Oprah’s personal trainer shares how to overcome the emotional and physical stumbling blocks that stand between you and getting a tight grip on your diabetes.
Even as a boy, Bob Greene had a heightened awareness of what healthy living was all about. His great-grandmother was bedridden because of obesity—“I can’t remember ever seeing her get out of bed,” says Bob. “My sister and I would talk to her while standing on top of a chair that had been placed next to her bed for visitors.”
While most kids would shrug off such a situation, Bob took it to heart: “I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t conscious of what was good for you and what was bad for you, and that was particularly true when it came to my family’s diet.” And his great-grandmother’s obesity wasn’t his only motivator: Both his parents had type 2 diabetes—and Bob, who says his whole world was about “running, jumping, kicking and climbing,” was bound and determined to avoid following in their footsteps. What’s more, he made it his life’s mission to help others dodge the health concerns that plagued his family.
So he went about trying to figure out why. “Why do most people who change their eating and exercise habits change them right back again? I asked myself. Why don’t they stick?” If his great-grandmother had known, “I think deep down her days could have been better,” he says. And his parents might not be dealing with type 2 diabetes today.
“I want to give people hope,” says Bob. “But they need to realize this is serious. I want people to manage their condition. You can live a normal life by modifying your lifestyle. That’s the overriding message.”
So how do you get the motivation to make the changes that will give you better control of your diabetes? For more than 30 decades, Bob has helped people do just that, and here, he shares the insights that can help you.
Get the right mind-set. Often, your biggest barriers to long-term fitness aren’t ineffective diets or inadequate exercise routines. Says Bob: “I’ve never worked with anyone who was able to stick with healthy eating and physical activity if she didn’t have her emotional life in order.” Take an honest look at yourself and your motivations, triggers and fears. What else in life are you dealing—or not dealing—with? Maybe you’re in an unsupportive relationship, or coping with the stress of financial struggles or a recent death in the family—these all can be barriers to mustering up motivation. When you aim to change what’s going on inside you, changing your health behaviors will be easier.
Get real. There’s a reason it’s hard to ditch bad-for-you favorites overnight: “We’re naturally wired to avoid discomfort and seek pleasure,” says Bob. So, give yourself a break. Instead of radically changing your entire diet, try phasing in healthier foods a little at a time. And don’t pin all your success on seeing major pounds drop: Celebrate if you can add a half mile to your walks, or add 10 more pounds to your dumbbell or tighten your belt another notch. Those short-term wins will add up to huge victories over time.
Keep your eye on the prize(s). Identify and focus on your ultimate targets. Draw a circle and divide it into at least six sections, listing important areas in your life: Friends, family, career, health, fitness, romance, finance, relationships, etc. Next, be brutally honest with how things are going in each area. What steps can you take to improve? “Make a commitment to change because you care about yourself,” says Bob, “not to lose 15 pounds.”
Stay off the scale. You may be eager to see your progress, but “stay off the scale for the first month to six weeks,” suggests Bob. That’s because the scale can give you an inaccurate idea of what’s happening: You may have lost only water weight, or you might become discouraged that you haven’t lost as much as you’d hoped. Need feedback? Focus on how your clothes fit, or your increased strength and endurance. Instead of setting out to lose 20 or 30 pounds, approach your workouts by saying, “I want a better life and I’m going to make this investment in myself every day.”
Find your perfect exercise. Forcing yourself to stick with an activity you dread is a guaranteed motivation killer, so try different workouts until you find the right one for you, even if it’s something you don’t normally think of as exercise, like dancing. And to really take your workout to the next level, add some aerobics: People with type 2 diabetes who do both resistance and aerobic exercises achieve better blood sugar control than folks who do only one, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.