Trista Sutter, who met her firefighter husband, Ryan, as TV’s first Bachelorette, was living her dream of becoming a mom when she became pregnant in 2006. Unfortunately, it was a rocky nine months. In her first trimester, she struggled with debilitating all-day morning sickness and back pain. “During the first four months, I was so sick that I could only eat crackers and drink ginger ale,” she has said. “As the pregnancy progressed, I felt better, and I ate tons of French fries.”
Then, during her seventh month, she developed gestational diabetes. Though Trista’s father and grandmother have diabetes, “I didn’t think for a second I’d be dealing with it during my pregnancy,” she says. Gestational diabetes, which affects 2% to 10% of pregnant women, is diagnosed when an expectant mom has high blood sugar levels. Fortunately, Trista controlled the condition with careful eating: “I had to cut down on carbs and focus on eating a more balanced diet.” She also stayed positive. “Instead of being bummed about the diagnosis, I tried to focus on the happy things, such as the baby’s kicks and flutters.”
Happily, her son Maxwell, now 5, is healthy. And while she had a normal pregnancy with her second child, daughter Blakesley, now 3, Trista hasn’t forgotten the lessons she learned during her first pregnancy. The most important? Women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes have a 35% to 60% greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes during the following 10 to 20 years, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Heeding the warning, Trista, 40, is determined to eat healthfully and exercise regularly. Her strategy is paying off big time: She dropped 45 pounds after Blakesley’s birth. “I’m proud that I’ve gotten to the point where I can fit into my old clothes.”
The good news? Her strategies for fending off type 2 diabetes down the road can help you keep your blood sugar in check today!
The challenge: Finding a diet you can really stick with. “I know if I go on a crazy crash diet, I will rebound from it,” Trista has said.
Smart solution: Cut back on—but don’t cut out—the foods you like. “I’m trying to keep things a little bit looser so I don’t burn out,” she has said. “The main philosophy of my diet is that it’s high in protein with healthy, whole-grain carbs.” She also drinks plenty of water and steers clear of sugary drinks like sodas and fruit juices. “I would rather use those calories for food.”
She’s also learned to make room for occasional indulgences: “Sweets are a huge problem in my house—we love ice cream, she says. And when cravings strike, she acts wisely: “Just getting a taste of something sweet—like a few spoonfuls of ice cream—keeps away the urge to binge.” What about those times when a few spoonfuls won’t do? Just plan for them. Figure the carbs found in the dessert (whether it’s a scoop of ice cream or a slice of pie) into your total carbohydrate allotment for the meal and budget accordingly.
The challenge: Getting rid of belly fat. “My abs were the one area that didn’t jump right back into position after I had Blakesley, so I’m still really focused on getting more toned,” Trista has said.
Smart solution: Making activity a habit. Trista is committed to regular workouts that combine yoga, Pilates and power-lifting exercises. She also sneaks in exercise while she’s watching TV at night. “I try to do sit-ups for entire commercial breaks.”
The effort is worth it: Rather than simply lying beneath the surface of the skin, belly fat is often deposited internally, cushioning and surrounding abdominal organs. Called visceral fat, it has been associated with insulin resistance, making blood sugar control more challenging. What’s more, it’s also linked with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, according to Harvard scientists.
Researchers have found that about 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity—such as walking and strength-training—can help reduce visceral fat in combination with a healthy eating plan like Trista’s.
The challenge: Dealing with the demands of daily life. “As women, we don’t want to have to ask for help,” Trista has said of juggling motherhood, household tasks and professional commitments. “We want to be able to do everything on our own.”
Smart solution: Make time to de-stress. “It’s better for you and your kids if you take time to do what you need to do so you’re not stressed-out,” she has said. On Mondays, she has a girls’ night at her house. She catches up with friends while watching reality TV shows. She also carves out time just for her and Ryan. “It’s important to take time for yourselves, whether it’s a date night, traveling to get away from the everyday stuff that piles up or even just snuggling in front of the TV and reminding yourself of how important you are to each other.”
Finding ways to get rid of everyday stress and tension isn’t just good for your soul and your relationships—it can help you manage your diabetes better. After all, the calmer and more in control you are, the easier it is to make the choices that keep you healthier and happier.