“We’re thriving with diabetes!”

Scott, Jessica, Mike and Riva know the ups and downs of living with diabetes. Yet they have found ways to get the best out of every day. Ask your healthcare team if their ideas can work for you, too!

By
Andrea Barbalich
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Reach out.
Connecting with others who have diabetes has helped Scott K. Johnson of Minneapolis see that it’s common to struggle with certain things. For example, because of his online diabetes community, he knows that “following instructions and still getting unexpected results doesn’t make me a failure—that’s just how things work with diabetes sometimes!”

Jessica Apple and Mike Aviad

Hoof it whenever you can!
You don’t have to join a gym or do a big workout. Instead, try doing what Jessica Apple of Philadelphia, PA, does. “I try to walk everywhere I can,” she says, “and if possible I always skip the elevator and take the stairs.”

Check your blood sugar often.
“I check a minimum of eight times a day—and often much more than that, especially during long-distance runs,” says Michael Aviad of Philadelphia (and Jessica’s husband), who runs and trains for marathons. His top goal: to avoid going low. “It’s a terrible feeling, and high blood sugar often follows the low. The roller coaster is draining”—which makes him all the more determined to keep checking.  

Aim to eat well, not drop pounds.
“Most of us want to lose a few pounds, but when that’s our focus, we tend to drop them and then put them back on,” says Riva Greenberg of Brooklyn, NY. Instead, she embraces a healthier diet—specifically, more vegetables, fruit, lean protein, beans, lentils and healthy fats like olive and coconut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. “If you eat a healthy diet, the weight will come off and what you eat will be nutritious, helping your diabetes and your overall health.”

Forgive and move on.
“No one with diabetes can have perfect blood glucose all the time!” Jessica says. “If you need to have a treat, do it and get back on track the next day.” Her advice if you crave sweets all the time? Learn to bake low-carb desserts—or enjoy chocolate! She chooses bars with 70% cacao or more.

Riva Greenberg

Try this to distinguish your insulins.
If you take a long-acting and rapid-acting insulin, make sure you can
tell the difference between them quickly and easily, Riva advises.
“We do so many things on automatic that if you’re not watching carefully all the time it’s easy to mix them up.” Her trick for preventing this: “I use an insulin pen for my long-acting insulin and a vial and syringe for my rapid-acting insulin. It’s been decades and I’ve never mixed them up!”

Be patient with blood sugar lows.
“They’re tough, and I struggle with eating more than necessary to fix them,” says Scott. “I try to keep fast-acting glucose with me at all times, and when I can discipline myself to treat with them, I’m less likely to overtreat.” He also recognizes, though, that his body is reacting to what it perceives as a life-threatening situation. “So of course it’s going to be dramatic,” he says. His advice? “Treat the low and wait. That might be one of the hardest things in the world to do.”

Tap into your inner passion. 
When the blues hit—“as they will,” shares Riva—shake them away by doing something you love. “It can be anything that gives you pleasure because it will shift your energy!”

Don’t suffer in silence.
“There is a wonderful online diabetes community!” says Jessica. “You are likely to find warm, supportive people who understand what you’re going through.” Most important: If you feel burned out or depressed, ask your care team for help.

Scott Johnson

Embrace a mantra.
Scott’s favorite? “Focus on progress, not perfection.” Be kind to yourself, he says, and surround yourself with information and support. “You can totally do this diabetes thing!”

Realize we’re all different.
Mike keeps this in mind at all times: What works for one person may not work for another. “It takes some trial and error, but you can find a system that works for you,” he says. “Just remember: It’s not a test, and if it were, no one gets 100! And that’s okay.”

Be prepared.
“We can’t always prevent lows, so we have to have quick-acting sugar at the ready,” says Riva, who carries glucose tablets in all her purses, pouches and pockets. “You can get an inexpensive little plastic case that holds four tablets,” she says. She also keeps a bottle of tablets in a kitchen drawer and another next to her bed.

Congratulate yourself—often!
“Take a moment during the day or sometime during the week to acknowledge all you’re doing to care for yourself and your diabetes,” encourages Riva. “It’s a big job, and it’s never-ending! So really pause and express some appreciation to yourself. This can relieve some of the stress of managing diabetes and give you more energy and resolve to keep going.”

Published
December 2015