“But diabetes is a fat person’s disease!” you gasp. “How can a successful, professional woman like myself possibly develop diabetes? I’m not overweight at all!” Well, we have news for you, sister. Woman to woman: it’s time to start re-thinking what we know about type 2 diabetes and how it can affect women just like you (and me!).
The fact is that more and more women are becoming diabetic and lifestyle still has a lot to do with it, but not in the way you think. Here’s how it may play out:
- You’re a successful 30, 40, or 50-something professional, but you have a lot of stress in your work and home life, so you can’t find the time to exercise like you used to when you were in your 20s.
- You’ve manage to keep your weight down because there isn’t a diet that you haven’t tried over the years. You are the yo-yo queen but that’s okay, because it helps to keep you slim even when you overindulge in sweets or wine.
- And yes, you might still smoke (you’ve been meaning to quit) but you need some kind of stress relief in your crazy day and it’s a way to get away from being chained to your desk. And those cocktails after work are just another way to unwind (although sometimes the nights out with the girls do get out of hand).
Any of this scenario sound familiar?
Well, guess what ladies – you are the potential new face of type 2 diabetes.
Here are the risk factors for today’s career woman:
- Maintaining your weight through dieting alone: 15% of new cases are not overweight on the outside (National Institutes of Health statistics), but something much more scary instead. These people are called ‘Fat on the Inside,’ which means that dangerous fat stores internally surrounding key organs instead of showing outwardly around the middle as a paunch. Dr. Jimmy Bell coined the term when he made his recent discovery. He determined that these internal fat deposits cause inflammatory substances to affect your liver and pancreas, and lower your insulin sensitivity, putting you on the road to Diabetes.
- Yo-Yo dieting: Every time we drop weight, we lose muscle, but when we gain the weight again, we don’t get that muscle back. Your body clings to that extra fat because it is afraid of being starved again and this kind of fat produces more hormones and proteins, which affects your glucose levels and triggers the start of type 2 diabetes.
- Eating processed ‘diet’ foods or bingeing on fatty, sugary foods: Let’s face it; many diet foods are a minefield of bad choices. Sugar-free foods often add fat, and fat-free foods often add sugar. If you live on anything marked ‘low-cal’ or ‘diet’ you could be doing more harm than good. Add to that the tendency for women to ‘comfort eat’ by indulging in fatty or sugary foods and you elevate the real risk of becoming ‘fat on the inside’.
- Being stressed out all the time: Whenever we experience stress, our body produces the hormone cortisol which gives you that jolt of energy but it also elevates your blood sugar levels. If you are stressed all the time, it is going to take a toll on your body and its ability to handle sugars and fats over the long-term.
- You are smoking and/or drinking: Whether your vice is cosmos or Corona, if you drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol on a regular basis (1 drink a day for women) you will have more of that dangerous internal fat. You also run the risk of chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can impair its ability to secrete insulin and ultimately lead to diabetes. Tobacco can increase blood sugar levels as well and lead to insulin resistance.
So what are you going to do about it?
1) Get Moving: Statistics show that overweight people who exercise regularly are at lower risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes than thin people who are sedentary. Get off your couch, push away from your desk and get moving. Your life might depend on it.
2) Eat ‘real’ foods high in fibre: Legumes, oats, brown rice, fruits, and berries high in fibre all help to regulate blood sugar levels. You get the added bonus of lowering your cholesterol as well.
3) Cut out processed ‘diet’ foods: Don’t believe what the label tells you. A cookie is still a cookie. Think twice about what you put in your mouth.
4) Slow and steady wins the race: Yo-yo dieting is called that for a reason. Get off the yo-you and embrace the slow and steady approach to weight loss. Crash diets will only harm you in the long run and they just aren’t worth it.
5) Take vitamin D: There is some evidence that a lack of this vitamin in your diet can hinder insulin function and glycemic control so make sure you get in those fatty fish, tinned tuna, fortified milk products, and supplements
6) Find a way to fight stress: Exercise is already a great stress reliever, but find other ways to relax and decompress, whether it’s through yoga, meditation, or a lunchtime walk.
Most importantly though, speak with your doctor. It is recommended that women over 40 are to be tested for diabetes every 3 years. Make sure you bring up your concerns with your physician.
Diabetes is a very old disease but it is developing a new face because of the stressed, desk-strapped, diet obsessed lifestyles that we women are leading today. Be aware, be informed, and be healthy. We need you rocking your life in the world!
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