Living with diabetes is hard. The 24/7/365 management, constant conscientiousness, precise measurements and tracking, and near perfection that the condition requires can be exhausting, and sometimes we’re our own worst critic.
We can become siloed in the “shoulds” and “should nots”, working ourselves into a corner of unrealistic expectations, not letting ourselves be fully human.
If you find that your language around diabetes is especially harsh, try flipping these 5 phrases to change your entire perspective on things, improve your mood, and live a fuller, free life with diabetes.
Instead of, “I can’t have that”, try “I choose not to have that”
The truth is, people with diabetes can eat anything they want. Sometimes, we may choose lower carbohydrate meals, or opt for seltzer water instead of an alcoholic mixed drink due to high blood sugar, rough diabetes day, or just because we want to take a little less insulin on that occasion.
But saying that you “can’t” have a food item puts you in a position of weakness. It shows that the food has power over you, putting on it a pedestal, and then you’ll begin to crave that food more and perhaps overeat it at a later date. It limits your thinking and creates a limiting mentality.
Instead, saying that you simply choose not to eat something puts you in a position of power, lets everyone else around you know that you’re in control of what you want and do not want to eat, and educates people that you really can have something if you choose to do so. You’ll also feel better about your food choices as a result.
Instead of, “My A1c is so bad”, try “I’m working to improve my A1c”
There are no “good” or “bad” blood sugars. Your blood sugar level is just a piece of data informing you what to do next. Low? You’ll need to eat something. High? You’ll need to dose some insulin. It helps educate you to learn how you respond to food, stress, exercise, new medications, or lack of sleep, and since the A1c test is just a cumulation of 3 months’ of blood sugars, the test result should just inform you on how you need to proceed to feel the best that you possibly can.
The great thing about an A1c test is that once you get your results, you can start working on your goals for the next one, and each quarter that you get the test is a clean slate. Maybe you tried a raw vegan (high carbohydrate) diet for a few months and your A1c came back a little higher. Getting a higher result might steer you in a lower carbohydrate direction for the next time. Perhaps you picked up strength training, and your A1c dropped 1% point. This might inspire you to continue the habit or even increase it. An A1c test is a tool in your toolbelt to help you along on your diabetes journey, but it should never be something that you use to negatively judge yourself.
Instead of, “I have to work out”, try “I get to work out”
Exercise is a cornerstone of any good diabetes management routine, but sometimes keeping that exercise routine is extremely hard. We’ve all had those moments where it’s early, we’re cold, the sky is still dark, and we really do not want to go to the gym, but we say we “have to work out” for better blood sugars.
Instead of feeling like you “have to”, why not flip it and express how thankful you are that you “get” to work out? That you have a body that can move, that your heart and lungs can pump, that you have a bicycle to ride, good running shoes for a jog, or a welcoming gym to go to?
Being thankful for having the time, mental bandwidth, energy, and money for exercise can help motivate you to get it done when it can sometimes be easier to complain.
Instead of, “I always have to go to the doctor”, try “I get to regularly check-in on my overall health”
If diabetes does one thing well, it makes people more cognizant of their overall health and wellbeing more than they ever would be without the disease. It makes you run a fine-tooth comb through your eating and exercise habits, how you manage stress and relationships, even how well you hydrate and sleep. And while going to the doctor often for checkups can sometimes seem like a drag, try and think of it as a great thing that professionals are frequently drawing blood, checking for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, checking in on your mental health, and making sure you’re healthy all around.
A lot of people do not see a doctor regularly, only seeking help when something is really wrong, and unfortunately, sometimes that help comes too late. The positive aspect of seeing a physician frequently is that you can check in on little things that may be bothering you before they turn into big problems.
This can be helpful not only for diabetes-related issues but for your vision, cardiovascular health, foot health, diet, mental health, and more. It’s a great thing and will ultimately make you healthier in the long run.
Instead of, “Diabetes always holds me back”, try “Diabetes lets me slow down and assess what I really need”
There will be times when diabetes slows you down. Perhaps you go low during a game of soccer or basketball and need to sit on the sidelines until your blood sugar comes up. Perhaps your insulin pump malfunctioned and your blood sugar has been high all day, and you’re dealing with a bad headache.
It can be easy to get down on yourself and start believing that diabetes is really holding you back, but in my experience, diabetes has only really had me slow down and tune myself into what was really going on. For instance, if I’m on a hike and keep going low, it’s usually because I didn’t have an adequate enough breakfast and I actually need to eat something with a little more protein, fat, and carbohydrates. If I have a terrible headache, and my blood sugar is stubbornly high, I can zero in that I haven’t had enough water or fresh air that day.
Blood sugars are usually an indicator that something else is going on; the instant feedback that they give people with diabetes is something that other people don’t get. We know if some food has tons of sugar because our levels will skyrocket; we can then portion things appropriately, while others may overeat and feel crumby the next day. We know that regular exercise makes our blood sugars more stable; someone without diabetes may forget or not have enough motivation to exercise because they don’t feel the instant results, and thus won’t feel as energized or refreshed regularly.
Taking the time to really assess what your blood sugars are telling you, and appreciating the time to slow down and address the issue is the key not only to better health but to better diabetes management as well.
What are ways that you’ve learned to talk kinder to yourself with diabetes? Share this post and comment on your ideas below; we love hearing from our readers!