While it may seem contradictory to everything you read, consider this: Could your healthy habits be getting in your way?
You know what the doctors say…Healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise and eating nutritious foods, are essential for diabetes management. They can lead to weight loss, increased fitness levels, and lower A1C fasting blood glucose, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
But what if you’re eating healthy foods and exercising, but not seeing improvements? This could mean that some of the choices you’re making only sound like healthy habits.
Take a look at some of the habits you consider healthy…they may actually be sabotaging your efforts to manage your diabetes.
1. Eating Sugar-Free Foods
While choosing sugar-free versions of your favorite foods sounds logical, it’s not the green light you were hoping for.
As stated by Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, and author of the book Diabetes Weight Loss and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
“The absence of something — sugar, in this case — doesn’t signal that a food is wholesome or nutritious.”
Sugar-free foods can still have an effect on your blood sugar, because they may be loaded with sugar alcohols and other carbohydrates. (Read your food labels!)
Sugar alcohols include:
- and Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates.
➡ Sugar alcohols come from plant products such as fruits and berries.
➡ The carbohydrate in these plant products is altered through a chemical process.
Always count these carbs, and talk to a dietitian or diabetic educator about when the real deal would be better for you.
2. Eliminating All Fat
Not all fats are the same, and not all are harmful.
While you should limit saturated fats, and avoid trans fats, eating a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially those containing alpha-linolenic acid (ALA-an omega-3 fatty acid), can be protective for the heart, reducing the risk of developing heart disease and Atherosclerosis.
Recommended by the Harvard Medical School, ALA-rich foods include:
- Leafy vegetables
- Certain animal fats (particularly from grass-fed animals)
- Flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil.
So be smart about your fat choices.
➡ Opt for nuts instead of chips, avocado instead of cheese, peanut butter sandwiches instead of bologna, and olive oil instead of butter.
3. Skipping Snacks
While eliminating snacks from your diet may help you trim calories, cutting out all snacks isn’t the answer — smart snacking is.
- Snacks help you manage hunger and avoid bingeing at your next meal.
If you’re a frequent snacker, cut back to just one or two a day, and use these mini meals as a way to fill in nutrition gaps — extra vegetables or dairy, for example.
- Be sure to track the calories and carbs in every meal and snack. Do not skip this step!
4. Overdoing Exercise
Your body needs physical activity every day, but it doesn’t need to be pushed to the max without rest.
You’re more likely to get injured and suffer exercise burnout.
➡ Exercising too much can also lead to elevated blood sugar levels over time because it triggers the release of glucose-raising hormones like adrenaline, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
- Decreased performance
- Disinterest in exercise
- Mood changes
- Delayed recovery time
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Diminished appetite
- Fat gain. If you’ve lost weight but noticed an increase in body fat, you could be in the later stages of exercise overload. The body responds to prolonged stress by elevating levels of stress hormones, including cortisol. Over time this will lead to increased storage of adipose tissue (animal fat).
- Weakened immune system.
But…don’t use this as an excuse not to exercise at all…remember: Your body needs this, and it just will not function as it’s designed if you ignore exercise.
- To get what your body needs, vary your exercise routine by type and intensity.
- Treat yourself to a day of active recovery with a relaxing, easy walk or some gentle yoga.
5. Sleeping in on your days off (yep…sorry!)
Losing sleep, even for one night, can affect blood sugar control, and make the body more insulin-resistant. But experts don’t believe that people can recoup lost sleep with extra weekend snooze time on a consistent basis.
➡ Instead, try to get quality sleep every night to maintain more consistent blood sugar levels all the time.
➡ Keep in mind that having diabetes can lead to problems that prevent you from getting revitalizing sleep, such as insomnia or sleep apnea. If you have trouble falling and staying asleep, talk to your doctor.
6. Dropping Weight Fast
If you’re overweight, dropping pounds is important for managing diabetes, but so is how you approach dieting.
- Skip extreme dieting. It doesn’t last long, and the consequences are often harmful.
- Don’t rely on sheer willpower or opt for total deprivation, either.
Instead, focus on building smarter, more effective skills:
- Watch portion sizes, plan ahead with nutritious foods for easy-to-assemble meals, eat lots of low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, exercise, and read labels.
And…go easy on yourself.
These behaviors will help you now, tomorrow, and all the years down the line. Diabetes is for life, but so are the choices you make in managing it.
7. Getting Pedicures
I’m sure this will not get me any popularity points, BUT…
While getting a pedicure can be relaxing, and taking care of your feet is especially important for diabetics, there are also associated risks.
- Stay away from the pedicure chair if you have an infection, ulcer, or cut on your foot.
- If you get any cut or opening in the skin during a pedicure, you’re at risk for an infection.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that you avoid pedicures if you have neuropathy, which can make it hard for you to feel a cut, or if you have an open sore.
- If that’s the case, choose a podiatrist instead for everything from clipping nails to removing calluses.
8. Eating Unlimited Amounts Of Fruit
If some fruit is good, lots must be better, right?
While fruit is rich in nutrients and very good for you, it should be eaten in moderation.
- Fruits are sources of carbohydrates, so you have to count them carefully and make sure you don’t go over your daily recommended intake.
Keep in mind that there are about 15 grams of carbohydrate in one medium-sized whole fruit, in ½ cup of frozen or canned fruit, and in ¾ to 1 cup of fresh fruit…
- Choose only fruits low on the Glycemic Index. See recommendations at the bottom of this page.
9. Doing this on your own
It’s hard to manage diabetes without support. This is a no-brainer.
- Be extra smart and ask for help in a positive and clear way.
- Don’t hint or beat around the bush.
Instead of saying, ‘If I had more time, I’d be able to take a walk after dinner,’ say, “ I’d appreciate it if you would clear the dinner dishes twice this week so I can take a walk after dinner.”
➡ Be assertive when it comes to meeting your needs in managing your diabetes.
➡ Be relentless in your attempts to get your blood sugar in control, or to maintain it at a safe level, always.
And, don’t forget to ask for help if and when you need it. Feel free to send me your questions by using the Get In Touch link on the top menu of any page.