10 Tips: First Year with Type 2 Diabetes

Patient Expert
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The day you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can come with a flood of different emotions: fear, motivation, denial, anger, or empowerment. Regardless of where you’re starting from and how you got there, everyone faces the same reality on their diagnosis time: either you step up to the plate or you let things get worse. If you’re ready to step up and take action, here are 10 tips to help you on your journey.


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You have medication options

Most doctors have their go-to medications they prescribe to every type 2 patient they see — but know you have options. There are so many different types of oral and injectable medications to choose from. They each work differently in the body to help improve your blood sugar, and you’ll respond better to some than others. Terrible side-effects? Don’t just endure it. Do your research, then make decisions with your team.


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If you need to start insulin, know that your doctors are guessing your insulin doses

There is no “one-size-fits-all” dose for insulin. They make an educated guess based on your weight, age, gender, etc. It’s up to you to identify that your doses aren’t working and ask your healthcare team for help adjusting your doses. If you frequently have high or low blood sugars, schedule an appointment ASAP or read “Think Like a Pancreas.”


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Your doctor probably isn’t going to recommend a low-carb diet...but you should learn about it

Even the American Diabetes Association has started to support low-carb lifestyles, but it’s rare that you’ll learn it from your doctor. Reducing your carb-intake can be life-changing. You don’t have to eat zero carbs to benefit. Aiming for 100 grams or less per meal will quickly change how easy or hard it is to manage your blood sugar.


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If low-carb eating doesn’t work for you, there are other approaches to food that can help

Low-carb eating isn’t for everyone, especially, for example, if you hate meat. Do your research! Veganism, vegetarianism, intermittent fasting, clean-eating...there are many different ways to learn more about healthy eating. Find one that feels best to you and then, adjust it to make it something you can follow most of the time.


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Make exercise a real part of your week

Even a 30-minute daily walk after lunch (or during lunch) can have a tremendous impact on your blood sugars, your energy, your insulin sensitivity, and your spirit for making healthier changes all around. There’s no time like right now to get up and get moving. If you’re taking insulin, start with the “Fit with Diabetes” eBook, or “Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook,” or work with coaches like Christel Oerum, Daniel Hargenrader, or Jennifer Smith.


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Do your own research and find online communities

While doctors deter patients from seeking out information online, learning from other patients can be all you need to find the best way for you to thrive with type 2 diabetes. A doctor can tell you to lose weight or eat more vegetables, but real people who’ve been through those challenges can support you, offer advice, swap nutrition tips, commiserate, and remind you that you are not alone.


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Forget about perfection

Lowering your blood sugars, losing weight, and increasing your sensitivity to insulin doesn’t require perfection. Putting in your best effort every day of the week is going to make a difference even if part of each day doesn’t go as you planned. The more you keep trying, keep learning, keep evolving how to make healthier habits part of your real life, the more you’ll eventually find your own successful approach.


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Go to a diabetes conference for patients

There are two ingredients that help a person with type 2 diabetes thrive: 1. The constant openness to keep learning and evolving... 2. A lack of self-pity. When you’re at a conference full of other people living with diabetes, it’s pretty hard to feel sorry for yourself. Finding a couple genuine D-friends means there’s always someone to talk to who’s been there, too. DiabetesSisters, The Diabetes UnConference, and TCOYD are just a few.


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Don’t be afraid of testing your blood sugar!

For some, the act of testing your blood sugar daily can feel too real, like you really do have a disease. But...you do. You have type 2 diabetes. The only way you can truly know if your blood sugars are improving by the changes you’re making and the meds you’re taking is if you’re actually testing your blood sugar regularly. A1C results aren’t enough. Ask your doctor for a prescription and embrace the benefits of knowing what’s really going on.


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Above all else: do not give up

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Create your plan. Throw out your scale. Focus on daily good choices. Real food. Brush off mistakes or less than perfect choices and try again tomorrow. After a few months, you’ll be able to some evidence of your hard work. Ask yourself why facing your diabetes head-on is important to you. Where do you want your health and your life to be in five years? It takes time, but you can do this.