Contributor: Diana Isaacs, PharmD, BCPS, BCACP, BC-ADM, CDCES, FADCES, FCCP
Another new year brings along new possibilities. When January 1st rolls in, we start with a clean slate. Anything can happen. And after the difficult year 2020 has proven to be, many of us are looking forward to better days, and the potential 2021 can bring. The New Year is often when we come up with resolutions. These resolutions are usually well-intentioned, like we want to lose weight, start exercising, eat healthier, or reduce stress. Some experts recommend that we set SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. An example of a SMART goal is taking a 10-minute walk after lunch at least three days per week. That’s a more realistic and specific goal than just saying to increase exercise.
Here are some things to consider when setting your goals for 2021.
- Control Your Efforts, Not the Outcome: Goals like “I want to lose 20lbs” or “I want to get my A1C down to 6.9%” have the right intention, but they are difficult because we can control our efforts to get there, but we don’t have control over the outcome itself. For example, if you eat healthier, decrease calories, and increase exercise, there is a very good chance you will lose weight and lower your A1C. But sometimes, things happen that are entirely out of our control, so the outcome is not guaranteed. Therefore, focusing on a process goal instead of an outcome goal can help us stay motivated since we can control the process and how much effort we put into it. And even if it doesn’t lead to the magic weight loss goal, you can feel good about the improvements you’ve made and the journey to get there.
- All or Something: Many people have “all or nothing” thinking. For example, you start the day eating really healthy, and then someone brings doughnuts to work and you find yourself eating two. Your day quickly went from healthy to unhealthy. And since it’s now an unhealthy day, you might as well enjoy all the indulgent things, and get some fast food and eat some additional sweets. This thinking sabotages us! Slipups are totally normal. Don’t beat yourself up, you don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to have some sweets. The key is how much. If we can practice moderation and permit ourselves to eat some of the yummy things, we may not feel deprived and slip into an all or nothing type of thinking. Maybe we can give ourselves permission to eat one doughnut? Or maybe we already ate two, but we can eat healthily for the rest of the day? I urge you to think all or something instead of all or nothing. And if 2021 doesn’t start off perfectly, you don’t have to wait until 2022 to start over again. Every day, every minute is a new opportunity. Sometimes, we take two steps forward and then one step back. That’s okay as long as we are going in the right direction.
- You are Your Own CEO: You are the CEO of your own health. Think about how much time you spend with yourself compared to how much time you spend at your doctor’s office and with your healthcare team. Your healthcare team is here to support you, but you know yourself best. And you must advocate for your health because you deserve it. So how do you do this? Read what you can and be informed. Read articles from DiabettesSisters and diabetes magazines, and visit great websites like diaTribe. Learn about new medications and technologies and ask your healthcare team if any of these could help you. Recently, two classes of medications have been shown to be beneficial for people at increased cardiovascular risk, regardless of their A1C. Make sure you are on the best medications and don’t settle for anything less. If you’re annoyed with the usual finger sticks, ask your healthcare team how often you actually need to monitor. If you are asked to monitor multiple times per day, ask about using a continuous glucose monitor.
- The Benefits of Community: One of the hardest parts about 2020 is the isolation. We’ve had to wear masks and hide our faces and limit time with our friends and loved ones. I think this provides a good opportunity to reevaluate who you spend time with. Are they helping you grow, and is it a healthy relationship that gives you energy, or is it draining you and not productive? I recommend meeting others with diabetes because there is great strength in connecting with people in similar situation.
- Piecing it Together: Diabetes is hard work. You are asked to eat healthily, monitor your blood sugars, take medications, incorporate physical activity, and solve problems. Everyone has an entire life outside of diabetes, and sometimes life stressors get in the way of diabetes management. Don’t be hard on yourself. It’s not all or nothing. 2021 offers new hopes and possibilities. I am sorry to be the spoiler, but I must tell you that 2021 won’t be perfect. However, that’s totally okay. You will get through it because you can control your efforts. You will keep moving forward and know that just because you fall back a step, you’re still going in the right direction. You are the CEO of your own health, and you have the whole diabetes community to support you.
Let’s make 2021 great together!
Diana Isaacs, PharmD, BCPS, BCACP, BC-ADM, CDCES, FADCES, FCCP is a Clinical Pharmacist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. Dr. Isaacs earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Dr. Isaacs enjoys working on an interprofessional team and has established several clinical services within the Cleveland Clinic Diabetes Center. She is the 2020 ADCES Diabetes Care and Education Specialist of the Year.