5 Small Goals With Big Rewards for Type 2 Diabetes

To manage type 2 diabetes, little things can add up, in a good way. By making small strides, you can improve your health bit by bit, without trying to be perfect or getting overwhelmed.

Here are five manageable goals to shoot for:

1. Start by losing 5% of your body weight.

You might see your ideal weight as 30, 40, or more pounds lighter than you are right now. But you don’t need to lose that much to make a difference for your health.

Research shows that losing 5% of your extra weight will make you less likely to get heart disease by improving blood pressure, blood sugar, and HDL cholesterol (the good kind).

So start by focusing on losing that 5% and keeping it off. Later, you can build from that success. Many studies have shown that lifestyle changes such as exercise and weight loss are the most effective and safest ways to manage type 2 diabetes.

2. Add 7 grams of fiber.

Fiber can help you feel full and control your blood sugar. But most people don't get enough.

On average, Americans get about 16 grams of fiber per day, less than half the recommendation for men (30-36 grams) and about two-thirds of what women should get (25 grams). A recent study found that people who ate an extra 7 grams of fiber a day lowered their risk for heart disease. That's especially important for you, because having diabetes makes heart disease more likely.

You don’t have to get all that fiber at once. A few pieces of fruit, such as a banana together with an apple in its skin, provide 7 grams of fiber. One ounce of almonds gets you halfway there. Try whole grains instead of refined ones to add a few grams of fiber to your morning cereal or lunchtime sandwich.

3. Move 10 minutes more.

You know how important exercise is for weight loss and overall health, but sometimes getting to the gym for even a half-hour just isn’t in the cards.

The good news is you can get the same benefits from doing 10- or 15-minute bite-size workouts as you do from exercising in 30-minute intervals.

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Aim to add 10 minutes of moderate exercise to your daily routine, and then continue tacking it on until you hit at least 150 minutes per week.

You'll get the most benefit from something that makes you breathe harder and challenge your heart rate. But everything counts, even fidgeting. Just standing or pacing while talking on the phone can help lower blood pressure and total cholesterol.

To burn more calories, take a brisk walk, or do strength training moves while you watch TV. Start slow and aim for regular sessions of at least three times a week. Over time, gradually make your workouts longer and more challenging. Find an activity you enjoy.

4. Add a vegetable.

As a kid, you were told to eat your vegetables. And yet, most adults don’t get the recommended three to five servings a day.

You can start small. Just add one vegetable in place of another food once a day.

  • Skip the bag of potato chips, and try fresh celery sticks.
  • Cook a little less pasta, and bulk up the dish with vegetables such as artichoke hearts, zucchini, or mushrooms.
  • Use lettuce as sandwich wraps for lunch, or toss leftover veggies in with eggs for a quick breakfast.

Changes like these can shave off calories, give you more fiber, and help you feel full. That can mean weight loss and better blood sugar control.

5. Bump it up.

Once you've hit those first few milestones, keep going.

After you've lost that first 5% of your weight, press on. One study found that people with type 2 diabetes improved their blood sugar control when they lost as little as 2% of their body weight. But to see even more improvements, like a lower risk of heart disease and improved blood sugar over the long term, aim to drop 10 to 15% of your body weight.

Losing this amount of body weight could also be more noticeable. You may lose some inches from your waist, drop a pants size, or just feel better. These changes can motivate you to continue shedding pounds if you need to.

Keep adding more minutes of exercise, and more vegetables, too. It's all part of putting yourself in charge of your diabetes.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on May 12, 2018
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