Gestational diabetes, i.e., diabetes occurring during pregnancy, is a growing health problem. Research1has shown that obese women are up to eight times more likely to develop gestational diabetes than others. And the problem doesn´t stop there. New research2shows that children born by mothers with gestational diabetes run a significantly higher risk of developing impaired blood glucose control, adiposity and increased blood pressure, already at a very early age.
So – trying to keep a healthy lifestyle isn´t just a matter of wellbeing for the pregnant woman. It is also a way of giving the offspring a good start in life. In fact – it is the first act of love a mother can give to her child, already before it is born.
I am not talking about this to give anyone a bad conscience. The reason I bring it up is that change is not only necessary but also quite feasible. And it starts by taking control over one´s blood sugar.
It´s common knowledge that recurring variations in blood sugar, with repeated spikes and lows, put a strain on the metabolism. In the long run, this results in permanently high levels of glucose and insulin in the bloodstream. This is one of the principal risk factors for overweight and obesity, and can eventually lead to a condition referred to as pre-diabetes when the insulin can no longer transport the sugar (glucose) into the cells in an efficient way.
More than 90 million Americans are pre-diabetic today, and typically between 15 and 30 percent of them will develop type-2 diabetes. For obese pregnant women, the numbers are considerably higher, and women that have, or have had gestational diabetes are at special risk. Frightening as this is, there is also good news: pre-diabetes can usually be reverted, and often a moderate level of exercise and less sugar intake will go a long way.
Genetics tend to be unfair. While some people seemingly can eat and drink anything, others can gain weight almost by “looking” at food. No-one can stop being obese from one day to another, but everyone can do something to control their blood sugar variations. My tips are simple and can be applied to start immediately.
1. Stop drinking sugary sodas and energy drinks. This takes away lots of empty calories and is the single most effective thing you can do to stabilize your blood sugar. Artificially sweetened beverages is not the best alternative. Drink water – still or sparkling, flavored or natural. Your body and your blood sugar will thank you.
2. Eat a real breakfast every day. Skip the bar or doughnut on-the-go and fill your plate with whole grain bread, scrambled eggs, un-sweetened cereals or oatmeal instead. Be careful with the juice – it´s a sugar bomb. Eat whole fruits and berries instead. Why? Because when you eat a full breakfast, you will snack and eat less during the rest of the day. This helps your blood sugar stay at a healthy level without ups and downs.
3. Take away as much as possible of the “fast” carbs. Burgers, pizzas, white bread, fries, and sushi make your blood sugar rush up and down like a roller coaster. Replace with pasta, veggies, beans, and eat mindfully. Stop eating before you get full.
4. Use your body. Take a walk. Try to get a little exercise during the day – every day. A daily 30-minute walk can do wonders to your weight, your circulation, and to the hormones that regulate blood sugar, appetite, sleep, and loads of other things that make us feel better. Listen to the sounds of nature, like bird song or waves of the ocean.
Changing habits is a hard thing to do, but what could be more motivating than giving a new little person the best possible start in life. And remember that every little step counts. Try out what works for you, and I am sure you will notice the difference within weeks.
And, by the way, the tips above work just as fine for the father-to-be – doing things together makes it so much easier!