Living with diabetes blog

Diabetes: Setting goals for successful change

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. December 30, 2011

Like many, I've struggled with extra weight in my adult years. The adage that adults gain about 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) per decade certainly is true in my case. Many members of my family, including me, have type 2 diabetes. As a diabetes educator, I'm very aware that diabetes type 2 is progressive and that I can prevent or delay progression of the disease through lifestyle changes. My goal last January was to lose weight. I didn't get started until September, but I'm happy to say that I'm 25 pounds (11 kilograms) lighter with a little more to lose. At my age, it can still be done!

Maybe you're not overweight, but perhaps you could have better blood glucose control if you exercised more, tested your blood glucose more regularly, ate healthier, took your medications as prescribed or took steps to reduce stress.

Whatever your goals might be, here are five steps to help you toward successful behavior change:

  1. Identify the problem. Choose one! Do you want to lose weight, start an exercise program, or quit smoking? Maybe you just want to get better about monitoring and recording your blood glucose or adjusting your insulin. Checking your feet every day might be another goal to consider. I decided to lose a few pounds this past year. I figured that if I lost weight, then I'd feel like exercising more often next year.
  2. Explore your feelings. Many people with diabetes feel out of control, guilty, depressed, tired, fearful, lonely, frustrated, dependent, resentful and overwhelmed. Are you ready to change? I was tired of being overweight and out of shape. I didn't believe at my age that I could lose weight, but I did.
  3. Set goals. Set goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-limited. You're more likely to succeed if you set realistic goals. An unrealistic goal might be that you'll follow your meal plan exactly every day. A more realistic goal might be that you'll eat fruit instead of a sweet three times a week. Choose a lifestyle change that you want and are willing to work on. Don't make changes just to please your doctor or diabetes educator.
  4. Make a plan. I found a book with a health diet plan that works for me. If your goal is weight loss or modifying what you eat, it may be helpful to sit down with a dietitian to set diet goals. Some people enjoy joining weight loss groups such as Weight Watchers or TOPS.
  5. Evaluate the result. Don't expect perfection. It takes time to change old habits. I weigh myself once a week and evaluate the results. I would love to say that I lost 1 to 2 pounds every week, but that didn't happen. If I gained, I'd look at what I was doing the previous week. Sometimes, I was getting carried away with peanut butter!

The bottom line is that if you have a plan in mind and set up your environment to support you, success is much more likely. For example, I'm not going to test my will power by having breads and sweets around, because I have very little willpower!

Lifestyle changes take patience, but with persistence you can make them happen. Find support, whether that means getting your family involved or joining a support group.

Your diabetes health care team wants you to succeed!


Dec. 30, 2011