Everyone has some not-so-healthy behaviors, and thankfully, our bodies can be surprisingly forgiving – but only to a certain extent. When unhealthy behaviors become habits, they can wreak havoc on your system and make it harder to manage your diabetes or may increase your risk for developing diabetes-related complications.
If you find yourself routinely falling into any of these risky behaviors, it may be time to rethink your diabetes management methods and seek out support.
1. Yo-yo Dieting
It can be easy to find yourself falling into a dieting trap. With the media constantly sensationalizing the latest diet trend, many of my clients find hope in each new diet, believing it could be “the one” to help lead them to better health, weight loss and improved blood sugars. Unfortunately, many of the popularized diets out there are backed by little to no scientific evidence and are rarely sustainable for the long term. The tendency to hop on and off the dieting bandwagon can cause a lot of confusion for the body, including extreme fluctuations in weight in short periods of time, which can impact energy levels, mess with hormones, mood and—most importantly—your blood sugar stabilization. In fact, some diet trends that completely eliminate carbohydrates can be downright dangerous for someone living with diabetes who is taking insulin or is on other diabetes-related medications.
If you’re someone who has struggled with yo-yo dieting and are looking for a long-term, sustainable solution to weight loss or diabetes management, seek out support from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist or a Certified Diabetes Educator. The best “diet” is one that is maintainable, satisfying, and supports your overall health goals.
Binge drinking means consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. It’s a dangerous habit for anyone, but especially for those living with diabetes as it makes managing blood glucose enormously difficult. Not only does high amounts of alcohol consumption raise blood sugars, but it can also increase insulin resistance in the body when consumed frequently.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge-drinking is defined as 5 or more alcohol drinks on one occasion for males or 4 or more drinks for women on at least one day in the past month.
If you are struggling with binge-drinking and are ready to seek support, consider confiding in a friend or loved one to begin with—or reach out to a professional directly who can provide some guidance on where to start.
3. Being Sedentary
It’s no new news that exercise and maintaining a physically active lifestyle are good for us and helpful in controlling conditions like diabetes. But the importance of exercise has become even clearer: Research has shown that sitting for too long a period of time can be just as detrimental to your health as smoking!
Leading an active lifestyle is key to better managing diabetes, as well as staving off many other life-threatening conditions. In one study conducted in the UK, researchers found that only 14 days without physical activity can cause significant change in the body, including higher fat levels and insulin resistance.
The good news is you don’t have to be a marathon runner or even own a gym membership to change the trajectory of your health risks.
Small, daily actions like standing up every 30 minutes while at work or parking your car further away can all help to keep your body from staying sedentary for too long. It may take some creativity and planning, but staying active throughout the day is crucial to maintaining overall health, especially when living with diabetes.
4. Allowing Stress to Take Over Your Life
Stress is inevitable, but how you learn to live with and manage stress can determine your susceptibility to developing stress-related health risks. Things like increased blood pressure, decreased insulin sensitivity and weight gain have all long been attributed to stress when left unmanaged.
What’s more, living with chronically high stress levels can worsen your sleep quality, increase likelihood to stress-eat and boost stress hormones—all of which make it more difficult to manage blood glucose on a daily basis.
Find it difficult to manage your stress? Try starting with small moments each day to focus on being present and practicing stress-relief tactics. Using breathing techniques, going for walks, and taking intentional breaks to step away from stressful situations can help to lower stress hormones and blood pressure throughout the day. Exercise is another great way to keep stress hormones and blood sugar in-check.
If your stress has reached a point where these types of techniques are not cutting it, don’t be afraid to reach out for some support from a licensed counselor.
5. Being Unprepared
Even if you’ve been living with diabetes your entire life, there are likely times that you’ve felt unprepared to deal with blood sugar highs and lows. While having perpetually high blood sugars is definitely not good for your health in the long-run, having a bout of very low blood sugar with no way to boost it can be downright dangerous.
Be prepared for fluctuations in blood glucose by carrying snacks with you wherever you go. Nuts, fruit, string cheese or yogurt are easy to have on-hand to keep blood sugars stabilized throughout the day between meals.
You might also try stashing blood sugar-boosting foods wherever you go in case glucose levels dip too low. Small boxes of raisins or single-serving juice boxes can be used in a pinch and are easy to store in the car, at work or in a purse when you are on-the-go. They’re also a better alternative to having candy around and are just as effective for urgent situations.
Perpetually engaging in risky behaviors when you are living with diabetes is like playing with fire. While everyone deserves to indulge occasionally, there is a big difference in practicing moderation and falling into habits that can have long-term consequences. Oftentimes, repetitive or addictive behaviors have an underlying issue that may need to be addressed. Don’t be afraid to reach out for extra support or help from a professional—your health just might depend on it.