I was diagnosed with type II diabetes more than a decade ago, and for most of that time, I’ve avoided medication. I’ve done so through diet and exercise. Today, I take one tablet a day (metformin) a long prescribed, noninvasive drug, with few if any side effects for most users.

I’m fortunate to have a dear friend who is a naturopathic physician. Early in my diagnosis, she helped me to understand that type II diabetes often can be controlled without medication. She has type I diabetes, which she has lived with for most of her life, and although she’s insulin dependent, she has avoided many of the complications experienced by Type I patients. Her secret is simple, she follows a healthy living routine.

When it comes to Food—Think Ahead

Most people know that people with diabetes should avoid sugar, but not everyone understands that carbs can be just as dangerous to a person with diabetes. ADA (American Diabetes Association) Understanding Carbohydrates. The key is to avoid eating the wrong foods out of convenience, availability, or time constraints, by planning your meals.

Bring Your Lunch

For the last few years, I’ve brought my lunch to work 90 % of the time. I bring healthy foods I enjoy, salads, homemade soups, avocado, hard boiled eggs, and fresh fruit. Before I brought my lunch, I ate diabetic unfriendly fast food, machine junk, or didn’t eat—all bad diets.

Don’t Go Down That Aisle

I have food triggers—sweets and carbs. “For me, it was chips and cookies. I‘ve replaced cookies with fruit and chips with seaweed snacks; my favorite is Wasabi flavored. I also snack on edamame, almonds, and carrots. Another key for me is avoiding temptation, for example, I no longer walk down the cookie or chip aisles in the grocery store, and I stay away from the Friday morning company donuts because I know I can’t eat only one.” If You Want to Change Your Lifestyle, Change Your Choices.

Find an Alternative

My father is an insulin dependent diabetic. He’s 88 years old and loves Little Debbie’s. I often do his grocery shopping and can count on Nutty Bars, Cup Cakes, and Pecan Sandie’s topping his shopping list.

At 88 I want him to be happy; these sweets please him, but at the same time, his glucose level was trending well past the danger point. I tried a compromise. I bought him sugar-free pudding. He loves it. In the past, his grocery list called for four or more sweets. Last week his list had two, Nutty Bar’s and Sugar-Free Pudding.

Exercise

The thing about exercise is it doesn’t have to mean joining a gym or running a 5K. What’s most important is to find an exercise you enjoy. How many of us have joined a gym and not followed through? We might have blamed our lack of participation on time constraints, but if going to the gym is something you enjoy you find the time, and many do. Find an activity you enjoy.

For me hiking is the answer, “I love being on the trails and enjoy the physicality of it, but I could get that at my local high school track. What brings me back time and time again is the commune with nature. The combination of low impact physical activity combined with the great outdoors is mood altering.” — The Health and Wellness Benefits of Hiking.

Hiking might not float your boat as it does mine, so find what does. Biking, yoga, dance, running, kayaking, or just walking your neighborhood all are excellent forms of exercise. Find an exercise you like and commit to a schedule. As little as 30 minutes per day can make a huge impact on your diabetes. “You should aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week. If you think that you can’t find 30 minutes, you can break up the exercise into chunks—10 minutes here and there. Build up to 30 minutes gradually.” Endocrine Web Type 2 Diabetes and Exercise

Diabetes Isn’t the End of the World

Don’t misunderstand me; the disease should be taken seriously with regular checkups, continuous monitoring, and lifestyle changes as needed. However, having diabetes shouldn’t stop you from living your life. I, my friend the doctor, and many others haven’t allowed the disease to take over our lives, just the opposite we’ve taken charge and so can you.

If you’d like to learn more about Diabetes including screening for the disease go to ADA (American Diabetes Association)

Photo credit: Skley via Foter.com / CC BY-ND