By Elise Harboldt, RN, BSN
You’ll probably agree that getting started is the most difficult part of the change. Most of us have a long list of goals we’d like to accomplish. But for some reason, our dreams don’t always turn into realities. It’s difficult to turn intention into action.
That’s why I’m excited to introduce Restart Your Health. This power-packed, three-day plan will jumpstart your wellness journey and stage you for success. We’ve taken out the guesswork and created a simple way for you to start strong.
Believe it or not, most people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes can dramatically lower their blood sugar in less than three days. How? By following three simple keys to success.
Let’s take a closer look at each of your action items.
We promote diet and exercise changes that can rapidly lower blood sugar. You may need to lower your insulin or oral diabetes medication within just a day or two of starting. Many people who follow this program have discontinued all blood sugar meds within one to two weeks. This is great news! But it needs to be done safely and in collaboration with your healthcare team.
It’s impossible to know how quickly your blood sugar will drop since everyone is different. That’s why testing is critical. On the Restart Your Health plan, you must test your blood sugar before and after every meal. Your healthcare providers need this information to know what recommendations to make for adjusting your medications. Tracking your blood sugar will also help you learn how various foods are impacting your blood sugar.
The goal is eventually to get your blood sugar to:
Because this program is so effective, it can quickly lower your need for diabetes-related medications. That’s why the number one concern is to prevent dangerous drops in blood sugar. Checking blood sugar regularly will guide you and your medical team to adjust your medications and keep you safe.
Since low blood sugars are very dangerous, it would be better to err on the side of taking too little medication than too much. Since you are checking your blood sugar frequently, repeated high blood sugar at certain times of the day can easily be corrected after you have adjusted to the right diet and exercise strategies. Typically, insulin is adjusted by only about 10 percent every few days, but in an intensive lifestyle intervention program, insulin and oral medications may need to be adjusted dramatically by as much as 50 to 100 percent within days. This is all determined by your blood sugar response to the program.
Some people with type 2 diabetes are no longer able to produce adequate amounts of insulin. This occurs when the pancreas has been damaged over time from chronically high blood sugar. These individuals will have higher blood sugar and won’t require as rapid an adjustment in insulin and oral medications. However, they have a good chance of eventually reducing the amount of medication they need. More importantly, they will experience a much higher quality of health and greatly lower their risk of diabetes-related complications.
Remember, check your blood sugar frequently to stay healthy and safe!
Walk for 15 to 20 minutes after each meal.
You already know that healthy meals help control blood sugar. But did you know that what you do right after you eat also makes a big difference? After-meal exercise is one of the most powerful (yet little-known) strategies for diabetes reversal. But why is it so effective? Isn’t exercise healthy at any time of the day?
It’s very important to minimize after-meal blood sugar spikes, and that’s where exercise comes in. When you engage in light to moderate exercise right after your meal, your muscles become eager to accept the glucose you just ate.
You can potentially reduce your after-meal blood sugar spike by 1 to 3 points for every minute you exercise after a meal. For example, if your after-meal blood sugar usually spikes to 200, you could potentially prevent that spike and lower it to somewhere between 140 and 180 by simply taking a 20-minute walk right after eating. It doesn’t take long for the benefits to add up and show in your hemoglobin A1c results.
One study from the Mayo Clinic found that diabetics have significantly lower blood sugar four and a half hours after a meal if they go for a walk right after eating.
After-meal exercise is powerful. It improves blood sugar, lowers triglycerides, helps control weight, aids in digestion, and prevents the awful feeling of a food coma. After-meal exercise is a valuable tool for battling diabetes and optimizing wellness.
So why not start today? Get some light exercise after each meal. Just stand up and go for a walk. You don’t need to change your clothes or work up a sweat. Keep it simple; 15 to 20 minutes is a great goal, but anything is better than nothing. You’ll notice a big difference when you move after your meals.
Once you’ve mastered after-meal exercise, you can build on it by adding 30 minutes or more of aerobic exercise, three to four times per week. This can be brisk walking, jogging, biking, or anything else that gets your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and your health celebrating.
If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can add a strength-training workout of 20 to 40 minutes, two to three times per week. Strengthening your muscles works wonders to help control your blood sugar.
Excerpted from Life and Health’s diabetic-friendly cookbook, From Plant to Plate: Diabetes Edition, available at lifeandhealth.org. Reprinted with permission
Green-Light Foods refer to fruits, vegetables, legumes, unprocessed whole grains, herbs and spices, and mushrooms