We all know that having diabetes is “bad” but do you realize how bad it can get? Blindness, gaping wounds in your feet and lower legs that won’t heal, amputations, and kidney failure are just some of the long-term complications of diabetes.
Why do these things happen? Consider what happens when you spill juice on the counter – it’s sticky. Now imagine that “juice” is your blood. Sugary blood sticks to the walls of your blood vessels, especially the tiny capillaries in your feet, organs, and eyes. These areas can get clogged, resulting in poor circulation, and eventually, cell death. Yikes!
The thing is, it’s not like you eat one cookie and then your foot turns black overnight. For most people these complications take years to develop, making it harder for some people to see the benefits of controlling their diet and getting enough exercise. The instant gratification of doing whatever we want outweighs the long-term benefits of having some discipline.
The good news is that exercise and healthy eating can make a difference in controlling blood sugar (for everyone, not just those with diabetes!).
What should you eat?
Rely on real food such as vegetables, lean protein, complex carbohydrates, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds. Go easy on the fruit and dairy, as it is high in sugar. Drink water. Avoid artificial sweeteners and chemicals – they aren’t food.
What about exercise?
Well it depends greatly on your current activity level and what you like to do. If you are overweight, it may be easier (for now) to start with cycling or swimming than to take off running or playing tennis. As for weight training, start with 1-2 rounds of a full-body circuit using machines and light weights. Don’t be a hero. The biggest mistake people make when they are getting started is doing too much! If you can’t walk for 3 days after your workout, you’re probably not going to want to do it again.
As your fitness improves, you will find exercise easier and can make your fitness program more challenging (increase volume no more than 10%/week). The beginning will be hard but it will get easier! Write down what you do so that you can track your improvement – down the road you will be amazed at how far you’ve come 😉