Dr. Dennis Van Hoof, PhD, CLC
“How long before the majority of people in the USA has diabetes?“
The diabetic epidemic
As of 2015, more than 1 million people in the USA have type 1 diabetes. But that group is dwarfed by the 30 million people who have type 2 diabetes, and that number keeps on rising. Even worse, a staggering 84 million people is pre-diabetic; that’s 1 out of 3 people in the USA! Sadly, most of them are unaware, and are very likely to develop type 2 diabetes with all the associated complications if they do not change their lifestyle.
In a recent study by the American Diabetes Association, the total cost of diabetes in 2017 is estimated to be $327 billion. Needless to say that everyone in this nation will profit from reducing those numbers; not just financially, but also health-wise.
Since obesity and type 2 diabetes (along with pre-diabetes) go hand-in-hand (see figure below), health care is currently focused on food, with an emphasis on reducing carb consumption. But, although you can lower your blood glucose by avoiding carbs as much as possible, you face other health risks with diets that compensate for the lack of carbs by increasing fat and protein ratios (see Blog post “The bitter-sweet truth“).
A healthier and safer way is to be more active. Living a healthy life means keeping up your physical activity level, and carefully choosing the types, portions and proportions of food you eat to support those activities (see Blog post “Timing for excellent diabetes management“). No one will argue against the numerous health benefits associated with a solid exercise regimen. Besides improving your physical health and mental well-being, working out also positively affects your blood glucose by burning the circulating glucose to fuel your muscles, and by increasing your sensitivity to insulin. To achieve this, you really don’t need to run a marathon every day. Just 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise (like walking, gardening or any other activity you like to do) is enough; and you may find yourself losing excessive fat weight on the go!
Rather than focusing on carbs alone, you should specifically limit your saturated fat intake. Considering that fat contains double the amount of calories compared to carbs, eating too much fat will contribute to weight gain twice as much, and requires working out twice as long to shed those extra pounds. Since it is excessive weight that is underlying the surge in diabetes, long-term weight loss may be the best remedy to halt the diabetic epidemic.
A few facts from the National Weight Control Registry study that followed more than 3,000 people:
- 89% changed their eating habits: no more than 24% of calories from fat.
- 72% burned at least 1,000 calories per week with exercising.
- The average weight loss was 66 lbs.
- They kept off 30 lbs for an average of 5½ years.
- 88% still watches their fat and general calorie intake with ongoing success.
The key to a sustainable healthy and active lifestyle is to find healthy foods that you like to eat and activities that are fun to do. It’s about making the right choices and consuming appropriate portions of food to support an active lifestyle that is easy to keep up because it is enjoyable. None of those restrictive diets or drill-sergeant exercise routines are sustainable.
Harmonizing a healthy and active lifestyle with your daily duties and obligations may be easier said than done. But the question is how much the benefits to your own well-being outweigh the investment of making the effort. Take a critical look at the daunting numbers in the table below and judge your odds of developing diabetes or complications if you keep up your current eating habits and (lack of) activity. Ask yourself: is it really impossible to free up just 30 minutes per day for some modest physical activity? Or can you make it a time-efficient habit, like taking a walk with your co-workers after lunch, or watching your favorite show while pedaling on a stationary bike, instead of sitting on the couch?
You may be surprised how good a healthy body can feel. And a healthy body is the foundation for a healthy mind that runs on optimism and positivity. Feeling good is contagious; one day you may realize that you have become an inspiration™ to others to follow your example.
Keep an eye out for my next blog, and I hope to see you soon to get you started on the journey to your new life!
Dr. Dennis Van Hoof is a Certified Life Coach (CLC) with an academic PhD degree in Biochemical Physiology. By combining 20 years of first-hand personal diabetes experience with his in-depth scientific background, he developed a method to efficiently manage his own diabetes in a sustainable way. To learn how you can do this too, reach out for personal Diabetic Lifestyle Coaching or follow a group workshop that is specifically tailored to people with Type 1 or 2 Diabetes as well as pre-Diabetics and those at risk due to being overweight or obese. His clients thrive with their challenges and become an inspiration™ to others — with or without diabetes.