Everyone handles change differently. Some jump into the deep end of the pool without even looking. Some people just freeze when they see the pool. Lastly, other people walk into the pool one step at a time, till they are all the way in the pool.
Deciding what change needs to be made around picking a new lifestyle and what will that look like is difficult. Do I jump in, do nothing or take it slowly?
Everything comes back to change, and in this blog the pool represents needed changes to achieve the preferred lifestyle for someone living with diabetes.
In The Beginning!
It is just too much! Isn’t it? That’s how it felt to me! I remember! I feel fortunate to have gotten diabetes as a child. If I had gotten it when I was older, I would imagine it would be harder to change my lifestyle after living one way for so long.
Can you imagine wanting a salad over fried chicken?
If you asked me many years ago, I would have said you were nuts for asking me that question. I was afraid that if I stopped eating what I liked, I wouldn’t enjoy life. That was my FEAR.
Some fear is real. You should be afraid of a tiger, fire or death. Unhealthy irrational fear can be summed up in the acronym FEAR False Evidence Appearing Real. For example, being afraid you will never meet the right person after only two dates is False Evidence Appearing Real.
When fear is irrational, then it causes anxiety. Similar to fear, anxiety is good in moderation, but too little leaves you with no motivation. Too much stress can leave you with clouded judgment or other cognitive behavioral Issues.
Some fear is healthy, and some anxiety is good. It is important to have some fear of the unknown, so people move cautiously and safely during periods of change.
The Deep End!
For some, the deep end is scary. For some, it’s not even a thought. If you tend to be a person who changes without thinking about consequence, it is important to slow down to test the water first. You don’t have to do it all at once. Try making several small changes.
Instead of running five miles a day, start with some light exercise like walking. Please consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen. You don’t have to start a fad diet upon being diagnosed with diabetes, consult a certified diabetes educator and make small changes to your existing diet. You could add some veg’s or create smaller portions of what you like.
Others are afraid of the pool. Most think that to enter the pool they need to lose all their extra weight, change to a perfect diet and exercise (running 5 miles) 3-5 times weekly.
Not true. In the middle of the pool before you get to the deep end you will find just that. In the shallow end, you will find a wide variety of options that you can test out on a journey toward the middle.
*The Shallow End!
- Make little changes to your diet. (Reduce portion size or eat a salad before dinner)
- Increase activity! (Go for a 20-30-minute walk after dinner, use the stairs instead of the elevator or go to the movies instead of watching from your couch)
- Set reasonable goals (Weight loss of 1 pound per week through the activities above)
- Look at one behavior change at a time (If you look at all the needed changes you will overwhelm yourself.)
- If you are struggling with change or other emotional issues, seek a Mental Health Professional or Certified Diabetes Educator.
- Join a smoking cessation group.
- Ask for help
- Surround yourself with supportive friends.
- Remember you don’t have to do it all at once.
*Some activities may not be safe depending on your physical or emotional condition. Please consult your doctor or a certified diabetes educator before changing your daily regimen.
Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.