When losing weight, we often focus on how MUCH we eat. But WHAT we eat is just as important and not just for weight loss but also for health.
Last year, my dad (Mark) was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Within weeks he had overhauled his nutrition and exercise; within months he had established habits which will keep the diabetes at bay for rest of his life.
After reading my Facebook post about checking food labels, he contacted me with some thoughts.
Diabetes is a truly awful disease, but my dad has used it to learn more about the relationship his body has with food - how he responds to particular foods, combinations of foods and the timing of food. Although the diabetes will always be there, he's learnt how to control it.
Whatever our goals, weight loss, muscle gain, health... understanding our own body's relationship with food is essential to success.
At this point, it's important to be clear that if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, or you are concerned that you may have diabetes, it's important you contact a healthcare professional for advice and it may be necessary for you to see a registered dietician to help you bring the disease under control.
Here's Mark's experience:
I'm diabetic and in some ways I have been enabled by the condition. I'll try to explain what on earth could be enabling about diabetes!
The first enabler was the provision of a glucose meter. You may have seen people use them and anyone that knows me knows I'm a bit of an instrument geek. So when I first got my meter I would take a reading just before eating and two hours after eating. I then logged the results into a spreadsheet with notes regarding the food I had eaten. It did not take long for the following observations to be made:
Meat and Egg products from fast food restaurants cause my sugars to spike up to a dangerous level.
Some foods caused my blood sugars to go lower over the two hours between eating and testing. Foods such as bananas, apple and oranges. That seems counter intuitive does it not? They contain sugars don't they? They do but the body has to work hard to convert them.
Bread, Potato, and Rice are just plain bad! Well, thats a bit over the top so I'll explain. Most starchy foods have been over processed and they simply convert to sugar in a very short time once you eat them consequently loading my blood stream up with sugars. However, starches such as black rice, wild rice, sweet potatoes and full grain bread take longer to break down slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and consequently lowering my glucose reading 2 hours after a meal.
These days I do not eat at fast food chains but prefer to prepare and cook my food from original ingredients. I also read the labels! You can be surprised what some so-called healthy foods contain. I also steer clear of any food product that states it's low in fat which equals high in sugar. If I eat out, I choose restaurants that prepare their dishes from original products.
It is not difficult, just make your choices based on your goals which in my case is reducing the long-term damage that diabetes causes.
I think Mark would agree that his diet isn't 100% perfect 100% of the time, but that's not what's necessary. He also sets himself fitness goals to keep him on track; having completed the Dallas Half Marathon in December last year, he's signed up to complete it again.
You don't have to be diagnosed with a life-changing condition to improve your health. You also don't have to go to the lengths that Mark did checking your blood sugar levels; my dad's story reveals 3 simple steps that work:
- Understand what your goal is and arm yourself with the knowledge required to achieve it.
- Tune into your body's signals - take note of how food and exercise makes you feel, notice what makes you feel hungry, tired, low on energy and make the changes you need to feel satiated, satisfied and energised.
- Set your mind for success - work on nutrition and exercise habits over time. Making changes isn't the end point, it's the starting point; turn these changes into habits for long-term, sustainable success.
Turn your intentions into actions...
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