When you’re diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to understand how to manage your condition. Or, if you are diagnosed with prediabetes, how to make sure it doesn’t turn into diabetes.
While your doctor may give you medication to lower your blood sugar levels, lifestyle changes are a big part of treating diabetes and prediabetes. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and is a great time to take action in managing your health. That’s why programs like the Outpatient Diabetes Education Program at Southeast Georgia Health System are so important.
Working closely with you and your doctor, diabetes educators like Sue Ullrich, R.N., MA.Ed., CDCES, and Lisa Mason, RDN, CDCES, will help you develop a personalized plan and give you the tools you need to become a happier, healthier version of yourself. Here are just a few things that many people don’t know about diabetes treatment and prevention, and that the education program covers:
Losing a Little Weight Can Make a Big Difference
“At first, a lot of people who come to us see getting down to their recommended weight as an insurmountable challenge,” says Ullrich. “But the reality is that most people only need to lose about seven percent of their body weight to start seeing a reduction in their diabetes numbers.”
“For someone who is 300 pounds, losing 20 pounds is an attainable goal, and once they reach it, they’re already feeling better,” Mason adds. “After that, it becomes easier to keep going. That’s why we stress setting small goals and making incremental changes.”
Cutting Sugar Won’t Help Unless You Cut Carbs Too
One of the main things Ullrich and Mason focus on is helping people change the way they eat.
“While most people know they need to stay away from foods that are high in sugar, not everyone realizes that carbohydrates also break down into sugars,” says Mason. “Our goal is to show people healthier alternatives, and help them create a balanced diet with foods they enjoy eating, and are good for them, too.”
Exercise and Health Recommendations Have Changed
“People who went through diabetes education 10 or 20 years ago sometimes come to our classes and are often surprised by what they learn,” says Ullrich. “For example, we still recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week, but now there’s a lot more focus on time spent sitting. If you have a desk job or sit around a lot, you should be standing up or doing arm exercises every hour or doing exercises in your chair.”
Healthy Grocery Shopping and Eating
“Everybody has their own personal tastes and their own personal goals,” says Mason. “We really try to work with each person individually to make healthy eating recommendations and create a plan that is manageable and works for them.”
Grocery shopping and food preparation tips include:
• Start in the produce section and work your way around the edge of the store first. This is where the healthiest foods are.
• Read product labels, and pay close attention to serving size and total carbohydrates.
• Plan balanced meals that include roughly 50% non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, green beans and asparagus, 25% lean proteins and 25% whole grains.
• Instead of a standard 11- to 12-inch dinner plate, use a smaller 8- to 9-inch plate to help control portion sizes.
• Eat three small meals per day. If you need a small snack in between, try a piece of fresh fruit, a handful of nuts or trail mix, low-fat cheese or peanut butter and crackers.
To learn more about the Outpatient Diabetes Education Program at Southeast Georgia Health System, visit sghs.org/diabetes-education or call 912-466-1689 (Brunswick Campus) or 912-576-6488 (Camden Campus).