All the Ways to Manage Your Diabetes — Besides Medication

A diabetes diagnosis can be daunting, but managing your diabetes may not be as hard as you think. Of course, your doctor might deem that medication is the best way to control your diabetes, but there are plenty of ways you can do it on your own. Here are 15 lifestyle changes you can make to live a happier, fuller life as a diabetic.

1. Have a support system

family sitting on sofa

Having the right support system is so important. | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

The first thing you should do after a diabetes diagnosis is explain to friends and family that you need to make a lifestyle change. Having people around you who encourage the change will help you make the right choices and not fall out of your new habits. Make sure to discuss the lifestyle changes that come along with a diabetes diagnosis, so you’re family and friends can offer support and work with you.

Next: Definitely increase this. 

2. Ramp up your physical activity

happy people doing lunge exercise in gym

Fit in some exercise each day. |

Exercise is key to keeping your diabetes at bay. Physical activity can help lower the glucose in your body, which can keep blood sugar levels regular. For diabetics who are insulin resistant, that resistance drops when you exercise, helping the body use glucose more effectively. Plus, exercise keeps your heart healthy, which is critical for diabetics. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 weekly minutes of rigorous exercise.

Next: If necessary, do this. 

3. Try to lose some weight (if necessary)

Man measuring his stomach for weight gain

Losing weight can be a great help in managing diabetes. | Ljupco/iStock/Getty Images

Obesity often plays a major role in a diabetes diagnosis. Obesity is thought to lead to changes in the body’s metabolism, which can cause fat molecules to be released into the blood. Those fat molecules affect insulin responsive cells, which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. If weight played a role in your diabetes diagnosis, losing a few pounds can help improve your body’s insulin sensitivity.

Next: Find something like this to help motivate you to exercise. 

4. Find an active hobby

tennis ball

Find a hobby that gets you moving. | Hin255/iStock/Getty Images

Gym memberships can be pricey, and going for a walk or jog isn’t enjoyable for everyone. If you have a hard time getting motivated to work out, try adopting an active hobby. Head to the local tennis courts for a fun game with a friend, or sign up for a dance class. Developing a hobby that burns calories and is something you can look forward to will help you tackle the exercise and weight loss you might need.

Next: Cut down on this. 

5. Cut down on the salt

Salt shaker

Reduce your sodium intake. | Sebalos/iStock/Getty Images

You don’t need to develop a no-salt diet, but cutting back is important when you’re dealing with diabetes. That’s because too much sodium, often the result of a high-salt diet, can contribute to risk factors associated with heart disease and heart attack. High blood pressure is frequently caused by eating too much sodium. People with type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk of developing heart disease, so cut back on your salt intake to keep your heart healthy.

Next: Learn which carbohydrates you should eat — and cut out this. 

6. Cut out the white bread

Sourdough Bread

Swap white bread for whole wheat bread. | janetleerhodes/Getty Images

White bread might taste delicious, but it’s not good for your body. White bread’s simple carbohydrates can create a spike in blood sugar, which isn’t good for those with diabetes. However, carbohydrates are the body’s form of energy, so don’t cut them out altogether. Add more complex carbohydrates to your body, such as whole grains — or whole wheat bread. They break down slowly to give your body energy while avoiding the spike in blood sugar.

Next: Keep track of this, too. 

7. Keep track of your carbohydrates

dry Italian pasta

Don’t overload on the pasta. | Anna Kurzaeva/Getty Images

Aside from incorporating more whole grains, you should also keep track of how many carbohydrates you’re eating. recommends testing your blood glucose level before a meal to learn how many grams of carbohydrates your body can handle. Carbs are found in many foods, but pasta, breads, and sweets are usually loaded with them. Keep track of how much you’re consuming to make sure your keeping that blood sugar level as stable as possible.

Next: Don’t cut these out, but eat them less often. 

8. Make sweets a rare treat rather than a daily habit

fresh homemade delicious cake with cherries

Enjoy a treat once in a while. |

You should never deprive yourself of sweets entirely. However, you should cut back on them, since they’re often loaded with sugars and carbs that can wreak havoc on your body. Rather than indulge in a giant bowl of ice cream, try grabbing a small bowl of frozen yogurt and topping it with some fresh fruit. You’ll get the sweetness of dessert without the refined sugars. But if you’re craving a brownie and haven’t had one in a while, don’t deprive yourself.

Next: Add one of these to every meal. 

9. Add a veggie to every meal

Salmon and vegetables

Incorporate more veggies into your diet. | Elena_Danileiko/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re not used to eating a ton of vegetables, start slowly. Add a side veggie to every meal you eat, then slowly start to base your meals more around the veggies (instead of basing your veggie around the meal). Limiting fattening, sugary meals can be difficult to do cold turkey if you didn’t pay much attention to your diet in the past. Starting slow will help you develop good habits without caving and ruining your new, healthy lifestyle.

Next: Bring the whole family into it. 

10. Get your family to start eating healthier

Thanksgiving dinner

Get friends or family together to cook dinner. | Shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

This is where your support system can really help out. Instead of eating healthier on your own and watching your family indulge, get everyone to change their eating habits. Cook dinner with your partner, kids, or even a friend to make meal-prep more fun. Plus, changing the eating habits of those around you is beneficial for them, too. Get everyone together to agree on a healthy meal, sit down together, and enjoy.

Next: Try taking one of these classes. 

11. Take a yoga class

Yoga mat

Learn meditation to reduce stress. | Nattakorn Maneerat/iStock/Getty Images

Yoga might not be something you’ve considered trying, but it can be great for your mind — and it’s a relaxing form of exercise. Heart health and diabetes go hand in hand, and reducing your stress is important to prolonging your life. If you don’t want to spend an hour taking a yoga class, try to at least carve out 10 minutes for a morning or evening meditation. It will help cut back on your stress levels, which can keep your heart healthy and reduce risk factors such as high blood pressure.

Next: Your work space can play a role in your health, too. 

12. Get more organized at work

Business man review his resume on his desk

You’ll be less stressed if you’re more organized. | jamesteohart/iStock/Getty Images

There are a number of ways you can reduce the stresses of daily life, and getting more organized at work is one of them. Work tends to be a source of stress for many people, which can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems. If you have diabetes, you’ll want to develop a calmer lifestyle — and being a more organized person is a great way to achieve that. Try taking 10 minutes out of your morning to create a priorities list for the day and the week. You’ll start each day with a focus on what you need to do and will feel more productive and less stressed.

Next: Indulge in a glass of this. 

13. Drink a glass of red wine

Red wine glasses and bottle on stone table. Top view with copy space

Enjoy a glass of red wine each day. | karandaev/iStock/Getty Images

A diabetes diagnosis doesn’t mean you need to give up alcohol. Actually, several studies have shown that drinking a glass of red wine each night can help with diabetes. In one study, a glass of red wine each day helped diabetics manage their cholesterol and improve overall heart health. Plus, coming home to a glass of red wine is the perfect way to unwind and reduce the stress in your life. However, stick to just one glass.

Next: Know your limits with this. 

14. Know your limits with alcohol

A line of different colored alcoholic cocktails

Don’t over-indulge. | Tsuguliev/Getty Images

No, you don’t have to give up alcohol with diabetes. But you should know your limits. Alcohol is full of empty carbohydrates, so you don’t want to consume too much. Talk with your doctor about a healthy amount of alcohol to drink as a diabetic. Again, moderation is key, but you likely won’t need to give up drinking altogether.

Next: Your attitude is extremely important. 

15. Make your lifestyle change enjoyable, not a struggle

Paying bill with credit card

Embrace the new lifestyle changes. | SeventyFour/iStock/Getty Images

A diabetes diagnosis may come as a surprise. And while you’ll need to adjust your lifestyle to take care of yourself, it doesn’t need to be an arduous task. Finding a new hobby, cooking a family dinner, and unwinding with a glass of wine can all be enjoyable. Having people on your side is important, so make sure to get your family members on board with your change. But with your doctor’s advice, developing new habits can be easy.

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