For those who often feel crushed by the weight of life’s challenges; for those who feel beaten down by the fight; for those who feel trapped inside themselves; I recommend checking out the hit song at the top of this week’s popular music charts: Firework by 26 year-old pop star Katy Perry.
Firework is an inspiring and upbeat song aiming to remind us that we all have untapped strength within us. No matter how dark thing seem we must always remember that there’s a metaphorical spark in each of us waiting to be ignited. If we believe that spark is there deep within us, and if we persist in our efforts to find it and light it up, we will be ready to take the leap at the right moment. That is how we transform ourselves from what we are now to what we can be–if only we can find a way break out of our usual patterns and create the opportunities and take the risks that will allow our talents and unique gifts to shine or even “explode”.
“Do you know that there’s still a chance for you, Cause there’s a spark in you
You just gotta ignite the light, And let it shine, Just own the night, Like the Fourth of July
Cause baby you’re a firework, Come on show ‘em what your worth,
Make ‘em go “Oh, oh, oh!”, As you shoot across the sky-y-y
Baby you’re a firework, Come on let your colors burst, Make ‘em go “Oh, oh, oh!”
Music and songs have the power to inspire. However such songs are not commonplace — they are rare. This is exactly the type of song that belongs at the top of the charts. It comes from a woman who has worked hard and overcome multiple challenges to reach the top. I find it inspiring to see a young person who has worked hard to ignite her own spark and explode like a firework. Through her song she is teaching us how to follow her lead to set our sites high and to believe great things can happen even if the obstacles are significant.
Sadly, in most of the patients who come to me because of type 2 diabetes, the “spark” is buried very deep within. These patients have typically lost that part of themselves. They feel frustrated and discouraged and although they can imagine a state of being that is dramatically better, they do not believe their destiny is to reach that state. It does not occur to them that it is theirs for the taking if they can just find a way to get there. They have typically been carrying many pounds of excess body fat for decades, have tried to lose it and failed to keep it off, and have resigned themselves to living with it along with the diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other related problems. They have accepted that their healthiest years are far behind them and that they will live out their remaining decades in a state of substantial compromise.
I have coached many patients into long-standing remission of their type 2 diabetes. They have been able to lose enough weight through sustained improvements in their eating and exercise strategy to maintain normal or near-normal blood sugar levels for years. Each of these patients has been able to avoid or discontinue diabetes medication that would otherwise be required. None of them expected to achieve this and most did not know it was a realistic goal until I showed them the way. They have transformed themselves and the way they see themselves. They rose to the occasion by taking advantage of an opportunity to break out of old patterns. They dared to embrace the chance for a new future and they made it happen. Together we found that spark, lit it up, and watched the fireworks. They started to believe it was possible because they could tell that I sincerely believed it. They knew I saw something in them that they were hoping to find.
When I see a new patient with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes I approach that person as if he or she has the capacity for a great transformation. Everyone still has a spark. It is typically buried deep, and we cannot always find it, but I believe it is there. Most patients still have the biological capacity (remaining pancreatic insulin production) to achieve remission if they lose much of their excess body fat, and the difference between those who transform and those who don’t can be thought of as whether we were able to find and ignite that inner spark. In practical terms it corresponds to overcoming the enormous logistical and psychological barriers that interfere with 90% adherence to an ambitious eating strategy plus 7 hours per week of progressively increasing exercise. But when someone is persistent and wants it badly enough, and if they make the most of their opportunities, they can usually find a way.
Doctors and patients routinely underestimate the power of lifestyle change to transform sorrow into victory. Let’s break free from that common misconception. Let’s make sure we don’t short-change ourselves. Let’s never forget that we’re all capable of bettering ourselves if we believe it is our destiny and if we work hard to let our true colors shine.
- Michael Dansinger, MD