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Afro-American couple preparing their meal together in the kitchen.

Nutrition is Powerful Medicine for Obesity and Diabetes

Every day in clinics across the country, health care providers advise patients to eat better and move more, especially those with diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity. It’s a prescription I “write” often because a significant portion of our patients struggle with these conditions. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:

  • 1 in 3 (38%) of US adults has prediabetes 
  • 1 in 10 (11.3%) of the US population has diabetes
  • 2 in 5 (41.9%) people in the US are obese 

The stakes are high for these patients because diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US, and being overweight increases your risk of not only diabetes, but also heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, many types of cancer and more.

Good Nutrition Can Reverse Bad Health

The good news is a healthier diet and exercise not only help patients lose weight, it can reverse type 2 diabetes or prevent it from developing in those with pre-diabetes and obesity. If you’re overweight and have prediabetes, losing 5 to 7% of your body weight (10-14 pounds for a 200-pound person), can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. 

You may be thinking, easier said than done. Health care providers recognize that changing everyday habits and losing weight is just plain hard. It can seem like everything in our world is centered around food. That makes it difficult for people trying to count carbs and make healthy choices. Often, life just gets in the way of sticking with new habits.

  • 71% of people believe they could eat healthier (
  • 12% of adults meet the daily fruit intake recommendation (CDC)
  • 9% of adults meet the daily vegetable recommendation (CDC)

How to Reverse Bad Health Habits

One way I try to motivate my patients is to explain how much damage the uncontrolled high blood sugars that go along with diabetes can do to the body. For example, I talk about how it makes the blood thick and syrupy, and how that leads to complications with your eyes, kidneys, heart and more. I also talk with pre-diabetics and diabetics about what they’ll have to do if they need to take insulin, which means monitoring blood sugars and injecting yourself daily.

Because diet and exercise are such a normal part of our culture, people who want to make healthy changes often feel like they have to do it themselves. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. Your primary care provider can help you set realistic goals and suggest lifestyle changes.

During a typical first visit, your provider will gather your health history and talk to you about your lifestyle, eating and exercising habits. I urge patients to be honest so we can help you. After a full physical, we can then talk about a plan that’s individualized for you.

Visits with diabetic educators and dietitians may be recommended and are often covered by health insurance. These professionals are tremendously helpful for patients who are trying to reverse pre-diabetes or diabetes without medication. 

When you think of nutrition as a tool you can use to be healthier, you realize how much power you have to make real changes in your life. Reach out to your primary care provider for more information on how to start. 

Melinda Booth, APRN, IBCLC
Melinda Booth, APRN, IBCLC

Melinda Booth, APRN, IBCLC is a Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner and a Certified Lactation Consultant with CHI Health.

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