You’ve been Warned: It’s Prediabetes, What Now?
Diabetes is a chronic lifestyle disease where blood glucose (sugar) levels are elevated, but not enough to be full-blown diabetes. A number of different things conspire together to create this condition, like insulin resistance, obesity-induced inflammation, age, genetics and of course, most of all diet and exercise habits.
So you’ve been warned. You are in danger of becoming diabetic. Your doctor says you need to clean up your diet, exercise and lose weight immediately to prevent a worse diagnosis.
In the words of Florida Evans, Damn, Damn! DAAY-UM!!!!!!
All right, now that you got that out, let’s get your life together. First, look at the bright side. You do NOT have type 2 diabetes now. Yes, it’s possible but not inevitable. In fact, it won’t take some earth shatteringly soul-sucking diet and exercise regimes. Just a few modifications will get you back on track. Of the risk factors I mentioned earlier, you have the most control of your eating, exercise habits, and weight. And that’s some good news!
Now you have the perfect chance to put a screeching halt to this snowball before it goes barreling downhill into something much, much worse.
By the way, did you know that just losing and as little as 5% – 7% of your body weight and maintaining it drastically reduces your risk of EVER becoming diabetic? That’s only 10 – 14 lbs on a 200 lb person. Come on, that’s a picnic in the park.
You’ll most likely need to lose some weight because being overweight or obese has a close relationship with diabetes.
Further, these lifestyle changes have a double benefit: losing the fat that secretes hormones and inflammatory substances that damage the insulin producing cells; and alleviate elevation and wild fluctuations in blood glucose levels in the first place all by just improving your lifestyle! And here’s the bonus. You’ll be preventing heart disease, hypertension and heart disease at the same time.
So what are these improvements? I like to think of the necessary healthy eating and movement changes for losing that weight and preventing diabetes as being more like refinements than punishments or disruptions.
Yes, I said refinements. Because basically you’ll be eating higher quality food.
By quality food I mean:
- so tasty it’s incredibly satisfying instead of hopelessly addicting ,
- devoid of useless ingredients that become harmful at high levels,
- don’t weigh you down and make you feel sluggish for days on end,
- make your skin and hair glow,
- aid in the natural healing and maintenance of a healthy body.
You’ll also be moving your body around more and look at the bright sides of that:
- less stiffness and fewer aches and pains,
- increased flexibility = lower chance of everyday injuries,
- expending energy makes you have more energy to burn overall,
- oh the FUN you can have!
But there’s WAY more to a healthy lifestyle than just diet and exercise. There are tens or hundreds of healthy habits that help you lose weight and reverse the risk of all chronic lifestyle diseases and they fit into these equally important categories:
- What you Eat
- Moving your body
- Pleasure and leisure
- Rest and sleep
Weight loss plans, diet systems, exercise programs always fail because they omit or don’t give enough attention to all of these five groups. They may be all about indoctrinating you to join some trendy nutriligion. Or they’re having you (quite literally) busting your ass doing exercise that feels like it’s killing you, all the while creating more harmful inflammation and risking injuries.
Some programs may touch on mindfulness but they rarely, if ever cover the topic in enough detail for it to make any difference at all.
There’s more to mindfulness than eating slowly. And pleasure? What’s that, in a healthy lifestyle? Yeah, it’s completely ignored and this has just as much importance as eating well and exercise. Some may make sure to tell you about getting rest, by getting sleep but that topic goes woefully untouched upon.
So, you read it right, almost all failures of weight loss and chronic disease prevention plans/programs/systems are due to the myopic, exclusive focus on diet and exercise and the lack of guidance or attention to mindfulness, pleasure and rest/leisure.
This is highly simplified. Ideally, most 70% or more of what you eat should be plant based, fresh, whole (vegetables, fruits, legumes nuts and seeds) but not grains or grain products. Animal products are fine as long as they’re not factory farmed, and watch the fat. Don’t worry with low-fat processed foods, just be aware of the fact that fat has more calories than carbs or proteins. Stay away from vegetable and seed oils, and instead use olive oil, coconut oil and butter. Don’t worry that these are saturated fats. That myth was debunked.
Ignore the USDA food pyramid and MyPlate. Neither is conducive to preventing diabetes and obesity because they’re too heavy on the grain-based carbohydrates and too light on vegetables (which are low calorie and high nutrient). Keep in mind that food guides are just that, guides and not meant to be clinically followed to a T. They are something to keep in the background of your mind while you’re making conscious choices of what food to purchase and keep available for you to eat. And they must be flexible enough to accommodate individual tastes, skills, budget, sensitivities and health needs.
That said, my absolute favorite food pyramid is this one, created by Dr. Karl Nadolsky, Leaner Living:
And my close second (and similar), I like Mediterranean (North African and Southern European) because that’s my favorite type of cuisine and cooking.
But although it takes a lot of time and experiments, you have to figure out what’s right for you, which may not be the same as what’s right for me. (I can help with this process) Don’t go jumping on other people’s bandwagons because the last and most counter-productive thing would be to stress yourself out with what to eat.
Moving your Body
People overcomplicate this so badly that people think that exercise is an all or nothing proposition. Either drudge like a miserable beast with some boot camp or lunatic workout or some daily prescription out of a fashion magazine or just forget it and lie on the sofa all day eating bon-bons. Does anybody really eat bon-bons?
Just move around. Every day. Make it a priority and fit it in. You can do little things like taking stairs or walking more during your day but also find some thing that you just like to do for fun.
It does not need to be done in a gym. It does not need to be a sport. Keep your mind open and be creative. You would never believe how beneficial activities like gardening, hand dancing, (any dancing) trampoline jumping, playing…you get the picture.
One last thought. Strength training works wonders and will accelerate your positive effects. It doesn’t have to be pumping irons in a gym. Yoga, pilates, calisthenics and manual labor will all do the trick.
Before you skip this part because you think it’s a crock, hold on. The main reason mindfulness for health and weight loss programs fail is that they just don’t cover the topic completely. They dribble and drabble about how you can become the body whisperer and miraculously start craving wheatgrass and beet root pancakes instead of cheez curls and soda. Or instantaneously be able to judge exactly when you’ve had enough to eat.
Mindfulness may be made out to be this mystical, magical revelation that will change everything, in isolation from what to eat, movement, leisure and pleasure and sleep and rest. The truth is that mindfulness is just as important of those things however, it does not work all by itself.
Mindfulness works like a booster for everything else. It makes eating well, exercise and pleasure possible to incorporate instinctively into a healthy lifestyle without being strict and methodical about it. But learning this takes time and effort, but it’s nice and fun.
Now I have to leave it at that because this topic is so expansive it could take over this article. Just know that allowing mindfulness to work for your healthy lifestyle makes up the bulk of what I cover in most of my courses.
Pleasure and Leisure
This may sound crazified but pleasure and leisure have a real physiological effects on metabolism, which greatly influences digestion and your ability to lose weight or utilize blood glucose. Hormones produced by stress interfere directly with insulin resistance because your entire endocrine system is interconnected. Taking time to relax and rejuvenate on a regular basis is key to keeping hormones in balance.
“Pleasure catalyzes a relaxation response, and the same switch in your brain that turns on relaxation — the parasympathetic nervous system — also turns on full, healthy digestion and assimilation. Conversely, the same switch in your brain that turns on stress, anxiety and fear — the sympathetic nervous system — turns off digestion and assimilation. So, there is a direct biochemical connection between eating with pleasure and our digestion and long-term calorie-burning metabolism.” ~ Marc David
Rest and Sleep
First and foremost, the body needs sleep to repair and heal itself, which lowers your level of chronic inflammation, a major factor in obesity and insulin resistance because insulin resistance is actually an immune response.
Lack of sleep also disrupts hormonal balance. Specifically, it raises the stress hormone, cortisol; reduces appetite suppressing hormones; and inhibits fat burning muscle growth.
In addition, being fatigued hampers your ability to eat right because of cravings (your body trying to grasp at some energy) and of course, exercise, which is necessary to correct insulin resistance, and gain more energy.
This information is intended to inspire and empower you to get your life together (my teenage daughter’s catch-all phrase for self improvement).
The best part that I want you to take away from this is when you look at the conventional advice for weight loss and diabetes prevention there is a lot wrong. And those wrong things are what has likely held you back from getting to your desired health level for many years. The truth is living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t need to be nearly as dramatic as it’s made out to be.