Has the world ever been more anxious to greet the coming of a new year? Even in the best of times, the changing of the year is looked forward to as an opportunity for reflection and growth. But after the unforgettable doozy that was 2020, most of us will be more eager than ever to move forward, and to make a clean break with the past.
If you have diabetes, you probably already spend an unusual amount of time analyzing your behavior and planning about self-improvement. Resolutions come naturally for us—and New Year’s is still a great time to make big promises.
It takes discipline and hard work to thrive with diabetes, but it’s possible and it’s definitely worth the effort. If you think you’re ready to take your health to the next level, here are seven ideas that could serve you well in the coming year:
Get Better Sleep
Good sleep may be the most underrated health factor for everyone, and especially for people with diabetes. Even mild sleep deprivation can increase insulin resistance, and it has long been known that chronic lack of sleep is a huge risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Many people have found that proper sleep improves just about everything—not just blood sugar stability but also mood, energy, and focus, putting you in a far better position to manage your condition.
There are many recommendations out there for getting better sleep that would work as good resolutions: trying developing or sticking with a bedtime routine, or promising to shut electronic screens off an hour before bedtime.
Here’s a trend with at least two fancy names—“intermittent fasting” and “time-restricted eating”—but it doesn’t take much acumen to put into practice. Just skip one meal a day, and you’re on your way with a buzzy technique with unique potential for people with diabetes, both Types 1 and Type 2.
What’s clever about the intermittent fasting is that it can help you with both blood sugar and weight loss without needing to bother much with nutrition trackers, food scales and glucometers. Eating less often will always reduce blood sugar spikes and dips, and many dieters find that when they skip breakfast (or dinner!), they naturally eat less than they would normally. The fat loss can seem almost effortless.
The simplicity of the diet makes it easy to follow, and many dieters report that they feel highly satisfied with the new eating pattern.
No More Bedtime Snacks
Does your bedtime snacking make your blood sugar management better, or worse? The research is in—food consumed late at night is particularly unhealthy—and the issue is even more important for people with diabetes, as it may cause your blood sugar to behave unpredictably while you’re asleep and cannot monitor it.
If you still need a snack before bedtime to prevent your blood sugar from dropping overnight, you likely need to adjust your basal insulin dosage. “Feeding” your insulin is a good way to eat more than you need to.
Hit the Weight Room
How many how many times have you rocked the treadmill in January only to fall off the wagon long before the first signs of spring? Make this year different and commit to pumping iron twice a week. If you think that lifting weights is just for the bodybuilders, you’re out of the loop. Resistance training is now recommended to just about everyone, regardless of age or gender, and is even seen to be of particular benefit to those who need to lose weight. Some of the many benefits include boosted metabolism, improved bone health, and better endurance, and a good weights session can be accomplished with more speed (and less sweat) than miles on the elliptical machine or out on the pavement.
And there are some special benefits for a person with diabetes. Resistance training improves insulin sensitivity, and as a bonus, many find that it’s easier to manage glucose levels during a strength-training session than it is during aerobic exercise.
Plan Your Meals
Pretty much everyone agrees—the more you plan out your meals, the likelier you are to make wholesome, healthy choices. Our modern world is full of starchy, calorie-dense junk food and takeout temptations. When you already know on Sunday what you’ll be eating for dinner on Thursday, you’re much less likely to give in.
This goes double when you’ve got diabetes. For decades, it was the conventional wisdom that people with diabetes should eat consistently, even methodically, in order to tame wild blood sugar swings. That advice isn’t emphasized much anymore, because our tools and technology for managing blood sugar are so much better than they used to be. But that doesn’t mean the advice is obsolete. To the contrary, a recent survey found that patients meeting HbA1c targets are more likely to eat at similar times day to day, and are less likely to eat out. Even better: they’re more likely to report that diabetes doesn’t interfere with their daily life!
As a bonus, the more meal-planning, bulk shopping and cooking you do, the more money you’re likely to save.
Check Your Blood Sugar Twice as Often
Fingersticks: they hurt, they’re annoying, and they can be frustratingly expensive. But perhaps the single most important thing you can do to improve your glucose management is to check your blood sugar more often.
How often do you check now? Consider making a promise to yourself to double it. The less often you check your blood sugar, the less information you have about how diet and exercise affect you. A single fingerstick is a mere snapshot of what’s actually happening in your body: the more often the check, the more often you understand the way your blood sugar moves.
Even better? Ask your healthcare provider about a Continuous Glucose Monitor.
Drink Water, not Sugar
This might be the single easiest way to instantly improve your health.
We should all know by now that soda is emptiest of all “empty calories,” basically a metabolic disaster, triggering the vicious cycle that causes you to overeat and drive up insulin resistance and then go back for more. Soda contains an unbelievable amount of sugar and essentially zero nutritional value. Fruit juices, even 100% juice, are just about as bad. The same goes for energy drinks and sweetened coffee and tea drinks; it’s pretty much just liquefied sugar, with zero added nutrition. It’s bad for your teeth, bad for your waistline, and simply ruinous for your blood sugar management. Knock it off!
Banish all of these beverages and choose water instead.
Happy New Year!