For those of us living with diabetes, fears of complications are a real threat that linger and fester in the back of our minds. As we deal with the immense challenge of keeping our blood sugar levels stable, day after day after day, there can be that constant worry. Sometimes it feels like a dark cloud that follows you no matter where you go and no matter how good everything else is going in your life.
You could plan a trip to the most tropical and beautiful place in the world! ...but you’d still have to pack your diabetes supplies. There is just no such thing as taking a vacation from diabetes.
But I’m here to say that reclaiming your freedom, and having a happy and healthy life, without the fear of complications IS POSSIBLE! I’ve lived with diabetes for over 35 years and I’ve learned many life-saving tips along the way.
Nobody likes high blood sugars. Besides making us feel cranky, irritable, tired, and depressed, high blood sugar levels cause damage to our bodies, every time we go high.
Glucose is sticky. It sticks to our red blood cells, to the inner walls of our arteries, to brain cells, our connective tissues and joints, as it tires out our kidneys. Every time we go high, we increase the risk of complications. It’s scary to even think about...but complications are a real fear in our world living with this chronic condition. Every time we go high, these fears can show up. Sometimes, when the day to day management feels too overwhelming, it’s easy to just go into denial and ignore it all. Many of my patients tell me about their teenage rebellion years when they wouldn’t test for days or even weeks. This happens to adults too.
Living with diabetes takes a level of responsibility and dedication unlike any other disease I know of. Most diseases are managed by the physician, where the patient is told when and how to dose. Not with diabetes. That tremendous responsibility lies in our hands everyday. We must know how to eat, what to dose, when to test...and of course, all of this changes everyday. If you wait to make every little adjustment until speaking with your doctor, it could put you in a state of being dangerously high or low.
But one thing my patients know very well about me is that I like to be happy and positive! I’m not here to get you all down and in the dumps. So let’s lighten this up and look at the other side of the coin!
I know an endless number of diabetics who are living a happy and healthy life! Some have had it for 30, 40, or even over 50 years and they are doing great! AND, they didn’t even have the tools we are blessed to have today for regulating our blood sugar levels! So how is it possible to live a healthy and happy life while managing this complex disease?
Dr. Jody’s I.m. F.R.E.E! FORMULA for Having a Happy and Healthy Life with Diabetes
#1 - I is for INSULIN - Understand how to dose your insulin/medication properly. For those of you on insulin, knowing how to properly dose your insulin is the key to having good blood sugar levels and thus dramatically reduce the risk of complications. If you don't feel confident in this area, reach out for help.
#2 - M is for MINDSET. This one is huge. There is a great book called, The Biology of Belief, by Dr. Bruce Lipton, where he states one of the most powerful predictors of health is your mindset. More so than diet. More so than exercise. How you choose to think from day to day has a HUGE impact on your health. Any time spent worrying about complications is not only taking away from your enjoyment of life, but it contributes absolutely zero benefit. Worrying versus taking-action-when-needed are two entirely different things.
Taking action is powerful and shifts you back into health. Worry is like an energy leak, stealing away your joy and enthusiasm for the wonderful life you are meant to be enjoying. Worry serves no benefit. If you’re high and you take action...i.e. dose if needed and/or get active...you are benefiting from taking positive action.
#3- F is for FAITH. Faith and spirituality are much more than just comforting rituals. They have been proven to have a positive impact on mood and mental health, reduce stress, and improve one’s sense of well-being. Having faith in a power greater than yourself generates optimism, enriches your relationships, creates support systems, and can enhance your quality of life.
Faith is a belief or trust in God, while spirituality is an attachment to certain values. Which term you prefer is inconsequential. Both provide a sense of purpose, allow you to connect to something greater than yourself, and enable you to release control of feeling like the weight of the world lies entirely on your shoulders. Having faith is free, doesn’t require a prescription, and has zero side effects.
#3.5 - F is for FREQUENT TESTING. This one, although can be considered very obvious, is just too important to leave out from mentioning. (So I’m breaking my formula a bit to fit it in, because the other F, faith, is important too.) The more you test, the more you know what’s going on with your blood sugar levels. We all know how often and how easy it can go up and down. The sooner you know your level is elevated, the sooner you can take action to get it down.
For those of you on insulin, there is a lot involved with knowing how much insulin to give yourself at each meal. If it were as easy as counting carbs and covering, we’d all have perfect A1c’s! But sorry to say, there is much more to accurate dosing than just counting carbs. For example, forget just trying to figure out the right dose, but how good are you at matching the timing of digestion with the timing of the insulin kicking in? To me, sometimes that can feel like trying to win the lottery!
There are indeed tools that will help you learn to dose better. I’m not promising perfection, but certain tips and tricks will definitely help you. But the bottom line of this one is, the more you know what your blood sugar is doing, the less extended highs or lows you will experience, thus the better A1c you will have and the better you will feel!
#4- R is for REACH OUT. Stay connected to people who understand. Studies show that when people living with a chronic disease are connected to others dealing with the same condition, they receive immense benefits to their overall health, physically as well as mentally.
We all know that no matter how hard we work, our blood sugars are better on some days than others. When those tough days come around, being connected to people who can really relate to what you’re going through can make a world of difference.
#5- E is for EAT LOW CARB. This is essential. The unfortunate mainstream advice of counting carbs and covering with the ‘right’ dose just flat out DOES NOT WORK. Doing this at every meal is like throwing a dart while being blindfolded, crossing your fingers and hoping you hit the target. Alternatively, by eating a low carb diet, your chances of hitting your target blood sugar levels increase dramatically. And we all know that is a very good thing.
Furthermore, eating low carb allows your sugar levels to be more stable overall. An issue with A1c’s is that they only show your average blood sugar level. But research has shown that it’s not only an elevated A1c that’s an issue. Wide fluctuations in blood sugars are also problematic to the body. For example, you’d be better off with a slightly higher A1c with relatively stable blood sugar levels, versus a lower A1c due to an average of several highs and several lows.
#6 - E is for EXERCISE. Exercise is good medicine for everyone, but especially for those of us with diabetes. That damage that is done every time we go high is greatly mitigated with regular exercise. Exercise allows the body to heal; it improves your circulation and cardiovascular health; reduces depression; improves sleep; helps you stay in a healthy weight; reduces your risk of depression, strokes, arthritis, some cancers and many other diseases; increases your energy; decreases risk of erectile dysfunction in men and increases arousal in women...so tell me somebody who wouldn’t want all of that! (Makes me want to go run around outside right now!) And it’s FREE!
So there you have it! Each of these steps in my I.M F.R.E.E. to HAVE A HAPPY AND HEALTHY LIFE WITH DIABETES FORMULA are very simple to apply to your life. Nothing has to be that complex. Through making small, incremental changes in your life each day, you can live a life of health and happiness while living with diabetes.
Having said that, one of the best ways to ensure your success is to not try to improve your health via your own willpower. Studies show you’ll likely be 85% more successful by having the support of a trained professional. I help patients everyday let go of their worries, eat healthy and low carb, achieve healthy A1c’s, and more. And we have fun doing it! If you'd like some help with any of this, I work with patients via phone located all over the country. If you’d like to work with me, reach out for a free intro call here: www.consultwithdrjody.com/type1
To your health and happiness!