I asked some of my patients who have been managing their diabetes extremely well if they could share their success tips:
1) Take responsibility for managing your diabetes.
Leaving it up to your doctor and medications is not a recipe for long term success. Learn as much as you can and ask for help when you need it. As I chose to manage by switching to a low Glycemic Index (GI) diet, I used several books by Dr Jenni Brand-Miller who is a leading authority on low GI diabetes management. I also subscribed to “Diabetic Living”; an Australian magazine that has an international subscription available. It is full of educational information, recipes, exercise programs and inspirational articles. I still find it helpful a decade later. Most countries and/or states have diabetes organizations that will have websites with helpful information and links as well and I found these particularly useful when I was first diagnosed.
2) Prepare your own food.
It’s the best way to know exactly what is in it and will help to build a healthy and positive relationship with food. Learn to make your favorites by substituting low carbohydrate or low GI alternatives for unhealthy carbs. For example, if you love mashed potato and don’t want to give it up, try substituting half of the potato for mashed white beans, rutabaga, or cauliflower. Any of these will mix well with the potato, just be sure to watch your portion size as that is very important to diabetes management as well. The magazine I mentioned previously is a great recipe resource which I use a lot, but there are also many websites with recipes, and a lot of the usual recipe websites like www.taste.com.au and www.bbcgoodfood.com have diabetes friendly sections.
3) Guilt is not helpful.
No one can be perfect all the time. If you eat something you shouldn’t or skip exercise, don’t let that cause you to give up. Enjoy your mini break and get back to your healthy plan as soon as you can. I found it important not to focus on the feeling of being deprived of my old way of life. Since I manage my diabetes well daily, I can have the occasional “cheat” meal without affecting my long-term blood glucose management. For me, good ongoing management is key, not what I last ate. Change is hard, but it is achievable. It didn’t take long for me to not only accept, but enjoy, my new way of life.
4) Test frequently when learning how different foods affect you.
Understanding how you react to different types and quantities of carbs will help you make better choices long term. I still test before the meal, one hour after and two hours after to determine how I react when I try something new that I think I may want to add to my regular food plan. Some things that are put forward as diabetic friendly may not be so friendly for you. One example of this for me was oats (not the instant kind). Although they are promoted as a great low/moderate GI breakfast, I found they spiked my blood glucose levels. Steel cut oats were better but still not great. So, I switched out oats for quinoa which works perfectly for me. Frequent testing also allowed me to understand my body’s reactions better which also helped with making good food choices.
Here are some tips from Mr. Derrick E. Miller from the United States of America:
In our introductory discussion, Dr. Henry asked me when I was diagnosed with diabetes. My reply was, “I think it’s been more than 15 years now”. It was then that Dr. Henry advised me, that it seems I’ve been cruising along with diabetes over the years, and that I needed to make a decision to change how I managed diabetes or prepare to face more serious health problems in a short time. This is the reason I decided to make a change in my lifestyle.
When Dr. Henry asked if I would consider offering success tips that helped me manage my lifestyle change, I was honestly shocked and it took me some time to really think about what helped me manage this change thus far and what I could offer to someone, like me, who’s “cruising with diabetes”.
1. Set personal goals to start managing your diabetes. Your goals will keep you motivated to change. Start with small achievable goals and build from each goal you achieve
2. Share your goals with your family and friends and ask them to check on your progress. This helps to keep me motivated when its challenging to keep going with the change.
3. I invest time to research low carb food substitutes of the foods you like.
4. I formed a partnership with someone who also wants to make similar lifestyle changes, so we work as team to research good food choices, we exercise together.
5. Finally, celebrate with your family, friends, group or partners each time you achieve a goal. I celebrate each goal with everyone as a collective achievement, this keeps my entire support network motivated to help me keep achieving my goals.
Never lower goals, just increase your effort?
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