Getting a new medical diagnosis can be a scary and emotional experience, especially if that diagnosis is Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes is so widespread that I'm sure you either have a friend or family member with this condition. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of misinformation about the cause of Diabetes, the "Diabetic Diet", and how best to manage your health.
Let me dispel a few myths for you:
Myth 1- Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar. False! It is a complex disease that involves insulin resistance where the body is not responding to the insulin secreted by the pancreas. Insulin resistance is multifactorial, meaning that a combination of your genetics or family history, weight, waist-to-hip ratio, physical activity, and certain lab values (mainly triglycerides and HDL) all come into play.
Myth 2- Carbohydrates are bad and shoudn’t be eaten by people with Diabetes. Not true! Carbohydrates are a type of food that are broken down and absorbed as glucose. Though many people know that desserts, bread, rice, and pasta are primarily "carbs", what they usually don't know is that fruit, starchy vegetables (like potatoes, corn, peas, and winter squashes), and dairy products also contain a lot of carbohydrate. Whole grains have perks like greater vitamin, mineral, and fiber content, but these too are carbohydrates. Remember, though, that all of these foods can be a healthy part of your meals.
Myth 3 - People with Diabetes have to follow a strict diet. Nope! The diet that is recommended is a healthy, balanced combination of the different food groups and is a great representation of how we all can plan our meals.
So, what should you do now that you have Type 2 Diabetes?
1 - Don't panic. Diabetes is absolutely manageable and may even be reversible.
2 - Don't let your diagnosis define you. You are not a "Diabetic". You are a person with Diabetes. This can change. Your health can improve. This is not a life sentence.
3 - Start making lifestyle changes. How you move and eat are two of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Start exercising. Find a form of physical activity that you enjoy and will want to continue, like walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, etc. Think of your meal as a plate. Fill half with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and the other quarter with a form of carbohydrate (like a piece of fruit, nonfat plain greek yogurt, or whole grain bread).
4- Pay attention to your body. Get more familiar with your body's signals that it needs food, water, rest, movement, and sleep and do your best to meet your needs. Practice mindfulness both in eating and in general. This will put you on the path to taking good care of yourself.
Taking this as a starting point, I also recommend that you work closely with your physician and registered dietitian as they can provide you individualized support and care. Let this be the beginning of a healthy journey.
Michaela Ballmann, MS, RD is enthusiastic about guilt-free eating, whole person care, and nourishing food. Her main interest is in getting people to love food, their bodies, and themselves. Michaela seeks to share the truth about nutrition and help restore you to what you once were–a healthy, whole human being. Connect with her through her podcast, blog, and nutrition counseling at Wholify.