About three years ago, my husband Chris and I were approached by the Executive Director of Concerns of Police Survivors, Dianne Bernhard, about participating in their national conference and presenting classes on fitness and nutrition in law enforcement.
Having long been advocates of the health and wellness of LEO’s, we jumped at the chance. From a personal perspective, we knew the role consistent good nutrition and fitness had played in dealing with multiple issues we had gone through in our lives, particularly for me, when it came to managing the fallout after the death of my husband Tim in 2005.
When I incorporated physical activity and a healthier diet into my life, I began to see dramatic changes in the way I was able to manage the grief and stress that accompanied his loss. It has also been a game changer for Chris throughout the years when he faced many difficult situations throughout his career, including his involvement in a fatal shooting.
When we embarked upon the research phase of piecing together our class, we were stunned at the numbers we found. Police officers faced significantly higher risks of disease and multiple health issues across the board. One disease where officers faced a significant increase in risk was Type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes in the Field
From a medical standpoint, diabetes is defined as “a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It’s also your brain’s main source of fuel.”
Although having diabetes should not disqualify you from working as a law enforcement officer, the nature of the occupation would, and should require some form of assessment of each individual’s medical history, and evaluation of each person’s ability to serve as a law enforcement officer on a case-by-case basis.
But there is a growing number of law enforcement officers who have lost their jobs due to poorly managing their diabetes, are not promoted because of it, or who are allegedly discriminated against in one way or another while on duty. Of course, there are also plenty of officers who have efficiently managed their disease on the job, as well.
One of the studies from which we cited much of the research that we teach about is from the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress Study (BCOPS),done by former New York State Trooper John Violanti, Ph.D.He suggests that the law enforcement profession alone creates a number of health risks.
One of the most troubling health risks faced by officers today, is that they are quite prone to developing Metabolic Syndrome which can raise our risk for developing diabetes and other health concerns.
Metabolic Syndrome is a “clustering” of at least three of the following:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Blood Sugar
- High Triglycerides (inflammation markers)
- Low HDL (the “good” cholesterol that the brain requires for optimal function)
The good news is, that with proper management and the desire to see improvements in one’s health, all of these can be managed if not reversed.
Here are twelve tips that can help you manage your T2D, if not reverse it altogether:
Twelve Dietary Changes to Make for Reversing Type 2 Diabetes
- Avoid ALL refined carbohydrates. That means no pasta, rice, or bread. Avoid high carbohydrate starches as well, corn, white potatoes, peas and most squash.
- Avoid ALL added sugar. If your body is already in a state where you cannot process carbohydrates and sugars properly, you are going to have to take steps to fully eliminate all sugars, at least in the short term. Read the ingredients and the nutritional content of all food labels. Consider making most of your meals from scratch if possible.
- Avoid ALL sweet drinks. It is best to stick to water, tea, coffee.
- Do not be scared of good quality, healthy, natural fat – avocados, olives, almonds etc. Don’t worry about this causing you to put on weight. Accordingto this study from 2003data showed that people who supplemented their diet with almonds lost more weight than those who supplemented with so-called “healthy, complex carbs”.
- Do not waste your energy counting calories. Concentrate on the quality of the food that you are eating and the calorie control will take care of itself.
- FEED YOUR GUT BUGS, not just yourself. There are trillions of bugs that live in your gut – their health is critical in determining your health.Studiesshow links between the state of your gut bugs (your microbiota) and type 2 diabetes. Start improving the health of your gut immediately by eating five servings of different colored vegetables each day. Also consider incorporating bone broth into your diet. –
- Incorporate some kind of movement into your daily routine. Get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Attempt to get out of the habit of snacking. Your meals should leave you satiated enough that you have no trouble going from one to the next. Eat your when you are hungry, not when social convention tells you that you should. If you’re not hungry at “lunch time”, don’t eat. Learn to listen to your bodies internal clock, not the one on the wall.
- If you must snack, keep some high fat healthy snacks with you, such as olives, nuts or a slice of cheese. These snacks are higher in fat and will keep you satiated longer.
- Include high quality protein and fat with EVERY single meal. This helps to stabilize your blood sugars, and promotes satiety and fullness, making it less likely that you will want to reach for dessert after your meal.
- Eat your meals conscientiously. Eating on the sofa while watching TV, at your desk or in your car encourages a mindless form of eating, and can lead you to eat higher quantities than you otherwise would. If you sit at a table with the focus only on what you’re eating, you are more likely to enjoy your food, feel satisfied at the end of your meal and eat less.
- Consider a form of regular fasting, such as intermittent fasting or time-restricted feeding (TRF). TRF means eating your calories during a specific window of the day, and choosing not to eat food for the rest. It’s a great way to reduce insulin levels in your body and help undo the effects of chronically elevated levels.