- Set your expectations correctly. Give yourself about two years to master your diabetes. Mastering your diabetes is a lot like skiing: It takes just a day to get started but years to get good at it.
- Go with the flow. The process of mastery is not only long but cyclic, too. There are times of great satisfaction and times of great frustration. When you’re succeeding, pat yourself on the back for all of your hard work-you deserve good health. When you’re frustrated, honor that emotion. Just keep working at it until you bust through to the next level. Expect setbacks along the road. Sometimes you’ll even think that you’re regressing and getting worse.
- Contact people who can help you. Unfortunately 95% of people with diabetes are not seeing a specialist. You can’t get good advice from people who don’t know about diabetes any more than you can squeeze blood from a turnip. Find out the qualifications of those you entrust with your health. Ask questions such as, “When was the last diabetes seminar you attended and what did you learn?” Ask for references. Interview some of their patients with diabetes. Don’t hesitate to speak up for yourself or bring someone who will-mother, daughter, brother or friend. Write down your questions. If you want to eat pumpkin pie, ask a dietitian to help you figure it out. You are the consumer; spend your healthcare dollars wisely.
- 4. Read books that can help you. Don’t rely completely on your doctor or your diabetes care team. Diabetes care is changing very quickly and you need to read to stay informed. In the past five years alone major changes have affected diet, insulin, and insulin delivery, and blood testing. Pump therapy and the management of type 2 diabetes have also undergone big changes.
- Don’t go looking for trouble. If you have diabetes you need to test your blood sugar regularly. When your blood sugar is consistently over 180 mg/dl, it starts to damage body tissues. This is how beef jerky is made, by curing meat in sugar. Years of high blood sugar can cross link your proteins and weaken your body.
- Become street smart about foods and exercise. You need to become an expert about these things. Here are some questions everyone needs to find answers for: How much carbohydrate, how much fat and how much protein is in this food? How fast will it raise my blood sugar? How much fruit can I eat and when? Do I know how to count carbohydrates? How much insulin should I take if I exercise? Which kind of insulin should I be using? Should I be on an “intensive insulin therapy?”
- Join a group. Admit that you might want support. Ask around for an existing meeting or start you own. There are good books about starting support groups. I just heard two great names: a type I women’s group that goes by “Don’t Call Us Honey!” and some pump-using women who call themselves “Babes on Pumps.” These people feel absolutely great about what they are doing.
There you have it-7 steps to mastering diabetes. I’m sure there are more, but I’m out of room.