Many people in my life have been faced with dealing with type 2 diabetes. I have seen the struggles they've faced, some that they have overcome, and some that they have just learned to manage. I wanted share some of the things I've learned in hopes they might help you on your journey.
1. What can I eat? When? How much?
First, there isn't a one-size-fits-all diet that will help manage your diabetes. In the past, available diets were very restrictive, and as such were very hard to maintain and stay on. New research has shown that while you may need to make some changes in what and how much you eat, you do have some flexibility in deciding what's on the menu. And, with a little planning you can still include your favorite foods.
Healthy Eating? What does that mean?
Healthy eating means eating a variety of different foods, including vegetables, whole grains, non-fat daily products, and lean meats. You've also got to try not to eat too much, or eat too much of any one type of food. Probably the best advice from many sources is that you space your meals out evenly throughout the day, and by all means, do not skip any meals.
Plating Your Food
One way to start managing your blood glucose levels is to focus on filling your plate with non-starchy vegetables and serving up smaller portions of the starchier foods and meats. How you arrange your food on your plate is one way to think about this. Draw some imaginary lines on your plate, select your foods, and enjoy your meal. As soon as you change your portion sizes, you can concentrate on making better food choices from each food group. More information about this topic can be found here.
2. Get Out, Get Active, Get Aerobic!
Any type of physical activity that you can safely do helps to lower your blood glucose. If you're worried about what activities will be right for you, talk to your doctor. Some different types of activity include:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Scary thought? Start by just taking them down, then begin adding a floor at a time going up until your body catches up with you.
- Aerobic activity. Take a walk, ride your bike (buy a bike!) Go for a swim. Many local recreation centers offer aerobic swimming classes that make it easy to exercise in the water.
- Go dancing. You'll be amazed how much fun it is and how the exercise just sneaks up on you.
- Get flexible. Stretch. Learn some yoga. There are simple exercises that all of us can do.
- Strength training. Join a gym, take a class on weight training or using resistance bands that allow you to exercise at your pace.
The important thing is to get started. If you haven’t been very active recently, you can start out with 5 or 10 minutes a day and work up to more time each week. You can also split up your activity for the day: For example, take a quick 10-minute walk before or after each meal instead of 30 minutes all at once. Some ways to be more active are:
- Work in the garden, rake the leaves in the yard, or wash the car
- Play actively with the kids, you'll both have fun
- Walk around when talking on the phone
- Park out at the end of the Wal-Mart lot and walk
Benefits of physical activity
Are there any? There has to be, right? While getting started may be hard, you'll be amazed that after doing it for a few days, you'll begin to feel better, have more energy, less stress in your life, etc. This will also help to keep your joints more flexible, and will lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. Just be sure you talk with your doctor if you have any concerns at all. Keep in mind, however, that whatever shape you are in, adding a little more exercise, a short walk, anything, to your routine will help. Start slow, your body will tell you what you need.
3. Weight Loss
Let's face it, all of of us could stand to lose a few pounds. In fact, your doctor may strongly recommend it. Losing weight can improve your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol. You don’t have to lose a lot of weight to start seeing results. Just losing 10-15 pounds can make a difference. There are many types of weight loss plans to choose from. Even using the Plate Method for meal planning can help with weight loss. If you’re having trouble losing weight, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian.
Your doctor will probably prescribe various medicine to help you get and keep your blood glucose into a range that is best for you. There are many different types of diabetes medications and they all work in different ways. Your doctor may also prescribe more than one kind of medicine. It all depends on your overall health.
Starting New Medicines
Before starting amy new medicines, make sure you know the answers to these questions:
- How many pills do I take? How often? When?
- Should I take my medicine on an empty stomach or with food?
- What if I forget to take my medicine and remember later?
- What side effects could I have? What should I do if I have side effects?
- Will my diabetes medicine cause a problem with any of my other medicines?
If you think you are having side effects from your medicine, or have questions, call your doctor or pharmacist. Don’t stop taking it unless the doctor tells you to. Remember, your medicine will work best if you also make some healthy changes to how you eat and if you are active. Need help paying for your medicines? Click here.
5. Checking Blood Glucose
You'll need to get a blood glucose meter, available in most all drug stores, so that you can start checking your "sugar" at home. Ask your doctor, or pharmacist for recommendations on a meter that will work best and still be covered by your insurance.
How does a Meter Work?
Meters work by testing a small drop of your blood for glucose. Most people prick their fingertip to get the blood drop, but you can ask your doctor about other methods
Is this really that important?
Yes! Before you had diabetes, no matter what you ate or how active you were, your blood glucose automatically stayed within a normal range. Now, this is no longer true. Checking your blood glucose is how you can know how food, activity and medicine affect your blood glucose. It can help you make sure your blood glucose isn’t going too high or too low. It's also important that you track your numbers in a logbook so you can share it with your doctor and others that are helping to care for you. You can also use this free online tool. Using these tools you can make decisions about food, physical activity and medicine.
How Often to Check
The most common times to check your blood glucose levels are usually before a meal or two hours after a meal. Talk with your doctor about how often and when you should check. Also talk with your doctor about what your target numbers should be.
6. How do you feel?
How you feel about this change in your life is important. Different people have different feelings. Some of the usual reactions include:
- A sense of loss, of fear,
- Stress, Anger
- Shock & Guilt
- Disbelief and not wanting to think about it.
It IS a Big Deal
The thing to remember is that all of these feelings are completely normal. Finding out that you have diabetes is a big deal. And even if you’re doing great with it now, there may be moments where you feel bad about what has happened to you.
Talk It Out
One of the best things you can do is to talk to family, friends, or your doctor about how you’re feeling. Sometimes just putting your thoughts into words makes dealing with them easier.Other people may be able to help you see the positive side of things, or figure out ways to reduce the stress. If you sometimes feel overwhelmed, talk to your doctor.
7. Getting Support
Your family and friends care about you. They are a great source of support. But they can't help unless they know and understand what you're going through, and how the disease is affecting your body. Help them by telling them what you need. Some thoughts on this include:
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Ask them to learn about how diabetes affects your body and emotions.
- Invite them to attend your appointments or diabetes classes.
- Include them in your new healthy lifestyle.
- Share this website with them.
You want the people around you to know how to help, but it’s also okay to tell them if you don’t want their help.
We’re Here for You!
Yes, there’s a lot to learn about living well with diabetes. Getting in control might take some time. It’s going to mean making some changes in your life, but you can start with small changes, and you don’t have to make them all at once. And you don’t have to do it alone. If you have any questions, join us in the community and ask.
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