Although it’s been over thirty years since I first received a diagnosis of diabetes, I recall the exact moment my doctor delivered the news.
Three months into my first pregnancy, he entered the exam room and announced I had ‘failed’ the glucose tolerance test – I had gestational diabetes (I later developed type 2). He then handed me a bulky glucometer, a stapled list of foods to avoid and sent me on my way.
Needless to say, I was terrified.
Thankfully, diabetes care has come a long way since 1985.
Most health practitioners have learned not to talk down to patients or make them feel they are to blame for their disease. Even so, learning that you have type 2 can remain overwhelming, with so much new information to learn and absorb.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed, here are some hard-won tips to remember:
- When it comes to diet, one size does not fit all. The key to eating right for type 2, is finding an eating plan that works for you. Maybe it’s a vegetarian diet, or maybe it’s low-carb. Or you may want to create your own plan using whole grain foods or dumping all processed foods. If you work with a nutritionist, make sure to let them know your preferences and don’t be railroaded into a regimen that doesn’t fit your preferences. A healthy diabetes diet is not a two-week affair – it should last a lifetime.
- Get moving. Exercise helps build muscle and lower blood sugars. If you’re already working out, congrats. If not, consider this an invitation to begin. While gyms are closed, consider purchasing a few weights since the best way to control your sugars and your scale is to do both aerobic and anerobic exercise. In addition, adding a 15- to 20-minute post-meal stroll can help fight sugar spikes.
- Embrace your blood sugars, good and bad. No one likes to a high blood sugar. But even if you’ve had a few highs, don’t abandon tracking your glucose readings.
Along with helping your doctor determine if your diet plan and medications are working, a record of blood sugar readings will help you to determine how food, activities, and stress impact your body. Do you need to add five minutes to your walk after eating pepperoni pizza? Are your bedtime snacks keeping you from morning lows? Only your blood glucose knows.
- Depend on your health professional. While the internet is a great source for signs and symptoms of disease, your diabetes is not my diabetes, and if you have an issue, your best source is your doctor. Feel free to ask questions and insist on answers. The more you understand your condition, the better your care.
- Give yourself a break. Consider yoga or meditation. Stress affects blood sugars, and in this very stressful time, it pays to relax. Take time to read a book, take a nap, and talk to friends.
Accepting a new diagnosis of a chronic illness can be mentally tough. For a long time after I developed type 2 diabetes, I operated in denial, half-believing that my diabetes might eventually vanish on its own.
It took years to come to terms with the diagnosis and even longer to accept that type 2 wasn’t a curse, but an invitation to maintain a healthier lifestyle.