Lessons About Diabetes Management From Denmark

While I usually don’t blog about my travels, my latest trip abroad to Denmark left me with some important thoughts about diabetes management. Wandering around Denmark and Sweden I couldn’t help but notice how integral parts of their lifestyle lend itself to diabetes self-management. Here are some of the lessons learned:

Make physical activity part of your everyday.

Seventy percent of the people who live in Copenhagen ride their bicycle to work, shop and play. Using a bicycle as their primary form of transportation saves money, time in traffic, and allows physical activity to be part of their everyday lifestyle. People of all ages ride their bicycle, and riding a bicycle is, of course, an aerobic activity. Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve sensitivity to insulin which is helpful for people with type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance). By the way, do not step into a bicycle lane in Copenhagen without looking both ways.

Six a day.

Fruits and vegetables play a big role in the Danish eating plan. They typically include two servings of fruit and four servings of vegetables each day. This amount of produce fits perfectly into a balanced meal plan for people with diabetes.

Set up a Hygge (pronounced Hue-gah) environment.

Hygge in Danish translates to coziness. When you enter a home or any public establishment, like hotels and restaurants in Copenhagen, you feel this sense of warmth and comfort. Candles will be burning to give the relaxed ambiance, and you are surrounded with charm. Hygge is a feeling, a culture, a way of life and not really something you can really buy. It really focuses on the present, being relaxed and really focusing on the great taste of food without distractions. Hygge is anti-stress.

Hygge impressed me most. Diabetes keeps us very busy between checking our blood sugar levels, taking our medications, preparing healthy food choices, getting physical activity, and trying to reduce stress levels on top of all the daily chores. It’s a very busy day in our life with diabetes. We would all benefit by slowing down, and being present with our food-mindful of the taste and comfort of our food.

A great place to start building a hygge environment is in your own home, and it won’t cost much. Set your table for a nice dining experience, safely place small votive candles on the center of your table, place pillows around the room or chairs for that cozy and comfortable feeling. And, let some lessons from the Danes help you with diabetes management.

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