By: Kruti Thakore 

Making lifestyle changes is difficult but not impossible. Making small lifestyle changes is a must especially for people who are suffering from chronic illnesses like Diabetes or high blood pressure or high levels of cholesterol. These conditions are easy to manage when you make lifestyle changes for better.

Set SMART goals Making a huge change in 1 day might be very difficult but making small changes till you form a habit is attainable. Hence set Small, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound goals.

S – Set small goals. E.g. I will replace 1 junk meal in a day with a fruit or nuts. I will exercise 30 minutes a day instead of sitting on couch and watching Netflix or I will not sit to watch TV till I complete the exercise. If you don’t have 30 minutes at a stretch, you can either decide to wake up 30 minutes early to incorporate exercise or you can take out 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening to incorporate exercise in your lifestyle.

M – Set Measurable goals. Measure your progress. Maintain a diet diary and exercise diary. Use smart devices to log your activity and exercise. Use apps to record your diet. Make a decision to enter every single meal you have into your diet diary.

A – Attainable. Make sure you are physically capable of achieving your goal. Your goal should be little bit out of your comfort zone so that it stretches you but not way out of your comfort zone that you fail at first attempt. If you have never exercised before, do not set a goal to lift 100 pounds on day 1.

R – Realistic – Be realistic in setting goals. If it took you years to be in this situation, just by changing your lifestyle for a day or week or month will not be enough. Unrealistic expectations set you up for disappointments and failure.

T – Set time bound goals. Set goals like, I will wake up 30 minutes early on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays to incorporate exercise into my schedule. I will test and record my blood sugar every morning before breakfast. I will incorporate fresh berries or dates into my breakfast instead of sugary donuts. I will weigh myself and record my weight in the diary every Sunday morning before breakfast.

As we have now learned on how to set smart goals. Let us discuss 6 main lifestyle changes to reduce chronic illnesses and attain healthy body.

1) Eat 6 small meals instead of 3 large meals. Also incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals instead of fruit juices or vegetable juices. For example, Eat an apple instead of drinking apple juice. Apple juice will increase your blood sugar levels immediately but apple will not because apple has fiber. Hence Apple has low glycemic index (GI) but apple juice has high GI. Eat Green apple instead of red apple. Green apple is bit tart and less sweet but it also has less fructose compared to red ones.

2) Eat food with Low GI. Foods with high GI are processed very quickly in your intestine and hence they rapidly increase the blood sugar. As I mentioned above, eat an apple instead of apple juice. Eat food which grows on plants not which is made in a plant (factory).  Replace white bread with whole wheat bread or whole grain bread. Instead of eating just bread, eat vegetable sandwich because vegetables in your sandwich have fiber and that will reduce the GI of your meal. Also, it is important that you enjoy the taste of food which you are eating or else you will not feel satisfied and will have cravings.

3) Eat food rich in plant-based protein, healthy fats (nuts, avocados, olives, wholesome coconut instead of processed coconut oil), healthy carbohydrates like polysaccharides, disaccharides and insoluble fiber. Avoid monosaccharides. When your meal is balanced with these 3 macro-nutrients, it slows gastric dumping. Gastric dumping is a process where food is dumped in your stomach and liver. When gastric dumping is slow, food is digested slowly and it will release sugar in your blood stream at slow rate. This will reduce sugar spikes in your blood.

4) Be a mindful eater. Don’t just eat anything because it is tasty. Choose to eat nutrient dense meal. Eat which will satisfy your body as well as taste buds with balanced nutrients so that you can reduce the cravings instead of eating something which will satisfy your taste buds alone. Measure portions and eat little bit less than your hunger. Make a habit of maintaining diet diary and note down every meal you eat. You will be surprised to see that calories add up very quickly.

5) When going to a party or when you are going to a restaurant to eat out, opt for salad with dressing on the side instead of large pasta meal. Eat salad first so that you will feel full and eat less pasta. This will require planning in advance. Proper planning prevents poor performance.

6) Lose weight and exercise. Weight loss reduces the size of fat cells and increase sensitivity of insulin receptors. Exercise will help you to maintain healthy blood sugar levels because when you exercise, your muscles pickup free floating glucose from your blood stream to generate energy. Discipline yourself and set smart goals. Also learn proper stress management techniques like meditation or listening to music or going for a walk in nature. High stress levels can also imbalance your blood sugar levels.

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