I've learned so much about how to eat, exercise, sleep, and so much more through my diabetes experience. Even though some days the diabetes is a complete drag because I can't eat all the chocolate that I want, I've certainly learned a lot more healthy habits over time. Here are some things that I've learned that might help anyone out there who set a New Year's resolution to lose a little bit of weight in 2009:
1. Calories are everything. Too many calories are bad, it doesn't matter if the calories come from good foods or bad foods, low-fat or high-fat, low-carb or high-carb. Calories are calories are calories. Too much of them will add weight and add to high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and more. First things first, always check calories on packages and try to stay within a daily caloric intake by spacing out calorie intake evenly throughout the day - like strive to eat small amounts every 2-3 hours.
2. Lowering carbs almost always means lowering calories and fat. When you pick low carb foods, you are almost always picking foods with less calories and fat. Carbs can pack on calories faster than anything. And most foods that are lowest in carbs, such as vegetables, are also the lowest in calories and fat. Think of it this way, if you start a meal by eating a salad (and this salad could be as big as a dinner plate) including leafy lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cucumber, peppers, shredded cheese, a few crumbled bacon bits, and regular ranch or italian dressing, your stomach will already be mostly full but you've only eaten a small portion of calories, carbs, and fats. You will be surprised at how little you can eat after that, but you will be completely satisfied.
3. If you replace desserts with fruit, you will eventually lose the cravings for sugary sweet desserts and fruit will become completely satisfying. Most fruits are only slightly higher in carbs than vegetables (some exceptions such as mango, grapes and pears) and they are way lower in carbs than any cake, cookie or ice cream serving. You can get a fix for the sweet craving with a serving of fruit. And if the craving is still really strong afterwards, you can go ahead and eat one Dove chocolate and that should do the trick.
4. I believe processed foods that are packaged and labeled as low-carb and low-fat are a complete hoax. If the product claims"low-" something, it almost always means it's high in something else. Low-fat translates to high-carb, and vice versa. The flavor has to come from somewhere. In addition, you can get the false impression that you can eat more of the product because, afterall, it's low-something so eating more won't hurt you. False, false, false!
5. Drinking water really is the best. Water does all sorts of things, including help to lower blood sugar and making you feel more satisfied and full. I've actually confused hunger with thirst. Sometimes I think I'm hungry but turns out I'm only really thirsty. Drinking water first will tell me if it's hunger or thirst.
6. Getting creative by cutting carbs (and calories) out of things such as beverages, dressings, condiments, etc. really does add up. I've learned how to make really tasty beverages that are completely sugar-free and nearly calorie free. Anything less than 6 g of carbs per serving is considered a "free" food, which means you can eat these things with little or no impact to your blood sugar. It's like your body doesn't even recognize these things. I look for things to enhance my food or beverages that are 15 g or less per serving. I'm addicted to a great iced mocha recipe that's only 90 calories and 15 g of carbs compared to Starbuck's iced caffe mocha at 165 calories and 35 g of carbs (based on about 16 fl oz each). I've learned to enjoy all sorts of teas, black tea, flavored tea, green tea, hot tea, iced tea, and more. Tea is such an easy way to add flavor beyond water without adding a bunch of calories and carbs. There are so many amazing flavors out there and it's fun to try them all. I almost always add one packet of sweetener such as Equal or Splenda and it's just perfect for my taste and need for something sweet.
7. Just 30 minutes of exercise can do wonders. It lowers blood sugar levels super quick. If I've over-indulged during a meal, I know a brisk 30-minute walk will immediately lower my glucose.
8. Spacing out food during mealtime is best. Instead of eating a full dinner and then immediately following it up with dessert, if I wait about an hour or two before having dessert (fruit or very small serving of ice cream or cookie), I will eat less overall throughout the day because my stomach will feel full for a longer period of time.
9. And most importantly...like anything else in life food can be an addiction. Any time food takes the place of Jesus in my life, then it is an addiction and an idol. If I find myself running to food to celebrate, or to console my pains, or to relieve stress and anxiety, or because I'm bored, then I know I'm using food in the place of Jesus. Jesus is my all-in-all. I should run to him to celebrate by thanking him for my blessings. I should run to him with my pains and struggles because he alone can sustain me. I should turn to him with my burdens and anxieties because his yoke is light. Nothing else should take the place of Jesus. By putting food in it's proper perspective - calories for fuel for my body - then Jesus can also take the proper place in my life as my Everything. Here's a free, online Bible study that taught me how to feast at the Lord's Table and put food in it's proper place. Freedom from food and special diets is just that - Freedom!
I praise Jesus for my diabetes because it has taught me so much about being healthy and dedicating my body and health to the Lord. I've learned how to lean on him every day -and sometimes every moment - when food temptations want to take over. He has been faithful in setting me free from cravings that are unhealthy. I know I can talk to him about my temptations and he will guide me through. No matter how healthy I try to be and still struggle with diabetes and other illnesses, I've learned that this body is only temporary but my relationship with Jesus is eternal.
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