Written by Olife team member Alaa A. Abdel Raouf
Pre-diabetes is a serious health condition where the blood sugar levels are higher than normal, yet not high enough to start considering it type 2 Diabetes. 1 in 3 adults can have Pre diabetes. This is where the blood sugar levels are rapidly elevated by the consumption of simple carbohydrates, but how many of us can resist the taste of chocolate cake with all your favourite toppings, in comparison to a measly carrot? My relationship with food is basically defined by my sweet tooth. I just love sweets. Growing up in a family that loves eating, I have developed a deeper relationship with food; it relieves my stress and makes everything better. But actually, food—when abused—may cause way more health issues than we may think.
Both my parents had developed diabetes by their mid-forties. I was so young then, but now I understand what that means much more. Let's face it, the community around us also plays a huge role in our health. In our case, we’re part of a community where deciding where to eat always comes first and everything else comes second. Food is a huge part of our culture.
For me, changing my eating habits is something I have often struggled with; and is a big challenge, it takes courage, time and consistency. I have a very deep and beautiful relationship with food, my heart dances when I eat something I love. But I have to be smart, knowing that unhealthy food can have (negative) effects that matter more than the initial pleasure does. I have learned that changing my eating habits doesn’t mean restricting myself to fruits and vegetables all day. It just means being aware of what I eat, and being moderate. The more aware I become, the more I realize that eating healthy doesn’t mean my heart will no longer dance because of food. It just means that there’s more to food than I thought growing up. I realized that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring, it can be creative and it can still make me happy. It just needs to make my body happy too!
Let's understand diabetes...There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is when the body’s immune system starts attacking and destroying the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Type 2 is when the body does not produce enough insulin to lower the sugar level in the blood or when the cells do not respond and resist the insulin.
Insulin is the key hormone in the story behind pre-diabetes, insulin is produced by the pancreas to act like a key and let the blood sugar enter into the cells to start using it as energy. As a pre-diabetic, my cells do not respond normally to insulin, so the pancreas starts producing more insulin to try to make the cells respond, eventually the pancreas can’t keep up, and the blood sugar rises, setting the stage for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes down the road.
So let us break it down.
What is Insulin?
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to regulate the blood sugar level (Glucose), its main role is to help the glucose in your blood to enter your cells in your liver, fat, and muscles where it is used for energy. Glucose is produced by breaking down the food we eat, especially carbohydrates. When the blood glucose level rises the pancreas releases Insulin to lower it. For a prediabetic, the cells are resistant to insulin.
What is insulin resistance?
It is when your cells do not respond well to the action of the Insulin, and can not easily take up the glucose from your blood, as a result, the glucose level stays elevated causing the pancreas to overproduce the insulin till the glucose level is lowered. Okay, so simply my cells are a little bit resistant to insulin, that is why it is called insulin resistance. My cells won't accept the key (Insulin) to open the gate to enter the Glucose molecules inside the cells to start producing ATPs (Energy).
Insulin resistance can be reversed and type 2 diabetes can be prevented or at least delayed for years. The Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group has published several studies showing that Type 2 diabetes may be preventable by diet and exercise. According to the latest studies, if you are overweight, losing 10% of your weight can have a huge impact on delaying type2 diabetes.
Finding out I had pre Diabetes
I have never been into sports, I do not call myself an active person, But I would have loved it if my parents pushed me to play any kind of sports when I was younger. I have always experienced a lack of energy and tiredness when I was young, but never related it to a medical health condition, I called it LAZY. After a lot of research, I thought that maybe I had developed Diabetes and was convinced of it for a while, after doing a blood test, I was informed that I am Prediabetic and might develop type 2 diabetes if I do not watch my lifestyle.
What did I do?
For me, I have always struggled with my weight. Losing extra weight is not the easiest thing to do, but you can always do it in a smart way. Nowadays, many people have developed the mindset of eating healthy and watching what they eat. You can always start with baby steps, you can give up on sugar and use an alternative, start using brown bread instead of white bread. I started consuming complex Carbohydrates instead of simple carbohydrates – Simple carbohydrates are digested fast and cause a spike in the blood glucose level providing the body with a short-lasting form of energy, but complex carbohydrates take a longer time to be digested so they provide the body with a more lasting elevation of energy-.
I started taking long walks, which has a better effect when you are insulin resistant than running. Sports are easier when you do something you love, you will make the time and enjoy the feeling. For me, I would enjoy an hour cycling more than 15 mins in the Gym, some others would prefer the opposite. Try to find what you love and what makes you comfortable to stay consistent.
So let us start watching our lifestyles together through a very simple and easy tip: Moderation.
Throughout the trials and errors -which are very normal- I have learned to understand my body. Having a healthy relationship with food does not mean restricting myself to fruits and vegetables all day, it can mean some minor changes that will make your health way better on the long term, like quitting sugar and replacing it with honey or Stevia, adding a salad to your meal, drinking little more water each day, walking for 30 mins 3 to 5 times a week, and understanding what we eat and how our bodies react to it.
There’s more to food than I thought growing up. I realized that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring, it can be creative, full of colors and still tasty. The more aware I become, the more I realize that eating healthy doesn’t mean my heart will no longer dance because of food, it means it will dance even healthier!