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YMCA menu to provide eating strategies

GREENFIELD — During the final week of November, which is National Diabetes Month, there will be two presentations at the YMCA about mindful eating and food preparation strategies.

The talks — one on holiday eating strategies Tuesday night and another on meal preparation Saturday morning — gives diabetics an alternative to strict dieting.

They also are designed to help alleviate underlying negative feelings in diabetics.

“There’s so much guilt and shame involved in diabetes,” said Valerie Spain, a 57-year-old Greenfield resident with type 1 diabetes. “People feel it’s their fault they got it. They (feel) they should have done better, they should have eaten better.”

Two types of diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder caused when the body, specifically the pancreas, does not produce enough insulin, or if cells don’t respond properly to the insulin. It affects approximately 18 million people in the United States.

When food is eaten and broken down, insulin plays a key role in helping glucose, a sugar in the blood, enter the body’s cells.

If the insulin is not there or not doing the job correctly, the glucose builds up in the blood and the cells do not receive the energy they require.

Between 80 to 90 percent of diabetics have type 2 diabetes — and obesity is considered the main culprit, by causing the body to develop a resistance against and ignore the insulin.

Type 1 diabetics, like Spain, is a metabolic disorder not connected to obesity. Their bodies cannot produce insulin.

Developing eating strategies

A common treatment for type 2 diabetics is to reduce eating, but the two YMCA presentations attempt to create an alternative to a standard diet.

Spain will give a talk, “Navigating the holidays,” about planning for holiday eating, Tuesday, at 6:30 p.m. at the YMCA.

Her talk encourages slow and meditative eating — a process that people can go through to better understand their food choices, she said.

“It’s not about dieting, it’s about choosing for yourself what you want to eat, enjoying your food and eating well,” said Spain.

“People eat out of stress, people eat because they’re upset, people eat because they got angry, people eat because they’re lonely,” she said. “We eat for almost every reason except that we’re hungry.”

Then, on Saturday at 9 a.m., diabetes nurse educator Lillian Pearsall will give a presentation about meal preparation.

Pearsall, a nurse at the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System in Leeds, gives monthly talks as a part of the YMCA’s diabetes care program.

That program meets three times a week for eight weeks, said Fitness Director Jayne Trosin. It involves an exercise class, a food journal and weekly weigh-ins, she said.

The next program begins Jan. 2 and is $68 for members and $89 for non-members.

For more information about the presentations or the diabetes care program, contact Trosin at 413-773-3646, ext. 448.

Expanding medical options

Robert Cooper, a clinical endocrinologist at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, said that sometimes the standard diabetes treatment of “eat less, exercise more” doesn’t always work.

“If the pancreas is failing, you can’t help it,” he said. “You may need to be on pharmaceutical therapy.”

Cooper has begun prescribing GLP-1 pills — agents that cause the pancreas to release insulin only when sugar is high. The pills also decrease appetite, which can result in weight loss for patients, he said.

He said that the best type of medication differs from person to person, and that it is important for doctors to assess each patient’s needs individually.

“Patients have a story to tell,” he said. “It’s up to (doctors) to listen to them.”

You can reach Chris Shores
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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