Most people with diabetes agree – it takes time, education, and some experimentation to figure out what diet patterns, exercise routines, and medications work best for good blood sugar control. Fortunately, there are many excellent resources available locally, nationally, and online to turn to for help, whether you are new to diabetes or have had the disease for many years. Susan Gebhard is a person with diabetes who has found, with a lot of trial and error, a way to successfully manage and live with chronic disease. She joined us recently on the set of Your Healthy Kitchen, where she shared stories about her journey with diabetes and some of the resources she’s found especially helpful, including the YRMC Diabetes Self Management Training Program and Diabetes Food Hub, a new online site for recipes and meal planning developed by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Using diet, regular exercise, and medications, Susan reduced her A1C, a measure of average blood sugar levels over 3 months, from a high of 12% to 5.9%, a value that indicates near-normal blood sugar. Check out the video to hear more from Susan about her journey and to check out some recipes from Diabetes Food Hub!
Just as there are many different types of people with diabetes, there are many different diets that can improve blood sugar levels, weight, triglycerides, blood pressure and more. Some individuals get great results from a high-fiber, plant based vegan or vegetarian plan, while others, like Susan, do well with a lower carb approach that includes low fat animal proteins and big portions of vegetables! There are lots of diet patterns that fall in between these two extremes, so it helps to try different meals, snacks and foods to see what works best for you.
Susan attributes part of her success to the information and support she garnered from two local programs; the YRMC Diabetes Self-Management Training Program (DSMT) at the Pendleton Preventive Medicine and Wellness Centers, and the Arizona Living Well Program, a series of classes for people living with chronic disease, offered through Yavapai Community Health Services. The DSMT program at YRMC taught her how meals, medications, motion (physical activity), and stress affect blood sugar control. She also picked up important tips from both programs about managing diabetes successfully from day to day. Susan states, “I keep a journal of everything I do to manage diabetes. I use a Day Timer notebook and write down what I eat, the exercise I did, any blood sugar tests from that day, and general information about how I feel and what I think I can do better. This helps me see everything I want to do and how well I did! It motivates me to do the best I can every day”.
Learning to make part or all of her meals ahead of time, one or two days a week, has also helped Susan improve her diet over time. During the summer, she preps leafy greens, vegetables, and some chicken or fish for big, satisfying salads during the week. When the days turn cold and damp, she cooks big pots of soup, which are easy to re-heat for quick nourishing meals.
Living with diabetes certainly comes with its share of challenges. Figuring out what foods and medications work best, checking blood sugar levels daily, and just knowing that you have diabetes every day can be hard. Susan has some words of wisdom for anyone struggling with the disease. “At first everything seems overwhelming, but you get used to what you need to do. It can be frustrating to live with diabetes every day. Sometimes I just want to say the heck with it and eat what I want. This is one time I find journaling helpful, because it keeps me on track and positive. Sometimes I really do say the heck with it and have that bowl of ice cream! But I get back on track the next day. You can successfully manage your diabetes. It just takes time and effort to learn what works for you. There are many resources available to help. Most of all, don’t give up!”
For more information on the YRMC Diabetes Self-Management Program in Prescott or Prescott Valley call the Pendleton Wellness Center at 928-771-5794. Information about Arizona Living Well is available at 928-442-5372. For additional ongoing education and peer support, you can also join the Living Well with Diabetes Support Group, which meets on the third Tuesday of most months, from 5:30-6:30 pm at the Pendleton Wellness Center in Prescott. To get regular updates on upcoming meetings, simply subscribe at YRMC HealthConnect.
And don’t forget to check out all of the healthy cooking videos and recipes we’ve collected for you at Your Healthy Kitchen. Follow us on FaceBook too, at YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen, where you can see what I’m making at home in my kitchen, plus get insider tips, delicious recipes and links to helpful health and nutrition resources online and in the community!