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  • Pre-diabetes: Stop diabetes in its tracks

Pre-diabetes: Stop diabetes in its tracks 

OK, so I've fudged a tiny bit.

browniesI've counted the ridges on Ruffles® as fiber. I've estimated that a Reese's® Big Cup has only about 1 teaspoon of real peanut butter. And I've even, on occasion, contrived the notion that the cream in my chipotle cream sauce must be made of the good kind of fat.

Then I met Michelle Barth. There she was, standing at the front of the class, the picture of perfect low-fat, high-fiber health. Barth, a clinical dietitian at Community Hospital, had arrived at the Hartnell Professional Center in downtown Monterey to teach a class for people with pre-diabetes --- we didn't have the disease but we were at-risk.

She was there to make believers out of us. Or at the very least, to get us to consider a new way of thinking. She wanted us to know that we aging baby boomers - or any of us who might have compromised ourselves to the point of developing what is now known as pre-diabetes - don't necessarily have to end up with diabetes.

In fact, there are so many ways around it that we spent four, 90-minute sessions with Barth talking about just that - ways to avoid diabetes. (Incidentally, it boosted Barth's credibility substantially when she revealed that she herself has a penchant for doughnuts.)

Now, one month and so many food labels later, it really comes to this. Those of us who know we've put ourselves in possible peril when it comes to diabetes can simply meander through the remainder of our lives hoping this seemingly silent disease isn't stalking us. We can ignore the numbers when our blood tests show a fasting glucose of more than 100, considered pre-diabetic. And we can continue to sit at our desks for 8-10 hours; rush home to high-fat, low-fiber, oversized dinners; and then finish our stressful days by sitting on the couch to finally get some rest.

Or we can follow Barth's advice. We can eat smaller portions, incorporate 25-35 grams of fiber into our diet each day, consume less than 30 percent of our calories from fat, exercise 150 minutes a week, and try to lose at least 5 percent of our present weight.

Not going to happen, you say? You just might change your mind when you realize that, in two different studies, people diagnosed with pre-diabetes who then followed this suggested regimen reduced their chances of developing diabetes by 54 percent.

Certainly, nobody - especially Barth - expects wholesale changes right away. Actually, she advocates being "kind" to yourself as you make some rather startling discoveries: You should eat only half a chicken breast at any given meal; a banana counts as two pieces of fruit; and a Starbucks® grande, non-fat mocha will cost you 240 calories. If you add whipped cream, you can tack on about 100 more calories.

But there is an up side. Avocados can be good for you. Some cereals have 12 grams of fiber in just one cup. (That's almost half the daily recommendation for fiber.) And a spirited trip to the mall can count as genuine exercise.

No fudging necessary.

(Mary Barker is the director of Communication and Marketing at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.)