Blood sugar control is key to overall health, regardless of a diabetes diagnosis. Perhaps you have seen non-pharmaceutical companies advertising CGMs (continuous glucose monitors) to the average consumer?
Nonetheless, one of the most crucial tools in blood sugar management is the power of a routine.
After repetition, we can understand how our blood sugar will behave with certain meals, activity, foods, and/or days of the week. Does anyone else take the most insulin on Mondays? I liken this to being a parent. To understand blood sugar needs and more so, our own unique diabetes, we need to step back and adjust our perspective like understanding the needs of a newborn baby. Yes, there are a lot of variables to think through, but once we understand our diabetic needs more thoroughly, we can do far more than walk around the block and have beautiful numbers. We can spend our energy on things we love and also set new health goals.
Just like sleep “is the secret sauce to health,” and the backbone to health and weight-loss, before one dabbles with their diet. We need to understand and streamline our blood sugar management before we look to goals on weight loss, strength-training or muscle building.
Weight Loss & Calories
Going against popular belief, weight loss is far more than just eating fewer calories. In fact, a calorie deficit diet is only successful short-term. Our bodies are smarter than myfitnesspal.
Additionally, did you know weight loss is said to be 3x harder for women with diabetes? According to a study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, we have different hormonal responses to different types of food1. Sustainable weight loss and health come down to working with our hormones, including insulin, and learning the art of eating that makes us individually feel good.
As a diabetic dietitian, I help clients design a way of eating that not only helps them survive but thrive. Sure, calories are fuel, but our guts (foods we tolerate/prefer) are as unique as our fingerprint.
Healthy Eating Challenges
- Too busy to do grocery shopping and cook
- Not planning ahead
- Eating out
- Lost directions due to varying advice
- Ignoring our hunger/fullness signals to hit blood sugar targets
- Manipulated relationship with food (Having diabetes can increase the risk of developing eating disorders)
When we highlight a challenge we are facing for better blood sugar control, health and/or weight loss, we can shine a light on the hurdle and create solutions to work through it. My biggest piece of advice here is to NOT overhaul your food or lifestyle, but week by week, try to improve by only 1%. Small changes, lead to big results. Additionally, in 10 years of private practice, I have organized specific pillars that I see as foundational to practice daily to move towards better health throughout our life.
Kel’s 5 Pillars of Flattening Your Glucose Curve
- Gut health
Our gut aids in digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and having a stronger immune system. A healthy gut with a diverse, beneficial microbiome is essential for our health. An imbalance of microbes with reduced diversity in the gut may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and other disorders. People with T1D are more likely to have gut characterized with decreased microbial diversity2. It is important to nourish our gut with appropriate nutrition so that it can restore its healthy gut flora.
Studies have found that after a short night’s sleep, glucose levels are higher the next day3. Hormones that control stress and satiety are also affected leading to increased food consumption and weight gain. Knowing the above, I always credit “sleep as the secret sauce to health.”
Walking 10 minutes after a meal is an effective way to reduce blood sugar after eating and overall blood sugar control in people with diabetes. A study collected health information on a representative sample of adults over 18 years old. Out of nearly 6,000 people who responded, over 25% of American adults sit for more than 8 hours every day and 44% of those people get little to no exercise4. Simply moving your body can improve blood sugar control and make the insulin work better.
- Carb placement and threshold
Food and drinks with carbohydrates affect your blood sugar the most. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests that there is no magic number as to the ideal number of carbs per meal. The amount of carbohydrate each person needs is in large part determined by your body size, activity level, dietary preferences, concurrent medical therapies, and so on. However, a low carbohydrate diet (<130g/day) may improve glycemic control and metabolic health in people with T1D5.
- Eating with the sun
When we eat is as important as what we eat. Our metabolism, blood sugar control, digestion, and hormones benefit when we choose to eat with the sun. Circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock that reacts to changes in light. It helps us determine when to sleep, wake up, eat, digest, release the hormone, regulate body temperature and other bodily functions. Disrupted circadian rhythm by having irregular mealtimes and eating late can result in lower insulin sensitivity and more inflammation in our body. It’s ideal to fast for at least 12 hours overnight –from sundown to sun-up. Bonus, build a routine with your meal timing and see what magic can happen with your weight, energy, and appetite regulation.
Life is short, but also not perfect. Add more grace to your day, your goals, and your expectations. Chase results, not rules.
To learn how to best apply these pillars to your health and wellbeing, join Kel’s 6-week Masterclass. This program can be done any time of the year. Email Kel for more information.
- Ludwig, D. S., Aronne, L. J., Astrup, A., Cabo, R., Cantley, L. C., Friedman, M. I., Heymsfield, S. B., Johnson, J. D., King, J. C., Krauss, R. M., Lieberman, D. E., Taubes, G., Volek, J. S., Westman, E. C., Willett, W. C., Yancy, W. S., & Ebbeling, C. B. The carbohydrate-insulin model: a physiological perspective on the obesity pandemic (2021). The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 114 (6), 1873–1885. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqab270
- Jamshidi, P., Hasanzadeh, S., Tahvildari, A. Farsi, Y., Arbabi, Mahta., Mota, J. F., Sechi, L. A., & Nasiri, M. J. (2019). Is there any association between gut microbiota and type 1 diabetes? Gut Pathogens.11 (49). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13099-019-0332-7
- Tsereteli, N., Vallat, R., Fernandez-Tajes, J., Delahanty, L. M., Ordovas, J. M., Drew, D. A., Valdes, A. M., Segata, N., Chan, A. T., Wolf, J., Berry, S. E., Walker, M. P., Spector, T. D., & Franks, P. W. (2022). Impact of insufficient sleep on dysregulated blood glucose control under standardized meal conditions. Diabetologia. 65(2), 356–365. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-021-05608-y
- Ussery, E. N., Fulton, J. E., Galuska, D. A., Katzmarzyk, P. T., & Carlson, S. A. Joint prevalence of sitting time and leisure-time physical activity among US adults. (2018). Journal of the American Medical Association.320(19),2036–2038. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.17797
- Turton, J.L., Raab, R., &Rooney, K.B. (2018). Low-carbohydrate diets for type 1 diabetes mellitus: A systematic review. PLoS ONE. 13(3), e0194987. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194987