The Management of Diabetes Mellitus - 5 Lifestyle Changes
Self-Care & Motivation

Lifestyle Modification for Diabetes Management

Lifestyle Modification for Diabetes Management

How many times, before eating a snack, do we think and ask, “Should I”, “Am I really hungry”, “Did I exercise today or this week”, or “When was the last time I monitored my blood glucose levels ”levels"? Interestingly, we can think of these answers; “Why should I”, “I am just in my 30’s or 40’s”, “Do I need to”, “I don’t have any symptoms”, “maybe, someday I will exercise when my doctor will tell me”. This attitude towards health develops certain behaviours which are not healthy for us ,but due to unawareness or non-willingness to become aware, we avoid listening to health advice or follow it. Eventually, most of us are at risk of developing this lifestyle disorder that is acting as a sweet poison, killing us inside while we are unaware of it.

How is Lifestyle Specific Behaviour related to Diabetes Management?

Diabetes is a lifestyle disorder whose prevalence is increasing with each passing day. It’s a metabolic disorder characterized by insulin resistance and increased blood sugar levels beyond the normal range for extended durations. With the modern lifestyle making people more sedentary, less physically active, and more inclined towards junk food, the risk of diabetes has increased multi-folds during the past 2 decades. Diabetes is also associated with multiple comorbid conditions, including obesity, hypertension, etc.

Management of diabetes includes the use of anti-diabetic medicines/insulin as well as behavior modification. While it is easier to adhere to treatment strategies as prescribed by your physician; behavior modification requires self-determination and motivation for a dedicated regimen to adopt healthy habits. Your healthcare provider can help you explain the benefits of these behavior changes and effective ways to implement them. Research has shown that some specific behavior modifications can help you manage your diabetes or prevent you from developing diabetes if you are a prediabetic.

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What are some Lifestyle Specific Behaviours to manage Diabetes?

  • Positive Attitude: Developing a positive attitude is crucial to start challenging your unhealthy behaviors. Having awareness about our health conditions and developing a positive outlook towards change can help us to adapt easily and stay committed for longer durations. Telling yourself “I can”, “I will”, “I must”, every time you look into the mirror can help you to develop self-belief to achieve the desired blood glucose levels through behavior modifications. Despite our busy schedules, we have to resolve to start with small steps and stay put.
  • Self-awareness: Having a sense of self-awareness is critical to assess our health and lifestyle analytically. Listening carefully to health advice, thinking about your health condition, level of activity, calorie intake, monitoring your blood glucose levels, and developing control are a few of the important aspects of self-awareness that can be developed over time with motivation. These days various web-based and mobile applications are available that we can use to monitor our activity levels and stay aware.
  • Healthy Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) is assessed as a crucial step in managing diabetes. While eating something, do we feel, “I should eat some more” or “I should split and just eat half. This forms the basis to maintain a healthy weight or healthy waist. Studies have shown that monitoring calorie intake and adapting to a balanced diet have helped people to manage blood glucose levels and diabetes better. We should aim to increase consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; and to reduce the use of junk/ processed food.
  • Active Lifestyle: To adapt to an active lifestyle, firstly, we need to assess our activity level and our involvement in household activities. We can practice a few of the following: walking to grocery shop for weekend shopping, taking the stairs instead of a lift in offices and malls, and encouraging our children to do the same, reading food labels for food constituents to stay aware of calorie intake, and taking short breaks and walking to colleagues if we have a sedentary job.
  • Make Exercise a part of your Routine: Monitoring calorie intake alone is not sufficient to manage diabetes. We should exercise daily to include at least 30-minutes of activity that makes us sweat and breathe harder than usual. If not daily, we should try to have a 5-day regime in a week to attain 2.5 hours of exercise per week. Exercise reduces insulin resistance and helps better manage blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that persons who exercise regularly and were eating right could have controlled blood glucose levels, and medication load was reduced.

Recommended Dietary Modifications for Diabetes Management

Diet plays an important role in managing blood glucose levels. When you are eating it is important to assess whether your body really needs the calories or you are eating out of habit. Abandon unhealthy practices like eating just to finish the food or because you like that taste. Monitor your portions and along with that the calorie intake to maintain a balanced diet. A balanced diet with more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can help tremendously. Reduce the intake of junk food or processed and canned foods.

Recommended Food & Water Consumption for Diabetes Management


The best food items for diabetes are vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy products, and healthy protein sources like fish. Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes should be preferred instead of starchy ones like potatoes and corn. Avoid fried foods or foods high in saturated and trans-fat. Avoid foods high in salt. Limit the consumption of foods that are high in sugar like aerated beverages, candies, baked goods, ice cream, energy drinks, and so on. If you are looking to consume alcohol, moderate the intake and ensure you do not drink on an empty stomach.


It is known that high blood sugar can cause dehydration. If you drink enough water then the excess glucose can be reduced in the body through urine. It is recommended that men should consume at least 13 cups of water (3.08 liters) and those who should consume at least 9 cups of water (2.13 liters) every day. If you don't like consuming tasteless water you can make it more refreshing by adding slices of lemon or cucumber to your drinking water.

Recommended Fitness Modifications for Diabetes Management

Exercise is important to control blood glucose levels. It can reduce the medications required to manage them. 30 minutes of activity daily is recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Those 30 minutes should make you sweat and breathe harder than usual, increasing your heart rate. This means cardio is the best form of exercise for those looking for a high-intensity workout. If not every day at least a five-day regimen should be fixed to achieve the minimum exercise per week, which is three hours. 

Bottom Line

To conclude, the modern lifestyle is pushing us towards such behaviors that are easy to follow and require less effort. Contrary to this, we have to stay motivated and adapt to behavior modifications to lead a healthy life. This sense of adapting to new behaviors has to come from within, and we have to become aware of our health and surroundings. First and foremost is the right attitude to have awareness.

This usually comes through self-control, and once the results are visible, the level of commitment increases. To manage diabetes better, we should eat right, exercise regularly, and lead an active life. If not by leaps, we should try baby steps to develop healthy habits and lifestyle. How many do now say “I will”.

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