To live a good life with diabetes has to mean first that we control our blood glucose. But it also means enjoying the good things in life.
I have had diabetes long enough to take it for granted that I have to control it every day. At the same time I know that I have to make each day as good a day as it can be.
For me living the good life with diabetes starts with enjoying the exercise that I know I need at least every other day. Everyone likes to do different things, but the exercise that I like to do most is to walk or hike. It takes me to beautiful places where I can be doing something for myself.
Today, for example, I just came back from a mini-vacation and wasn’t in the mood to get back to real life. Still, I knew that I needed exercise, so I went right out and hit the trail before 7 a.m. before a shower, coffee, and even breakfast. I decided to reward myself by going on one of my favorite trails where I knew I could get good pictures of a prairie dog colony.
The other reward I promised myself was to stop afterwards at my favorite coffee shop for a triple espresso. I had promised myself, and I always keep the promises that I make to myself.
Not everyone takes it for granted that people with diabetes can enjoy the good life. I got to thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when a business associate took me out to dinner. He ordered a martini and then I asked the waitress what brands of single malt Scotch whisky they had.
My friend, who knows I have diabetes, was surprised that I appreciate fine whisky, which he says that he also drinks when it’s colder. He was also surprised that I would allow myself a drink of anything.
I do enjoy sipping a drink at the end of the day. Plus, alcohol in moderation is actually beneficial, as I wrote in my article on Alcohol and Diabetes.
My favorite drink after sampling more Scotch whiskies than I can count is The Balvenie. Like people, whisky gets better as it ages. I now reward myself with a shot of 15 or 21 year old Balvenie, usually straight up but sometimes on the rocks. Never with added water.
Like people around the world I get some of my cues for living the good life from television. One of the few TV shows I watch is "Boston Legal." At the end of almost every episode two of the stars, William Shatner, who plays the character Denny Crane, and James Spader, who plays Alan Shore, relax at the end of their day with drinks and big cigars, and talk about women. While I stopped smoking many years ago because in reality it is not a part of anyone’s good life, I continue to enjoy whisky and talking about women - except with my wife, because such talk is almost as unhealthy as tobacco.
My friend Jeff Myers has lived in great health with diabetes for almost 25 years. He balances effectively controlling his blood glucose with enjoying life’s good things. "Enjoying the good things provides me energy and motivation to be well and vice versa," he says.
For Jeff, the good things of life are different from mine. That’s part of the point I want to make - that what each of us loves is different.
"While I enjoy healthy foods and activity, I also love all things chocolate, a cold beer, traveling to foreign countries, eating new foods without info on how many carbs they have, and varying my schedule wildly to accommodate spontaneous activities," Jeff says.
Jeff and I both balance our blood glucose control with enjoying our favorite good things in life. For you those good things will certainly be different, but no one has to give them up when you get diabetes.
How do you balance living the good life with diabetes? Tell us in the message boards.
David Mendosa is a journalist who learned in 1994 that he has type 2 diabetes, which he now writes about exclusively. He has written thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and publishes the monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, current A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 keep his diabetes in remission without any drugs. He can be found on Twitter @davidmendosa and on Facebook at David Mendosa.