March 10, 2010

Tips for People with Diabetes

Many people look for or seek rules that they can apply to their diabetes.  What they are looking for is the pill or shot approach to cure their diabetes.  They have been given the diagnosis and like most expect the doctor to give them a pill prescription or series of shots and they will be back to living the good life.  They are looking for the wrong solution because people with type 2 diabetes can vary so much in what their pancreas is producing.  For some, their pancreas is producing a good amount of insulin while for others their pancreas in producing a small amount of insulin.  Insulin resistance is another factor that will affect how the medications will react for them.  Add in other factors such as body chemistry, other ailments, and sleep apnea and you can forget about simple rules.

Below are some tips that may apply, but many people will refuse to follow them.

Tip 1.  Relax, you did not develop diabetes overnight.  It may take some time to get your diabetes under the control you want.  As you become more comfortable with living with diabetes and how it affects your body, you will develop a routine.  While diabetes will be in your thoughts daily, it will not necessarily define you.  Some people are able to radically change their lifestyle overnight, while others do not find the comfort zone for a few months.

Tip 2.  What works for me may not work for you.  Diabetes is a very individual disease.  We can do a lot of adjusting to try to get the numbers where we want them.  No one can say - "do what I do", and you will have the same results.  We can only tell you what works for us, but you will have to experiment to find what works for you.

Tip 3.  Let you meter tell you what to eat - it should become your best friend.  Experiment with different foods and test two hours later to see what your blood glucose reading is.  Test a lot the first couple of months and try different foods and combinations of food.  Determine the amount fat in your foods to know whether you need to test at one hour and three hours.  Eating a meal with more carbohydrates than normal should make you check your blood glucose reading to determine how the foods affect your blood glucose levels.  When you have established some good routines and habits, then you may reduce your testing frequency.  Be prepared to test more often and make it a habit to do intensive testing when things change or to check for possible changes.

Tip 4.  It is all about carbohydrates (carbs).  Everyone has to develop his or her own daily carb budget or menu.  Then you need to follow it to help keep your diabetes under control.  You will eventually develop a plan and possibly some variations.  There are some other factors such as lactose intolerance or gluten allergies that can interfere with a person's daily nutrition.  Learn how to keep experimenting to develop what works for you.

Tip 5.  Diabetes requires a lifestyle change - not a diet - diets fail.  It is also not a day or two thing, it is a 24/7 lifestyle change, and we are in for the rest of our lives.  The process involves learning everything you can about your diabetes, and everything you can about yourself and your body.  Then apply it to your life on a daily basis.

Tip 6.  You will make mistakes.  We all do, and if you make one, it is important what you decide to do about it, but it is more important what you learn from the mistake.  Pick up the pieces, reassemble them, and move on.  It is not healthy to become stuck in depression or feel like a failure.  We do not fail, we do not blame ourselves, we learn to experiment.

Tip 7.  Be flexible, being rigid will break you.  Do not become obsessed with numbers - they should become part of routines and goals, but not an obsession.  Diabetes can change at a moments notice.  What works well today may not work tomorrow.  There may be no rhyme or reason to the change, it may change for a reason you can comprehend, or it may simply leave you guessing.  Sometimes, you just have to blame the phase of the moon for messing with your numbers and let the stress melt away.

Tip 8.  Keep moving!  Otherwise they will be throwing dirt on you.  Exercise as much as you are able.  Park as far from the store as you are able, use stairs when possible, and not the elevator.  You need to find the level of exercise that suits you.  Some people exercise after every meal, some are not able, it is all part of being flexible.

Tip 9.  If you feel like screaming, kicking, maybe saying something under your breath, well, do it!  There are times that diabetes can seem overwhelming and nothing is what it should be.  As long as you are not screaming at your spouse, the kids, others, and kicking the animals - let it happen.  There are times you must get it out of your system.

Tip 10.  Do not let denial and small failures derail your control.  This will defeat you and allow complications to get a foothold in your life.  We are not perfect; however, there is a lot we can do to minimize complications, delay complications, or possibly prevent complications.

Tip 11.  Keep a positive attitude.  This will serve you well.

Tip 12.  Remember the eleven tips and use them!

If you find other tips that work for you and apply to your circumstances, write them down and use them.  This is not meant to be all-inclusive.  Always be prepared to change your approach and goals as your situation changes.

Tom Ross gave the below answer to a post on dLife diabetes forum when someone was looking for guidelines.  This is excellent advice for anyone and ties into the tips above.

“Any guideline, from the ADA or any other source, probably works for somebody -- but if you ever met that person, you might find that you have nothing in common with him. Therefore, the important question is not whether that person can get away with eating bread. The important question is whether you can get away with it.

Guidelines are theory-based. Good diabetes management has to be reality-based. In practical terms, what that means is that you don't ask the
ADA whether or not you will get away with eating a muffin. You eat the muffin, you ask your meter if in fact you did get away with it -- and if the answer is "no", you make a note of that and you learn from your mistake.

Don't focus on theory -- focus on experimentation. Find out what works for you, and what doesn't work for you. Let your meter be your final authority -- if one way of eating doesn't get you good results, find another way.

Normally I would recommend exercising a lot, since that has been so helpful in my case, but your hip problems seemingly would limit your options there. If you can't exercise, you're going to need to be all the more careful about what you eat. Certainly you're not going to want to eat something just because the
ADA is guessing that the average patient could handle it. Find out what you can handle -- it's going to be crucial!”