Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Adopting Healthier Habits
How to Get Started and Follow Through

by Rita Carey Rubin, MS, RD, CDE, and Bill Rubin, MS

If a particular goal, such as taking a daily 30-minute walk, seems overwhelming, think of something that seems more manageable, such as a daily 10-minute walk. Succeeding at a smaller goal is more motivating than failing to achieve a larger one. Your new routine need not become a permanent part of your life. Instead, think of it as an experiment, or something you can try for a defined period of time to see how it feels. At the end of that period, you can decide whether to continue it, add to it, or do something else entirely.

Working with a diabetes educator
Diabetes educators spend a lot of time encouraging people to make healthy changes in their lives. But where many educators once saw their role as primarily giving people information and advice, many have now come to use a variety of counseling strategies aimed at enabling people with diabetes to identify their priorities and what they are willing and able to do to care for their diabetes.

One of the strategies that is often used is called motivational interviewing. A practitioner using motivational interviewing views his interaction with a patient as a joint effort, or collaboration, in which the agenda for care is set by both parties. The conversation during any given visit is tailored to the patient’s immediate needs and focuses on those behaviors a patient is willing to consider changing.

A primary feature of motivational interviewing is the use of open-ended questions (questions you cannot answer with a simple yes or no). For example, an educator may ask you to talk about your experience with diabetes or to share what is most difficult for you about having this disease. The educator’s goal in posing such questions is to help both parties understand what is important to the patient at that moment. When the educator understands your most pressing concerns, he can offer information or advice that addresses those needs or help you work out strategies to overcome any obstacles you may be facing.

Your answers to open-ended questions can also help shed light on any ambivalence, or mixed feelings, you may have about changing your habits. For example, you may want to adopt a healthier diet, but there may also be a number of reasons it would be easier and more satisfying to continue eating what you currently enjoy. The educator can help you explore the pros and cons of changing your dietary habits versus the pros and cons of maintaining your current habits. He would not, however, try to convince you to change. The intention of motivational interviewing is to help people sort out their internal arguments for and against change and then decide, based on their own values and goals, how to proceed.

Meeting with an educator who utilizes motivational interviewing or similar coaching strategies may feel unfamiliar and possibly strange, at first. If you feel uncomfortable with the questions you’re being asked, or you’re unsure of what’s expected of you, feel free to say so. Your educator should be willing to explain a bit about his approach and also respect your comfort level with it. Ultimately, your diabetes educator should be working in a way that is effective for you to help you adopt a lifestyle that supports your health and well-being and also suits who you are.

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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.

 

 

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