How Diabetes Saved My Life

My name is Laura, and I was a bread junkie. I loved any kind of bread. I also loved potatoes. And sodas. Basically, I used to eat pretty much what everyone eats: far too much fat, sugar and starchy foods. But when I was diagnosed with diabetes, all of that had to go. My doctor told me I’d have to drop 70 pounds to get healthy.

It was difficult news to hear, and I was overwhelmed at first. Since I struggle exercising due to excess weight and my autoimmune disease stressing my connective tissue, my weight loss would have to rely a lot on diet changes. You might wonder, “How can I possibly lose weight if I have trouble exercising?” Well, making healthier changes in my diet has helped me to get to a point where I could exercise. I’ve lost 55 pounds already, and I feel healthier and more energetic than I have in years.

How I Did It

The first step in my weight loss journey was learning about healthy foods and what I needed to eat to help my body heal. Since I’ve taught graduate research for years, it was a natural progression for me to add diabetes to my list of topics to find out more about.

A lot of my get-healthier journey, of course, ended up being trial and error, but it’s these three rules that helped me lose weight -- and can help you too, whether you’re diabetic or not: 

1.    Make healthy food lists

Making lists of what I should and should not eat was a difficult and slow process at first. But once I had it down, I could mix and match healthy foods for delicious meals that made me feel great afterward. 

2.    Read labels

I became meticulous about reading labels at the grocery store. I start with serving size to make sure I know how the nutritional info relates proportionally to the food. As a diabetic, I pay special attention to sugars and carbs, but I also watch out for high amounts of fat, cholesterol and sodium. Anything with a daily value below 5% I consider low while anything above 20% is high.

3.    Love complex carbs

I tested my blood sugar after every meal for over a year; if my blood sugar spiked, I didn’t eat that food again. I cut out simple starches, such as pasta and potatoes, and I only stuck with carbohydrate-dense, whole-grain foods.  

My Reward

By paying attention to what I was eating, my body adapted and my blood sugar dropped slowly and steadily over time. My new diet gave me the balance and energy I needed to lessen my troubles with exercise, allowing me to be more active than ever before. With my new changes in both diet and exercise, I’ve lost 55 pounds -- I only have 15 left to go! I've lost weight very slowly and hit plateaus along the way. My doc says that's good because it gives the body time to adjust to the gradual weight loss. I've been at a plateau for about four months, and now it's easier to get back to a weight loss of about 3 pounds per month. Sure, it's slow, but I was a yo-yo dieter for most of my adult life, and this gradual weight loss is working!

My blood sugar became easier to control thanks to the weight loss, and my levels are now in a healthy zone. I am taking medication but haven’t needed to go on insulin -- my doctor says that when I lose the last 15 pounds, I probably won’t need to take any drugs at all to manage my diabetes! Also, my joint issues aren’t progressing as much as they were, because I’m not carrying around all of that extra weight.

In general, I feel a lot better, and I have a ton more energy. And, strangely enough, I can thank my diagnosis for that: Finding out I had diabetes turned out to be not just a wakeup call, but also the motivation I needed to learn to live my best life ever!

Breakfast Got Me in the Mood for Weight Loss

I was unhappy about the way my jeans were fitting, which to me is the truest measure of where my weight is. When they feel tight, I know something needs to change. When my husband and I went on vacation a few years ago, I decided to tinker with what I ate for breakfast, since my typical habits and triggers would not have followed me there. I thought it would be easier to experiment with a new morning meal on vacation than it would be at home.

I went from eating a very starchy breakfast to a more balanced one (one that was high in fiber, omega-3s and low-fat dairy), and I ate it until I felt full. I realized that while asleep my body goes without water as well as food, so I began drinking a full glass of water along with my balanced breakfast. Healthy and hydrated, I started off my day feeling great.

Making tweaks to my breakfast ended up giving me the fuel to help make good choices. I had energy to get moving and exercise. My desire for starchy foods was replaced by a desire to feel good -- and to fit into my jeans, of course!

Breakfast is now my favorite meal of the day. My husband and I connect over breakfast, and we talk about and plan our day together. And now that we’ve both been motivated to eat right and exercise more, you bet we’re looking good, feeling great and fitting into our jeans. And we plan to keep it up. That’s why we start our day off right with a balanced breakfast, so when we encounter other temptations, we can convince ourselves not to break our healthy streak and keep on keeping on!

Do you eat enough fruit?

Don’t let a busy schedule stand between you and your daily servings of fruit. But there are so many to choose from. Which ones are best? That’s easy, they’re all good! If you eat many different types of fruits, you’re sure to get all the different types of nutrients you need. The American Heart Association recommends 3 to 4 serving of fruit per day, or 2 to 3 cups. And all fruit counts, even if it comes from a can.

When buying canned, dried or frozen fruit, be sure to compare food labels and choose the products with the lowest amount of sodium and added sugars.

Breakfast

  • Eat melon, grapefruit or other fruit.
  • Add bananas, raisins or berries to your cereal.
  • Drink a small (6-ounce) glass of real fruit juice and avoid sugary substitutes

Lunch

  • A fruit salad for lunch is always a healthy choice
  • Eat a bowl of vegetable soup. (Compare food labels and choose the product with the lowest amount of sodium you can find in your store, or make soup from scratch.)
  • Have a piece of fruit instead of chips or cottage cheese

Snacks

  • Keep raw or dried fruit handy
  • Carry dried fruit, such as raisins, dates or dried apricots, in your purse or pocket.
  • Have any type of fresh fruit: grapes, apple, banana, orange, kiwi, etc.
  • On hot days, munch on a bowl of frozen fruits like grapes or bananas.

Foods to Avoid for Weight Loss

Trying to slim down and nothing seems to be working? Try avoiding these food first.

1. Sugar-Free Ice Cream
Are you kidding? There is no such thing as ice cream that is good for you, or low-fat ice cream. It doesn't sound right when you say it because it isn't real. If you have a sweet tooth that take you hostage from time to time, try sorbet and a gluten-free cookie instead.

2. Guacamole
Avocados are a source of heart-healthy fats, but just one avocado can pack more than 300 calories and over half your daily allotment of fat! Eat no more than a quarter of an avocado per day (one or two dips) or skip it altogether and try a lower-calorie fresh salsa instead.

3. Salad Toppings
They taste so good and since you're having salad you trick yourself into thinking you're eating right, but you aren't if you're eating these fattening salad dressings and toppings. Keep your greens lean and healthy by topping them with grilled chicken, eggs and an assortment of seasonal veggies instead.

See our complete list of seven sneaky foods that can they can sabotage your waistline and derail your weigh loss goals.

 

Chocolate can be good for you

According to the Cleveland Clinic, chocolate (in moderation) is heart healthy. Before you run out to the store an load up on Haloween and Easter supplies, it is important to understand how and why, in moderation, chocolate can be beneficial to your health.

Chocolate has made its way onto the 'okat to eat' list recently because it is believed that it might help protect your cardiovascular system. The reasoning is flavonoids found in the cocoa bean is rich in a class of plant nutrients and toxins that can help repair damage to the heart. They can be found in a variety of foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and when we eat foods rich in flavonoids, it appears the body experiences a boost in antioxidants.

Antioxidants are believed to help the body's cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes, such as breathing, and from environmental contaminants, like cigarette smoke. If your body does not have enough antioxidants to combat the amount of oxidation that occurs, it can become damaged by free radicals. For example, an increase in oxidation can cause low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as "bad" cholesterol, to form plaque on the artery walls. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant benefits, research shows that flavanols can also improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less likely to clot.

What about all of the fat in chocolate?

You may be surprised to learn that chocolate isn’t as bad for you as once thought. The fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter and is made up of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. But Stearic and palmitic acids are forms of saturated fat, which are linked to increases in LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, so moderation is key. So sadly, you can't go out and eat all the chocolate you want. If you like dark chocolate, choose plain and avoid all of the other ingredients candy bar makers like to mix in, like caramel and marshmallows. A small piece of dark chocolate is okay once in a while, like 1 or 2 ounces

Here is our complete list of all six ways you can help get heart healthy.