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The Role of Healthy Eating in Diabetic Self-Care

“The majority of patients with diabetes can significantly reduce the chances of developing long-term complications by improving self-care activities.”

This is a quote from the article The Role of Self-care in Management of Diabetes Mellitus published in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders .

This statement should be taken seriously by every individual suffering from diabetes as it holds the key to making their illness manageable. This article focuses on the role of healthy eating as an aspect of diabetic self-care.

Grilled summer vegetables

When someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, one of the first questions he/she may ask is “what can I eat?” Some well-meaning friend or relative may say, “cut out all carbs,” or, “don’t eat meat.” According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), there is no “magic diet” for diabetes. However, the ADA does recommend that you eat more non-starchy vegetables than starchy ones.

Why are carbs so important?

Most of us eat meals that are loaded with starchy carbs. Think of your breakfast foods – toast, bagel, muffins, pancakes — and your lunch —burgers and fries, rice, potatoes, pasta — and you get the picture. Carbs are important because they provide your body with energy. There are three main types of carbs — starches, sugar, and fiber.

Foods containing non-starchy carbs

These are whole, unprocessed, non-starchy vegetables. Lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes and green beans have a lot of fiber and very little carbohydrate, which results in a smaller impact on your blood sugar. If you are using the plate method, this will form the largest division of your plate.

Foods containing starchy carbs

These are your starchy carbohydrates and include whole grain bread, pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin and plantains; fruits such as apples, blueberries, strawberries, and cantaloupe; and beans and lentils such as black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and green lentils. If you are using the Plate method, these would occupy about a quarter of your plate.

Highly processed carbs

These are the ones the ADA recommends you use sparingly. They are refined, highly processed carbs such as white bread, white rice, cakes, candy, and cookies; sugary drinks, sugary cereal, candy, and chips.

What happens to carbs in your body

When you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into sugar or glucose to be used by your cells for energy. Your pancreas then releases insulin to help your cells convert the sugar into energy, but if your body is not managing your insulin well, then the excess sugar ends up in your bloodstream. High blood sugar is called hyperglycemia; low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia.

How the Diabetes Plate Method helps you control carbs

A registered dietitian can help you plan your meals so that you get a healthy balance of carbs or starches, but if you are not working with a dietitian, you can use the Diabetes Plate Method to help you stick to a reasonable amount of starchy vegetables. The amount of carbs you need is determined by your size and activity level, which we will talk about in the next post.

Remember, there is no magic diet if you are suffering from diabetes. Many times your body will tell you if you have eaten something that was not right for you. By following the Plate Method of healthy eating you should be able to master this aspect of your self-care and be well on your way to controlling your diabetes.

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can send your life into a tailspin. It can leave you feeling alone and overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to. Join my type 2 diabetes network group and get the help and support you need.

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How The Lack of Self-Care Leads To Unhappiness

Self-care, as the name implies, means taking care of yourself — your mind, body, and spirit. Illness, lack of time, and overwork can cause you to neglect self-care, and in so doing, it can lead to unhappiness. You may have a family to look after in addition to a full time job, and these things make it almost impossible to make time for self-care, but for your own happiness and that of those around you, you need to factor in time in your busy schedule for some self-care. Let’s look at the different ways that lack of self-care leads to unhappiness.

  1. You feel stressed and exhausted. When you aren’t taking care of yourself, you’ll often feel stressed and exhausted. This in turn can lead to burnout and a feeling of resentment. For example, it could be that you are exhausted from taking care of everyone else’s needs. Over time, if you don’t factor in self-care, you could end up resenting your loved ones. When you are constantly exhausted and stressed out, it’s impossible to maintain a positive outlook. Self-care helps to combat stress and it also boosts your energy levels.

2. Personal hygiene suffers. Neglecting your self-care can cause your personal hygiene to suffer. If you’re constantly rushing around with little time for a bath or shower, or time to visit your hairdresser, or get a manicure or pedicure, not only will your hygiene suffer you will not look your best and others may feel uncomfortable around you. The trouble is, failing to take care of yourself leads you to feel even worse. So, maintaining self-care is crucial for your mental health and personal hygiene.

3. You can gain weight. It might surprise you to know that lack of self-care can also lead to weight gain. How, you ask? Constant rushing around without having time to sit down to a decent meal can cause you to indulge in junk food, which can lead to feelings of guilt, which can lead to more bingeing for comfort. You may also turn to alcohol, which also causes weight gain, and as you gain weight, you begin to feel unhappy.

Lack of self-care can lead to a vicious cycle of poor hygiene, stress and exhaustion, and weight gain, all of which lead to unhappiness. In my next post, I will talk some more about the importance of self-care and how you can get your life into proper balance so you don’t neglect self-care.

Do you find yourself neglecting some aspects of your self-care? What steps have you taken to try to correct this? Leave a comment in the box below, If you suffer from diabetes or are taking care of someone who has diabetes, I invite you to join my Type 2 Diabetes Network group by clicking on this link.

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can send your life into a tailspin. It can leave you feeling alone and overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to. Join my type 2 diabetes network group and get the help and support you need.