We get a wake-up call to change the way we eat when we find out that we have diabetes. But then when we start looking for diet advice, we hear so many different voices that it’s almost worse than before.
Yet it’s worse to throw up your hands in despair and continue in the old ways. We can find a way out of the swamp of diet data and confusion. Within each of us is inner wisdom that our body has when we listen to it.
The Five Principles
When we listen to our body, we can hear the five principles that guide us to good health:
1. Does what we eat help us to manage our blood sugar level? Only when we get it down to normal can we minimize the risk of complications from diabetes. A normal A1C level, which is our average over the previous two or three months, is certainly 6.0 percent or less. When we check our sugar using a fingerstick test with our meter that’s the equivalent of an average of 126 mg/dl.
2. Do we eat too much to keep our weight right? The body mass index or BMI is the standard way we calculate it. This ratio of our weight to our height shows that a normal weight is 18.5 to 24.9. The best BMI calculator is the one developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The size of our waist also matters, and we reduce our risk of disease if it is less than 35 inches in women and less than 40 inches in men.
3. Do our meals help us keep our blood pressure normal? That cuts our risk of an heart disease, stroke, and more. Normal blood pressure is under 120/80. Losing weight is the most important step in reducing blood pressure. Cutting back on the amount of fructose we eat may help us to reduce our blood pressure. But some of us also need to cut back on the amount of salt that we eat.
4. Do our lipid levels look good? Our lipid tests measure our cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which help determine our risk of heart disease. The optimal LDL cholesterol level is less than 100 mg/dl, HDL cholesterol needs to be above 60 mg/dl, and a normal triglyceride level is below 150 mg/dl, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program. High blood pressure is a risk factor for high lipid levels. A recent study showed that a very low-carbohydrate diet improved these lipid levels.
After we fine-tune our diets, we can also work to improve other levels. These include adequate vitamin D, how much fructose we eat, and the right ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats.
5. How do we feel when we finish a meal? If we are still hungry 15 minutes after finishing a meal, maybe we need more. More likely, however, is that we ate wheat or other grain, which is addicting. If we are bloated then, we ate too much.
It’s Our Call
Our diet is no exception to the fundamental advice about controlling our diabetes: it is a disease that, perhaps more than any other, depends much more on the patient than on the doctor. The ball is in our court.
All of us are different. If our diet fails any one of these tests, we have to stay alert to the need to make a course correction.
No one but you knows which diet is best for you. Nutrition is an emerging science, one that even now is coming out of the dark ages of opinion. Each of us has to decide for herself or himself what foods will help us to control our diabetes and indeed our health in general.
The best approach and the one I follow myself is to read and digest the recommendations of the experts. And then measure them against your individual experience.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.
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yes I am in two twelve-step programs. One is Al-Anon and one is Overeaters Anonymous. With the principles used in those programs which are the same principles, I am able to live a healthier life in all ways. I look forward to your upcoming article on the 12 steps and a healthy lifestyle.
Good for you, Jane. You will be interested in my upcoming article about yet another 12-step program for weight management.
I like the 5 principles of this post. However one of the things that is paramount in my own life is a higher power which guides me; not in the specifics necessarily but that keeps my focus on myself. So that I am understanding each day the importance of maintaining a healthy body as defined by by the numerous resources I choose to avail myself of.
For me, my tendencies earlier in life would have been to capitulate to the various cultural ideas that are prevalent around me. Also, my ego continually gets in the way in the internal voices that say “why can’t I have dessert”? Or “life isn’t fair why do they get to eat what they eat and I don’t”?
Today, since I have found my higher power it is easier to maintain a healthy eating plan and positive outlook on life. When I can see through the advertising for food that is not healthy for me I have a better chance at using the principles you stated to continue on the path of my choosing. Prior to this my typical behavior would have been to eat ice cream or what have you when my emotions took over. I’m only speaking from my experience, but I truly believe that the soul, mind, body connection is really important for my life.
Again this is just my experience but I have found that I cannot do this on my own. With all the help of educated people I still need a higher power that will do for me what I cannot do for myself.
This is the basis of all 12 step programs, Jane. And in fact I just finished a draft on an article that I think will be important on one such program for food addicts.