Diabetes is the scary sister of the obesity epidemic.
The physical fallout from insulin resistance (IR) and the resulting roller coaster of blood sugar leads to life-altering circulation problems which in turn can lead to vision issues, neuropathy (nerve issues), kidney issues and more. It’s scary stuff.
What does it feel like to live in a body that has pre-diabetes?
It feels tired – unusually tired. It feels hungry – really hungry for comfort foods and fat – things like bread, cookies and sweets, potatoes with gravy or butter. It feels a little shaky and often nervous. It can feel overall crummy, unmotivated and a little hopeless.
It’s not you! It’s your blood sugar.
When you feel like you have diabetes, comfort foods – the very foods that make the condition worse – are most appealing. Yes, the universe is ironic.
Most diabetes begins as pre-diabetes and worsens over time. UNLESS!
Unless you change.
The good news is that for this type of diabetes, you can, to a HUGE extent, prevent progression of the disease. I have seen it reversed time and time again when someone has the support to eat to manage blood sugars, gets adequate movement and manages stress. Maintaining it is the tricky part…hard (but possible) to do.
Many mainstream medical docs are not talking about the extent to which you can reverse diabetes. It drives me (and my proactive doc friends) crazy to hear that someone’s blood sugar is a bit up and their doc tells them to watch and wait. What you’ll end up watching is your blood sugars rise, and diabetes take hold. When I see someone with a borderline high fasting blood sugar, it’s ACTION TIME! It’s the time you can completely change your future. You are so very worth it.
It’s all about finding your version of a healthier life; enjoy a delicious healthful diet, manage stress and move adequately. There are so many paths to managing blood sugars. You don’t have to be perfect, and each person can find the balance of eating, moving and having fun (another way of thinking about managing stress) that works for them.
A few easy ways to get started are:
Add one more serving of your favorite vegetable, either raw or lightly cooked, than you eat right now. Begin today, and repeat tomorrow.
Consider the disco minute. Put on your favorite dance song and dance like no one’s watching.
The earlier you address the issue, the better (though it’s never too late – even if you are on insulin, improving your self-care will improve your overall health). The earlier you begin, the more likely you’ll be able to fix the issue. From years of providing evidence-based nutrition to people with creeping weight gain afraid of diabetes, I can tell you that the number of people with metabolic syndrome (a little diabetes and a little cardiovascular disease that add up to bad news for health), who don’t know they have it is very large and growing. Even many people with good medical care don’t seem to know (or are too afraid to know).
I hear you – diabetes is a scary condition. It might seem that in order to address it you have to give up your favorite foods – all the comfort and fun in your life. While you do have to change to address the condition, many people are doing it and actually enjoying life more. Step by step, little (or a lot) at a time. When I work with someone with diabetes, we work on making sure food is not the only source of comfort in life – we have to do that first, then addressing food is easier.
Once you’re ready to make a change (and have practiced one of the easy kick-starts I mentioned above) is to take stock of where you are. Again, it can be un-nerving to take that clear look at the numbers that describe what’s going on, but just know that whatever they are, you can change them.
This summer I’ll be blogging more about diabetes – what it is, and how to manage it with lifestyle.
In the meantime, here are a couple posts that you might find helpful:
Donald is gaining weight. He’s feeling the stress! But I am saddened by some of my favorite commentators’ abusive language around his stress eating and resulting weight.
Several years ago at a nutrition conference, I took a test designed by researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy at Yale, that consisted of quickly circling a series of characteristics which may or may not describe an overweight person.
Here we were, a roomful of dietitians who’s professional lives are dedicated to helping those who struggle with weight and eating, and when the results came in, we were shown to be rife with our own weight bias. The speaker shared that her experience with health professionals across the country suggested that all of us – down to a person – carry a deep bias against people of size.
I feel it myself. Working in yoga, which has, overall, become a youth-oriented, thin-oriented world isn’t always easy. There are times my brilliance doesn’t matter – how can that be?!
We are a nation terrified of gaining weight and intolerant of those who do. Social stigmatization of overweight people is at an all-time high. All the while it seems more difficult to achieve a healthy weight, and Americans continue to gain. We are hard on each other, and hard on ourselves, and none of it is helpful.
This mass aversion to weight appears to be based less in science than fashion (and fear). Body weight, scientists are finding, does not predict health as well as healthy lifestyles and physical fitness do. More Americans are fit and fat, and thinness does not guarantee good health.
Obesity is being blamed for everything from higher gas prices to global warming. The latest round of zealous investigation of the costs of obesity is an article in the current issue of The Engineering Economist, which calculates how much more gasoline is used by overweight Americans. The findings are in the same vein as an article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year, that calculated how much more fuel airlines use now that the American waistline has expanded.
“People are out scouring the landscape for things that make obese people look bad,” noted Kelly Brownell, a director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy at Yale in a recent New York Times article. Is that a bad thing? Opinions are decidedly mixed. Some educators feel that anything that can be done to motivate people to eat less and exercise more should be done, including social ridicule.
Does this public flogging work? Research suggests that for weight issues, it does not.
Unlike other public health issues – smoking, substance abuse, peer pressure around obesity seems to make the problem worse. Several recent studies reported in Obesity Research suggest that the stigma of overweight and its emotional fallout leads those who struggle with eating and weight to eat more, not less.
Why might this be so? For smoking, drinking and other unhealthy habits, abstinence is a viable and sometimes preferable choice. But we need to eat to live, so with food abstinence is not an option. To eat consciously we must learn to be moderate. And moderation is not a widely observed American trait.
Eating is a sensual experience, with its emotional roots deep in our earliest memories. From our first nursing at our mother’s breast (or from the bottle offered by dad), eating is what humans do when we come together, be it family dinner or special celebrations. Food is not only the fuel that enables our survival; it represents connection, comfort, even love. No wonder, when our lives feel out of balance, our relationship with food also becomes unbalanced. Eating is comforting, at least in the short term. Over time, however, overeating as a coping mechanism never works and becomes just another stress-producing part of life.
Our deep connection with food and eating is brilliantly exploited in advertising, with large portions of snack foods offered up as a salve for what ails us. Studies have shown that food in advertising is also presented as means to relieve loneliness, replace relationships, reward ourselves, and manage stress. At the same time, the media suggests we keep the medicinal chocolate cake handy, it also peddles images of beauty that are impossibly thin.
What can we do to escape the cycle of eating and intolerance? How do we turn the hate into self-love and forgive the haters?
We can relax. By occasionally unplugging from the constant contact, always available, 24/7 culture, we can begin to unwind. By slowing down we just say no to the media-driven messages of disordered eating and unhealthy body image. As we do that, a quiet whisper of truth can finally be heard, and more natural ways of being can emerge.
We can learn to feel our emotions fully before reacting. This is a great practice – feel, honor, release emotions without pacifying or burying how we feel with distractions of food or shopping. Just taking a brief walk can be a great way to manage stress, to think, to breath, and to elucidate and integrate how you feel about something.
We can try this simple (but not easy) process when we feel the red flag of intolerance toward ourselves or others: Slow down. Breathe. Relax. Send loving kindness to whoever triggered your red flag. The Dalai Lama says that when someone triggers you – really pushes your buttons, we should bow down and thank them. I love Buddhist humor! So hard to do – but so necessary to make the world a better place.
We can practice compassionate self-observation free of judgment. What are the parts of your body that you feel are most beautiful? Can you let those good feeling expand – like a golden light – to your whole body? How about your life – what is going well?
We can try less. Try less of anything we approach with a consuming mindset, be it food, busyness, money, or exercise. Don’t believe the lie that you have to do everything or be perfect.
Each of these simple (though not easy) practices cultivates conscious renunciation of the crazy culture we live in. They are a simple (but not easy) means of taking control of your own life experience.
Part of the job of being me is to practice and model. To show up, even when it’s hard and I’d rather not. I believe very very deeply that it’s the oldest, largest, most handicapped person in the yoga class who is the biggest teacher – who sends the message to every young woman and man that yes, it’s OK to get older or larger or less well or lose a leg (like one wonderful woman who, when there was a deep community connection, came to classes regularly).
We all need to live in the world. And our world is a bountiful place where anything is possible. Fashion, the media, and all the gizmos of modern life can be fun tools for creating a productive and meaningful existence. There is nothing inherently evil about our culture except that parts of it are designed to make us feel horrible about ourselves as a strategy to keep us shopping and eating.
The obesity epidemic is a global health crisis. And it may be that our growing waistlines contribute to global warming, high gas prices, and other societal ills. Let’s forgive the researchers who spent their time, talent, and our money to make these calculations.
Shawna Coronado’s enthusiasm is contagious in her latest offering, 101 Organic Gardening Hacks: Eco-friendly Solutions to Improve Any Garden.
She’s going on a journey to reuse, reduce, and recycle in the garden in some wonderfully inventive and a few wacky ways, and she’s inviting you to come along. Overall, this 4-color 160-page guide is a very handy and appealing one for this spring. Every time I open it I get excited, and I learn a little something new.
A hack, notes the author, is just a great idea that’s come to life. It’s the short path to the desired result. Hacks in the book are organized by type (maintenance, edible, seedlings, tools) and they really are great ideas.
Here are a couple of my favs:
Hack 43 – Pet tender seedlings to keep them strong and stocky (put thigmotropism to work for you). I’m all over this one and had forgotten that. Grateful for the reminder.
Hack 61 – Regrow food from cut kitchen scraps is a great reason to enjoy leeks, celery, or herbs in spring. You can plant them in your garden after dinner! Step by step instructions for increasing your likelihood of them taking are included. I really haven’t done this successfully, but am grateful that a gardener more enthusiastic than I has. I’ll try it again!
There’s a secret about gardens – they don’t have to be hard. You can practically toss seeds at the ground in spring and they will pop up amongst the weeds (and will pop up even better if you take a little time to pull the weeds). But you can keep it very very easy and simple.
That’s why I love Shawna’s new book – it’s in that spirit of whatever you can do. It’s not fancy, not precious. It’s a get-out-there and put-your-hands-in-the-earth (which I swear is a nutrient – hands in earth nutrient) sort of attitude. It’s reuse that plastic container attitude. It’s begin where you are attitude. I love me an expert who has that type of DIY (do it yourself) attitude – not what I call a guru “only I know” attitude.
Happy digging, be it containers on your windowsill, a square in your back yard, or the whole wide world.
Would you like to connect with me in the tropics in February 2018? Check out my Pura Vida Retreat. It’s filling up, so if it sounds like your cup or tea, reach out!
I’m hearing more about lifestyle medicine these days (thank goodness!), including another movie “What the Health” on the problems of “big health” (pharma-central health care and advocacy, processed food and other areas where $ over-rides health). Like life itself, it’s more complicated than good guys and bad guys. I love health advocacy groups, and taking funds from big pharma, is well, OK – so long as it funds lifestyle – and while pharma is often used when lifestyle ought to be the first line of treatment, drugs do save lives (with side effects). It’s just not black & white.
The American lifestyle – including:
An over-processed, nutritionally devoid, inhumanly raised food supply,
More sedentary lives,
And inadequate ways of handling stress (we love us some comfort food & screen time).
All add up to bodies more likely to express the chronic disease tendencies in our family histories. We have so much room for improvement!
In the post-truth age, I am going to do my best to tell you my whole truth on this.
It’s hard to live well today.
It’s nearly impossible to eat well all the time. That’s OK, because you do not have to be perfect. If however you have biomarkers of disease (like high fasting blood sugar and A1c, lipid labs suggestive of cardiovascular disease) or symptoms (achy joints, weight gain, skin issues) that something is out of balance, you’ve gotta give it a try. You’ve just gotta keep trying. I love to eat and sometimes overeat (my 55 year-old metabolism is slowing down down down despite exercise, and that’s probably a good thing in the long run) so managing my weight is a constant companion. So, I practice.
It’s hard to get adequate physical activity. The evidence and advocacy groups say you need at least 30 minutes of moderate movement most days of the week. Ten-thousand steps might need to be elevated to fifteen (which doesn’t matter if you, like me, sometimes come in at the 1,000 range!). In order to be healthy, as you age, you’ve got to move. Quite a bit. As much as you can. Your life needs to be physical (even if you have limitations – if you can use your arms but not your legs, use your arms. There are a million ways to do it (I walk and clean and garden and do yoga and even, recently calisthenics classes – weights). I still need more. I sluff off. When I do it I feel better – less achy, higher energy. So I practice.
It’s hard not to get stressed out. Life is upsetting. We are past the Co2 tipping point, for goodness sake. That’s really bad news. We are losing a lot and need to learn to let go. But what we are losing often feels really important. And so it is. That’s why I carry around a book that helps me work on non-attachment. My own personal practice is non-attachment while caring. It’s tricky, but a really good practice. It works for me. So I practice.
So, what to do?
To work lifestyle medicine – the heart of preventive health, or being in balance with the earth and our own bodies, we do need to wake up. To not buy the cultural norms being sold to us. To know that both fake news and true healing are alive and well in the food and health industries. Health is in the nuance – in the middle ground between fake and true.
We have to know who we are and show up for our own lives in a real way. To be honest, I don’t care what you eat in any given moment. I do care if you enjoy it, and very much hope that you do. Whatever you decide to eat, decide to do, decide to be, do it all out, have fun with it, learn from it and carry on. There is a full, true, healthful version of you in there, and I so wish that you dance in that version more of the time.
I can’t see a way around getting up. We have to participate in our lives in a physically and mentally active way in order to be healthy. We need to dance and clean and hunt and play golf and badminton and what ever else we love to do.
At this point in time, lifestyle medicine is a little radical – a little against the grain. It’s a little uncomfortable and might feel a little judgmental – who do you think you are, doing all that self-care?! That’s a really good questions.
Here’s my answer of who you are: you are a divine expression of God. That’s why you deserve to be your fullest expression. That’s why you deserve to take fantastic care of yourself.
Go forth and practice! Let your freak flag fly!
Sign up now. Space is limited and this will sell out quickly.
Those of you who know me know that I absolutely love to combine vacation and learning. In 2018, I’m offering it to you: let’s meet at a beautiful spa in the tropical clouds of Costa Rica for deep support and directed self-inquiry.
In this 5-night retreat, you will have the opportunity to:
Deepen your relationship with your physical body with gentle progressive yoga and meditation.
Enjoy food and all that nourishes through mindful practice and interactive learning.
Gain insight about your one precious life through conscious group share, guided imagery, and Shamanic journey.
Get clear about and support your full, true, gorgeous expression of you.
Leader: moi – Annie B. Kay – nutritional biochemist/yoga therapist/plant alchemist Costs:
Room & Board: Ranges from $702 (double in a glam-tent) – $1627 (single in the fanciest rooms). Prices subject to change (a little).
Check out the venue: https://puravidaspa.com/accommodations/ Pura Vida is a gorgeous retreat about 20 minutes from the San Jose airport, has spa treatments (separate), hosts excursions (separate). If you go you might spend a few days at the beach before or after the retreat. NOT included: Airfare.
To hold your space: $400 deposit
Happy New Year! It’s that time again!
Time to review the year that was, and reset our course for the possibilities ahead. I honestly don’t know too many people who had a stellar 2016, but I know you’re out there. Here’s a round up of the top whole food & nutrition memes I see out there. Prediction: 2017 will be the year of the skillful – we will be challenged! For those who are clear about who they are and what’s real, and roll up their sleeves to serve others and have a good time, it will be a good year.
So, let’s eat! The mega-trend is AUTHENTIC. REAL is in.
So, your practice of discernment – of separating the true from the pretenders – is the practice of the year.
Here are my top whole food memes to watch:
Spicy shots! It all began with the re-emergence of Fire Cider (and the bru-ha-ha that followed when an upstart trademarked a beloved herbalist’s recipe – couldn’t this have been prevented with a kind and appreciative phone call?). Anyway, I just whipped up a new recipe on this concept that does not require steeping for 6 weeks. It’s not the original, but it has increased our Free Fire Cider consumption and has been keeping us warm this month. Recipe coming soon! These fun little morning shots are warming and nutrient dense – natural preventive nutrition of the very best kind. This is my favorite food trend of the year. Bottom’s up!
Post-paleo Real-paleo – return of the (whole) grains!Paleo taught us a lot – it taught us to think about our genetic imperative (just how do we feed humans?). It taught us that refined foods (even those with a Paleo wrapper), refined grains, and refined sugar are not our friends. Paleo man (that famous 10K-year-old fellow) did not, however, eat bacon. He didn’t eat meat 3x per day. He sure didn’t eat modern grain-fed hamburgers, even without the bun. I’ve read a number of analysis suggesting he ate more than 110 gm of fiber (most Americans get 5-14 gm in our refined diets). Now that the paleo-frenzy has subsided, we are re-appreciating whole grains, and enjoying them as tolerated. Let’s hear it for balance.
Authentic quality animal & fermenteds! As my friends and excellent nutritionists John Bagnulo and Kathie Swift say – you are what they ate. Our great-grandparents didn’t need terms like organic and grass-fed, but unfortunately, due to the duplicity of marketing, we do now. We are swimming in poor-quality food, high in calories and low in nutrition. So, to improve your diet, if you eat animal foods, choose only those that are raised as nature intended. Cows are designed by the universe to live off grass, not grain. Chickens are healthy and happy when they are eating bugs and grass. This year, try your own fermented food recipes and include a little something fermented every day.
Revenge of self-acceptance. This year the NIH taught us a new phrase: metabolic adaptation. It means that if we gain weight and then lose, there’s a chance that, pound for pound, we will need fewer calories than if we hadn’t taken that weight gain sidetrack. Sigh. Does it go away over time? Something in me tells me that it does, but not to the degree we’d wish. So, enter self-acceptance. If you can follow a preventive health lifestyle regardless of the number on the scale, and you sustain it over time, you will win. You will look better, feel better and probably live longer. Will you reach your high school (or college) weight? Will you do it without dealing with your own hunger and satiety issues? Probably not.
Smarter supplement use. Supplements can be powerful medicines but are generally over-used and generally of really poor quality. Taking every supplement you hear about, and buying the cheapest version you can find, is a losing strategy. I only suggest someone try a supplement to address a lab value or a symptom, find the highest quality you can find & afford, take as directed and watch to see if you get the result you are seeking. I also keep supplement use to your top 5 (and 5 is a lot!). Run from practitioners that insists you need more. The right supplement at the right time can be a lifesaver, but food is so much more important overall. A qualified licensed nutritionist can work with you to sort which are worth it for you, and how to use supplements along with diet and lifestyle effectively.