A diagnosis of diabetes doesn’t mean that you can’t live life to your fullest, so take charge, fight back and learn to manage type 2 diabetes. Read on to get some tips on how best to accomplish this!
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes happens when the body is unable to produce enough insulin (this is called insulin deficiency), or when the insulin that is produced does not work (this is called insulin resistance). It is estimated that more than 3 million people in Canada are living with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is often considered a “silent” disease: when they’re first diagnosed, many people don’t actually feel ill. However, when it is not well-managed, type 2 diabetes can lead to many serious complications, including heart, kidney and eye disease, as well as nerve damage.
That’s why motivation to change behaviours – and sticking with those changes – can be challenging, but not impossible! Let's look at some ways to accomplish this in order to best manage type 2 diabetes.
Start with the three C’s:
- Commitment to planning a healthy lifestyle and taking your medications as prescribed by your healthcare team.
- Consistency in maintaining these healthy habits to manage your diabetes.
- Communication, to ensure you get ongoing support and information from trustworthy sources.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include a family history of the disease, carrying excess weight, poor diet and low physical inactivity.
So, let’s start by committing to planning and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The cornerstones of type 2 diabetes management are:
- Eating healthy foods
- Losing weight (if needed)
- Exercising regularly
- Taking your medications as directed by your diabetes healthcare team
Use these meal planning and weight management ideas
- Make a weekly meal plan, accompanied by a grocery list of all the ingredients you’ll need. Having everything at hand when you’re ready to cook will help motivate you to make the effort. It will also make the process of meal prep more straightforward.
- Involve family members and friends in your meal planning: let your kids pitch in, or spend quality time with your partner in the kitchen.
- Book an appointment with a dietitian. Taking your food and eating preferences into account, they can help you develop a long-term eating plan that is nutritious and delicious.
Try these physical activity ideas
- When developing an exercise plan, think about what you really enjoy doing. The more you like something, the easier it will be to stick with it over the long-term. Whether it’s walking or jogging, dancing, or yoga, choose an activity that you find fulfilling, so that you’ll remain motivated.
- Set weekly or monthly goals, and reward yourself when you reach them. With an end outcome in sight, chances are you will stick to your plan and see it through.
- Find a partner to exercise with, whether it’s a family member or friend. You’ll motivate each other to complete your scheduled workouts, and the social aspect will make the exercise time fly by!
Use these tips to help you remember to take your medication
- Make your meds a part of your daily routine: adding medications to a daily habit that’s already second nature will help you take your meds. If you take your medication in the morning, set it on the kitchen counter beside the coffee maker to help you remember. If you take your medication in the evening, set it on your bedside table. Mealtimes and brushing your teeth are other rituals that can help you remember to take your meds.
- Consider smart packaging: pillboxes are very inexpensive and can hold a week’s worth of medications. Put the pillbox in a conspicuous place (for example, your kitchen or bathroom counter), so you’ll be sure to see it when needed.
- Know what you’re taking: studies have shown that having a negative attitude about medication can discourage people from taking it, or even forget to take it. Ask your pharmacist or other member of the diabetes healthcare team why you’re taking your medication, how it works and what any potential side effects are. Having this information will make you more comfortable taking the medication, and can actually motivate you to take it.
- Use a reminder system: set an alarm on your electronic watch or smartphone to alert you when it’s time to take your meds throughout the day. There are also many free apps available for both iPhone and Android devices.
Stay connected and communicate with your support group!
In person or online, you can stay in touch with ones that you trust to help keep you motivated. Where motivation is concerned, it’s important to take the “long view” with respect to your diabetes. While you may feel well now, doing the work up front (healthy eating, physical activity, adherence to medication regimen) is key to keeping you healthy over the long-term. Getting this support from coaches and counsellors, as well as using technology (websites and apps), can strengthen your motivation and commitment to a healthy lifestyle with diabetes. Here are some useful ways to navigate long-term motivational issues.
Your healthcare team members may include your doctor, a nurse, a dietitian, a pharmacist, a social worker and an exercise specialist. Every member of your healthcare team can act as a coach to help you navigate a myriad of health and motivational issues, including:
- Educating you about diabetes and how best to manage it
- Developing a healthy eating and weight loss plan
- Developing a fitness regimen
- Providing emotional and psychological support
A recent study in people with either type 2 diabetes or prediabetes demonstrated that patients who used health coaches had significant improvements in their A1C levels, as well as enhanced physical activity levels and lower body weight.
Technology is such a big part of everyone’s lives today, and it can actually motivate you in your diabetes management. Many websites and apps are available to help motivate you and keep you on track. They can assist with meal planning, charting your calorie and/or food intake, recording your physical activity and weight loss, and also tracking your blood sugar levels.
A 2018 study explored the use of a mobile app to promote adherence to physical activity and weight reduction in people with either type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. The researchers found that participants found the app convenient and beneficial. Physical activity among participants increased over the three-month study period; participants also experienced an average weight loss of about 1.5 kilograms.
Motivation over the long-term is essential to managing your diabetes. The key to staying motivated is to think about your successes rather than your disappointments … think “delight” rather than “damage control!” When you find the motivational strategies that work for you in all areas of your diabetes management, such as health coaching and technology aids – you’ll be developing habits that will help you live a long and healthy life.