Cutting back on fat in the diet is a worthwhile goal for many. But while Americans have gradually reduced their intake of fat as a percentage of their daily diet, the number of obese and overweight Americans has climbed. Part of the increase could be due to the widespread misperception that just eating fat-free foods is healthier and that fat is bad. But many low-fat foods became low-fat when their fat was replaced with carbohydrate, which still has calories. By eating more of a fat-free food, you may actually ingest more calories than if you had eaten less of the original product.
Lower-fat diets may decrease one’s risk for cardiovascular disease, but fat reduction alone is not sufficient to produce a healthy lifestyle. Some fat is necessary in the diet — in fact, there is some evidence that monounsaturated fats may be health-promoting — and reduced saturated fat and cholesterol intake must be part of an overall strategy that includes reducing your caloric intake and exercising.
Just as cutting out one food or type of food isn’t usually the answer, adding too much of a type of food can also cause problems. A diet that is too high in carbohydrate could threaten your blood glucose control. But a high-protein diet may also be a high-saturated-fat diet or may require you to take supplements to make up for the nutrients lost from your decreased intake of vegetables and fruits. While you don’t need a health professional to approve of every menu, it would likely be helpful to consult with a dietitian familiar with the special needs of people with diabetes to give you some guidelines as a framework, at least when you first design your diet.
Get your z’s
Bleary eyes and falling asleep at your desk are innocuous signs that you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. But they’re only the tip of the iceberg if you chronically miss out on enough sleep. Even occasional sleep deprivation can lead to impaired memory and concentration, traffic and workplace accidents, and mood changes. Studies show that a lack of sleep also affects various hormones in the body, including increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol and impairing the action of insulin. In some studies, not getting enough sleep led to short-term weight gain, which might lead to obesity and diabetes in the long-term.
Over half of Americans do not get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night. People’s sleep needs are different, but if you tend to fall asleep during monotonous or boring periods of the day, have problems with memory and concentration, or find yourself irritable, perhaps you need more sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, stop napping after 4 PM, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, start a relaxing prebedtime routine that includes getting into bed at the same time every night, examine and work to reduce some of the stress in your day, and assess if your sleep space is too bright or noisy. If you toss and turn for more than half an hour trying to get to sleep, get out of bed to read or relax until you become drowsy. If these simple tips are ineffective and insomnia is chronic, talk to your physician to see if he can offer additional advice, therapy options, or a referral to a sleep specialist.
Working exercise into your plan
From its diabetes-specific benefits of lowering blood glucose and helping insulin to work better to its more universal benefits of raising good cholesterol levels and reducing blood pressure, exercise is extremely beneficial. Some people with Type 2 diabetes are even able to manage their diabetes through a combination of diet and exercise alone. Regular exercise can also decrease your appetite, which can help you control your weight.
Exercise does not have to mean joining a gym. In fact, most of the National Weight Control Registry participants exercised at home or with a friend or group. Exercise can be as enjoyable as aerobic dancing, gardening, washing the car, swimming, or taking a walk. To help you get started with a regular exercise regimen, budget time for your exercise a week in advance so that you’re not scrambling to schedule time during the middle of a potentially hectic week. At the same time, have alternate times if your original plans go awry.