A Ninjabetic Attitude

October 1, 2010 in Mediterranean, Nutrition, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

Vic, Dr. Grandpa, suggested the other day that it was time to write about diabetes again. So as I sat in front of the monitor for a while thinking: “How can we lighten up this subject?” What came to my mind is that this is really not that funny of a subject. It’s serious; though I must say, many people don’t seem to think it is very serious. So I found this little joke about diabetes, written by a young man with Type I diabetes. The bitter irony of the joke is funny; but the reality of the disease is not that funny, as I’ve said.

George Simmons, a Type I diabetic and funny man, has the following joke posted on his website: The B.A.D. Blog – The Born again Diabetic Blog.

Joke #1

A Diabetic walks into a bakery and asks the guy behind the counter, “Whatdaya got that is safe for diabetics?”

The Baker says, “Everything, as long as you don’t put it in your mouth.”

What I do like is that George Simmons, introduces himself as a husband, father, writer, and musician, before he mentions “type 1” …….. he ends his introduction of self with “Ninjabetic”.  I’m not quite clear what a “Ninjabetic” is but I like the sound of the term. To me, it sounds like someone that is not laying down and ignoring diabetes; he’ll attack it and fend off the complications. Good for you, George!

If you’ve been reading Dr. Grandma’s posts, you know that I’ve said before and I’ll say again, that we all should be eating a diet that is perfect for those with diabetes. A slightly different way of saying it is: “What’s perfect food for someone with diabetes is perfect for any of us, who don’t have it.” We should all be eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and less animal foods, processed foods, saturated fats, and trans fats. My shorthand for all those words is to consume a Mediterranean-style food pattern.

A relatively recent study from Leicester University in the UK, published in the British Medical Journal, analyzed pooled data from six studies examining links between fruit and vegetable consumption and type 2 diabetes – the researchers concluded that the consumption of green leafy vegetables is one way to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Other comments in the same issue of that same journal, say that persons with diabetes or prediabetes should concentrate on increasing their overall intake of fruits and vegetables in general – not only leafy green ones.

It seems that the message that diabetes and cardiovascular disease are intimately connected, is a message that has not really been well-understood in the general public. It appears that persons and family members worry more about other complications like amputations, loss of eyesight, and kidney disease. But the fact is that heart disease is escalated in persons with diabetes; it’s the number one disabling complication/cause of death. It looks as though the diabetic educators are now focusing on controlling blood pressure and blood lipids; especially LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff that clogs up arteries and other blood vessels); this is critical and good news.

Should you relax, not worry about the potential heart disease and other complications, if you only have prediabetes? Prediabetes is a term that means that your blood sugar is not high enough for a formal diagnosis of diabetes. It means just what it sounds like – it is a stage just before the formal diagnosis. There have been quite a few studies that have shown that a 5% to 7% loss of your body weight, plus 150 minutes a week (2 ½ hours) of physical activity can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes. It is certainly worth the effort to get the weight off.  If you weigh 200 pounds, that is only 10 to 14 pounds of weight loss, and 2 ½ hours of exercise; to yield a reprieve of a difficult and sometimes deadly disease. If you’re presently inactive, and think of the exercise as 5 days a week of a ½ hour walk, maybe it won’t sound unachievable.

The excess weight is really at the foundation of this dread disease; about 80% of those with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. The overweight/obesity epidemic is driving the diabetes epidemic. The excess weight is a vicious cycle; the excess weight causes insulin resistance; and the insulin resistance contributes to elevated blood pressure and elevated blood lipids; and ultimately diabetes.

The easiest and most successful way that I’ve ever managed weight is to do what Brian Wansink writes about in his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. He calls his version of portion control, the mindless margin. He’s done plenty of research that essentially shows that if you only cut about 200 calories a day, it won’t “ring the starvation alarm in your body’s metabolism.” That’s such powerful news, because you won’t have the commanding urge to ‘get food now’ to make up for what you were used to eating. After you’ve gotten your body adjusted to cutting the first 200 calories, for a month or two, then take the next 200 calories step. It really is a painless way of losing weight. Just cut your portions back from each meal and your body will not make you miserable, like so many of the ‘crash-style’ eating plans. In addition, if you’re changing to a Mediterranean-style of eating, you’ll also notice that those whole real foods will help you feel satisfied for fewer calories.

Back to George’s joke about the bakery - dietitians have been teaching that sweets can be part of a diabetic meal plan for a couple of decades. But hanging out at the bakery and/or choosing lots of sweets is honestly not optimally healthy. White flour products, processed cereals and mashed potatoes, for example, are equally bad as the sweets; I usually write more about an optimal way of eating. Certainly, if you have a small portion of sweets once in a while, it’s not going to be so bad; but in all honesty, it’s not a good choice to be having sugary desserts and drinks. Just remember The American Heart Association’s recommendation about sweets was not limited specifically to those with diabetes. (Limit sweets to 100 calories/day for women and 150 calories/day for men.) In addition, to the immediate concern of spiking blood sugar, the empty calories of bakery items also are generally loaded with saturated fats that add to the risk of the heart disease that we’re working so hard to prevent in diabetics.

My advice for someone with Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, is to take a good hard look at what your habits are now. Think about the changes that you can make. Seriously, some changes can be made with little to no pain. Start putting one foot in front of the other. Start walking as slowly as you need to, but do start walking. If you only go 5 minutes a day on the first week; that’s 35 minutes that you didn’t go on the week before.

When you do decide to have dessert, that is, dessert that is made with sugar, consider sharing it with someone else; or cutting it in 1/3 or 1/2 and share it; or freeze the other half. Now that there are such delicious, natural, zero-calorie options for sweeteners, if you want some sweetness, you don’t really need to rely on blood sugar spiking sweeteners, or on artificial sweeteners. So one thing is a little easier for those who strive to keep their blood sugar closer to level.

Make it a goal to begin changing your eating style to a Mediterranean-style – concentrating on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, very little meat (if you do eat meat), legumes and nuts, and as little processed foods as possible. Consider developing a ‘Ninjabetic attitude;’ be diligent working on new life-style habits before the complications of diabetes rob you of a full, healthy life.

I'm so proud of my ninjabetic and the life-style changes that he's made.