FB: Absolutely true. Really they wouldn’t have known otherwise if they hadn’t gotten pregnant and developed gestational diabetes that they were at higher risk. It is kind of a wake-up call for them to intervene on their own behalf to reduce their risk of diabetes.
SoD: Do you have any suggestions to help post-natal women get into a healthy lifestyle?
FB: When you have a baby at home and you may already have an older child or you’re working full time—how do you start? How do you add a healthy lifestyle into your daily routine? It’s really challenging when you’re just struggling to keep all the parts of family life afloat. It really does require planning to make sure that you take some time for yourself in the day.
Understanding the components of the healthy diet and the value of exercise or physical activity is a good start.
For healthy eating, I like to think about what a healthy plate of food looks like. That means half of your plate is filled with vegetables, a quarter is whole grain, and a quarter of your plate is a protein source which could be beans or chicken or fish or another lean meat. Moving more towards a plant-based diet, having more fruit, and incorporating low-fat dairy are also helpful.
People can do batch cooking, so you can make a batch of healthy food. I’II make soups and stews and vegetarian chili and I store them in my freezer so I can bring that to work or if I don’t have the time to cook one night I have something already made. It takes a similar amount of time to prepare four servings of something versus just quadrupling the recipe and having 16 servings.
Women who develop gestational diabetes are often told incorrectly that once they’ve delivered their baby they can go back to their usual diet and that’s not true. They have this wonderful opportunity to reduce their risk of diabetes with a healthy diet.
Physical activity is also important. Exercise allows glucose in the bloodstream to get into muscle cells without insulin. So any insulin-independent means of getting glucose from the blood into the cells really helps reduce insulin resistance. Even walking 30 to 60 minutes five days a week could be sufficient. It doesn’t have to be really vigorous exercise, could be moderate exercise.
There are things that you can do just in your day. You might find that you can actually walk to work. For example, I walk 30 minutes each way to work. I used to take the T in Boston and it took me 25 minutes between waiting for the train and walking to the station. And so now I just walk it and it’s built into my day. You could take the stairs at work. If you are up and down stairs all day that provides a great exercise opportunity.
SoD: Anything else to say about the relationship between gestational diabetes and type 2?
FB: They’re a continuum. When you are somebody who has gestational diabetes you’re on the road to type 2. You need to try not to continue down that road by taking a detour into lifestyle adjustment.