Just because a lot of folks have abandoned their New Year's resolutions at this point doesn't mean you can't get on track and make 2016 your healthiest year yet. We caught up with two people who have successfully managed diabetes for years – Grammy award winning R&B and soul queen Patti LaBelle and David Marrero, PhD, director of the Diabetes Translational Research Center at Indiana University School of Medicine – and asked them for their best tips to get and stay healthy this year.
1. Know Your Levels
We know it sounds too basic, but when it comes to living well with diabetes, knowing and controlling your blood glucose levels is vital. Dr. Marrero recommends using your home glucose monitor frequently or wearing devices that your track your glucose and guarantee that the correct amount of insulin is released at the right time.
"It is really important to know where you're at and where you're headed," he says. "And if your levels are not where they should be, take corrective action to bring your glucose back to where it needs to be."
2. Prepare Your Own Meals
Avoid the added fat and sugars that come with eating out by cooking at home instead. Actually, scratch that: You can cook pretty much anywhere, just ask LaBelle! She's a busy entertainer and constantly on the road, but LaBelle always travels with electric skillets, pans, and seasoning so she can cook in her hotel room.
"I'll find a Whole Foods in the neighborhood and get fresh fish or kale and prepare it right in my room," she says. "I find that whenever I do that – which has been for a long time – I can control my blood sugar much better."
And home cooking definitely doesn't mean you have to settle for bland, unexciting dishes. LaBelle recommends getting creative and replacing your conventional vegetable and canola oils with grapeseed oil, eating colorful salads, and boiling or sautéing your poultry and beef instead of frying.
3. Practice Moderation, Not Deprivation
Portion control and eating reasonably is the key to any diabetes maintainence program. "Most people say to avoid all sweets. Well that's a hard life for me," admits Marrero. "I am a fan of eating what you want, but eating it the sensible way. I think it's better if you allow yourself some indulgence, but to be able to control it. Think about your portions and how often you're eating."
4. Move Your Body
Exercise is an essential part of keeping your diabetes in check. Marrero suggests combining aerobic exercises that raise your heart rate (LaBelle stays in shape by walking, biking, and doing water aerobics, for example) with resistance training, which he says not only builds strength but also has the added benefit of helping metabolize glucose in the muscle tissue.
5. Talk About It
Remember that you don't have to go this alone. Get support from your family, friends, physician, or online groups to stay focused and healthy. "Take advantage of all the information that is out there," Marrero says. "Talk to those who can educate you and help you improve your lifestyle."