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According to the CDC, nearly 50% of Americans wanted to live a healthier lifestyle last year. We are certain that includes at least a few people with Type 1 diabetes.
While healthy living is difficult under the best circumstances, Type 1 diabetes can make it harder. We have the same struggles with diet and exercise as everyone else, except we have to worry about our blood sugar at the same time.
Skin Grip focuses on empowering the Type 1 community with our ultra-strong adhesive tape for Dexcom G6 and other continuous glucose monitoring devices (CGMs). As such, we’re intimately familiar with the challenges of staying in shape with T1diabetes, and we are coming in with the best tips from our team.
Lower Your Expectations
This sounds like we’re encouraging a negative outlook but bear with us. Every January, we see countless individuals start the year with the best intentions. They set goals, they start going to the gym, they tell themselves they are going to hit the gym for two hours every day, cut out all foods except chicken and broccoli, and they will lose 5 lbs every week until they hit their goal weight. These people are in for a world of disappointment when (shockingly) they don’t reach their goals.
Rather than setting unattainable goals, start small. Not only is it much easier, but you are also much more likely to stick with it. A small goal that you keep for the entire year is going to be much more effective in the long term than trying and failing to hit a large goal every few months. For example, rather than doing two hours of hard exercise daily, try walking for 30 minutes instead. Walking may not get you rock-solid abs in 6 weeks, but you won’t get injured and forced to abandon the gym either. Adding in a small amount of activity first and focusing on consistency will reap larger rewards and longer lasting success than trying to run your first ultra-marathon in a month.
Give Yourself Flexibility
You didn’t gain all of your unhealthy habits in a week and you won’t shed them in a week either. While hyper focused management strategies like weighing yourself daily may sound tempting, the fluctuations you see from day to day have little to do with activity or diet. Gaining or losing a pound or two every day is normal, as hydration, bowel contents, and the clothes you wear can all affect your weight on the scale. The truth is that most small changes we see from one day to another are insignificant.
Similarly, our habits from day to day aren’t as important as our overall lifestyle. Give yourself flexibility to splurge here and there. That flexibility will make healthy living much easier and the cost is virtually nothing. Occasional days off from training are beneficial as they help us avoid getting discouraged, which in turn keeps us on track with our goals in the long term. Just make sure you don’t take too many days off. A good rule of thumb is to spend 80% of your time on track to meet your goals and allow 20% of your time to splurge as you see fit.
Keep a Sane Diet
The diet industry is famous for villainizing certain foods, but carbs, fats, and protein are all necessary nutrients for a healthy, balanced diet. Additionally, a healthy diet doesn’t mean we can never have a highly processed, artificially dyed, hyper-sweet treat now and again. The key is learning to moderate our treats and to eat a balanced diet on a daily basis. Balanced meals, which include protein, fat, carbs, and fiber, will keep you full longer, which prevents unnecessary snacking.
Additionally, food is your fuel source for exercise, so excessive deficits in calories will prevent you from getting activity in and keep you from making gains. If you want to live a healthy, active lifestyle, you have to eat like an active person! That means lots of fruits and vegetables, high quality protein, healthy fats, and yes, even carbs. The only difference for people with T1 diabetes is we have to make sure our insulin matches our diet.
Keep Your Blood Sugar Under Control
All of the above is great advice for anyone trying to stay fit, but people with diabetes have unique challenges when it comes to our health. One of the biggest obstacles comes from uncontrolled blood sugars. A common problem comes from when our blood sugars drop. After the drop, we get hungry and overcorrect with carbs, which means we need to correct again with insulin, which can lead to lower blood sugars, and the cycle repeats again. This mismanagement isn’t just a hassle, it can cause serious problems when our blood sugar is too high or too low.
Staying diligent about carb counting, insulin dosages, and staying on top of our blood sugar will prevent some of this cycling that makes staying active and healthy difficult. If you are aiming to keep a specific calorie count, it isn’t a bad idea to keep some of your daily calories in reserve for when you need to boost your blood sugar. For example, if you want to eat 2,000 calories each day, try to eat 1850 and keep 150 calories in reserve for blood sugar snacks. If your blood sugar consistently trends too low, consider adjusting your insulin dosage to keep your blood sugars from dipping too often.
Using your CGM will not only help you keep up to date with your blood glucose level minute-to-minute, but modern smartphone apps will allow you to see trends in your glucose levels over time. Using diabetic sensors to properly manage your blood sugar is great for making the measuring tape around your waist shrink.
The best thing you can do to make getting fit easy and painless is to go slowly and carefully. Make small, daily changes to get rid of unhealthy habits, keep your body fueled with lean, nutrient-rich foods, and get more active. These will add up, and you’ll love seeing that fit, energized person staring back at you in the mirror.