“No, that’s a myth — and so is the misconception that people with diabetes can “never” eat sweets or traditional foods they enjoy,” says Donna Gibbons, RN, MS, CPT, CDE, Diabetes Program Manager at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth).
A wiser strategy, she says, is assessing Type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk factors: being overweight, physically inactive, over 45, or the sibling of someone with diabetes. “Often people at risk of developing diabetes think if they feel OK, they’re OK. But T2D diabetes is very insidious and subtle,” Gibbons says. “You might feel sleepy after eating a large meal; you may notice you’re thirstier in the summer or more fatigued at the end of the day. But it’s nothing glaring. That’s why millions of people walk around with pre-diabetes without knowing it.”
In fact, more than 86 million U.S. adults have pre-diabetes; up to 30 percent will develop T2D within five years. The good news: Studies show you can prevent or delay onset of T2D with small lifestyle changes that include losing 5 to 7 percent of total body weight (that’s 10 to 14 pounds if you weigh 200), eating a healthy diet, and increasing physical activity, even gradually, to 150 minutes of walking per week — which can be divided into 30 minutes over five days.
“There’s no such thing as a Diabetes Diet,” Gibbons says. “Instead, it’s making healthy choices: eating a wide variety of foods, increasing dietary fiber with whole grains, non-starchy vegetables and fruit, eating smaller portions at regular intervals throughout the day and working with a registered dietician to learn how to eat the foods you love. It’s important to fit diabetes into your everyday ‘healthy’ life.”
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