Managing Diabetes like an Investment Strategy

I sometimes talk to my patients about viewing diabetes management – especially diet and carbohydrate management – in financial terms. After all, in a very basic way our everyday choices define how we are investing in the security of our long-term health. Plus, there are “tried and true” strategies for success as well as irresistible temptations, “get rich quick” promises, and unforeseen detours to navigate. The ultimate goal of both financial and diabetes management is security and wellbeing. Here are a few financial “concepts” applied to diabetes management:

The budget

We should each have an eating plan which specifies a target for daily calories and carbohydrate grams (or carb “choices”, which is a 15 gram portion). Our goal should be to, by and large, spend our daily budget wisely – that is, favor foods with the most nutritional benefit and foods that increase satiety (fullness). For instance, one tablespoon of syrup and 1 ¼ cup of strawberries each require us to “spend” 15 grams carbohydrate. If we want something sweet, what would be the better choice for nutritional value and satiety?

Dollar cost averaging

In financial investing, “dollar cost averaging” is a strategy that invests, for instance, $100 on the first of each month for a year in some particular stock rather than investing $1200 in that stock on January 1st. The idea is to smooth out the spikes and valleys in the stock over time, rather than risk having that one-time $1200 investment exposed to a potential sudden loss. We can “dollar cost average” our carbohydrates throughout the day to minimize spikes in blood glucose levels.

Have a diversified portfolio

Diversification – having a variety of investments – is intended to smooth out the volatility in one sector (i.e., real estate) by holding investments of different kinds (i.e., stocks). Having a selection of diversified food when we eat – carbohydrate, protein and fat – can help slow the digestion of carbohydrate, keeping blood glucose levels steadier, and help us feel full.

Risk versus potential gain

There’s risk in any sort of investment, and often higher risks bring the potential for greater gains. But, investment advisors would caution us to only take high risks if we can afford to lose the investment totally. The potential for greater gains is offset by the potential for greater loss. This plays out in many ways when managing diabetes – from an occasional oversized slice of chocolate volcano cake (guilty), to chasing every fad diet’s unproven promises while ignoring the tried and true diabetes management strategies. Like financial investing, keep the balance of risk versus gain in the forefront of your mind. Too many risky behaviors can derail all your hard work at managing your diabetes.

Most of us aren’t wealthy, but we still understand the wisdom with these proven investment strategies. And, since our health is more important than our wealth, I suggest it’s well worth our time and effort to understand and practice successful diabetes management strategies every day.