It’s tough to get past the idea that there’s a secret formula to managing blood sugar levels, lowering blood pressure and losing weight. There isn’t, and in the search for that secret you have most likely felt overwhelmed by the amount of diets, exercises, cleanses, detoxes, protein powders, weight loss pills and herbal supplements that claim they can solve a myriad of health issues.
It’s tough to figure out what will work for you and your lifestyle. The solution you’ve looked for is simpler and more natural than you could have ever expected, and it gets back to the basics.
The Four Pillars of Health (But You Only Need Three to Start)
There are four pillars of health: hydration, nutrition, exercise and sleep. Each contributes to lowering blood sugar levels in its own way, but when combined you can achieve what you always wanted, a healthier, more energetic and vibrant life. When we developed The 21 Day Jumpstart Challenge, we knew it needed to be simple, natural and help participants see and feel the progress they were making.
So we took the first three pillars, hydration, nutrition and exercise and turned them into three weekly challenges. Week one drink water, week two, drink water and eat vegetables, and week three drink water, eat vegetables and be a little bit more physically active. This helps you progress through the weeks and allows you to build a routine around these three simple and natural principles.
Oh, so you think drinking water is easy, do you? Well, I thought it would be too until I started working with the challenge participants on a daily basis.
Water, pure and simple has been lost in the sea of artificially sweetened and sugar-added beverages on the market. Although water has made its way back up the list of most consumed beverages in the US, it still trails soda and diet soda.
Many of the challenge participants will drink this combination on a daily basis: overly sweetened coffee, fruit juice from concentrate and/or energy drinks in the morning, a couple of sodas throughout the afternoon and then alcohol and/or more soda at night. You could be as I used to be and drink more than 2,000 calories a day.
Week one focuses on water because we want to achieve two things, removing the excess calories via sugar from liquid and cleansing your palate so you no longer have cravings for sweets. By doing this, you’re reducing blood sugar spikes from liquid intake and removing liquid as a factor to why you have elevated blood sugar levels.
Week 1 Guidelines
Drink 64 Ounces of Water a Day
- 80% Daily Liquid Intake: Pure water, infused water, sparkling water, naturally flavored water
- 20% Daily Liquid Intake: Dairy milk, non-dairy milk, coffee, tea, any naturally flavored non-sweetened beverages
- Do Not Drink: Soda, diet soda, fruit juice from concentrate, Frappuccinos, anything containing high fructose corn syrup
- Approved Sweeteners: Stevia only, as little as possible
Instead of complicating nutrition, we wanted to make it simple and again go back to the basics. After talking with hundreds of people about their normal diet, I was amazing by how little vegetables were represented. Some of the most common excuses I hear for people not eating vegetables is, “they don’t taste good” or “I just never ate them growing up.” Both may be true, but the importance of eating vegetables every day cannot be understated.
Vegetables are the single best way to get the nutrients your body needs to function well on a daily basis. Without them, you will tend to have low energy and a poor mood and have a much more difficult time keeping your blood sugar levels in a normal range.
Week two is all about opportunity cost. I want you to think about the amount of carbohydrates you consumed from foods like potatoes, rice and bread throughout the week. Now compare that with the amount of vegetables you ate. There is a transition process when it comes to vegetables.
I, like many people, did not like vegetables at one point in my life. I would just eat double carbs with my protein when I cooked at home or ate out. But I knew I needed to start eating more vegetables and open my mind to new flavors. So I started by sautéing my vegetables with the same spices as my protein. I would have a more balanced meal, a protein, a carb and now a vegetable. With each piece of protein and carb on my fork I would now add a piece of vegetable. Doing this repeatedly throughout the course of a couple of months, I developed a taste for vegetables and have never looked back.
The combination of the fiber and nutrients within vegetables helps keep you full longer while not elevating your blood sugar levels. And that is the opportunity cost; instead of eating a potato, white rice or white bread that have negligible nutritional value and digest quickly spiking blood sugar levels, you’re taking in higher quality nutrition through a whole and natural source.
Week 2 Guidelines
Eat Three Servings of Vegetables a Day
- A serving of vegetables is one cup of dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, etc.) or ½ a cup of non-leafy vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, etc.)
- Bonus: Eat a large salad with two to three servings of vegetables in one sitting.
Notice how I said physical activity and not exercise. That is for a reason, believe me. Physically activity is a huge help in reducing and managing blood sugar levels but is totally underused.
Throughout the past couple of decades our jobs have become more white collar than blue collar leaving many people physically inactive throughout the day. I myself used to have a desk job where I would sit in a chair for eight hours a day. That would be in between lying in a bed for eight hours and sitting on a couch for another couple of hours. And that is the current trend for many of us out there, our inactivity levels are increasing while our calorie intake is staying the same or increasing.
Exercise is not required to bring down blood sugar levels. I want to make a point of that. Let’s characterize exercise as movements meant to build strength and cardiovascular endurance and physical activity as not sitting on a couch for hours on end.
During the final week of the 21 Day Challenge, we challenge you to start getting up and moving more often. Notice the times you’re sedentary for long periods of time and do your best to break them up by going for a walk or doing some simple stretches.
If you really want to make an impact on your health, you have to be consistent with physical activity. This is all about inertia folks, the more often you are sedentary the more likely it is that you will remain that way. But once you get the ball rolling and start being more physically active you’ll tend to want to be more physically active.
Week 3 Guidelines
Complete 20 to 30 minutes of light to moderate physical activity on a daily basis
- This includes walking, jogging, swimming, walking/jogging in place, light weight/resistance training
Guidelines Are Not Enough
I’m sure you’ve seen guidelines before, and for some reason you just couldn’t stick with them. Working toward achieving better health is extremely tough to do on your own.
Before starting the 21 Day Challenge, we studied publications from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Medicine that were extremely revealing and helped us formulate a solution with an extremely high probability of success. These studies concluded that in people with severe medical conditions who underwent lifestyle changes that were positive to their health and did so on their own, only 10 percent succeeded in continuing with those changes after 12 months, only a 10 percent success rate. However, a group with similarly severe medical conditions who were supported throughout the lifestyle changes ended up with an almost 80 percent chance of success of sticking with those changes after 12 months.
The bottom line is both the 21 Day Jumpstart Challenge Facebook Group and The Complete Wellness Program Facebook Group offer the support you need to succeed. Couple that with Smart Diabetes Solutions Guidance, and you will be well on your way to managing your diabetes and overall health for life!
Fail to Plan and Plan to Fail
Ensuring you have a successful challenge takes more than just the ebb and flow of motivation. Make sure to plan and prepare to be as successful as possible. Your health and time is worth it, so invest in what’s going to help you succeed.
Check out the Companion Guide. It’s like having a wellness coach with you on a daily basis.
Meg is the co-founder of Smart Diabetes Solutions. She is passionate about clean eating and helping Smart Diabetes members create their best selves.