Welcome to lesson number 2 in my diabetes story: Never underestimate the power of nutrition for preventing, reversing or managing diabetes!
I will share with you my story of lessons I learned about food, nutrition and diabetes.
How my love of food started
My nutrition foundation began with my mother’s influence on my love for food. She was known for her great cooking and baking. My mom was 100% Danish and was big on using plenty of butter. She also always had homemade sweets ready to serve guests! Her pies and cakes and meat & potato meals were the best! Making good food for others was something she did out of love and did it well!
But when it comes to health, her meals were definitely made for hard working farmers and not for the way of life we have now! If I did all my cooking that way now I would definitely gain a bunch of weight!😄
My mom has a very special place in my heart. I didn’t realize until well into adulthood how much influence she had on my love of good food and appreciation for cooking.
I started learning cooking skills at the early age of 8 or 9. Mom was working evenings at the restaurant, so she would get the supper started and when I came home from school it was my job to finish it for my dad, my brother and myself.
When I was eleven, I started helping out at the restaurant where she was kitchen manager. My first regular paying job was washing dishes. I didn’t realize the impact, but over the years that followed through high school and college I had several jobs including cleaning, construction work, retail, convenience stores and restaurants. But the jobs I got the most satisfaction out of, and felt the most confident in, were always when I worked with food!
Lesson learned: Giving your kids a healthy start with the foundation of good, healthy, real food. Teach them about growing and cooking food. I am very thankful now that my parents gave me that gift!
How I discovered the world of nutrition
When I went off to college in 1985, I really did not know what I wanted to major in but I thought it would be business related. Then I took accounting and was bored to tears!
After 2 years of general classes I took a basic college nutrition class and found it peaked my interest. But I still was not sure that was it. So I took a year off to get married, moved to Wisconsin and then decided I needed to finish my degree before starting a family.
But I still didn’t know what that degree should be. So I went to the public library (before the days where we could just Google anything) and started researching careers. I stumbled across a little book on careers in dietetics and after I read it I knew THAT WAS IT! Everything I was interested in was in this career – food, health, how the body works!
If you read my blog post from last week you know the story of my dad being diagnosed with diabetes when I was young. Well, during my college nutrition classes we got to the diabetes section and I distinctly remember the moment in class one day. A light bulb went on and a fire lit inside me. I knew that my specialty would someday be working to help people with diabetes!!!
Finally in May of 1993 I was ready to start that journey after graduating with my degree in community-medical dietetics.
My diabetes diagnosis
During my last year of college I was pregnant with our firstborn. If you have ever been pregnant, you very likely have had the screening for diabetes where you drink a really sugary drink in 5 minutes. Then you have to sit in the lab for up to 3 hours while they check your blood sugar every hour. It’s not fun.
With my first pregnancy, I just barely passed the 3 hour test. I was not diagnosed with diabetes but ended having a 9 lb, 13.5 oz baby. Needless to say, looking back I should have followed a carb plan because he was definitely too big! I was also 11 days over my due date. After a very long and difficult labor I ended up having in a C-section.
With my second pregnancy, I took the 1 hour and 3 hour test and was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I went through diabetes education, followed a carb counting plan and took insulin for the last month of my pregnancy. My blood sugars were pretty well managed. At that time I was also in my first job as a dietitian working with diabetes. I had learned enough about diabetes to take it very seriously.
I still ended up giving birth to a big baby of 9 lbs 3 oz at 39 weeks! That labor was not as long but was still difficult. I will spare you the details but I used my donut cushion to sit on for 2 weeks!
My kids were definitely worth it, though. I have son and daughter I am very proud of.
Limiting carbs when you are a carb lover and sweets fan was hands down the hardest part of GDM. You have to follow the carb food plan. There’s only 2-3 months of pregnancy left to make sure you have a healthy outcome! And that little baby is great motivation to do what you need to do!
Now I have prediabetes and managing food & exercise is still challenging for me, even after 25 plus years working with food, nutrition and diabetes on a daily basis! I do feel blessed that I have been able to prevent type 2 diabetes this many years. Statistics show that the chance of type 2 diagnosis is 50% or higher within 5-10 years after having GDM.
What have I learned from having gestational diabetes and now prediabetes? The food part is the most difficult but also can make a big difference for blood sugars!
My patients’ diabetes
I have learned so much I have learned over the years about diabetes. And still I learn every day from my patients and clients.
Some of the big lessons I have learned:
- Every person’s situation is different. Each person needs a customized plan.
- Diabetes and nutrition education is not one-and-done. Our body changes. Life happens. It’s an ongoing battle.
- CGM has been a game changer for people to be able to better manage their own blood sugar.
- Nutrition and activity are the foundation and the best medicine for preventing type 2 diabetes.
Why I am diving deeper into the power of nutrition
The future of managing diabetes is better nutrition, better tech tools and if we need them, better medication.
I try to do the best I can with the power of nutrition to delay or avoid diabetes medication. Genetics may win eventually and I may eventually be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. But did you know that nutrition often determines how our genes are expressed?
So now I am diving into learning nutrition at a deeper level. Over the next 2-3 years I will be taking certification courses in functional nutrition.
What is functional nutrition? Basically, it’s an approach that looks at the whole person. It gets to the root cause instead of just managing symptoms with medication.
Our body is an amazing creation. Everything in our body is connected. Our organs don’t function in separate systems. And nutrition plays a much bigger part of our health than we realize.
Feeding our bodies processed foods instead of healthy, real food creates inflammation. We also don’t get the nutrients we need to help heal our body.
When you learn how diabetes and nutrition works for your life situation you can often reduce the need for medication. I have seen it over and over with my patients.
How has the power of nutrition helped you manage diabetes?
Please share in the comments and as always contact me if I can help!