A New Year, a New Beginning, and a New Attitude

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Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that another year has passed. I hope your holidays were peaceful and enjoyable. We now have the long winter facing us (well, some of us do), and that’s the time when all you really want to do is curl up in front of the television with your pajamas on. This year I’ll skip the talk about setting resolutions. I heard on the radio the other day that 62% of Americans no longer set resolutions, probably because they know by now that they won’t follow through with them.

Setting a resolution is just like setting a goal. Last week, I wrote about HealthSeeker, the new social media game that is intended to help people make small but meaningful lifestyle changes. I encourage you to take a look at this game, especially if you’re struggling in any way with your diabetes or your health overall.

Sometimes we need a little nudge in the right direction to take action. And frankly, you might be just a little weary of hearing your physician/dietitian/diabetes educator/spouse/children telling you what you should be doing with your eating/activity/monitoring/medication. I understand that one can only take so much! But the dilemma, as I said last week, is that diabetes management is on your shoulders, which means that you have to take charge.

2011’s Top Ten
Maybe you’re ready to make some changes and have 2011 be “your” year. Excellent! As we all know, too many people try to do too much, too fast and those good intentions soon fall by the wayside. You know — the person who joins the expensive health club, only to go three times, or the person who signs up for a diet program, only to go off of it after a week. All intentions are good, but trying to make too many changes at once can backfire. Instead, learn from past efforts and truly make this year different. How? Here are my top ten suggestions for 2011:

  • Get at least 1000 IUs of vitamin D each day. The new recommended amounts are less (600 IUs per day up to age 70; 800 IUs per day age 71 and older), but vitamin D is a fairly safe vitamin and so many health conditions are connected with getting enough. You’ll likely need to take a vitamin D supplement. While you’re at it, ask your physician to check your blood vitamin D level (called 25-hydroxyvitamin D).
  • Aim for three servings of veggies every day. The goal is to eat at least five servings of vegetables every day, but if you can get three servings in, you’re doing great. Thinking that that’s still too much? Keep in mind that a serving is 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables or 1/2 cup of other vegetables cooked or raw.
  • Rough it up with fiber. Fiber has so much good going for it and it’s not that hard to get at least 25 grams in each day. Start off with a high-fiber cereal in the morning. Eat more legumes (black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.).
  • Sneak activity in whenever possible. The next time Dancing with the Stars is on, get up and move — dance, march in place, lift weights…every little bit counts.
  • Cut the carbs — a little. Too many sweets at the holidays may be making you feel sluggish. Don’t entirely cut out carbohydrate, but cut back. Try mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes, or spaghetti squash instead of pasta. Swap the potato chips for a handful of almonds.
  • Clean out the cupboards. Cleaning always makes you feel good anyway, but now’s the time to get rid of not-so-healthy foods (cookies, chips, salty soups). If you can’t bring yourself to throw them out, move them to a section of the cupboard that’s not too easy to get to.
  • Make sense of your glucose numbers. I’ve said this before, but just as you balance your checkbook or go over your budget, you need to understand your glucose readings to figure out what’s going on. If you need help, ask a diabetes educator or read this Diabetes Self-Management article.
  • Go over your medicines with your physician or pharmacist. Unfortunately, too many people don’t really understand their diabetes medicines — how they work, when to take them, what the side effects might be. Know what you’re taking and what you can expect in terms of glucose and A1C-lowering, and ask questions if you aren’t getting the results that you need. Don’t go months and months without speaking up if your glucose readings or A1C are still too high.
  • Check your blood pressure at home. As many as two out of three adults with diabetes have high blood pressure. Unlike high blood glucose, you can’t feel high blood pressure. Left untreated, high blood pressure causes heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and eye problems. These things don’t have to happen. Buy a home monitor and keep track of your readings (the goal is less than 130/80 for most people).
  • Catch some ZZZ’s. Too many of us are sleep deprived. We’re learning more and more about how important a good night’s sleep is. Lack of sleep affects blood glucose control and body weight (and not in a good way), and puts you at risk for illness, infection, and even heart troubles. If you aren’t getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, talk with your physician about what you can do.

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