As someone who has had diabetes for eons, I know managing it can sometimes prove overwhelming. There are so many things you need to pay attention to: diet, exercise, blood glucose, stress. Not to mention taking medications and making time to see medical specialists.
Yet given all that, you can learn to manage your diabetes. Here are a few tips that have helped me meet the challenge:
Break down everything into manageable bites. Just as you can’t write a novel in a day, taking care of a chronic disease doesn’t happen at once. The important thing is to start somewhere. If you need to lose weight, commit to changing your diet – your doctor or a nutritionist can help you determine where you need to adjust. This might mean cutting out ‘white foods’ like pasta and white bread and adding more vegetables and healthy low-fat proteins. Or perhaps you’ll go vegetarian or try a keto diet (if your doctor approves). Once you’ve established your personal eating plan, you might consider adding a morning or after dinner walk, a bike ride, even a light weight workout. Baby steps.
Focus on the positive. Sure, life without empty carbohydrates may seem a little pointless at first. But think of your new eating and exercise plans as new adventures. Try foreign foods and unfamiliar recipes. When it comes to exercise, experiment until you find something you like. For years, I ran three to six miles a day, enduring stiff shins and sore feet. Then I joined a Y and found cardio and strength training classes that were actually fun. Not only did I lose more weight, but I looked forward to my sessions. Trust me, it makes a difference.
Add weightlifting to your cardio plan. This is supported by research: an anaerobic weightlifting program can build muscle and help burn blood sugars. Plus, you get to show off your triceps come summer!
Consider a continuous glucose monitoring system. I haven’t gone this route, but if you really don’t like finger sticks and find taking sugars a burden, consult your doctor or diabetes educator about this option. For people whose sugars tend to fluctuate a lot during the day, this can help improve your care.
Talk it out. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I didn’t talk to anyone about it. But discussing the stresses and strains of having a chronic disease can help relieve the tension and effort of daily care. Remember that stress can also provoke blood sugars. Find a sympathetic therapist or join a diabetes education group at a local hospital.
Managing diabetes isn’t easy – but it’s worth the effort. Unruly blood sugars can affect every part of the body – from the eyes to the toes – and anything you can do to improve your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers will go a long way to improving and extending your life.