Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

Before being told that I was pre-diabetic, I never gave a second thought to what the risk factors might be. In my mind, I was still fairly young and fit, and worrying about diabetes was the furthest thing from my mind. That diagnosis meant taking a crash course in learning what exactly type 2 diabetes was, and how I could prevent it...

I was involved with an online discussion today about what some of the causes of type 2 are, and was reminded how many misconceptions are out there. One person was asserting that the only thing that mattered in prevention of type 2 was eliminating virtually all sugars, starches, and carbohydrates from your diet. According to them, even whole grains were the enemy, and would contribute to blood glucose level spikes. Therefore, they suggested that everyone eat a highly restrictive low-carb diet, even to the point of eliminating complex carbohydrates -- something that goes a little too far, in my opinion .

I couldn't be too judgmental about that viewpoint, though; as it wasn't long ago that I believed the same thing -- I thought that all I had to do was cut out carbs and everything would be OK. Well, it turns out that there's more to it than just that. 

First, let's look at what type 2 diabetes is: Facts About Type 2

With type 2, either your body doesn't produce enough insulin on its own, or your body's cells ignore the insulin. When you eat starches and sugars, your body breaks them down into glucose, which is a basic fuel for the cells of your body. Insulin moves the glucose from the blood into the cells. If you aren't producing enough insulin on your own, or your body's cells are stressed to the point that they resist the insulin altogether, then you end up with excess glucose levels in your blood.

As noted in the link, having too much glucose in the blood can starve your cells for energy, and over time high glucose levels may harm your eyes, heart, kidneys, and nerves.

So, what exactly causes type 2 diabetes? Well, there are a number of risk factors involved, so it's difficult to say that any one thing causes it. The main risk factors include family history of type 2 diabetes, ethnicity (blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, or Asian Americans), body weight (obesity), low activity level, and age (40-45 and older). 

Notice that carbohydrate intake is not part of that list. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't watch the amount of sugar you ingest, because obesity is still a major risk factor, and there are a lot of calories in simple sugars -- and if you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.

It's obvious that there is a lot of misinformation out there about type 2, so the American Diabetes Association was nice enough to put together a fact sheet listing many myths about diabetes: Diabetes Myths

If you are concerned that you may be at risk for type 2 diabetes, the ADA also has a Risk Test that you can take. I took the test based on my current weight and activity level, and it put me at "low risk". But when I went back and entered my formerly obese weight and lower activity level into the test, it told me I was "high risk".

If you have more than one of the risk factors, and the risk test places you in the "high risk" range, it isn't too late to reverse the trend. Eat a balanced diet. Exercise. Burn more calories than you take in. Type 2 Diabetes doesn't have to be something that "happens to you" -- you can choose to make sure that you beat it before it beats you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Glutton Free Dessert

There's nothing that says eating a healthy diet has to be bland and boring. In fact, based on my own experience, an eating plan that doesn't allow any sort of fun is not going to be effective in the long run because it will soon grow tiresome.

It was not long ago that I [mistakenly] thought that I despised dark chocolate, but maybe that was because I just hadn't tried any good stuff. But after being told that I was "pre-diabetic", I knew I had to make a change, and Google searches indicated the lower sugar content in dark chocolate (when compared to milk chocolate) made it a reasonable dessert option for me.

Finally, I gave in and bought a Ghirardelli variety pack that included small squares of both 60% and 72% cacao, as well as truffle filled and salted caramel squares. Immediately I noticed complex flavors with both of the dark chocolate varieties, something I never got with milk chocolate.

What I was even more excited about was the calorie count. At 50 to 60 calories per square, I could eat two squares for dessert and get some intense chocolate flavor, all at a fraction of the calories present in a bowl of ice cream or a stack of chocolate chip cookies. On days when I didn't have many calories left, I could just eat one square.

I found during the summer months that fresh fruit made a great accompaniment to the dark chocolate -- strawberries, peaches, mangoes, etc; they were all good. Or, if I have been really good, a dark chocolate square set atop a small piece of brownie and microwaved for a few seconds is absolutely divine.

I had originally considered calling this blog "The Dark Chocolate Diet" before settling on "Glutton Free", because I felt that keeping some kind of dessert in my eating plan was so important to my successful results. This doesn't have to be all carrots and celery. You can, and should, have a little fun with it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I'll only run if...

You've probably heard people say, "I'll only run if something is chasing me". Well, I've got lots of things chasing me... obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, sleep apnea, etc., etc., etc.

There's no way I'm just going to sit on the couch and let it all catch me.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

One Goal Reached - Now What?

In my very first blog post, "What is The Glutton Free Diet?", I stated that my goal was to lose weight until I made it down to 185 or 190 lbs. Well, I weighed in at 189 lbs. yesterday morning, so where do I go from here? My wife tells me that I can stop losing weight anytime now, but now that I'm rolling with this fitness plan, I don't want to stop.

First and foremost in my mind is how difficult it is to maintain healthy eating habits and an outdoor exercise routine when the weather outside is frightful. My track record over past winters is poor at best, with last winter being the best I've done in recent history -- I came out in the spring at about the same weight I started at in the fall. So that means I can't really relax yet.

The way I see it, I have about seven weeks until the days really start to shorten up, so I need to make hay while the sun shines. I also need to maintain a healthy diet to continue combating high blood sugar and high cholesterol, so the only thing I could do on the food front is bump up my caloric intake a little -- but without allowing things like French fries and big bowls of ice cream to creep back into my diet.

So in essence, nothing changes... yet. I can relax a little when it comes to how many calories I take in, but the basics remain the same:

  1. Excercise. Walk, run, ride bike, etc. Just get off the couch a couple times per week.
  2. Lower your sugar intake. No soda pop.
  3. Cut the simple carbs. Complex carbs are okay in moderation.
  4. Drink more water.
  5. Make smart food choices. Get a side salad instead of fries.
  6. Pay attention to your calorie intake. If you take in extra calories at lunch, eat less for dinner.
  7. Don't over-eat. Dish up small portions. Stop when you are full. 
If I weigh in at 185 lbs. when I go back to the doctor in April, I will be quite pleased.