Guest Blogger: Christel Oerum
Christel is a Los Angeles based speaker, writer, diabetes coach, and diabetes advocate. She has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1997 and at an early stage decided that it wasn’t going to slow her down. Her motto is “There is Nothing You Can’t do With Diabetes”. She writes about how to be Fit With Diabetes on DiabetesStrong.com and great food on DiabeticFoodie.com. She also coaches people with diabetes from across the globe, online and in-person, and supports them in meeting their health and fitness goals.
We all know that exercise and a healthy well-balanced diet is good for us, but they often end up being pushed down to be a second or third priority in our busy lives. They’re like so many other “should do” items on our list — just not mentally important enough to be a priority.
But what if I told you that by making exercise and diet a priority, your diabetes management would become easier?
Starting out with exercise and a healthy diet doesn’t have to be expensive, time consuming, or out of reach. In this post, I’ll give you some great reasons to make it a priority, especially if you’re living with diabetes, and give my advice on how to easily incorporate it into a busy lifestyle.
Why spending time on exercise and nutrition is worth the effort
Exercise is nothing short of fantastic to relieve stress, support weight management, and improve overall health as well as insulin sensitivity. Yep you read that right — exercise can ultimately support your daily diabetes management.
Combined with a balanced diet (meaning you don’t cut out whole food groups but eat primarily “real” unprocessed food in moderate amounts), exercise can be a huge part of your diabetes management toolbox. My experience, from living with type 1 diabetes myself and supporting people with diabetes from around the world, is that taking up exercise and a balanced diet can get people off the blood sugar roller coaster, leaving them feeling energetic and in charge when it comes to their diabetes management.
What’s the right type of exercise and diet?
My perspective is that exercise doesn’t have to happen in a gym and it doesn’t even have to be a specific form for exercise to be beneficial. Do what you enjoy and do it where and when it suits you.
So if you enjoy jogging or walking around your neighborhood, then that’s what you do. If you live a place with unpleasant outdoor temperatures, you can easily exercise at home. You can find plenty of resources online with a simple Google search, or use one of my cardio or strength training videos.
Basically, what’s important is that you get moving and challenge yourself. Try out a few different types of exercise until you find something that you enjoy. Doing spinning just because your friends like it while you hate it (me too) won’t make you stick with it and you definitely won’t make time for it.
The same thing applies to your diet. You have to find the diet that fits your taste buds and your lifestyle. Most of the branded diets (Paleo, Atkins, Whole30, etc.) are OK diets, but people fail on them because they are too restrictive or require too many exotic ingredients. I’d rather you grocery shop in the produce aisle, choose what’s in season or on sale and cook for yourself. That way you know what’s on your plate and you can spice and season it to your own liking.
How to fit it all into a busy lifestyle?
One of the things we people living with diabetes have to be good at is planning, and incorporating exercise and a healthy diet into your lifestyle is just an expansion of that skill set.
For exercise, find the time that works best for you. Maybe it’s in the morning when the rest of the household is still asleep (this is also the time of day when you are least likely to experience an exercise induced low blood sugar), during your lunch break, or before bed. Be realistic on when it works for you and schedule it as an appointment in your calendar. Then treat that appointment as a meeting with your boss. You wouldn’t be late or not show up to a meeting with your boss, would you?
Planning is also the way to go when it comes to your diet. With a little planning, you can easily cook most of your family’s meals for the whole week in a relatively short time. Plan your menu for the week, cook large batches and freeze when needed. Even items like rice can be pre-cooked and stored in the fridge for days. If you need inspiration, I have a plenty of meal plans to choose from on TheFitBlog.
If new routines are to become habits, they require time and a little effort. Change can be hard, and it might take a little time to make exercise and healthy food an integrated part of your daily routine. My advice is to make small adjustments to your lifestyle over time, do what you enjoy, and the new routines will become habits.