The Art of Abstaining

Moderation vs. Portion Control

One of my pet peeves is the cliché, “Everything in moderation.” Is domestic violence okay in moderation? Never! How about bank robbery in moderation? Absolutely not! We diabetics would like to think we can eat anything as long as it’s “in moderation.” But that is simply not true! “In moderation” is extremely vague! “Moderation” is not a unit of measurement and can mean vastly different things to different people!

For any diabetic who is serious about practicing Temperance, it’s not enough to say “eat in moderation” or “just a little bit” or “only a taste.” You have to establish a strong habit of awareness of EXACTLY how much of any given food you eat AND the amounts of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, fiber, protein) and calories in that portion. If you have never kept a detailed food journal before, you need to do that for at least a few weeks (often, much longer) until you have an accurate idea of what and how much you are eating.

For more references, see this page about Moderation.

What Is Portion Control?

I would like to suggest that real temperance for a diabetic is “portion control.” You do need to be aware of what constitutes a “portion” or “serving” of every food you eat. If you don’t know, you should consult a reliable food database (like CalorieKing or a similar one). For accountability and motivation, you should keep a detailed food journal.

Your food journal can be as simple as a manually written one or as complex as a computer or phone app (like My Fitness Pal and others). You might track only the food and the amount of carbohydrates per serving (since it’s carbohydrates that are raising your blood sugar); or you can track a full bank of calories and macronutrients (carbs, fat, fiber, protein, etc.). However, in either case, you need to know the portion size of one (1) serving and write it down. Add up the grams of carbohydrate in one meal or snack then calculate the total for the day.

If you have been following the Standard American Diet (SAD), that is, eating whatever you want whenever you want, try to at least limit your food intake to ADA (American Diabetes Association) guidelines of 150-200 grams of carbohydrates per day. That’s roughly 45-60 grams per meal or 15-20 grams per serving. You may be shockingly surprised at the amount of carbohydrates you’ve been eating!

If you have already been following ADA dietary guidelines but, over the years, have found that diet and exercise and perhaps medications just aren’t keeping your blood sugars under control any more, you may want to consider a lower-carb dietary regime. You can do this whether you are vegetarian/vegan or Adventist non-vegetarian/pescatarian. “Low-carb” can mean anything from under 100 grams of carbohydrates/day to as little as 20-30 grams/day. If you do try a very low-carb diet, be sure to keep track of your blood glucose and medications, because this may require a reduction of dosage in some medications and insulin. Otherwise, you may get low blood sugars. Do work with your doctor on this.

Be sure to check your blood glucose first thing in the morning (fasting blood glucose), at bedtime, and pre-meal and 1 hr. and 2 hrs. post-meal at various times during the day. Record these blood glucose numbers in your food journal. And, if you are on diabetes medications and/or insulin, write the times and dosages in, too. This is so you’ll be able to see how any changes in your dietary lifestyle are affecting your blood sugar numbers.

If your personal goal is to stay under the ADA-recommended 7% A1C and you are achieving that with an ADA-compliant diet, exercise, and possibly medications, then you are successful! If, however, you’d like to get closer to the non-diabetic normal A1C of 4.0-5.6% and/or if you’d like to get off medications and/or insulin, there are ways of tweaking your diabetes management. More on that later….

For now, practice portion control!

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