’Tis the season to make impossible-to-keep resolutions concerning my type 2 diabetes care. Lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks! Take up marathoning! Average blood glucose readings no higher than 105!
But since such extreme vows often evaporate by mid-January (or earlier), this year I’m trying something new. Rather than crafting aspirations to improve my care in 2022, I’m planning on posing a single question: What if I never had type 2 diabetes? Would my life have been better? Or worse?
Think of it as peering into a reverse crystal ball:
- I might never have discovered the pleasures of everyday cardio. Before I developed type 2, my daily exercise was nonexistent. I went on an occasional walk or bike ride, but nothing on the regular. After my diagnosis, I forced myself to get the exercise bug: slowly working up to an hour or so a day of stationary biking, fast walking, or jogging on a treadmill or track. It wasn’t easy, but gradually it became an activity that I couldn’t live without.
- I might have skipped the weight room. I started with Nautilus machines, but over time, I gave my heart to free weights. Three times a week at the Y, until COVID hit, made me like -- if not love -- squats and lunges. And while there were days I wanted to skip my toning class, reading about how lifting weights boosts your metabolism -- burning calories and glucose over a longer period than cardio -- kept me rolling out of bed and into the gym. During COVID-19, I gathered a collection of hand weights, resistance bands, and a barbell to continue my workouts on my own. Would I have continued if I didn’t have type 2? Maybe yes, maybe no.
- I might have never abandoned fad dieting. Prediabetes and even for several years post diagnosis, I was all about a good fad diet. At 20 pounds overweight when I was diagnosed, I tried everything from cabbage soup only to egg whites, all the while yo-yoing between ticks on the scale, but mostly staying the same. While I continue to have to keep a close eye on my weight (like almost everyone else on the planet), several years back I read about the benefits of a mostly vegetarian diet for people with type 2 diabetes and decided to give it a try. Although I was eating more -- mostly non-starchy vegetables -- I lost those pesky 20 pounds and a few more. My A1c numbers, cholesterol, and blood pressure all dropped. And it was a hell of a lot more interesting than downing chopped cabbage soup three times a day.
- I probably would be more stressed. As a freelance writer, my work is based on meeting deadlines and getting assignments, both of which can translate into panic and anxiety, neither of which plays well with diabetes. I tried meditation but figured out I can’t sit still long enough to get the benefits. But when I suspected that stress was boosting my blood glucose numbers, I tried meditative walking -- getting out in nature and going very, very slowly. My sugars dropped. During COVID-19, I’ve also taken up yoga. I’m not the most graceful yogi and don't practice daily, but when I sense that things are spiraling out of control, I roll out my mat.
- I probably would have skipped regular checkups. Without diabetes, I doubt I would have been as religious about regular visits to the dentist, eye doctor, or internist. But knowing that diabetes can impact my gums, retinas, and heart has proved an incentive to stay on track.
Let me be clear: No one wants a chronic disease like type 2 diabetes. It’s tough to control, tough to live with, and tough to deal with complications and inexplicable shifts in blood sugars. But looking into the past, type 2 diabetes has forced me to be more in tune with my body and my mind, making me take care of myself whether I felt like it or not.
Which is a lesson I plan on carrying into the future.
Photo Credit: Yuri Nunes / EyeEm via Getty Images
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