The Sweetest Sorrows: Inspired & Staying Motivated

The Sweetest Sorrows: Inspired & Staying Motivated

April 29, 2022   Return


Like every person with diabetes, surely you want to stay healthy. However, it can be challenging to change your lifestyle. To manage type 2 diabetes, you will need to unlearn habits that contributed to this condition, adopt new habits and continue to apply these changes to your life every day. This can be easier said and done, but it is possible.

Think positive

The right attitude keeps you motivated during challenging times.

  • View your diagnosis as an opportunity to step up your healthy lifestyle and get rid of bad habits that are holding you back.
  • Focus on the benefits you will get from these adjustments (better health, improved sleep, healthier weight, etc).

Know diabetes well

Understanding your condition and how you can control it will give you the confidence to take charge of your health and do what is best for you.

  • Read up on type 2 diabetes online or in books, and talk to doctors and dietitians to clarify your doubts and concerns.
  • Be careful of misperceptions and false information, though. Always check with your healthcare team if you are unsure.

Make your goals

  • Make long-term goals to give yourself a sense of direction as well as purpose. These could be lowering your blood glucose below a certain value, or spending more hours each day being physically active.
  • Also make short-term goals as you strive to meet your long-term goals. For example, you may want to lose 5 kg by the end of two months. Succeeding in your short-term goals will motivate you to keep going as you strive to achieve your long-term goals.
  • Give yourself a treat each time you meet a goal.

Be realistic

  • When setting goals or making plans to adopt a healthy habit, make sure that they are achievable within the time frame you have set for yourself. Otherwise, you are only setting yourself up for failure and disappointment!
  • Adopting new habits and breaking old habits may take time, so make changes gradually.
  • For example, if you did not eat fruits and vegetables often in the past and you now want to include more in your plans, you may not be able to quickly adopt a full vegetarian diet. It may be better to instead include a vegetable side dish and a fruit during every main meal, and slowly increase the amount over time.

Can’t enjoy your meals?

You may find yourself missing your old favourite (but unhealthy) meals, or you may need some time to get used to your new diet. Here are some tips to help make your mealtimes enjoyable again.

  • Get your whole family involved. Healthy, balanced meals with less salt and fats are good for everyone, not just people with diabetes!
  • There are many recipes online only that will show you how to prepare simple and quick, yet delicious meals that are great for people with diabetes. Try them out!
  • You can also exchange recipes and cooking tips with other people with diabetes in support groups both online and in real life.
  • Another benefit to creating your own tasty diabetes-friendly meals is that you will rely less on diabetes-friendly foods and snacks sold in stores, which can be quite costly.
  • There are many free apps you can download into your phone to make it easier to keep track of your blood glucose, calories and more. They will help make your mealtimes less complex and, hence, more easy to enjoy!

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No motivation to exercise?

Often, “I’m too busy to exercise!” or “I am too tired!” is all in your mind. If you really want to, you can spend a healthy part of the day being physically active.

  • If you are still getting used to your new routine, make the effort to wake up earlier to exercise the first thing in the morning. Better get it out of the way before you start coming up with excuses to put it off!
  • If you feel self-conscious about your appearance, or you don’t know how to start, find an exercise buddy to help you out. Having an exercise buddy is also good because the two of you can motivate one another.
  • If you are not fond of exercising with other people, you can exercise at home by following instructional videos (on YouTube and other sources) on yoga, aerobics and more.
  • If you need extra motivation (and who doesn’t?), there are a variety of free apps you can download on your phone. There are apps to help you keep track of your physical activity, send motivational messages regularly and even make physical activity a fun game that puts you in competition with other users. Getting physically active is now easier, and more fun, than ever!

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Oops, slipped up?

You may find yourself backtracking to your old habits, sometimes without realizing it until it is too late.

  • Don’t give up if this happens. Slipping up only means that you are human like everyone else!
  • Once you realize that you have slipped up, think back to the circumstances that might have led to this slip-up, and plan on either how to avoid falling into such circumstances again or, failing that, what you can do to avoid giving in to temptation when it arises.
  • If you find yourself slipping up often, it is time to revisit your goals. How can you motivate yourself again? Perhaps it is time to come up with new goals, or a new approach to reach your goals. You can consult your healthcare team or support group if you need further advice.

Keep track of medications

  • If you have a hard time keeping track of whether you have taken your medications (especially when you have to take several of them), you can either get a pill case or download a phone app that can help remind you to take your medications.
  • You should take your medications even when you are feeling healthy, and discuss with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any complementary medicine. Remember that complementary medicine should not replace your current medications.
  • Also, keep your medical appointments, as they allow your doctor to monitor your health and conduct necessary tests to detect signs of diabetes-related complications.
  • Don’t forget: get an eye screening test with an ophthalmologist once a year! This will help detect diabetic retinopathy and other diabetes-related eye diseases.

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The closing word

We hope this Special Report has shed some light onto some lesser-well known pitfalls of type 2 diabetes, and we have motivated you to take those important steps to take charge of your health.

Living with type 2 diabetes often means having to deal with increased risks of other health conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy and dyslipidaemia, but this does not mean that your future is bleak.

With proper lifestyle adjustments, medications and the right attitude, you can still lead a healthy and fulfilling life. The journey may seem daunting from where you stand right now, but you can do it. And the good thing is, you won’t be alone in your efforts.  Remember, your healthcare team will be there every step of the journey. You also have your family and friends. Furthermore, in this time and age, there are fellow people with diabetes whom you can get in touch with through Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and more. Thanks to modern technology, physical distance is no longer an issue. You are never alone even in your most trying time.

As Olympic track star Jim Ryun said, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” There is plenty of motivation if you know where to look, and we hope you can find yours to get those healthy habits in place for you to keep going. Good luck and best of health to you!

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Arghh! Muscle cramp is killing me!

Arghh! Muscle cramp is killing me!

 April 27, 2022   Return

Sports Medicine Physician


For the third article in our series on sports injuries, a sports medicine physician explains about muscle cramps caused by exercise and ways of overcoming them.

Muscle cramp is a strong and painful contraction, often interpreted as sudden and severe spasms or tightening of a muscle that last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMC) happen during physical activities. Let’s take a look at the WHYs, HOWs (how does it happen and how to prevent it) and WHATs (what to do when it is happening to me) of EAMC.

Why does EAMC happen?

Traditionally, it was thought and it is still popular opinion that muscle cramps during physical activities occur due to dehydration as a result of not drinking enough water, and also exercising in environments that are too warm and humid causing profuse sweating. Excessive sweating leads to deficiency of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium. Other causes of muscle cramps include inadequate amount of stretching and muscle fatigue.

People have been believing the theory of electrolyte deficiency being the leading cause of EAMC. So, electrolyte replacement supplements and drinks have taken off significantly in the endurance sporting scene.

However, personal opinions from individual users on whether or not electrolyte replacement supplements and drinks work vary greatly. Some users swear by them, but some claim they are an absolute waste of money. Data from published researches also vary – most findings point to little or no effects of electrolyte replacement on reduction in muscle cramping.

In fact, in recent years many studies have debunked the theory of electrolyte deficiency being the leading cause of EAMC and showed that there is no correlation among EAMC, sodium intake and low blood sodium levels. Sodium is the most common electrolyte to be supplemented.

Also, if you read the sports drinks labels properly, you will notice that the amount of electrolytes present in most popular brands of sports drinks are miniscule and negligible, with the main component of the drink actually being carbohydrate in the form of SUGAR.

When it comes to dehydration, that theory may not hold that much weight as excessive and improper rehydration during prolonged endurance events possibly lead to hyponatraemia, which means low sodium in blood. It happens when people drink too much water too fast resulting in a dilution effect. The term exercise-associated hyponatraemia was first coined in the 1980s and has detrimental effects to the body which ultimately if not treated early, can lead to death. Now the guideline recommends to “drink according to thirst”.

How about the theory of inadequate stretching causing cramps?

Often mid endurance events, when someone suddenly seizes up with a very bad muscle cramp of the leg, the first thing that comes to mind is to stretch that muscle. And anyone who has experienced it will know that stretching the spastic muscle is extremely painful and at that point in time feels like a pointless procedure. But physiologically, the advice to stretch holds a lot of weight.

Keeping the anatomy and physiology lesson short and simple, there are two components in our muscles called muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs (GTO).

Muscle spindles lie within the fleshy bulk of our muscles and they function to detect the lengthening or stretching of the muscle. When it detects the muscle being stretched, it will send a signal to the brain to prevent further stretching of the muscle. This prevents the muscle from being overstretched hence, preventing muscle tear and damage.

The GTO on the other hand lies at the border where the muscle meets the tendon – all muscles join to become tendons before attaching to a bone – and functions as such: when the muscle contracts forcefully or spastically, such as in a muscle cramp, the muscle tugs at the GTO and the GTO dutifully sends a signal to the brain to tell the spastic muscle to relax.

Therefore, when EAMC occurs, stretching of the affected muscle causes the GTO to send signals to the brain to cause the cramp to stop, for that muscle to relax and release, while the muscle spindle prevents you from overstretching and further hurting yourself. Thus, stretching DOES indeed help to reduce the occurrence of EAMC – or any muscle cramps for that matter – and halts the EAMC when it is already happening.

In recent years, many researchers started hypothesizing that the cause of EAMC is from the central nervous system. Central nervous system is a combination of the brain, the nerve fibres and endings, and the muscles that the nerve supplies. In fact, the altered neuromuscular control theory is taking more weight in the efforts of narrowing down the causes of EAMC and factors such as muscle fatigue, inadequate muscle conditioning and training and muscle damage/injury all fall into this theory.

From my experience of treating patients on the race course and also in retrospective history taking of patients who suffer from EAMC, they all tend to have a few things in common:

1) Inadequate conditioning/strengthening of the muscles – poorly conditioned muscles tend to be weaker, fatigue easily and quickly, and unable to take the rigours of sporting activities. The stronger and more conditioned the muscle is, the more resistant it is to cramps.

2) Inadequate training specificity – not to be confused with inadequate strength, as some of these athletes have good musculature due to regular exercise. However, SPECIFIC training for a particular sport or activity is important as different sports require the use of different muscle groups and different energy systems, to name a few. If you plan to participate in a road running race, training to run more is important.

3) Overtraining/muscle damage or injury – inadequate rest and recovery from overzealous training will lead to overtraining, which may lead to a certain degree of muscle or tendon damage or injury. Injured muscles do fatigue easily and may not withstand activities being participated in.


What can be done to reduce the incidences of EAMC?

Proper and adequate training is important. If you signed up for a half marathon, then train to run the distance and put in adequate time and mileage. Showing up at the start of a half marathon – or whatever distance – without any training may result in a very painful limp towards the tail end of the race due to bad cramps.

Stretching is important and highly recommended as an integral part of one’s training regime. If you feel a cramp is about to happen mid activities, it is advisable to take some time to stretch before continuing.

Rest is equally as important as the training itself. The more intense and often you train, the more rest and recovery is necessary. Injured and damaged muscles become tired easily and cramp more often.

Despite the lack of evidence supporting electrolyte supplementation and replacement drinks, if they work for you from past experiences, you should continue to take it.

On the note of altered neuromuscular control theory, there has been recommendation of consuming pickle juice instead of electrolyte drinks to prevent and even cure EAMC. The exact mechanism of how that works is still unclear and current research studies available out there did not come to any conclusive answer as to why it works. It has been hypothesized that the vinegar content in pickle juice triggers some muscular reflexes when the juice comes into contact with the back of the throat. This same reflex shuts down the misfiring of neurons in muscles thus causing cessation of EAMC. As it can be a cheaper alternative, no harm in giving that a try. On that same note, the idea of any liquid drink with vinegar in it can be used in place of pickle juice; for example, apple cider vinegar, kombucha, kimchi juice, etc.

Note: I take diluted apple cider vinegar before and during my long runs. HT

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Exercise Myths Debunked

Exercise Myths Debunked

 April 25, 2022   Return


Wai Hoong

Fitness Director & Co-Founder of W Fitness


Want to lose weight or get fit but don’t know what to believe? Take the advice of a professional fitness coach, Wai Hoong.

Myth #1: I must train every day!

Truth: If you work out every day of the week at high intensity, it is just a matter of time before you hurt or injure yourself. It is recommended to cycle your training, keeping your workouts varied. Try out new activities at different levels of intensity. Much like how athletes have their on-off seasons, we should find a suitable balance for ourselves.

Myth #2: Women will get bulky from lifting weights.

Truth: Men and women are physically built very differently. Women have less muscle tissue, higher progesterone levels, and lower testosterone levels as compared to men. Hence, lifting weights will not bulk up a woman. However, it will benefit them in many ways. Lifting weights helps improve bone density and reduces a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis; it encourages fat loss (the lean muscle you will develop though lifting weights burns more calories than fat even at rest). Lifting weights also helps you gain strength (which can be useful for daily activities such as carrying a baby, groceries, doing manual work, etc); it improves athletic performances for athletes and decreases chances of injuries (in the knee or in the back).

Myth #3: I can eat whatever I want since I work out every day

Truth: Perhaps this may be true if you are younger, have good genes or already have a diet that’s wholesome and filled with food of high nutritional value. Otherwise, you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. Be mindful of the food you consume. A cheat meal occasionally is fine. But if you (for example) have a cake every night or indulge in unhealthy processed food every day, your diet wouldn’t provide you with the necessary nutrition for repair and recovery after workouts. Healthy wholesome meals aren’t just restricted to steamed chicken and vegetables every day—there are plenty of fun, interesting and healthy recipes available online to follow. Learn how to cook better using nfresh ingredients, substitute unhealthy sauces or seasonings with herbs and use healthier cooking methods. HT