4 common mistakes diabetics make

Retaining a balanced diet and controlling weight is a challenge for most of us.  Even more so for diabetics who require a strict and specific diet that is customised to their individual needs to manage their disease. 

 

The majority of diabetics (type 2) suffer from excess weight and many studies have shown that losing weight, subject to medical guidance, can help reduce blood sugar and the accumulating damage to the body as a result of the disease. 

Battling diabetes and excess weight is often difficult and experienced differently by individual patients.  We say that it takes two to tango, but in the case of diabetes three is the magic number.  Adequate diet, regular physical activity and medical treatment that is tailor-made to the specific needs of each patient, taking into account their weight, body composition, additional medical conditions and lifestyle.

There are 4 common mistakes that diabetics make.  I hope that by bringing them to your attention you will try to avoid them, whether you’re a diabetic, a carer or a concerned relative.

1. Being passive – You need to take responsibility of your condition.  Many diabetics think that it is enough to make the occasional visit to the clinic and leave the responsibility to the medical professionals.  However, your medical team is not with you 99.9% of the time, and therefore no one knows better than yourself what are you eating habits, the nature of your condition, your ability to take control of your condition etc.  You must get involved in managing your disease and not hesitate to ask the medical team any question that pops into your mind.  So if for example you are not convinced that the current treatment is doing you any good, or you’re not managing to lose any weight, you must accept it as a given and you should discuss it along with any concerns you might have about side effects with your medical team.

Be assured that there are suitable treatments for every lifestyle taking into account the type of medication, frequency and manner of application.Your objective should be to find, together with your medical team, a treatment that suits you and that is as little as possible disruptive to your way of life.Diabetes is a chronic disease and therefore it is for the ‘long-haul’.Which means that it is crucial to find the right combination of treatments for each individual patient to ensure less disruptions to their everyday lives.One of the mistakes which are encountered often when there’s an adjustment to the treatment is asking ‘how quickly can I see changes’, or ‘how soon will I feel better’? – a treatment that will rapidly reduce blood sugar levels is worth considering, however, we should also take into account how effective is the treatment likely to be over time.Therefore it is likely that a preference will be given to a treatment that is scientifically proven to be effective in the long run.

Thanks to recent developments in medical science, there are new effective treatments such as GLP-1 and SGLT2 which can also help reduce weight.

2. Giving too much attention to the voice in your headit’s true that any change starts in the mind, and often diabetics give up too quickly on changing their lifestyle and controlling their disease.  The trick is not to expect too much too quickly and not to be too hard on yourselves. It took time for your disease and your weight to get to where it is. Similarly you need to get used to the fact that it’s going to take time to reach your medical objective and get your diabetes and weight to your desired state.  Set-backs and crisis points are also likely occurrences in any process of change and this is something that you should take into account and get ready to deal with.  Remember that everyone gets off-target from time to time and you should not be too quick to pass judgement (on yourself).  If you want to be successful in achieving your objectives, the correct way should be making gradual changes using SMART criteria.

3. Bad choice of food and skipping meals one of the most common mistakes made by diabetics is to adopt ‘fad diets’ which are not suitable for diabetics (and often not suitable for anyone). For efficient and effective management of diabetes you must consult a nutritionist.  Another common mistake is skipping breakfast. This can be critical when you are diabetic.  Current studies show that blood sugar levels, in diabetics who skipped breakfast, were 40% higher compared with those who had breakfast.  These were measured throughout the day (including in the afternoon and in the evenings).  This is due to the fact that after a long night sleep the body doesn’t receive the energy it requires to sustain itself (from food) and it releases sugar into the blood which often raises blood sugar levels significantly. If you skip breakfast, that period of ‘fasting’ get lengthened and more sugar will be released into the blood.

Despite the fact that it might be considered trendy to drink large quantities of juice for breakfast, these often contain large quantities of carbohydrates and calories.  This is likely to cause a surge in blood sugar level to a diabetic.  A better choice would be whole foods and less ‘diet’ food.  A recommended breakfast is rich in fibre and whole grain (which helps feeling full without increasing blood sugar levels) such as low fat yogurt with oatmeal and fresh fruit.  A good portion of proteins is also essential (such as a handful of nuts, slice of cheese, avocado or egg yolk).

4. Overtraining What we eat is the most important factor in our weight loss. However, physical exercise is also a major contributor.  Many type 2 diabetics successfully manage their disease through a good combination of diet and exercise. This helps retaining adequate blood sugar levels as well as reduce the risk of the disease development and any accompanying complications.  However, amongst those who train regularly there is often a common mistake of exercising infrequently for too long and too intensively.  Correct exercise routine should consist of 3-4 weekly sessions each lasting between 40-60 minutes. The level of intensity should take into account individual fitness, physical conditions and any limiting factors. 

You must ‘listen’ very attentively to your body. Diabetics are prone to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Drop in blood sugar level can be triggered by high intensity exercise and therefore it is recommended you have an energy bar or a fruit within reach whilst exercising. 

The recommended intensity is moderate aerobic activity such as cycling and walking.If you’ve been inactive for a long period of time, you should start gradually and not be tempted to exert yourself.If you over-train, not only that you’re exposing yourself to possible damage but it may also cause you go give up quickly.Another common mistake is exercising solo.From a psychological perspective, it is easier to give up when you are alone.Exercising with a friend or a group not only serves as motivation to proceed but is also fun and can be entertaining.

Diabetes is a very complex and challenging disease and solutions that might be suitable for one patient can be inadequate for another.It is impossible to manage diabetes successfully without the occasional setbacks or mistakes.Remember that since no one is immune from making mistakes, it is vital to consult a physician or a nutritionist on any question you might have.

 

As always, you are welcome to for help with any question or inquiry you might have regarding your condition.If you find this information helpful or know someone who might benefit from it, please share.