, wash your car more often, fix odds and ends around the house. Make up your own ways to move more.
Adding exercise into your routine does not have to be difficult. Walk at lunchtime. Join a company sports team. Ride a bike around the neighborhood. Take up a new sport. Attend events where you can watch, but also walk around at the same time. The possibilities are endless.
Purchase a step counter. It is amazing how helpful a step counter/watch is. You can purchase non-branded versions at a reasonable cost. A step counter encourages you to move more to meet daily goals. It is fun to try, and even better when you get the vibrating alert that you have met your daily goal.
Change does not happen overnight. If you follow ‘my plate’ guidelines, incorporate healthy eating and exercise, you will see results. Slowly and surely.
Initially, you may quickly lose a few pounds, then plateau. Do not give up. If you are consistent with diet and exercise you will continue to drop unhealthy weight.
Losing weight also contributes to less stress on joints and less overall visceral fat. Getting weight down to a recommended range reduces heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.
This is a lifestyle change. It is not a fad diet. You are not playing around. This is not a wait-and -see activity. You are making changes that will add to your longevity.
It takes a few months, but eating healthy and losing weight will go a long way to lowering your A1C and glucose reading. You will be feeling a lot better too.
In an 18-month time frame, my husband lost 32lbs. His A1C came down to 6.4, which is still high, but teetering below actual Type 2 diabetes. He is now in the pre-diabetic category. His glucose readings went from 148 to 140, again, back to manageable levels. His condition has stabilized.
COMMIT TO LONG-TERM CHANGE
Be aware that diabetes has serious consequences. If you don’t make changes to your lifestyle now, you may be dependent on medication for the rest of your life.
If you fall back into old habits and patterns, you will be back at square one. This is your life in your hands. Make a commitment to lasting healthy change.
Do you have any tips or tricks that have helped you make changes in your diet or lifestyle? Comment below or drop me a line.
- Personalized menu using online tools and information: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlatePlan
- All about Diabetes: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diagnosis/
- All about types of fat: https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-truth-about-fat#2
- Mayo Clinic diabetic recipes: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/recipes/diabetes-meal-plan-recipes/rcs-20077150
- The type 2 diabetic cookbook & action plan: https://www.amazon.com/Type-Diabetic-Cookbook-Action-Plan-ebook/dp/B01N6T3IAG/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1539963885&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=diabetic+cookbook&psc=1