When you think of reversing a prediabetes diagnosis, or just improving your blood sugar balance, you probably look to food. You start thinking about carbs. You may consider cutting back on sugar and processed foods. And these are all good things!
But when it comes to reversing prediabetes, food isn’t the only factor. Our bodies are really complex. And when you’re dealing with something like blood sugar imbalance, there are a lot of factors that come into play and they don’t all involve what you eat.
Let’s break down the lifestyle factors that may be getting in your way when it comes to improving your blood sugar and even reversing your prediabetes.
Prediabetes Lifestyle Factor #1: Get Some Exercise
What do you think of when you read the word ‘exercise’?
For some people, that word brings thoughts of feeling strong, escaping life’s problems for a while, feeling the freedom of running or biking or swimming.
But for many people — maybe even most — exercise is not a happy word. It conjures up images of sweating at the gym, feeling awkward and wondering if anyone is watching. Or maybe it’s a class where you found yourself tripping over your own feet when everyone else seemed like a professional dancer.
If ‘exercise’ is a dirty word for you, I suggest some reframing. Let’s start with the label. Many people find they can expand their perspective by trading the word exercise for the word movement.
For many people “exercise” feels like an all-or-nothing proposition. But if you let go of your old ideas and think of it as ‘movement’, you might see some new possibilities. Movement doesn’t have to involve the gym at all. And it can happen throughout your day.
Movement can be:
👍 A walk around the block with your dog.
👍 Jumping on a trampoline or rebounder.
👍 Outdoorsy activities like kayaking or hiking.
👍 Going ice skating or roller skating.
👍 Dancing — even just around your house.
If you can make movement fun, you’re more likely to stick with it. And then you can experience the enormous blood sugar management benefits of physical activity.
😃 Help you lose weight, which can make a big difference in blood sugar management. According to one study, losing as little as 7% of your body weight can reduce your risk of developing diabetes by almost 60%.
😃 Help you lower your blood sugar levels, which will lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
😃 Boost your insulin sensitivity, which also helps keep your blood sugar stable and in a normal range.
Prediabetes Lifestyle Factor #2: Reduce Your Stress
People are stressed these days. Like really stressed. Beyond just life’s standard challenges, we’ve seen unprecedented stress-inducing developments worldwide over the past few years. And it’s taking a toll on everyone.
You know stress doesn’t feel good. But did you know it also has a direct effect on your blood sugar levels?
When you experience stress, the sympathetic nervous system is activated and your body goes into fight or flight mode. This worked great back when humans' survival depended on being able to fight off or outrun a wild animal. But nowadays, stress is more likely to come in the form of an unexpected bill or an unreasonable boss.
Back in the days when stress meant physical danger, the biochemical fight or flight reaction was extremely effective. The body is flooded with adrenaline, which triggers the release of stored sugar and fat to provide the fuel to fight off or outrun the physical danger. This extra fuel would be burned off during the literal fight or flight.
But when you’re sitting at your desk, staring at that unexpected medical bill, you don’t really need extra fuel. And sitting there worrying isn’t going to burn it off. But because your body responds to financial stress the same way it responds to physical danger, you end up with that extra sugar in your blood.
And when stress becomes chronic — as it is for so many these days — being in nearly constant fight or flight mode can really mess with your blood sugar balance.
So what can you do? Participate in activities that help regulate your nervous system. You want to get out of fight or flight mode whenever you can.
Here are some ideas for how to deal with stress and calm your nervous system:
💡 Focus on your breath. Slow your breathing or try a breathing box. Inhale for a slow count of 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8. Repeating this a few times can calm you down and help relax your nervous system.
💡 Practice mindfulness. You can do this through meditation or just through focusing on your immediate surroundings. Notice how you feel — close your eyes and scan your body slowly from head to toe. What do you notice? Are you hot or cold? Hungry or thirsty? Tired? Sore? Or take a look around you and notice what you see, hear, feel, or smell. A simple mindfulness exercise like these can get you out of a stress loop and help you relax.
💡 Try visualization. Close your eyes and imagine being somewhere calm and beautiful. Think about what you see, hear, smell, and feel. There are also many visualization exercises available on YouTube if you’d like some guidance.
Prediabetes Lifestyle Factor #3: Get Enough Sleep
The amount of time you spend sleeping directly affects your blood sugar.
Everyone’s blood sugar rises at night. This is a normal part of the circadian rhythm and is nothing to worry about. But lack of sleep can be a problem when it comes to blood sugar.
Sleep deprivation, even just one night, can raise insulin resistance.
Lack of sleep also raises cortisol (stress hormone) levels. And as you learned in tip #2, stress isn’t great for blood sugar.
If you’re like many people, you’re getting less sleep than you used to. People are tending to stay up later and sleep less during the night. But there are things you can do to improve your sleep.
✔ Create a bedtime routine. Whether you fix yourself a cup of herbal tea, take a warm bath, or settle in with a good book, a bedtime routine can help you relax and send the message to your brain that it’s time to sleep.
✔ Have some screen-free time. Looking at your phone until right before you go to bed can interfere with your circadian rhythms and add to your stress. Whether you’re playing a game, watching YouTube videos, or scrolling social media, the content you’re seeing is more likely to keep you up than help you fall asleep.
✔ Go to bed earlier. This is easier said than done. But if you can decide what time you’d like to go to bed and then work backwards, it is possible. Maybe you can move up your dinner time or simply start getting ready for bed a little earlier.
Prediabetes Lifestyle Factor #4: Don’t Try to Go It Alone
If you’re working on balancing your blood sugar and reversing prediabetes, your best bet is to work with a practitioner who understands your goals and can help you get there. Yes, you can make diet and lifestyle changes on your own. But a qualified practitioner can help you choose what will work best for you and support you along the way.
Your doctor doesn’t have the time, or honestly the knowledge, to design a personalized diet and lifestyle protocol that will help you overcome your blood sugar dysfunction. Sure, they may give you some general tips, but they just don’t have the time to give you the individual attention that you really need.
But I do. That’s what I do every day. I help people just like you get to the root cause of their blood sugar issues and make manageable changes that really move the needle. If you’re ready for personalized support on your blood sugar journey, let’s chat!