Saturday, 18 January 2014

Food, Glorious Food

Chances are if you’re diabetic that at some stage someone has said to you “Should you be eating that?!” as you reach for a biscuit or some chocolate.  Food and diet in general is obviously one of the most important things to consider when you have diabetes and can cause difficulties for some people who are unsure about what to do for the best.

I remember the first few supermarket trips after I was diagnosed 12 years ago.  As a university student I was faced with the timeless battle of buying the “right” food on a budget.  I think that first trip took me an hour and a half as I poured over food labels, laboriously trying to find the “healthiest” food on each aisle.

In truth that was partly due to still being in a state of shock at being diagnosed, and partly due to not being fully informed about what choices I had regarding food, and how I could use my insulin to manage what I wanted to eat (to a certain extent anyway).

Whilst the picture above is a little tongue in cheek (what about cake with poison for example?), it’s not really far from the truth.  That said, it’s probably wise to make a little distinction between what you can eat and what you should eat.  Perhaps surprisingly the answers to these questions are not really much different whether you’re diabetic or not.

What you “should” eat which is basically a healthy balanced diet which is low in saturated fat and salt and high in fibre and contains lots of fruit and vegetables.  That’s basically what anyone should be eating, regardless of diabetes.  That’s not to say that a sweet or sugary treat is off limits of course, but they should be eaten in moderation rather than making up a part of your daily diet.

So what steps can do to make some improvements to your diet?

Eating a lot of foods that are high in saturated fat can increase your cholesterol which in turn increases your risk of heart disease which is something you obviously want to avoid.  Limiting your saturated fat intake and switching to lower fat spreads or using skimmed milk can help.  The NHS Live Well site has some good information on reducing your fat intake.

It’s also worth taking a look at the Eatwell Plate which gives a good guide on what proportion of your daily food intake should come from which food groups.  You might find that making a few small changes will give you some big benefits.

There are also other resources you can use when reviewing your diet.  Diabetes UK have a guideto healthy eating with diabetes which includes over 250 online recipes.  You can also make an appointment to talk to a dietician via your GP or Diabetes Centre at your local hospital.  They can offer a number of options for you depending on your circumstances.

Finally, you can always talk to other people with diabetes about their experiences, either via this blog, Twitter/Facebook or using one of your local groups.  It’s always good to be able to speak to other people in a similar situation to yourself as sharing tips and frustrations can often be a good way of finding out something new.

You can find us on Twitter at @AndyPeerSupport or @LouPeerSupport or search Facebook for “Diabetes Peer Support Sheffield” or “Essex Diabetes Peer Support”

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Brand new year, brand new you?

The beginning of another year is always filled with promises – no more junk food, lots more trips to the gym, lose tons of weight, travel the world. The list of typical new years resolutions, is endless. 

How about we stop for a minute, and think about what we really want from 2014. Do we really want to exhuast ourselves at the gym 7 days a week? Do we really want to cut all ties with the things that we love? The answer is probably no. And the good news is, there's no need to.

When it comes to diabetes, taking care of one's self, is really important. People with diabetes are more likely to come across complications in old age, if they don't care of themselves, today.

However, there is a difference between taking care of one's self, and overworking the body. Working out 7 days a week, and having no form of enjoyment, will most likely lead to exhuastion, tiredness, and a desire to stop everything, all together.

The important thing in looking after yourself, both your diabetes and your general health & fitness, is learning to find a balance. You don't have to be a gym buff. The Department of Health recommends 150 minutes of exercise a week. This is less than 3 hours a week. What's even better, is that this doesn't mean 3 hours in the gym. You might be surprised at what counts as exercise...

How many times have you taken the lift, instead of walking? Try to take the stairs once in a while, perhaps. Or how about taking a nice stroll to meet friends for a coffee?

Try cycling. Find a local park, and enjoy the breeze, as you cycle your way to fitness.

Even those mundane tasks around the house that need doing – vaccuuming, DIY, gardening.

You might want to get family and friends involved. It is a lot easier to keep at something, if you have a reason to keep going.

Building up your activity gradually, makes it easier to stay active. You might even discover you quite enjoy a particular activity!

Diabetes is a very unpredictable condition. That doesn't mean that it should control us or stop us from doing things. If you are worried about doing a certain form of exercise, because of how your diabetes might be affected, it might be worth talking to your Diabetes Nurse or Consultant. There are a lot of people with diabetes, who also regularly blog about they sports they take part in.

More importantly though, listen to your body. No one expects you to be running marathons next week, or climbing mountains next month! Take it one step at a time, remember to check your sugar levels before the activity, during if possible, and after. You are more likely to have a hypo up to 24 hours after exercise, so it is perhaps wise to monitor your levels the next day. If you feel low during the activity, stop and treat the hypo.

Useful Resources
Diabetes UK – Getting Active and Staying Active
Diabetes UK – Blogs from various people with diabetes, who take part in sports