Staying Motivated With Diabetes Part 2

You’ve successfully resisted the urge to eat that slice of cake. You’ve remembered to check your blood sugar that extra time. Maybe you’ve resisted and remembered for days, or weeks. Perhaps you now think that you’ve figured out how to keep yourself motivated in dealing with your diabetes. Actually, you’re just getting started.

Keeping motivated isn’t about days or weeks. It’s about years. In the last installment of this series, we sketched out some of the challenges of dealing with diabetes — both type 1 and type 2 — on this extended time scale. We also looked at an Israeli study that provided compelling proof about the benefits of aggressive treatment to keep us motivated and engaged.

But how do those two things work together? How do the challenges of maintaining self motivation interact with the real benefits that it provides us?

To answer that question, we should take a look at a study, published last year in the journal Chronic Illness, that offers a different take on the issue of self-motivation.

This study was simply observational: It asked 77 people questions about their diabetes and the measures they took to control it. Importantly, patients were asked about their level of self-care first. This gave researchers a baseline for subsequent questions: They knew which patients took care of themselves, and which didn’t.

The subjects were then asked about their level of motivation, how much they knew about their disease, what the current state of their health was, and how much social support they received.

Each one of those topics had the potential to affect how well the patients managed their illness.
But only one topic counted: motivation. Motivation was the only variable that made a difference in how well patients ate or checked their blood sugar.

Another win for motivation, right?

Well, yes and no. While the researchers, all from the University of Missouri, acknowledged the effect of motivation, they wrote, “Individuals in this study had difficulty in maintaining self-care demands, especially exercise. Meeting recommended levels of self-care activity was challenging.”

In other words, motivation works. But it doesn’t mean that the challenges of diabetes recede or that we ever fully master the disease. And the researchers also showed that simply educating ourselves or having the support of others doesn’t matter as much as we might think. What really matters comes from inside us, not from any outside source.

In the next and final installment of this series, we’ll give some tips on simple ways to increase your motivation as you manage diabetes.

If you have any thoughts about the series so far, please leave a comment below.


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