Managing diabetes with good nutrition and exercise


12-January-2018

 

 

 

“I never thought I would have diabetes

 

 

 

Healthy eating and exercise are key to healthy living and if you are a diabetic, these become crucial because what you eat affects your blood sugar. The Seychelles NATION spoke to 44-year-old Eric who has recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes to learn more about his journey in managing this condition through a change in his lifestyle.

Eric begins by recounting that he was very active as a child and teenager and up until just a few years ago, he also participated heavily in various sports and activities including basketball, windsurfing, swimming and diving.

He adds that his diet was not necessarily “unhealthy” and he mainly consumed a variety of our local dishes. Eric reveals however that his mother, her parents and her sister have all had diabetes. Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases if your parents or siblings have it. 

In November 2017, while attending one of his annual health check-ups, the doctor informed Eric that his sugar level was above the normal level. A few more tests revealed that his sugar level was slightly lower than the first time, but still above normal. According to Eric, the doctor explained that the reason for this was because his pancreas was not producing enough insulin.

“It was then that I was diagnosed with diabetes. I never thought I would have diabetes and the news came as a shock as I used to be very active. For about a week after the diagnosis, I can remember feeling very down. It has not been easy since then and I have to take pills every single day. However, to help keep the situation under control, I was advised to seek the help of a dietician in the Nutrition Unit at the Ministry of Health,” says Eric.

During his first visit at the Nutrition Unit, Eric was introduced to different ways of incorporating healthier cooking methods and eating habits. For example, he was advised not to radically stop eating carbohydrates but rather to have smaller portions of rice or replace rice with fibre rich foods like steamed sweet potato, cassava, bread fruit etc. and to have more fish and vegetables. Eric was also reminded to include regular physical activities alongside a healthy diet.

On an average day, Eric now begins his morning with some ‘weetabix’ cereal, oat meal, wheat-meal biscuits or multi-grain bread. At lunchtime, he has a small portion of carbohydrates in the form of rice or bread along with some fish or meat and vegetables. Dinner is similar to lunch but rice and bread is replaced with small portions of steamed tubers and vegetables which he says he often steams or stir-fries with a little amount of oil. He always uses a small amount of oil while cooking, has replaced conventional oil with olive oil and removes any excess fat/skin from meat.

To increase his activity level, Eric has started going for regular walks and swims and says that he tries to commit to at least 2 days of walking and 1 day of swimming during the week as well as some more swimming at the weekends.

Speaking about the most challenging part of adapting to his new lifestyle, Eric explains that at the weekends, he used to enjoy having some drinks with family and friends at social gatherings. He finds that cutting down on this habit has been particularly hard for him, especially over the recent festive season but he finds ways to adapt by having a more suitable alternative and in moderation.

Although it has only been a few months since his first appointment with the dietician, the new cooking methods and eating habits have now become a normal part of Eric’s routine. He has managed to lose 5 kilos since being diagnosed but admits that there is still a long way to go and much more to adapt to.

Eric is motivated by the support he receives and describes the staff at the Nutrition Unit as very understanding, supportive and always willing to help. During his appointments, Eric explains that the dietician monitors his weight and they talk about what he has been eating, how easy/difficult things have been and whether he is finding anything hard to adapt to. From there, the dietician advises him on the steps he can take to make improvements.

At home, Eric’s wife is also supportive and has embarked on the same journey as him to lose some weight which he finds very encouraging. She also reminds him to take his pills and often goes out in the garden to gather local plants for him which have traditionally been known to help diabetics.

Speaking about his target for the year, Eric is determined to ensure that healthy eating and exercise become a normal routine for him and aims to lose 10 kilos by the end of the year.

“After doing some research on how other people cope and live with diabetes, it is not as bad as I thought it would be and this helps me to stay positive, which is very important,” he says.

 

 

 

 

 

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