Do you believe in setting New Year’s resolutions? No? You’re not alone. Many people don’t. But the New Year is as good a time as any to take stock of what’s going well in your life and what’s not going as well as it should. Now is the time to review certain aspects of your life (including your diabetes self-management) and, if necessary, change a few of them. If something isn’t quite working for you, think about what you can do to make it work.
Old thought: The Paleo/Atkins/gluten-free/juicing diet is the best.
There will always be debates about the “best” diet out there. The reality is that, for weight purposes, most of these popular diets really do work. The other reality is that most of them work not so much because of carefully calculated proportions of carbohydrate, protein and fat, but because they tend to restrict certain foods groups, thereby restricting calories. Are these diets “bad” to follow? Not necessarily. If they help you lose weight and aren’t overly restrictive, they can be a good thing. The issue, though, is that many people can’t follow them for long. What happens when you really crave a baked potato, a slice of bread or solid food instead of juice?
New belief: Everyone needs to find what works best for him.
Even the American Diabetes Association, long criticized for promoting high-carb diets for people with diabetes, recognizes that there are many different acceptable “eating patterns” and that lower-carb diets can have a place in diabetes management. The key is to really think about what will work best for, given your food preferences, your family, your lifestyle, etc. Think about what seems reasonable to follow longer-term instead of just for a few months. And here’s some more food for thought: As hard as it can be, it really can help to break away from the “diet mentality.” Rather than counting calories and obsessing over every gram of carbohydrate, focus on eating a variety of whole, healthy foods. Forget about totally cutting out food groups (unless you need to for other reasons). Limit processed and packaged foods as much as possible. Cook more at home and save the eating out for special times.
Old thought: I need to do at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise at least 5 times a week.
That kind of thinking can lead anyone into despair. The reality is that many people have a hard time doing this. The day gets ahead of you, you come home and you’re tired, and exercise is the first item to fall off your to-do list. The result? You feel guilty.
New belief: Unless you’re training for the Olympics, the NFL, or a marathon, you don’t need to spend as long as you may think to reap benefits from exercise.
Yes, aiming for 30–60 minutes most days of the week lowers your risk of heart disease. But you can break up those 30–60 minutes. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there, and before you know it, you’ve done your workout! Can you spare 10 minutes? Probably! And chances are you can multitask. For example, as silly as it may seem, try marching in place when you’re talking on the phone. If you’re at work and meeting with someone, suggest that you walk around the building or outside while you have your meeting. Caught up in watching your favorite show on TV? Grab a resistance band or some hand weights and before you know it, you’ve finished off your three sets of reps. If you go to a gym, ask one of the trainers or staff members to talk to you about interval training, which consists of short but intense bursts of exercise — you actually get more benefit from this than you do slogging away on the treadmill for 30 minutes.
Old thought: I can’t make heads or tails of my blood sugars, so why bother checking?
You’re not alone on this one. A lot of people diligently check their blood sugars for a while, but when the numbers are all over the place and the doctor isn’t taking the time to look at them, checking seems rather pointless. Why keep pricking your finger and paying for test strips if it doesn’t improve your diabetes control?
New belief: First, try to take any judgment out of checking.
It’s hard looking at high blood sugar readings. But remember, these are just numbers. They’re not grades in school. Checking your blood sugars isn’t a test that you pass or fail. Use the numbers as information. If you’re not doing so already, keep a written log (or use a smartphone app) to record your numbers for at least three days in a row. Second, look for the high and low readings. See if you can find a pattern, such as high readings mostly at bedtime, for example. Third, do some detective work and think about what could be contributing to them. Too much food? Forgetting to take your diabetes medication? A cold or the flu? Finally, if you’re really feeling stuck, try not to throw up your hands in despair. Schedule an appointment with your doctor or a diabetes educator specifically to review your blood glucose numbers. Together you can solve the puzzle and then decide to tweak your treatment plan, as needed.
Old thought: I have no time to relax.
Taking time to relax and unwind can certainly be hard. Getting 8 hours of sleep every night? Right! Sitting quietly and meditating for 30 minutes a day? Ha! Who has time with today’s busy lifestyle? The very thought of trying to relax can add a whole other layer of stress.
New belief: Take five. Literally.
Sip a cup of hot green tea. Give your eyes a rest from the computer and close them. Chew a stick of gum to reduce anxiety. Organize your desk or unclutter your dining room table. Rub your feet over a golf ball or a tennis ball. Give yourself a hand massage (or maybe ask someone to do it for you!). Small, short actions can help reenergize you and help you feel more relaxed and in control.
I wish you all a healthy and happy 2019!
Want to learn more simple steps you can take to improve your health in the New Year? Read “Take Five for Better Health.”