The REAL Benefits of Exercising

If you have diabetes, you’ve probably heard a million times that exercise is an important part of managing diabetes. That’s true of course, but it took me two years to realise how important it was. And in ways that no health care professional has ever explained to me. I know, I’m so slow to catch on sometimes.

When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over 2 years ago, my doctor (as all reasonable doctors would) prescribed me daily exercise, along with a hefty dose of medication. He also added: “Your diabetes is very serious. It won’t do you much good to walk 30 minutes a day – you must walk 1-2 hours every day.”

Which was a lot to ask of me I thought, since at that time I was doing exactly zero exercise. But I did my best to amend my ways. In a few weeks I was walking an hour a day. A few months later I started running, too, clutching my iPhone in one hand, listing to the robotic commands of the “Couch to 5k” application. It took me 6 months to reach the 5k goal but I did it. I was running pretty much every single night for 5-7 kilometers. I felt virtuous.

But all this time, I had the wrong idea about exercising. I thought it was just to lower my blood sugar level for that day. So I’d eat a nice dinner, pop my medication, and go for a run to let my sugar level drop to a normal level. Life was under control.

Then, a few months ago, I began to slack off and stopped exercising. It was a rather stressful period of my life, what with separation and moving to a new house (not to mention it was in the middle of a freezing mountain winter). I know, excuses, excuses… But the point is I did let regular exercising slip away…. I mean, if you skip one day, it’s so easy to skip the next day, and so on. You know how it goes.

And just like that, my health started to fall apart. My blood sugar was high. I lost a lot of my muscles because I wasn’t moving – which made me avoid exercising more. Before I knew it, even walking around my backyard began to hurt my legs.

I felt tired and weak all the time, so I craved more sugary, high-carb, oily food to comfort me. I was also eating all.the.time. Forget Dr. Fuhrman’s mandate to avoid snacking between meals – I just had no will power to stop snacking. I mean, if there was a cake lying around, I’d just eat it. My brain was also foggy, so I drank coffee after coffee just to stay afloat mentally.

My energy level dropped to an all-time low. Often I’d wake up in the morning and just sit there in front of my laptop for hours, mindlessly surfing the net and not having an ounce of energy to do anything else. Then I’d stay up till wee hours in the morning just catch up on work – drinking more coffee and snacking. The resulting lack of sleep made me even more tired the next day.

In short, it was a bad case of vicious cycle – a spiral down to an early death no doubt!

Which is when I finally had the lightbulb moment: I need to start exercising again. And this time, I realised it’s not just about lowering blood sugar level temporarily after meals. It’s to alter my entire lifestyle, and to reverse this downward spiral.

So here it is people – the list of real benefits of exercising regularly:

(1) Regular exercising builds and maintains your muscles (I know, it is obvious but please read on).

(2) When you are physically strong, you have more energy to do more stuff – more work, more gardening, more housework – in short you are more productive.

When you are more productive during the day, you feel okay about going to bed earlier. And getting enough sleep does wonders to your mood and energy level the next day.

(3) When you exercise, you are not craving food. It’s true! You are not hungry when you are sweating in a fitness class or fast walking around the neighbourhood. Even when you come home afterwards, I’m often not hungry for hours. So yay, I can stick with Dr. Fuhrman’s “no snacking” regime better.

(4) Your body affects your mind directly. When you are physically strong, your mind is clearer and stronger. I don’t have foggy brains after I exercise. It helps a lot with my work to have a clear mind.

And guess what, when you concentrate on your work (or blog writing or gardening), you don’t feel the compulsion to eat. Eating had become a way of procrastination and distraction for me, when I didn’t have enough mental energy to do anything much.

(5) With a clearer mind, you also have better self-control when it comes to food. Should I have a green smoothie for breakfast, or make that carb-rich sandwich with gooey vegan cheese in the middle? When your mind is strong, you have the will power to opt for that smoothie. And what about those leftover muffins I made for my kids? Well you don’t have to eat them. Toss them into the compost bin, I say!

So there you go. It only took me two years to realise all these real benefits of exercising. I can blame my doctor for not explaining all this to me in the first place, but really, I wonder if he knew himself.

It is hard sometimes to get yourself out there to walk, run, or got to a fitness class every day. But now that I realise your entire life is at stake, I am extra motivated to keep up with exercising this time around.

 

 

Holiday survival guide for diabetics

On the last weekend of Spring holidays, we drove on a whim to Canberra for a two-night mini holiday. I haven’t been on a holiday for a while, so I was super excited! But even for a little trip like this, your diabetic head spins around with a few little worries. Such as, will I be able to stay on a healthy diet for entire time? Will I be tempted to eat junky holiday food and treats that my kids might no doubt demand? What about exercise?

The first day was easy. My mother (who was visiting for the school holidays) and I woke up early and made a healthy lunch and dinner for that day – vegetable sticks, roasted capsicum and chickpea hummus, Japanese rice balls, cooked green lentils, cut fruit, and a big container of salad greens. I had also made some wholemeal bread and healthy treats. We packed everything in a cooler bag and off we went.
floriade 2016 canberra

Canberra was wonderful. We visited the beautiful annual Floriade flower festival.

national gallery australia

We visited the National Museum.

old trailer at national museum

This old wagon / camper trailer was my favourite thing at the National museum – I mean, wouldn’t you like to travel in one of these around Australia?

Then – we ran out of all the healthy food we brought. Oh no… Ignoring all the cafes / restaurants / street food vendors, we hit a local supermarket instead.

What an amazing selection of ready-to-eat healthy food I found there! It was an eye-opening experience re-discovering good old supermarkets. Just look at the huge selection of pre-cooked rice and grains alone.

supermarket rice selection

Instead of soaking rice overnight and cooking in a pressure cooker (which is what I do every day), these packets of rice and grains are ready to eat in less than 2 minutes (in a microwave or stovetop). And it’s not just white rice. Brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, chia seed, in all sorts of combinations. Wow. Honestly, I never knew.

I also “discovered” a myriad vegan tofu products – some looking healthier (less processed) than others. Then of course there is the fresh produce section. I narrowed my choices to these.

holiday supermarket food

Thanks to the local supermarket, my healthy dinner was ready in minutes.

holiday food

Of course, it helped a great deal that we stayed in a cabin accommodation, with a fully equipped kitchen.

canberra cabin

Things would have been a bit more difficult had we stayed in a motel or hotel.

Canberra street food

So even though there was a few moments like this when I had to resist a bit of holiday temptation… it was good overall foodwise.

Oh, and exercise? Well, that was sorted as well – accidentally.

canbera wagon ride

See that four-seater wagon bike? I thought riding that cute little vehicle around the lake was a leisurely experience. Wrong! It turned out to be such hard work… Pedalling this monster of a wagon for nearly two hours was the most excruciating torture – I mean exercise – ever!

Hello from Sydney, Australia!

Woohoo, so excited to write my first post here. My name is Asako, and I live in beautiful upper Blue Mountains about 2 hours from Sydney. As you might have guessed already, I have type 2 diabetes. It’s been a roller-coaster ride of two years since my diagnosis. It’s never been easy, and I’m struggling daily how to deal with it. One step forward and one step back, is how I feel about my progress towards wellness.

But it’s not all bad news actually, not at all. How many times have you heard that “diabetes is a life-changing serious illness”? Well it’s true, but life changing in a GOOD way, too. Having a chronic illness opened up a whole new, exciting world of adventure and learning – about health, exercise, dealing with stress, and most of all cooking healthy and amazing food.

So stay tuned and I’d love to share my daily ups and downs, along with cooking tips and random thoughts here – whether or not you are diabetic, pre-diabetic, or just wanting to try different, healthy food.

xx

Asako