Type 2 Diabetes: Are You At Risk?

November is American Diabetes Month, which is a time when the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and other organizations raise awareness of diabetes and communicate the seriousness of the disease.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

About 95% of those diagnosed with diabetes are classified as Type 2.  Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar (glucose), your body’s main source of fuel.  With type 2 diabetes, your body either resists the effects of insulin — a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells — or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level. If left untreated, type 2 diabetes can be life-threatening.

Prevalence

26 million Americans have diabetes with 2 million new cases diagnosed each year.  An overwhelming 79 million Americans have higher than normal blood glucose levels but are not yet classified as diabetic and it’s expected that about 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes in 2050 at the current rate of incidence.

Impact

Diabetes is costly financially as well as to your health and wellbeing.  Fiscally, diabetes costs the U.S. alone $174 billion each year.  This figure represents a 32% increase since 2007.  Let’s put this into prospective, about one out of every 10 healthcare dollars are spent in direct diabetes care.  The health impact is just as staggering with a risk for stroke and death from heart disease at 2-4 times higher among people with the disease.  Diabetes is also the number one cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputations and new cases of blindness among adults.

What You Can Do

You can do a lot to prevent or delay Type 2 Diabetes.

1.) Watch Your Weight

If you are over ideal weight, there are a number of studies that indicate that losing only 5-7% of your current body weight will lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.  For instance, if you weigh 200 lbs, a weight loss of only 10-14 lbs will lower your risk significantly.

2.) Controlling your Blood Pressure & Cholesterol

Get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly and talk with your doctor about higher than normal readings.

3.) Eat Healthier

Consume plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  Minimize the amount of take out and processed meals which typically have much higher levels of fat, calories and sodium and contribute to high cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight gain.

4.) Stay Active

Aim for a minimum of 25-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week.  And remember, exercise doesn’t only happen at a gym.  Staying active means taking advantage of opportunities to move more in our daily life.  Examples may be walking for short errands like mailing a letter or going to the store, gardening, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking the dog, etc.

5.) Quit Smoking

Those who smoke are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes.  So if you’re thinking about quitting, now is the time.

For more information on diabetes and prevention visit the American Diabetes Association.

About the author:

Gina M. Crome, M.S., M.P.H., R.D., is a Registered Dietitian and ACE Certified Personal Trainer based in Southern California.  She is the owner of Lifestyle Management Solutions, a company that provides customized nutrition and fitness programs designed to fit an individual’s lifestyle.  Become a fan of Gina on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and visit her website Lifestyle Management Solutions.

Does Your Fitness Routine Vacation For The Summer?

Summer often presents a difficult time of year to maintain a fitness regimen.  Much of the difficulty appears to be in maintaining a routine.  Between vacations, keeping the kids entertained on break, and other summertime events, fitness often gets pushed to the proverbial back burner.  Inevitably, September arrives and we find ourselves a few pounds heavier looking to shed the weight before the holidays.  Sound familiar??  Then please read on… 

The good news is that physical activity doesn’t necessarily have to be elaborate during busy times nor does it have to be restricted to the home or gym.   In 3 simple steps we can avoid the inevitable summer weight gain and seamlessly blend it into our summer activities.

1.)  It’s All In The Planning

Often times we plan our activities based on where we are going to eat or what we are going to see.  Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this logic, we must also consider one more factor which is how much are we going to move.  Staying fit while traveling requires regular activity combined with a bit of creativity.  Consider activity as part of your recreational planning.  Look for ways that the entire family can get involved such as family day at a local park or an early evening after-dinner hike.  If heat is a factor, consider utilizing the services offered in your city through your local parks and recreation departments such as public pools and organized group trips to various places of interest.  Vacations at larger hotels and resorts will sometimes offer sightseeing activity packages.  They usually refer to these as “adventure” tours.  These excursions can present unique opportunities for activities that can compliment a current fitness routine as well as provide enjoyment for everyone in your party.

2.)  Send Your Fitness Packing

Packing for your fitness-minded vacation can be a snap.  A workout outfit and a sturdy pair of sneakers can provide the basics of your travel gear but don’t stop there.  Other must have items to pack would include: a refillable water bottle, sunscreen, healthy snacks such as protein bars, fruit, beef jerky, and 100-calorie snack packs (for times when only gas station stops or vending machine food is available).  Most hotels have a fitness center; some are more elaborate than others.  It pays to call ahead to find out what they offer and if there are additional fees to utilize the facility.  If your hotel doesn’t offer a fitness facility or you choose not to use it, you can get a great workout just by packing a few extra items such as a jump rope, exercise bands/tubing or simple suspension resistance equipment like the I.M. Rings from BodyByJake.

3.)  Work With What You Have

You’re in your hotel room and you forgot to bring anything even remotely related to fitness and there’s no hotel gym in sight.  What do you do?  The answer is- work with what you have.  Any fitness professional will tell you that the best fitness routine will contain 3 elements:  1.) Cardiovascular Activity, 2.) Strength Training and 3.) Flexibility.  It’s possible to get all three of these critical components on vacation even without a gym or equipment. 

Cardiovascular Activity

Perhaps the easiest way to get in cardiovascular activity is through walking.  This can be done in tandem with sightseeing through walking tours or as dedicated exercise.  Walking the surrounding area of a hotel can offer the weary traveler a chance to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, and take in different scenery.  If you don’t want to leave the comforts of your hotel but are looking for a great cardio workout, try the stairs.  Moving as quickly as you can through flights of stairs can be intense, so it’s important to pace yourself.  If you can’t step away from the free HBO in your room, try jogging in place or simple callisthenic-type exercises like jumping jacks.  Both will elevate your heart rate and help you burn off those poolside mai tai’s. 

Strength Training

The notion of strength training conjures up images of pumping iron in a gym.  The truth is that strength training doesn’t necessarily have to involve dumbbells, barbells, or any sort of gym equipment.  Simple things found in your hotel room can easily double as dumbbells such as filled water bottles or other equally weighted small items.  Using your own body weight as resistance is often times the easiest way to achieve results in the absence of any equipment.  Standard lower body exercises such as lunges and squats can prove very effective for this purpose.  Basic upper body exercises such as push-ups either against a wall or the floor as well as dips using a chair or bed are also great ways to work the upper back as well as arms.  Abdominal exercises are also super easy to accomplish with the help of a few curl ups as well as alternating leg scissors.

Flexibility

Flexibility is the third critical component in a good fitness program.  It’s often overlooked many times because people don’t realize the benefit of flexibility.  However, flexibility is important as it decreases the likelihood of injury and enhances the work that we do on the other two components.  The easiest way to get this in is through stretching post work out when your muscles are completely warmed up.  Stretches for all major muscle groups should be held for 10-15 seconds without any bouncing motions.

By incorporating these 3 exercise elements into your travel plans, a vacation can be a great place to either jumpstart a fitness routine or provide you with a unique opportunity to continue with the good habits you’ve already established.  With a bit of creativity and pre-planning, you’ll be successful at avoiding summer weight gain and realize that a fitness routine doesn’t really need a vacation after all.

Back to School and Back to You: Recommit to Taking Care of Yourself

It’s that time of year again.  The kids are back in school, the holidays are right around the corner and it’s time to recommit to taking care of yourself.  The difficult part always begs the question, where do I begin? 

One of the first things that I ask my clients seeking weight management is why it’s important for them to manage their weight and what does it mean to them personally.  At first glance, this seems like a simple question but actually the answers are very unique for everyone.  We each have personal reasons for wanting to make lifestyle changes.  Some may be based on health issues, others on physical appearance and confidence.  Whatever the reason, it’s important to have a clear picture as to what motivates you and if possible to get those thoughts down on paper.  

One place to start would be with creating a simple “Top 10 List” that highlights a few of the most important reasons why you would like to lose weight.  This is your personal list and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone so it’s best to be specific and candid.  It’s amazing how different we view our thoughts and feelings when they come out of our head and put onto paper.  This simple process not only legitimizes our efforts, but also helps us sort through our priorities. You’ll know that you’ve created a meaningful list if upon re-glancing at it in the future, it takes you back to the feelings you had the day you created it.

Another strategy I use to help clients begin their journey is through a simple tool that I created called the Commitment Worksheet.  This worksheet acts as a self-contract by outlining your short term goals, exploring potential roadblocks and setting a plan for rewarding your accomplishments.  

These items are not just an exercise in listing your thoughts and goals, but tools used to help keep you on track when your motivation begins to wane.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, goes through cycles of highs and lows in their motivation.  Much of the variance is related to your individual stress level and pressures of daily living.  Simple everyday distractions always seem to threaten our best efforts to stay on track.  Take control of your life by ensuring your goals are personally meaningful and visibly available; especially when you need a little extra help committing to taking better care of yourself.

To Snack or Not To Snack…That Isn’t The Question

The great snack debate is one that has embattled many of so-called “dieters” for decades.  It’s roots were planted at a time when doctors offered advice to their patients who wanted to shed a few pounds that sounded something like this, “If you want to lose weight, you need to cut out all your snacks in-between meals.”  This may have worked well at a time where most people sat down to three regular meals each day, possibly around a family table (think Ozzie and Harriet) to consume their food.  However, by today’s standard, it’s a rarity when a family has a single meal together, let alone three!  Family members always seem to be going in different directions with their schedules, and most tend to grab food on the run.  And often times what we grab isn’t what we would consider a meal, but rather a snack to hold us over until our next meal.   

New research released last week from the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting indicated that what we consider as snacks (including what we drink between meals), comprises more than 25 percent of our total calorie intake every day.  On average, this equals about 580 extra and usually unaccounted for calories each day.

Most people would probably say at this point, “So what?  500 or so extra calories isn’t that much and besides if I’m really concerned about it, I’ll just do a few more minutes on the treadmill and burn it off in no time.”  To test this theory, let’s apply a little math:

500 extra calories a day (above what you use) = 3,500 extra calories a week

Based on metabolic equations- 3,500 extra calories a week = 1 pound of weight gain/week or 52 pounds of potential weight gain each year!

Now you’re convinced that the extra few minutes on the treadmill everyday will take care of those pesky calories.  The average 150 pound person would have to be on that treadmill 1 full hour extra each day to burn off approximately 450 calories-not even reaching the target of 500.  Most already have difficulties finding a few minutes to sit down to a healthy meal- who realistically will make the commitment to an extra hour or more of exercise?

It’s All About Choice

Asking people to stop eating snacks and begin sitting down to 3 meals a day at home is unrealistic.  The issue isn’t whether or not to partake in snacking, but rather look at making some smart choices that will work to stretch your calorie budget over the course of the day.  Moral of the story…choose wisely.  If you are among the many that find yourself eating on the run, opt for getting the most nutritional bang for your buck.  Choose grilled over fried, fresh over processed, and if weight control is one of your goals-make every effort to include low calorie/high fiber options like fruits, veggies, and whole grain products like oatmeal, popcorn, or whole wheat crackers.  The extra fiber will help keep you fuller longer thus making it less likely you’ll be tempted to grab another snack before your next meal.  Plus, it may also help prevent you from becoming overly hungry which can prove disastrous on a weight loss plan.

Beverage Calories

Make every attempt to avoid drinking your calories.  The calories we get from beverages can really pack a 1-2 punch.  They not only add up and contribute to our overall intake each day, but sweet beverages can spike blood sugar levels and often leave us hungrier in the end as those levels quickly take a dive in an attempt to return to normal.

Size Does Matter

Lastly and probably the most important, portion control.  Our best defense to guard against unwanted weight gain is to keep our portions in check.  A couple weeks ago, I covered information about the new USDA MyPlate educational materials.  One of the major objectives of this program is to help people understand appropriate portion sizes.  Because at the end of the day, all calories not used by the body regardless of whether they come from carbohydrates, protein or fat, will result in potential weight gain.

Is Your Fitness Routine Lapse More Like a Collapse?

Maintaining motivation to exercise is one of those topics that so many have written on because it’s a problem that affects everyone.  Motivation is not like a switch that we can readily be turned off and on.  Rather I see it more like a thermostat with degrees of motivation running along a constant slide.  Once at a predetermined temperature, your internal call to action kicks in and you find yourself willing to get out there and exercise. When we are super motivated, we don’t dread the thought of exercise.  We look at it as an opportunity to get healthier every day.  On the other hand, when we lack motivation, exercise can be the chore that manages quite nicely to get put onto the back burner.  It’s amazing how many things we’ll find to do to avoid exercise; clean the garage, wash the dog, organizing the junk drawer, pay bills, slop the hogs, etc.  And those things we don’t find to do, we’ll just make them up.  

We can joke about this because we’ve all been there.  The truth is motivation comes and goes.  You may find yourself on a roll for a little while then slowly the temperature drops in your thermostat and your exercise bouts begin to get fewer and farther between.  Here’s the key… recognition.  Recognize when your motivation is beginning to wane and guess what- stick it out baby.  Continue your fitness routine any way you can because eventually what goes down must come up.  I guarantee your motivation will pick back up eventually but those who let their exercise lapse turn into a collapse will not be around when the motivation thermostat starts to rise again.  Likewise, those who stuck it out and just continued along business as usual will be that much further down the path towards their goals.  

It’s easy to say, just stick it out and I certainly understand firsthand how difficult it is to actually put that into practice.  My motivation came and went a million times as I was losing my 172 pounds.  When my motivation was hovering somewhere between the dumps and the abyss, I used a number of things to get it going again like trying a different exercise activity, downloading some new music, etc.  I’ve even bought new workout outfits all in the name of motivation of course.  

Lastly, remember to cut yourself some slack.  We are all a “work in progress” and far from perfect.  If you don’t make it out there today, look at some of the motivation tactics and try again tomorrow.  By only concentrating on the things that we are not doing right, chances are we’ll miss the things we are doing right.

Move Over Food Pyramid: It’s Time To “Plate Up” Some New Education Tools.

 

Over the last 20 years, the food pyramid has served as a major nutritional icon.  On June 2, 2011, First Lady, Michelle Obama along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled in a press release the latest tool to aid in the battle of obesity, MyPlate (ChooseMyPlate.gov). 

MyPlate, the new symbol of appropriately balanced meals, will replace the iconic Food Pyramid.  The new graphics are designed to be consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released in January this year.

The basic messages contained in the new guidelines are as follows:

Balance Calories

• Enjoy your food, but in smaller amounts

• Avoid oversized meals

Foods to Increase

• Aim for half your plate fruits and vegetables.

• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) dairy products.

• Make at least half your grains the whole variety

Foods to Reduce

• Note the sodium (salt) in various foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and  choose those with lower numbers.

• Aim for drinking water as opposed to sugary beverages.

The idea of using a plate to help educate individuals on appropriate portion sizes is not a new concept.  The truth is that dietitians and nutritionists have been using education tools very similar to these new graphics for years with many of their clients.  The reason being is that a plate is something that everyone can relate to as it’s considerably less abstract than the food pyramids of the past.  It’s also quite adaptable so that no matter what kind of diet a person follows, the graphic can be utilized to illustrate portions in relation to the various food groups.

A major downfall of this new graphic has to do with the fact that it lacks the incorporation of exercise represented in the former Food Pyramid icon.  The figure climbing the side of the pyramid symbolized the need for physical activity as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

 

Just as the new icon shows the importance of balance in your meals, we also need to balance a healthy lifestyle with the incorporation of physical activity. 

It’s my hope that as this new campaign rolls out over the next several months, the importance of physical activity for weight management, improved health and ultimately disease prevention will be emphasized either through the initiatives set forth in the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign or through additional education tools that support the new MyPlate program.