I have mixed feelings about belly fat … logically speaking, everybody would love to have washboard abs but realistically it can be a bit tough to achieve, especially when combined with long working hours, limited cooking time and tighter budgets.
And this gets further compounded if you come from cultures wherein a meal with a carb like rice or wheat is unthinkable. That is the food you grew up eating and your body is familiar with – suddenly if all you can eat is grilled chicken with steamed vegetables, it takes an iron will not to fold under pressure of cravings.
Into this cauldron, add a hybrid working model, which means spending days within the confines of four walls, where the longest distance you might cover is from couch to kitchen – it becomes a bigger issue.
I’m thinking – munch on a handful of salted nuts.
I’m writing – munch on a few corn chips.
I’m planning – munch on a few squares of chocolate.
It’s all hard work with a handy accompaniment and the quantities are small enough not to acquiesce any sense of guilt that might loom.
According to a health survey conducted by Allurion (a weight loss management program) on 1,000 people aged between 18 to 65 years in the UAE recently, 47 per cent people are eating more than they used to, especially because of the work-from-home trend.
The threat of diabetes
Food indulgence and being less physically active could, very obviously, lead to many possible health concerns. One of which is diabetes. Even if one is pre-diabetic (which means your sugar level has started going high), then there is a high risk of getting diabetes.
“Apart from a family history of diabetes, the other important factors include being overweight and age (above 45 years or older), family history, not active physically,” said Cynthia Bou Khalil, a nutritional consultant.
Apart from a family history of diabetes, the other important factors include being overweight and age (above 45 years or older), family history, not active physically
“Diabetes is caused when we have a problem with a hormone called insulin, a hormone that is secreted from the pancreas and helps the body to decrease the sugar in the blood, maintaining the glycemic index.”
To put it simply, it is when your body is not able to make enough insulin or your body cannot use the insulin properly.
According to Harvard Medical School, glycemic index is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increase in blood glucose levels. Foods low on the glycemic index (GI) scale tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. Whereas, foods high on the glycemic index release glucose rapidly.
Consuming foods rich in carbohydrates such as breads, pasta, white rice, release sugar/glucose and when this reaches the blood, it increases the glycemic level.
According to Veenisha Fatnani, a nutrionist with New Country Healthcare, a UAE-based pharmaceutical company, "snacking is a cause of worry for the UAE residents since these snacks add in calories through the day and due to the sedentary lifestyle here, a lot of the times, the calories are not lost via any workout or movement".
"Snacking is a cause of worry for the UAE residents since these snacks add in calories through the day and due to the sedentary lifestyle here, a lot of the times, the calories are not lost via any workout or movement".
“In the UAE, diabetes has seen a rise over the years. The sedentary lifestyle of most adults, excessive calorie intake, increased screen time, the warm climate leading to the normality of staying indoors are some of the factors, which could also be responsible for this. Another trend commonly seen in the UAE is that dinner time for most people is quite late, sometimes beyond 9pm and this can affect the body’s metabolism over the years.”
Are carbs evil?
Carbohydrates or carbs are essential. Your body needs carbs but you need to consume the right kind, such as baked potatoes, sweet potato and items that have very little added sugar.
Fatnani said: “Diabetics should ensure that they incorporate low GI (glycemic index) foods like apple, oranges, kidney beans and other high fiber sources in their diet. A portion controlled plate consists of half the plate of non-starchy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, capsicum, tomatoes etc.); quarter portion to be a protein source (lean chicken, turkey, tofu, and cottage cheese) and the final quarter portion to be a source of grain (rice, quinoa, barley, bulgur wheat, rye etc.).”
Fruits are essential for vitamins, minerals and fibers and also since they are low in fat and sodium. But one needs to limit the amount of fruit, depending upon your dietician and doctor’s advice. Bou Khalil suggests to consume fresh fruits always and not the canned ones with sugar or in jam.
It is also important to have lean proteins such as nuts, seeds, fish, and seafood, while cutting down the intake of chicken and other meats. Talking of which, eggs and low-fat dairy products are other good options too.
Cinnamon tea, apparently, helps a lot to decrease cravings and to maintain the glucose level, said Bou Khalil in the Allurion.
As per Fatnani, there are options to choose from while snacking and the only way to tackle in between meal cravings. Some healthy snacks that are good for diabetics are – a boiled egg, 2 to 3 tablespoons of hummus with carrot or cucumber sticks, a measured portion of mixed unsalted nuts like almonds and walnuts, edamame beans or even a homemade chia seed pudding preferably containing fresh cut fruit pieces without refined sugar.
And then there’s water…. The emphasis on water consumption is often underestimated when it comes to diabetes. When one consumes enough water (3 litres per day), the blood becomes less thick, this allows better glucose uptake into the cells, explained Fatnani.
However, an important part to all this, always consult your doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes, as each individual’s needs will differ based on many factors including health conditions, family history, work, access and budgets.
A little bit about diabetes…
Type I and Type II Diabetes
The two types of diabetes are both caused by insulin malfunction. Type I diabetes, is the least common, more like an autoimmune disorder where your body stops making insulin. Usually 5 to 10 per cent of people who have diabetes are Type I.
Type II is the most common type of diabetes wherein patients who are over-weight or have some other underlying conditions, cannot produce insulin properly. So the larger percentage of people have Type II diabetes. It is usually diagnosed at an older age, usually after the age of 30.
A survey by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) on February 25, 2020, showed that 15.4 per cent of the total UAE adult population is diabetic.
Symptoms or warning signs to lookout for?
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should see your doctor:
• If you urinate a lot at night
• If you are very thirsty most of the times, if you lose weight without trying, is a sign of Type 1 diabetes
• If you are very hungry all the time
• Problem with vision, for instance blurry vision
• Numbness or tingling in the hand or feet
• If you are feeling very tired/fatigued all the time
• Skin starts to get very dry
• If you cut yourself and have sores or bruises that heal very slowly
• And if you have been getting more infections, because sugar in the blood causes a higher infection rate
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