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Sustainable Healthy Lifestyle

Discovery of a sustainable healthy lifestyle to get my diabetics under control without drastically changing my traditional food habits!

Photo of Hemalatha Manickavinayaham
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Me and my husband was diagnosed with Type II Diabetics in 2003. When we first learned about this we both were very committed to get this in control to help us lead a healthy long life. However this was easier said than done. We realized that as we went through the struggle of controlling our diet.

Our first hurdle - We could not find a dietician who could understand our Indian diet. Hence we tried changing our food habits to more of American style and to foods where the calories are well known. But we could not sustain that for long. It was very hard to get away completely from the traditional that you were used to from childhood.

As we started with our medications prescribed by the doctor our A1C came under control over a period of six months. Even though the medication was same for both myself and my husband I started to gain weight every week while there did not seem to be much of a side effect for my husband. From 150 pounds I became 210 pounds. When checked with doctor he said it was normal to gain weight as the diabetics came under control. But this started to create other issues for me such as my Blood pressure started to become high due to weight gain. Doctor's advised that the only solution is balanced diet, exercise and medication. Or he suggested he could prescribe pills for blood pressure and weight loss but he preferred the earlier option.

So now I started to create a diet plan based on our traditional food and tried to follow that. I could choose healthy food options but without calories information it was very difficult to portion the diet. My weight never seem to come down even with this diet plan and exercise. Doctor kept suggesting me to control the diet and increase the exercise. But without able to keep track of the quantities and calories it was like a blind chase and I could not get anywhere near my goal.

Then I joined LA fitness had a personal trainer and did 2 hours a week intense exercise while maintaining the above diet. This helped me to loose 15 pounds in 3 months. But those 2 days in the week I had the personal trainer I was literally unable to have normal life rest of the day as my body ached everywhere. And once my subscribed duration with the personal trainer was over I could not sustain the weight loss. Again I came back to 210 pounds within 2 months timeframe.

Finally I started to research on the various Apps available in the technology space and found MyFitnessPal to be the one that could suit my needs. Because that was the only App were I could find calorie information for most Indian foods, even the exotic ones. I checked with my doctor what should be my weight for my height and he suggested that I should be at not more than 150 pounds.

On Sep 2014, I entered my goal to be 150 pounds and my weight at that point in time which was 210 pounds. The App said I should not consume more 1560 calories for a day. I made sure I did not consume any more 1560 calories for a day and made sure that burnt every day a minimum of 150 calories through exercise. I did not had to do any intense muscle aching exercises and I did not have to sacrifice my traditional food that I am used to from childhood. 

With the above simple and easy baby step changes that were sustainable for me to maintain I have lost as of today a total of 24 pounds and my current weight is 186 pounds. And I am still continuing in my weight loss path in a sustainable manner day by day moving one step nearer to my goal.

Key Learnings from my experience:

1. It is not easy to make drastic changes in life style and sustain that.

2. You cannot track something that you cannot measure

3. As the Stanford professor had said in his post simple baby step changes are sustainable and immediate reward motivates you to keep doing that everyday. For me to see the App saying that "If everyday were like today you will loose 5 more pounds in 4 weeks and your weight will be X pounds" was a big reward as I entered my every day consumed and burnt calories before going to bed.

4. Seeing the above phrase in the App brought me happiness to mind and helped me get peaceful satisfied sound sleep. As some of the other posts has pointed out that physical health is connected to mental happiness, these kind of Apps could bring mental happiness as well.

As a user some of the improvements I would like to see with these technology apps are:

1. There is no one single App that tracks all my fitness needs and health needs. For example I need to use different apps to track my blood sugar, another app for blood pressure and so forth.

2. Instead of Apps sending me American recipes of low calorie food or sending a Vegan all non veg recipes I would like the Apps to be smart understand who I am from my profile details, send me recipes and marketing messages that are more suitable to me.

3. By analyzing the data trend I would like the Apps to suggest me baby step changes in portion or different combinations of my frequent foods that I use. For example the data so far I have entered shows that I am generally little bit more on carbohydrate intake, little less in my protein intake and very less in my fat intake. Based on the frequent foods I choose I would like the app to mix and match and provide a menu with right portion.

I feel if we do the above and cater to the diverse need of different communities technology would be the best friend in helping people live healthy life and manage chronic illness.

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Photo of Mithra Vankipuram

Good one Hemalatha. I have also found that veering away from the diet I grew up with is not sustainable. However, I have found that as long as I stick to the carb/protein ratios I am fine. My husband grew up primarily eating protein. My body knows how to process and work with carbs and for my husband it's protein. So we both eat what out body knows to process, but we make sure we stick to calorie counts. That I found helps.

Photo of Caio De Matos

Hemalatha, thank you very much for sharing your experience with us! It brought very important insights to the discussion, like the importance of considering different cultural eating habits, and to make it all simple and integrated.
I have never used MyFitnessPal, but I found it very interesting to know that it gives you a message letting you know of future results if the pattern of the day is kept. That helps a lot with healthy habits, as one's only gonna see any results after a while. The idea of suggesting changes on the diet based on the history is also really good!

Photo of Shane Zhao

Very revealing story share Hemalatha! We love how you've identified what's missing from the existing health tech apps out there. These insights will be particularly important to consider as we move into the Ideas Phase of the challenge. We hope to see some thought starters from you in the next Phase!

Also, you might be interested to check out this post: https://openideo.com/challenge/healthy-lives/research/meal-planning-tech-what-s-missing