Reaching Diabetes Perfection... and Wanting a Break

Editor's Note: This article was originally written by patient expert John S. Bell.

For the last six months I have tried my best to be the perfect type 2 diabetic. I have dieted. I have watched my carb intake. I have exercised. I have not touched a french fry, doughnut or basket of tortilla chips since October. No non-diet drink has crossed my lips. I have lost over forty pounds, dropped my A1c from 9.6 to 5.9 and reduced my waist size by almost six inches. I am off all medication, my doctor loves me, my family is impressed, and I am about sick of it all. I want a day off from the new healthy me. I want to come home, lay on my couch and watch a movie. With a can of Pringles. And a beer. Maybe some pizza for a late dinner followed by ice cream for dessert. I am tired of being just a little bit hungry half the day. I am tired of sore muscles and hours in the gym. I want pancakes with real maple syrup, waffles, french toast, powdered doughnuts, croissants with almond paste. I do not want to see a broccoli floret, a piece of spinach or anything else green on my plate for at least a week. I want my old life back.

The problem is, I don't want all of my old life back. I don't want the blurred vision, the shortness of breath, the thirst, the scabs that don't quite heal. I don't want to fall asleep at my desk every afternoon. I don't want my feet to hurt when I walk. I like wearing clothes that fit. It's good to be able to climb a flight of stairs without stopping to rest every few feet. I like the respect I'm getting from my family and friends. So, what can I do? In lieu of running off for a carbohydrate and refined sugar bingefest, I've taken a couple days off from the gym, had bigger lunches than usual and spent an evening just lying around catching up on recorded TV shows. Having had a little time off, tonight I am going back to the gym and, while working out, will think about how I'm going to cook the chicken breasts and broccoli pieces waiting at home in the fridge.

This diabetic thing can be awfully tiring at times. Our culture is not good at lifetime commitments and this is surely that. We need to be in this for the long haul and giving up is not an option. You can't resign from a chronic illness. But we do need to know our limits. Let me pass on a story from the Desert Fathers, early Christian monks who were legendary for their lives of relentless self-denial:

Once someone had been hunting wild animals on the desert, and saw Abba Anthony joking with the brothers and was scandalized. And the elder, wanting to fully convince him that it was sometimes necessary to relax with the brothers, said to him, Put an arrow to your bow, and shoot. And he did thus. He said to him, Shoot again. And he shot. And he said again, Shoot. The hunter said to him, If I shoot without limit, the bow may break. The elder said to him, So it is with the work of God. If we shoot more than the limit of the brothers, they will promptly shatter. Therefore it is necessary for one to relax with the brothers. The hunter heard these things, was pierced by remorse, and being greatly helped by the elder, went away. And the brothers, strengthened, went away to their place.

So, if even a desert monk needs to take a break every now and then, we shouldn't worry if we can't be the perfect diabetic all the time. Skip a day at the gym if you have to. Have a piece of bread. Survive, don't shatter. And, when things get back in perspective, get back to work and enjoy your healthier life.