Living with diabetes blog

Diabetes: Take baby steps toward healthy lifestyle changes

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. October 11, 2013

Some of you might remember a movie called What about Bob? In the movie, the main character, Bob Wiley, lives with many phobias. He meets with Dr. Leo Marvin, a New York psychiatrist who wrote a book called Baby Steps. Bob had been "fired" by several psychiatrists before Dr. Marvin because Bob is high-maintenance. But Bob immediately bonded with Dr. Marvin, who introduced him to the idea of taking small steps to help him learn to cope with his phobias. The movie is a classic and good for a laugh.

I've often thought the idea of taking "baby steps," or making small changes in your lifestyle, is actually a pretty good and practical concept! For those of us who have to watch our diet, or lose weight or start an exercise program, taking small steps in that direction isn't a bad idea.

Small steps to change
When making changes, try not to make several at once. Identify a problem that you want to work on. Do you want to lose weight, start an exercise program, quit smoking or test your blood sugar more often? Are you ready to?

Learning new behaviors and changing old ones are important to managing diabetes. Choose small, reachable goals at first to establish the pattern or "habit." Set a goal that's specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-limited. For example: "I will test my blood sugar every morning for one week." Setting a time limit is important as it gives you an end-point at which you can evaluate the results.

Suggestions to lower blood glucose could include:

  • Increase activity. Not an exercise buff? That's okay. Walking to the mailbox, sweeping the floor, laundry and vacuuming are all activities that burn calories and help to lower blood sugar. If you enjoy watching TV, as many do, get up, stretch and walk around a little bit during commercials. With DVRs, you can also pause the show and get up and move a little.
  • Manage your weight. Need to lose? You don't need to lose all your weight at once. Losing weight helps to lower your blood glucose. It may be a matter of simply eliminating that large soda pop that you pick up on the way to work every day, or eliminating the bedtime snack every night. You can choose to cut back on eating processed foods and eliminate snacking in between meals. If you're a "snacker," snack smarter. Choose a fruit or vegetable that you enjoy over a candy bar or other sugary treat. I know, easier said than done. But certain fruits, such as berries, are low in carbs and quite tasty.
  • Reduce stress. Stop and take some time for yourself. Do something that you enjoy such as taking a hot bath or sitting down for a few minutes to read a book. Going for a walk or taking part in another activity that you enjoy will also help to reduce stress.
  • Stay hydrated. Some studies suggest that staying hydrated does help manage your blood sugar. And if you have high blood sugar, it's especially important that you get plenty of water in order to avoid dehydration.
  • Remember your medication. If you have type 1 diabetes, you're on insulin for life, and it's very important that you don't miss insulin doses. If you have type 2 diabetes, it's important that you take your diabetes medications, insulin, or both, as prescribed. Do you have trouble forgetting to take your meds? Write yourself a reminder, or keep your medicine and insulin where it's a visible reminder. For oral medications, you can buy weekly and monthly pill boxes. My husband says that helps him keep track of whether he took his medicine or not. Find a method that works for you.

Remember, your healthcare team is there to help you. Ask your provider for assistance. Your diabetes educator can show you how to adjust your insulin doses. Your dietitian can help you set up an eating plan that works for you.

Have a great week.

Peggy

Oct. 11, 2013