One of the first things the doctor who diagnosed me with Type 2 diabetes said was, “I’m sending you to a diabetes educator.” But I did not go.
Why should I learn about diabetes? I was going to beat this thing, lose weight, and leave it behind as fast as possible.
If you have read my story, you know that did not happen. I found out that the doctor was right. I needed to understand this condition. Here is why:
You need to know how Type 2 diabetes came into your life. Part of the answer lies in your genes, but another part lies in your lifestyle and decisions you have made.
By understanding insulin resistance, you will know what changes can make the biggest difference in reducing your risk of the complications of chronically high blood sugar.
When your pancreas was healthy, your beta cells responded quickly, sending out the right amount of insulin to deal with the carbohydrates you ate. When you exercised or went through something stressful, your liver released glucose, and insulin helped you use that extra boost of energy.
Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body requires extra insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels, either as a result of the liver producing too much glucose or the body’s tissues not efficiently using glucose from the blood. Although the exact causes of insulin resistance aren’t understood, scientists do know that obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary habits, and genes can promote the condition.
Beta cells send out extra insulin to overcome the resistance. They eventually become weaker, and some give up. Or they are genetically weak in the first place. Either way, glucose levels in the blood become elevated.
Now that you understand the problem, you see what you can do to help your body cope with Type 2 diabetes. First, you can change how often you eat. I know many people who get most of their daily calories in one big meal a day.
It puts stress on your pancreas to eat most of your calories in one meal. Spread those calories out into three meals plus a snack or two, and your pancreas does not have to work so hard. This helps even out blood sugar with fewer blood glucose spikes and drops.
Next, you can change the type of carbohydrate you eat. White bread, white rice, sweet cereals, fried things coated with flour, the fast foods we depend on to fuel our fast-paced lives — they all need to be replaced.
These high-glycemic foods have substitutes. Choosing to eat low-glycemic carbohydrates makes a huge difference in how much insulin your body needs. You can find lists of these low-glycemic foods online and in those helpful magazines at the doctor’s office.
Last, you can change how you feel about exercise. You do not have to exercise for hours on end or buy expensive equipment, so do not let those portrayals discourage you. Doing something active several times a day may be enough to reverse the damage done by a sedentary life.
Walk as much as you can. Do some strength exercises to build up your muscles. This will raise your metabolism. The more muscle you have, the easier weight loss becomes, and the lower the insulin resistance.
Keep it simple, and do things that are convenient for you. This is the best way to ensure you will actually take time to exercise. It is the repetition that will change you. If it is too complicated or difficult, you will probably find excuses to skip exercise.
Type 2 diabetes has already changed your life. For example, you use a glucose monitor, go to an eye doctor every year, and see a diabetes doctor, or endocrinologist, every three to six months. You get blood tests often, and you have annual visits with a podiatrist.
So educate yourself about your condition. It will help you avoid the terrible complications that can come with Type 2 diabetes. It may also help you avoid medications and beat insulin resistance.
You have to be vigilant: Type 2 diabetes is a sneaky beast that creeps up silently. Know your enemy so you can fight.