Eating Three Big Meals a Day
Three square meals a day may not be the best choice when you’re living with diabetes, according to Loren Wissner Greene, MD, an endocrinologist and clinical professor in the departments of medicine and obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “That may sound weird,” she says, but portion sizes at meals tend to be too big. Having five or six smaller meals — grazing like our ancestors did — is a better idea because it’s less likely to challenge your body with super-sized servings that raise blood sugar.
The one time it may be beneficial to have a larger meal is at breakfast. Your body has a different blood sugar response at different times of the day, according to the American Diabetes Association. Morning meals don’t tend to raise blood sugar as high as meals eaten later in the day. For a study published in May 2015 in Diabetologia, researchers separated 18 people with diabetes into two groups: One group ate a breakfast with 704 calories and dinner with 205 calories, while the other ate a low-calorie breakfast and high-calorie dinner. The bigger-breakfast group had significantly better blood sugar levels.
Sleeping Too Little — Or Too Much
After looking at the sleeping habits of 4,870 people with type 2 diabetes in Japan, researchers found that those who slept 6.5 to 7.4 hours a night had the lowest A1C levels, the measure of blood sugar over two or three months, and a healthier body mass index compared with those who got more or less sleep. The study was published in March 2013 in Diabetes Care. To help your mind wind down for sleep, Dr. Greene recommends setting a bedtime for your computer: Put your computer and all other screens to bed two hours before you go to sleep.
Neglecting Your Dental Health
Having diabetes means your body isn’t as good at fighting bacteria as you need it to be, and that leaves your gums susceptible to infection. As a result, people with diabetes are at higher risk of gum disease, and having serious gum disease may affect blood sugar control, according to the American Diabetes Association. Good dental hygiene that includes brushing and flossing, seeing your dentist for regular checkups, and keeping your dentist up-to-date on your diabetes are all must-dos.
Not Appreciating the Role of Stress
Stress starts a hormonal chain of events in the body that makes blood sugar harder to control, according to the Diabetes Teaching Center of the University of California, San Francisco. Getting stress under control is essential. “It’s universal that everybody is working harder and harder,” Greene says. “We’re wearing ourselves down, working more intensely, and not relaxing.” Your first step may be to use your vacation days for some relaxation. At the very least, take a vacation from electronics and get out in nature. “Watching TV or a movie is fun, but it doesn’t mean it’s relaxing for our brains and bodies,” Greene says.
Diabetes can raise your risk of depression, and depression symptoms such as low energy can make it harder to exercise, keep up a healthy diet, and follow your treatment plan, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Talk to your doctor if a depressed mood is becoming the norm for you. Treating depression through cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants, or both can improve your mental health and may lead to better blood sugar control.
Striving for Perfection
Although it’s always good to work on better diabetes management, perfectionism can derail your efforts. In fact, there’s a school of thought that healthcare professionals may be encouraging patients to test too often, Greene says, because it can cause people to obsess over their blood sugar and experience undue stress. Over-exercising is another way people can take good habits too far, Greene says. A healthy diabetes lifestyle includes giving up the idea of perfection.
Putting Off Health Care Appointments
If you’re following your treatment plan and feel well, you can skip a visit to your doctor or diabetes educator, right? Wrong. The nature of type 2 diabetes is that it will progress over time. You may need to add medications for some extra help, even when you’re doing a good job of following your treatment plan. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Keep all your regular appointments and call in any time you notice your blood sugar creeping up.