Off the Diabetes Wagon?
Don't you love it when you're doing everything a great diabetic should be doing?
You're checking your blood sugars when you wake up in the morning, before bed, and before every meal -- maybe even an hour afterward, too. You're taking your insulin on time and counting all your carbs and avoiding French fries and ice cream and pizza. And you're even going to the gym every morning and taking the stairs when you've gotta get to the third floor.
And then-SWOOOOSH, FLOP, DROP! -- you've fallen off the Diabetes Wagon.
You slide back into a few of your old habits. French fries. Checking your blood sugar when you get around to it (‘cause, ya know, we're good at guessing our blood sugars by now, right?) You're taking your insulin a half hour after dinner and you change your infusion site every four days instead of three because you still have so much insulin left in there....
Now, we've all got many different reasons for what helps us fall of the wagon, and I think many of them stem from two basic issues:
Stress: When I'm stressed out by school, or work, or relationships, or family, my diabetes can be the one to suffer. When I'm stressing about getting out of bed on time to make it to yoga on time so I can make it to the library with enough time to write a paper and get to class, you can bet a I tend to cut a few corners by not checking my blood sugar in the morning.
Maybe your daughter is getting married or your son is failing three classes. Maybe your husband is traveling a lot for work and the new puppy refuses to pee anywhere but the living room carpet. Maybe you're studying for the MCATs or you just got a promotion at work (congrats)...but with it came an extra two hours of work every day.
Whatever the stressor is, we might tend to compensate by making diabetes a little less consuming.
Exhaustion: We've already agreed upon the fact that diabetes is an intensive disease to care for and requires a lot of attention. So maybe you're just plain tired of it? Maybe, for a few weeks (or longer?), you find yourself not making your blood sugars a priority because you simply just want to do as little as possible to get by for a while. Junk food starts appearing in the cupboards again, and Chinese Take-Out becomes a tolerable choice for dinner. And you know, your blood sugars never come out the way you really want them to, so why bother at all?
SO...HOW DO WE GET BACK ON THE WAGON?
One of my biggest motivations is my endocrinologist. I quite simply just want to make her happy! I want to see the nurse's eyebrows rise in delight when she checks my blood pressure. I want to see the proud look on my doctor's face when my A1C comes back under 7.5 and the appointment ends with her saying something like, "Great. Just keep doing what you're doing."
However, that's not always enough.
When you're really trying to get back on the Diabetes Wagon and incorporate (or re-introduce) those healthy habits back into your life, I have a few small suggestions.
- Throw out all the junk food and start over. Clear your cabinets of what you shouldn't be eating-EXCEPT, for whatever your favorite sweet may be. I mean, really, we're diabetic, we're not superhuman. We need sweets, too. My personal choice is any kind of low-fat ice cream.
- Then, you're going to make a trip to the grocery store and BUY FOOD. You can't make good choices if you don't have lots of good choices sitting in front of you. Buy some lean meats like chicken or turkey that are either easy to prepare or prepared for you. Put frozen vegetables in your freezer, put raw vegetables and fruit in your fridge and keep your oatmeal handy in the cupboard.
- Schedule your exercise. If the idea of going to gym every day means you're simply not going to go at all, then just choose two days. Write it on your calendar, in your planner-whatever-but write it somewhere. Tuesday and Friday you'll go to the gym. That's all. Just those two days. And when the next week comes along, write it down again-and GO! And maybe you'll make it three days after that, and maybe that's enough for you. That's fantastic. Three days is SIGNIFICANTLY better than no days.
- Check your blood sugar. I know this seems like a "DUH!" kind of thing, but the more often I check my blood sugar the less stressful diabetes seems to be. And if you've really gotten out of the habit of checking regularly throughout the day, do yourself a favor and get in the habit of checking your blood sugar right after you wake up in the morning. Just do it.
- Get Support!!! So, if you're having trouble getting your boluses to actually take care of the carbs you eat, call your doctor. Ask them if they have any ideas. Maybe it's time to try a different short-acting or long-acting insulin-there are many different kinds and they work differently in each of us! Find a diabetes group. Read a diabetes book or magazine. Go to a diabetes website (nice, you're here already!) and just read. No matter what form the support comes in, it'll remind you that you're not alone and we all have those days where your blood sugar shoots to 300 for no apparent reason. Hopefully, the extra support will encourage you to really start caring again.
In the end, it is always our own personal decisions that help us lead healthful lives with diabetes. Sure, I want to make my doctor proud, but if I didn't care about me then that wouldn't be enough. Sometimes, I just sit down and take a deep breath and tell myself, "Okay, cut the bad habits, start over right now. Get back on the ball." Either way, I think we all fall off the wagon sometimes and it's okay -- okay? We're not perfect. Just remember that when you fall off, it's always possible to get back on.
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