New Book Helps Wives Help Their Diabetic Spouses
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When I heard about the new book, The Diabetic and the Dietitian: How to Help Your Husband Defeat Diabetes…Without Losing Your Mind or Marriage by Ellen Albertson, PhD, MS, RDN and her husband, Michael Albertson (pictured below), I knew it would be a must-read—not only for the millions of women who have husbands with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, but for me as well.
Last year, at his annual physical, my very active, golf loving, squash playing (and tournament winning) husband of almost 23 years was told he had prediabetes. Despite having a strong family history of type 2 diabetes, we were nevertheless shocked and surprised to hear this. Fortunately, neither of us took this lightly and Brian immediately sought the help of a colleague who is not only a registered dietitian nutritionist but also a certified diabetes educator and began to tweak his diet. Although he was initially at a healthy weight, he lost a few pounds (mainly from his gut) and his numbers subsequently improved.
Although my husband sometimes finds it a challenge to maintain his new healthful behaviors when dining out (or hanging out too often with yours truly who has a bit of a sweet tooth), he has made great strides to prevent type 2 diabetes and the toll it can potentially take on his overall health and wellbeing. And I’m so proud of him and want to continue to support him as much as possible without making him feel like I’m analyzing his every bite. And I’m thankful to have this useful book as a valuable and practical science-based resource to refer to in my efforts.
I had the pleasure of asking Dr. Albertson some questions about her book via email. Read on for the highlights of our exchange.
EZ: Why did you feel the need to write this book?
EA: 29.1 million people—almost 10%—of the population have diabetes and another 86 million people are prediabetic, a condition that if left untreated will lead to diabetes. When my husband Michael was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes we realized that there were no books on the market to support and advise the millions of women who’s husbands have diabetes, so we decide to write one together. I covered the science, psychological and nutritional issues. Michael addressed the challenges, fears and lifestyle changes recently diagnosed men experience.
As you know, doctors don’t get much training in nutrition, yet they are the ones giving nutrition advice to newly diagnosed diabetics. Who talks to the wives? Who tells them how to care for their spouse, change menus, shop differently, make tasty but low carb cuisine?
Spouses are key to recovery…but no one is empowering them to help. In fact, the medical establishment often ignores wives and that’s just wrong. That’s another reason why I wrote this book.
EZ: Who is your book targeting and why is it so important for them to heed the science-based advice you provide?
EA: Our target is women with partners/husbands that have type 2 diabetes or pre diabetes. It’s really important for them to heed the science-based advice, because this disease is not only easily treatable, it’s reversible! There are so many things women can do to support their husbands and help them get and stay healthy through lifestyle change. Many women don’t know where or how to start helping their husbands.
Women are generally more involved with grocery shopping and meal prep than most men. That’s just a fact. Which is why the book is addressed to women. We can debate the politics after he gets healthy. If they haven’t already, they are going to have to take control of the food in their home. Yes, it is a bit sexist, but if you want him to defeat diabetes and have a healthy, vibrant, long life together . . . I’m sorry, but people really don’t have a choice. My wonderful Michael is an exception. He shops, cleans, does laundry, and brings home the bacon. (I just don’t let him eat too much of it!)
EZ: What are 5 changes diabetics can make today to eat and live more healthfully?
EA: 1) Eat a healthy breakfast and a smaller dinner. Research shows that eating more calories at breakfast and less later in the day can suppress blood sugar surges all day long.
2) Pile on the veggies. Veggies fill you up without filling you out. Veggies low in carbohydrates (such as carrots, broccoli, lettuce and cucumbers) provide fiber and nutrients with few calories.
3) Snack smart. Instead of grabbing a donut from the break room or chips from the vending machine, pack him a smart snack such as low fat plain yogurt and fruit or an ounce of almonds. A smart snack will keep blood sugar levels balanced and hunger at bay, so he can stick to his healthy eating plan.
4) Shop slim. Rather than eliminating his favorite foods completely, which creates tension and can lead to cheating, buy small single serving bags or fun-sized treats for occasional indulgences.
5) Get creative. Cutting down on calories to help him lose weight isn’t just about weighing and measuring. For example, use smaller plates. It’s a weird trick, but studies show people eat less when the plate is smaller because it looks like there’s more food on the plate.
EZ: What’s the best advice you have for women to help their diabetic spouses, partners or significant others to eat better and live a more healthful lifestyle?
EA: Don’t nag. No matter how much you want to, don’t! While it’s tempting to nag and tell your husband what to do, what he’s doing wrong, etc., being supportive, encouraging, kind and non judgmental is a much better tactic. Nagging usually backfires. It can trigger resentment, may make him feel inadequate and isn’t healthy for your relationship. Nagging is also perceived as criticism so your spouse may ignore you or get defensive and eat whatever he wants.
Dr. Ellen Albertson, PhD, RDN, CD is a Psychologist, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Wellcoach®, Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher and founder of SmashYourScale.com. She is is an expert on diabetes, weight loss, wellness, body image and behavioral psychology with over 20 years experience empowering people to optimize their health and wellbeing through holistic, lifestyle change. To learn more about her and her new book, visit her website.
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