Arely Acosta of Salem has learned that putting your best foot forward is the key to managing type II diabetes.
For her, that means limiting the size of her meals. It also means a half-hour of exercise every morning before going to work.
“My schedule used to be that I would get up 15 minutes before I had to be out the door,” said Acosta, 23. “I wouldn’t eat breakfast, then I’d have a big lunch and big dinner.”
That led to her diagnosis of diabetes in June 2016. “One day I just got super thirsty. I drank a lot of water and juice, but I couldn’t make the thirst go away. I was irritable, and my hands were going numb. I didn’t change my exercise or diet routine, but I dropped 30 pounds.”
After a month of those symptoms, Acosta went to her doctor and had blood tests done. “They called me three hours later and said I had diabetes,” she said. “My blood sugar was 399. Then a couple of hours after that, I got a call from a dietitian.”
Acosta was living in Albany at the time. The dietitian who called was Barbara George, with the Diabetes Education team at Samaritan Albany General Hospital.
“When I went to see Barbara, my blood sugar level was 522,” Acosta said. “She said they usually send you to the Emergency Department when it’s that high, but since I was feeling OK, she said we could talk and go through everything I needed to know.” George taught Acosta to prick her finger to check her sugar. She also went over the Plate Method of making sure Acosta eats balanced, nutritious meals.
“Being diagnosed make you feel like you can’t eat anything, until you get educated,” Acosta said. “Barbara taught me that you start by filling half your plate with vegetables, then you add your protein, and by the time you add your starches and grains, you realize how much food it can be when you eat a balanced meal.
“The key is portion control and knowing how many carbohydrates are in what I’m eating,” she continued. “For example, I could eat a salad with chicken, or I could have 15 chips.”
It took about a month of a lot of insulin and lifestyle changes, but Acosta got her blood sugar back under control. She also dropped her hemoglobin A1C from 12 to 5.1.
Today, she gets up early and does a half-hour exercise program before getting ready for work. She has a healthy breakfast shake with protein powder, banana, spinach and yogurt or coconut milk.
“The shake fits my lifestyle of wanting to take care of myself and eat right, but quick,” she said.
She also takes a lunch to work, usually salad with chicken, and she takes string cheese for a snack.
Putting her best foot forward has helped her gain the motivation to keep managing her diabetes. She’s especially happy about her exercise routine.
“When you start working out, you really don’t want to do it,” she said. “But after a while of getting up and doing it, you get a routine going and you’re motivated to do it. It’s like anything: if you stay in your shell, you’re never going to change.
“I’m making these lifestyle changes now so they will be habits in the future,” she said. “When I have kids, they’ll pick up the same healthy habits.”
Find out about Samaritan’s Diabetes Services.