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Your diabetes diet: Stay motivated by breaking down the barriers
Special to CNN.com
It's easy to arm yourself with diabetes meal plans, exchange lists and food logs. But it's not always so easy to follow your diabetes diet — the same healthy eating plan that can benefit everyone. Sticking to a diabetes diet is one of the most challenging aspects of living with diabetes. The key is to find ways to overcome barriers and to stay motivated. Know your barriers
To maintain your diabetes diet, it helps to identify potential barriers and the means to break through them. Barriers to following your diabetes diet may include:
Experience the benefits, stay motivated
- Financial issues. Buying lots of fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive. But keep in mind that you're buying fewer less-nutritious foods, such as chips and sweets. You may also buy less meat. This saves you money.
- Cultural barriers. From burritos to jambalaya to fry bread, food is an expression of culture. But all cuisine can be prepared in healthier ways. You can find diabetic cookbooks that focus on foods from different cultures and ethnicities. These books contain plenty of ideas for making traditional foods healthier. If you have friends with diabetes or know of someone with the condition, ask for cooking tips.
- Family issues. Food is often the center of social and family life. Sometimes family members aren't supportive of the changes you're trying to make. A family member may feel rejected if you say no to his or her special dish. Discuss your diabetes diet and your diabetes treatment goals with family members and ask for their support. Reassure family members that you're not rejecting them — just their unhealthy food choices. Let them know that your health comes first.
- Social pressure. It's hard to turn down a dessert or snack when it's offered to you. If you're watching football with friends and everyone's drinking beer and eating potato chips, the temptation to join in can be hard to resist. The best way to deal with potentially difficult situations is to anticipate and plan for them. Consider ways you can eat a favorite dish without totally abandoning your diet plan. For example, decide you're going to have pizza at the party, but only one slice. Another option is to bring your own healthier snacks to get-togethers, with enough to share. Think through what you'll eat and drink before you arrive, and stick to your plan.
The motivation to stick with your diabetes diet will improve as you begin to experience the benefits of your hard work. You'll likely:
- Feel better. If you eat too much at once, or eat too many carbohydrates, your blood sugar can rise markedly. This may cause you to feel tired and generally crummy. When you follow your diabetes diet, you feel better.
- Decrease your risk of low blood sugar. If you skip meals or don't eat the right foods, you may experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar include sweating, shakiness, weakness, dizziness and irritability. Severely low blood sugar can lead to diabetic coma. Following a regular eating schedule and meal plan reduces this risk.
- Better control your weight. With an eating plan, you're less likely to overeat or eat too much of the wrong foods. Being overweight makes it more difficult to control your blood sugar. It also increases your risk of many other medical problems, such as heart disease and stroke.
- Maintain greater control of your diabetes. Knowing how various foods and eating patterns affect your blood sugar will help you achieve and maintain better control of your disease.
Ultimately, the motivation you need to succeed will come from within. You have to believe that what you're doing matters — and that you're worth it.
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