April 7th was World Health Day – and the world is focused on Diabetes this year.
Diabetes can best be described as a non-infectious pandemic (forgive the oxymoron) that is slowly eating away the quality of human life.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic condition / disease.
Our body needs insulin to convert sugar/glucose to energy. When pancreas cannot produce ANY insulin, it is called Type 1 diabetes, commonly diagnosed in children and teens. When pancreas do not produce ENOUGH insulin (or the insulin cannot be processed), it is called Type 2 diabetes . In cases where the insulin is less effective during pregnancy, it is called Gestational Diabetes.
Ok how does food relate to Diabetes?
When you eat, your body turns food into sugars, or glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin. Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter — and allow you to use the glucose for energy. But with diabetes, this system does not work.
What do you mean food turns to glucose?
Food contains Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Vitamins, Minerals and Water. Vitamins, minerals and water cannot be broken down into glucose and therefore do not affect blood sugar levels. Protein and fat are not directly converted to glucose when digested. Almost all the carbohydrate eaten will be converted into glucose in the body. The only carbohydrates not changed to glucose are those that cannot be digested, like fiber.
So… do a lot of people have it?
Are we doomed? How do we ‘beat it’?
Obesity is a key player in Type 2 Diabetes. The phrase ‘Survival of the Fittest’ was coined for a reason. The most effective, tried and tested method to manage or beat type 2 diabetes is Lifestyle Change.
Lifestyle Change will include:
1. Healthy Eating habits as opposed to fad or crash dieting. A diet is the sum of food consumed. When a person is on a diet, do not automatically assume that they are in a world of deprivation and pain. They are simply habituating themselves to eat a certain way. I often hear “Oh they are on a diet. They don’t eat anything” and I think “Just because people don’t eat EXACTLY what you eat, doesn’t mean they are starving. They are making choices that are healthier for them and absolutely LOVE it!”. Fad and crash diets are another story I’ll get into on a longer post. It can be inferred that I’m not a fan. If an individual is ‘on a diet’ and has dark circles under their eyes, hollow expression, mood swings, unhappy and simply cribbing about it – You know it’s time to reevaluate direction.
2. Active life – exercising whether you are at healthy weight or not. Get at least 30 mins of active time. Taking children to the park, running with a friend, finding workout buddies, sports, joining fun wellness challenges and of course staying away from toxic relationships can all help.
3. Weight Management – Managing , losing weight to stay in the normal weight range / healthy body fat percentage for your height and age. Watch out if you YoYo – Lose weight then gain it all back plus some and then try to lose again. Some studies suggest that drastic weight cycling may increase the risk for certain health problems. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gallbladder disease. However more research is needed in this area.
4. Managing Attitude – (Managing our mindset like “It’s genes” , “I’m big boned” , “I’m on certain medication that will only make me gain weight” , “I have given up because nothing can make me lose weight” , ” If I lose weight, I’ll become wrinkly and look sick”, “I can’t diet” etc.)
How can you be sure it works?
Jose was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes a few years ago. We blamed it on family history for a while. When things got out of hand, we finally realized that it was time to stop blaming and start acting. He cleaned up his diet, got active, lost 28 kg and is now in the process of being weaned off medicines. This lifestyle change has become permanent because Jose has had so much fun and delicious food in the process.
Diabetes is a serious condition if left untreated / unmanaged . It scares me when people say – “Oh, I just don’t eat sweets and take medicines by the way I feel – don’t need a diabetologist’s advice”. Please consult a doctor and have an honest dialogue with yourself. Diabetes and Obesity can be conquered with simple lifestyle changes that are fun, delicious and addictive.