Wednesday, May 15, 2013

PreDiabetes and Me

This past February I was diagnosed as prediabetic, which is something that I never saw coming! Whilst researching on the subject, I've noticed that most websites are directed towards someone who is overweight, in their 50's and physically inactive. The first step in combating prediabetes/diabetes is to a) lose weight through diet and b) start exercising. I've found this frustrating because I don't need to lose weight; I'm 5'7 at 129lbs with a BMI of 20. I also exercise quite a lot, I get cranky when I don't sweat. So what have I been doing wrong?

Sometime last year I was experiencing a few of these symptoms and in January I decided to get checked out. I was surprised when my GP started probing me about diabetes in my family. Moi? They did a HbA1c test that measures your sugar levels over the past 2-3 months and a fasting glucose test that basically measures your glucose levels at a "resting state" without any food in the system. Both tests came back high. I initially was kind of worried, but assured myself that my high sugar state was a direct result of Thanksgiving, Christmas and my birthday. Denial, clearly.

The doctor decided to do a second round of tests a month later and I thought "right I'm gonna eat extra healthy between now and then." The tests came back with even higher readings than my first test. Damn! She said it boiled down to two things: genetics and diet. There is a history of diabetes in my family and I'm Latina, which means I'm prone to diabetes by default. Even if I adhere to a strict diabetic diet moving forward, I might develop Type 2 anyway. I met with a diabetic nurse and she gave me some great advice:

  • I should start following a diabetic diet and everyone should really
  • Carbs are good, but I need to monitor the kind I eat and how much I eat
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn should be treated like pasta on my plate
  • The Glycemic Index (GI) is a great guide to what carbs I should eat, limit, and avoid

Since then I've been reading so much about the subject, I've been drawing some interesting conclusions about my own lifestyle and some new facts:
  • Carbs are essential to a diabetic diet and should be part of every meal, but I wasn't sure how much was too much. I found this on Diabetes and Mindful Eating and realized that my meals have never been balanced this way:

  • Carbs should never be eaten alone and I do this all the time, especially at Breakfast and when snacking! Carbs cause your blood sugar levels to rise whereas fats and proteins have little to zero impact. So eating carbs with protein and fat will slow down the release of sugar into the blood. This is especially important if you want to eat a high GI carb as Livestrong explains. I love this snack idea by Wholefoods Market, the peanut butter (protein & good fat) helps counter balance the apple. Maybe leave out the chocolate chips.

  • Dried fruits and fruit juice are not the same as raw fruit. The sugar content is so concentrated that a little bit goes a long way. I always find that I can't just snack on a tablespoon or two of cranberries. I want to have a good handful, which is really bad.
  • Most fruits and vegetables are good and good for me so I don't need to worry too much. Potatoes, pumpkins, parsnips, watermelon (shocker, I know) and dates should be eaten with other food groups or once in a while.
  • And you know how recently I've been a big fan of gluten-free? Although GF grains like pure oats and quinoa are great; the gluten-free snacks, pasta and flour that I've been eating have been bad. Most of these products are made with rice, tapioca and potato flours that are low fiber and high GI, which sends my sugar levels soaring. I found this article on Livestrong to be helpful.
  • I don't have to give up chocolate and a few pieces of dark chocolate might be good for me. The best kind is extra dark like Green & Black's 85% and I love making a mocha with their sugar-free organic cocoa powder.

I've come to the conclusion that although I like to eat healthy most of the time, my diet has never really been balanced and has been carb heavy. I've always had a major sweet tooth so that doesn't help. It's been three months now since my doctor's appointment and I am slowly adopting the diabetic lifestyle. It's definitely a work in progress and hard, especially because I'm such a big foodie and have a big appetite. Also, I've always thought that if I overindulged that a hard gym session would make things okay. But that's not the case and I have to change some of my habits. It's so important especially because Hub and I will want to have babies soon and I'm at a risk of developing gestational diabetes and possibly becoming Type 2 diabetic after pregnancy. We are slowly making small changes and I've signed up for a Wholefoods cooking course, which is great for prediabetes and diabetes. Wish me luck!

(Top photo is a banana cream pie that I had for breakfast once. Probably washed it down with a cup of hot cocoa :(  Oops!)
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