Perhaps you’ll think we should have shared these with you last month, but we all know that those resolutions made on January 1 notoriously go by the wayside within a week or two. We have therefore given you a whole month to contemplate what you think you need to do to feel and live better while controlling diabetes in 2019.
In light of that, we offer you a list of five resolutions you may want to consider. To give yourself a fighting chance to succeed, tell your family what you are considering or get a friend involved. Try one resolution at a time.
We know that on TV they talk about setting reasonable goals and we agree. For many of us it’s the failing that scuttles our attempts. If we go off our diet for one day we stay off for months. If we cancel our doctor’s appointment, we don’t make another. See what we mean? So here is our first resolution:
Get yourself a support system that will help you get back on the wagon when you fail. Also teach yourself to make a mistake and try again. The first part of this resolution is easy if you live with caring family or have interested friends.
Set the guidelines. You don’t want to be nagged about an extra piece of bread, once a week, but you do want a look when you take a second glass of wine at dinner. In fact, you may want a Good Samaritan to have club soda on the table if you forget.
If you are a type 2 diabetic and are on a diet to lose weight, you can not ask your family to take food off of your plate or to throw out cake from the fridge. That will breed hostility on everyone’s part. What you can do is go to a group like Weight Watchers, the Y, a hospital gym or some other organization that has weigh-ins.
When you go with acquaintances, it becomes an excuse for coffee and socialization. It is also motivating. The second part of this resolution is more difficult. Many people fail once and then have an excuse to stop trying. We also all know people who begin to succeed and then fail because success is too difficult to sustain. Both of these make concentrating on health harder.
If you fit these categories, try to think about why you look at the world this way? Do you do it just for your healthcare or do you do the same at work or in relationships? Are you overly self critical? Where did you learn this and how does it help you in your daily life? If the answer is that it doesn’t, you are a candidate to modify your behavior. Don’t look for magical successes.
Remember watching a child learn to walk? They fall and get back up. You did that so you know you can relearn to do it again- i.e. fail and then try again. If it gets too hard, first step is a support group. Share your concerns with your physician and see what he/she thinks will help. And remember, we all learned to walk while falling many times.
Get your yearly medical appointments made and kept. First, you will want to see your Internist, the doctor who orchestrates your care and keeps your records. For years I used my endocrinologist as this coordinator, and many of you will continue to do so, but as he got more and more specialized and busy and I developed needs for a broken foot, unwanted wrinkles, etc, I needed someone to look after all of me, not just my diabetes, so now I have a bright, caring physician who has me take all of the tests that I should have been taking, but squirmed out of.
Through her office, as well as my other doctors’ offices, I have appointments with my cardiologist, gynecologist, ophthalmologist, and anyone else that my health dictates. However, all of my records are together so we can then sit down and discuss in a holistic way what I need to do or not do to remain healthy.
At the beginning of the year I know I will see my gynecologist for a PAP smear test to rule out cancer. As someone with diabetes, this is the place to share concerns about yeast infections, if you are prone to them or any new pains, cysts etc.
Next I get to see the ophthalmologist to check for retinopathy and glaucoma. Both of these conditions are more common in people with diabetes and can lead to side effects you never want like blindness.
Treatment at the early stages can prevent vision loss, so if that appointment has not been made, make it. What other complications of diabetes do you have? These will dictate the other doctors you will be seeing. Ignorance of your health may help you not worry in the short run, but the repercussions of not treating illness will be a very bad surprise and all of us want only good surprises, so make the resolution and go.
Learn as much as you can about how to eat in a healthy manner. When I developed diabetes, my friend told me she had worked on the endocrinology unit in a hospital in LA. Whether it was the truth or not, she shared that her patients were very healthy and good looking because of their diet and exercise.
How do you learn how to eat better to control your blood glucose levels? First, with your doctor, decide on your calorie or carbohydrate intake. Learn how big a serving is. Read labels at the market so you become an informed consumer. Purchase good cookbooks or find a great web site that has recipes you can make and which taste good. We know of 4 books and 2 websites, but are prejudiced since they are our own work. We do live our work. Read our cooking tips articles on this site. You’ll soon feel like a pro cooking for yourself, family, or friends and you’ll be able to modify recipes that you love, cutting down on fat and protein and adding exciting tastes.
If you need to lose weight as many type 2 diabetics do, then learning to eat less and giving up those donuts one at a time will be a first step. Support groups help, weigh-ins help, success may help, and above all else, your own desire to control the long term complications of diabetes will help.
We all want to take walks with our children and grandchildren, take trips, go to museums and just go out and garden. Illness stops this. Looking at eating as a social situation and not one that means “more food is better” will help. Talking to your family about the amount you can safely eat and what you can safely eat will help. Go for it.
Begin an exercise program. We have an article each month on various exercises and the reasons to exercise, but there may still be some of you out there who say “I’m too busy”, my back hurts when I exercise, I get a headache when I exercise”, or what ever. The road to loosing weight, toning up, having abs of steel . . . is first a trip to that Internist or endocrinologist we spoke of.
After you have been cleared for exercise, you can talk over how to start and what you are capable of doing. Who knows if that backache is real? From our experience, exercise is best done with a pal. My friends call if I’m not there at 6:30 each morning. I do the same for them. They also rarely take “no” for an answer, so we exercise 6-7 days a week which is a very good thing.
We do aerobic exercise, body sculpting with weights and flexibility exercises to keep our bodies in shape. My friends do not have diabetes, but they have the same goals I have. We all want to fit in our clothes and look good in the process. We all like the feeling we get after we exercise and know that that good feeling stays with us through our day. We all like the friendships that we have developed and would fight to keep them close.
Exercise does all of this for them and for me, but the added bonus for me is that exercise makes my blood glucose levels more normal. I do try to exercise the same time each day. Before my pump, this was very important. It is less so now, but old habits are hard to break, so after the early morning walk with my dog and a piece of whole wheat toast that we share (she gets the crust), it’s exercise time.
Not sure what exercise you want to try, or how to motivate yourself and friends? Read our articles on Exercise. We discuss everything from skiing to water aerobics, yoga to tennis, and everything in between. If you are not sure why you need to exercise, just read those articles. There is even research that proves that you are never too old to have exercise help your health. My favorite this month was an article about 80-year-old-plus men and the benefits that accrued when they exercised.
If all of this doesn’t get you to the doctor to clear the way, remember, that exercise helps you loose weight. Cutting calories and exercise will make the process easier and if you keep up with your new lifestyle you know that you will feel and look better as the months go by.
Learn all you can about diabetes and the complications you may have now so that you will not be surprised by this disease. The truth is that many people with type 2 diabetes do not feel all that badly, especially if they can’t remember how they felt pre-diabetes.
Many people put on emotional blinders about diabetes when they are diagnosed. The doctor gives them pamphlets about diabetes and they file them away in a drawer, or even the wastebasket. They do not want to be ill nor do they want to be different. They do not want to give up their way of life, but today diabetes is an epidemic, as is obesity in this country.
Sometimes it takes a medical emergency to make us look at what we are allowing to happen to us. We do not know why our vision is failing or we are out of breath, or why our feet or fingers tingle. We do not know how our life style affects all of the organs in our body in ways we did not read about or hear about in the beginning. So now is the time to learn.
There are 16 million other Americans in the same boat and that number is growing monthly. After you begin to educate yourself, do all diabetics a favor and support national research into causes and cures. We often talk about what we do to help others, and that is a part of our lives that is a joy.
But being a member of the JDF or ADA brings you assurance that there are people out there who want to help us. Certainly, the President did when he signed a bill for 1.5 dollars for 5 years of research and treatment of diabetes.
Obviously none of us can sign such a check, but we can lobby our legislatures for equal rights for those with diabetes, we can write letters to our legislators in DC for continued research toward a cure, and we can help others in our community with fund raising to help those in need of support and care from the youngest children at summer camp to the elderly who can’t afford medications.
Now that you know, let’s all get moving. Learn, modify your thoughts and behavior, lose weight, cook healthy, exercise and join in the fight to find the best treatments and a cure. Thanks for making good New Year’s resolutions. If you live abroad, find your diabetes organizations and, if you want we will post them for others. But, whatever you do, make this a year of healthy diabetic lifestyle year.