Many people have inquired about the specifics of how I personally control my condition. Breaking with my usual focus on the behavioral aspects of management, I thought I’d share more about the nuts and bolts that I find helpful, or essential. Because something works for me, there’s no guarantee it’ll do the same for you.
At the end of this post I’ll share a link to an amazing nutritionist, health consultant and food wizard, whose recipes and extensive knowledge turned things around for me.
So this is a summary of the best and most effective ways I maintain being fit and healthy, not just despite having Type 2, but because of it.
Choose what you want, try it to ascertain the results, and leave the rest!
Starting off with food, as it’s the most central issue for us all. For those who are serious about containing their diabetes and attempting to forestall any complications, it’s unwise to think “I’ll get to the food thing later”.
I started out being serious about it. From the moment I was diagnosed, which foods are ‘safe’ became an obsession. Over the top maybe, but I saw it as one area I could make wise choices, with significant benefits down the road. For those who struggle with delayed gratification, this will be a more difficult motivator.
Time to hit “reset”.
I refer to myself as a functional cook. I can prepare tasty meals, but it was more a chore than a joy. I never followed recipes, preferring instead to be creative and cook up what was around. The results ranged from fine to uninspired.
Aside from all the nutritional research I’ve delved into, I’ve eventually whittled it down to several rules I follow.
Due to weight loss and low carbs, I’m no longer resistant to the hormones ghrelin and leptin. I eat only when physically hungry and stop when full. This helps manage portion control. I limit any protein to 2-3 ozs and learnt to eyeball it (around the size of your palm).
I eat plant-derived carbs, from non-starchy veggies, and full fats as a source of energy. Mostly this means the lowest carb full fat dairy like greek yogurt, half and half or coconut milk (regular cow’s milk is too high in sugar (lactose) content. I use extra virgin cold pressed olive oil and either coconut vinegar, lemon or lime for salad dressing. When baking or cooking, the I only use organic virgin coconut oil, or organic butter.
I avoid all grains and flours, so instead I bake with almond or flax meal, coconut flour or psyllium husk.
One “secret helper” I’ve used occasionally if there is limited food choice, or the ingredients unknown or possibly suspect, is white bean extract capsules. They block carbohydrate absorption. I don’t use them as an excuse to eat carbs, but sparingly if that’s the best option at a restaurant.
One of the triggers in developing Type 2 was significant sleep deprivation over a
period of time. Due to severe menopausal symptoms, my sleep patterns were abysmal. At most I slept 4-5 hours down from my normal 7.5-8. Night after night I woke up due to ‘power surges’ of heat and energy causing my central nervous system to become aroused, and my body temperature rising and falling well outside a comfortable range. Sweating to shivering hourly…
This required a literal cooling down – I kept a damp cold face cloth next to the bed, windows wide open year round, light bedding and minimal contact with my partner, who tended to run hot.
Even as my body eventually cooled, turning shivery before normalizing, my mind was equally aroused, with thoughts torpedoing around that further pushed sleep away. After 18 months of this misery, I mentioned it to my MD who asked me why I was suffering like that? Not having a good answer, she prescribed sleeping pills. Never having tried them before, reluctantly I took them as clearly I needed to sleep. But knowing them to be addictive, this wasn’t a long-term solution.
Fast forward to today, what still works so well even though my sleeping has greatly improved as the flashes have decreased, is taking 1000 mg L-Tryptophan. This is an amino acid that’s a precursor (triggers production) of Serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep (and appetite). It works! I also add 360 mg Magnesium Taurate which helps as a muscle relaxer, further ensuring sound sleep.
So I take both 30 minutes or so before bedtime, and sleeplessness is history. Consequently, given the connection between sufficient sleep, blood glucose level and appetite, all are better regulated.
Diabetes happened despite my regular daily workouts for years. As I learn how imperative exercise is to my new regime, I kicked it up several notches in intensity. Working well initially, it helped to sustain lower BG readings. But after several months, I noticed a troubling change.
Typically, I’d test before, during and after exercising to gauge the impact. As a trend upwards to higher numbers began to show, initially baffled, eventually I traced it to the effect of intense exercise releasing cortisol, or adrenaline, which pushed up BG levels! Who’d have thought it! Backing down slightly to a moderate workout, this no longer happens.
Now, I fine-tune my exercise needs to fit with the balance of BG needs daily.
To avoid boredom, I mix strength or resistance training (very important as toned muscles vacuum up excess glucose carried in the blood due to being unable to enter the cells) with cardio, yoga, dance or hiking.
Often, things well beyond our control happen. How we respond is crucial. To strengthen my being able to let things go, or not ruminate on them, I stepped up my meditation practice.
My favorite advice on how long to sit is a Zen master, who when asked, replied “Sit for 10 or 15 minutes, unless you’re really busy. Then sit for an hour”. Perfect antidote for this ADD time we live in.
I reinforced the ritual around sitting daily, so it didn’t require a decision to be made each time. After choosing the time and place that works and keeping my cushion and bench there, I just “show up” as part of my morning routine. Once I settle in the familiar posture, immediately I notice my mind becomes calmer, more focused.
This results in increased concentration, a slower respiratory system (a feeling of being calmer), more deliberate chosen actions, less emotional reactivity, and better decision-making as patience kicks in. Any mental or physical agitation or restlessness dissipates, and I’m able to instead purposely move through tasks tending to each one effectively.
No more spinning, flitting ineffectively from one thing to another.
If a stress-inducing thought arrives in my mind, I internally respond by a “Not now” or “I’ll deal with that later”. It works well, until the stress builds up again. Repeat again and again until it becomes a ‘call and response’ automatically.
This is just a snippet of what’s worked for me. Perhaps it’ll inspire you to make some healthy changes by introducing new habits or items to your pantry. It’s by no means inclusive, just a taster…
I promised to share at the beginning the website of an amazing nutritionist, here’s where you can find amazingly healthy recipes and nutritional knowledge that won’t spike BG! What could be better…?
What’s worked for you? Can you share your own tips?