Doughnuts and cigarettes win you over, you’re not exercising, your wine glass overflows into your gullet and you’re taking medications only when you remember. If that sounds like you, in short, you’re ignoring your treatment plan and becoming your own biggest obstacle to better health. Read on for some easy ways to help you get back on track.
- Pass up perfection. Diabetes can be a harsh taskmaster. The pressure to do it all right—from diet to blood sugar monitoring—can be overwhelming. Stop insisting on perfection and instead praise yourself for every good (not perfect) step you take: A 15-minute walk, a salad instead of a cheeseburger, an acceptable blood glucose level. Praise will be more motivating than self-criticism.
- Examine obstacles. List what’s steering you off track and brainstorm solutions. If it’s exhausting to exercise after work, switch to a morning routine. If you forget to take medications, align dosing times with some action you perform regularly, like brushing your teeth.
- Check your mood. Depression can undermine the best intentions. And people with diabetes are four times as likely to be depressed as those who don't have the condition, largely because diabetes can be difficult to control, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center, a teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School. If you’re feeling sad, worthless and apathetic, talk with your healthcare provider. The provider may recommend antidepressants and talk therapy, an effective combination of treatment.
- Find a support group. A group run by a diabetes educator can allay fears you may have about diabetes. Sharing concerns can also take the sting out of frustrations and offer helpful tips. Ask your healthcare provider to refer you to a group, or contact your area American Diabetes Association office or hospital.
- Outsmart smoking. Smoking increases the risk of diabetes-related complications, such as heart disease, blindness and nerve damage. So post the reasons for quitting on your refrigerator, and find a buddy to help motivate you when your cravings hit. Talk with your healthcare provider about using a nicotine patch, gum, an inhaler or a prescription medicine that will block the pleasure afforded by nicotine.
- Drink mindfully. Alcohol can cause low blood sugar for 8 to 12 hours. Check your blood sugar before or while you drink and before going to bed. Generally, one drink a day for women, and two for men, with food, is safe.
- You may eat more than broccoli. Few people can face a daily mountain of greens. Don’t try to overhaul your diet all at once. Instead, eat a variety of healthful items—whole grains, fish and "good" fats like olive oil—and skip fatty, sugary ones. You’ll feel better and likely lose weight, too.
- De-diabolize exercise. Being physically active doesn't have to mean hours in a gym. So if it isn't your natural inclination to exercise, mix it up. Dance to your favorite music, walk with a friend or ride a bike instead of driving to errands.