“Okay, so I know I should do it. I know it will decrease my blood sugar. I know it will burn more calories. It’s supposed to improve my circulation, cholesterol, triglyericdes and A1c. Rumor says it will even make me feel better. I know, I know, I know! Go ahead—blame me for not doing it!”
Of course the “it” to which we are referring is “exercise.”
Talk about self-abuse. As if having diabetes isn’t tough enough! This kind of thinking actually reflects the guilt many Americans—with or without diabetes—feel about not exercising. It’s not that we don’t want to feel, look and be healthier. It’s just that changing your habits is not that easy.
Getting From Here to There
Negative messages about exercise can be powerful when we regularly repeat them in our own minds. Consider how often we:
- catch an unbecoming glance in the mirror
- are shaken by another high blood-glucose reading on our meter
- struggle to zip up a pair of ill-fitting pants.
Even well-meaning friends and family bug us “for our own good” and cause that dull anger and frustration to well up. So why not just break the mirror, throw our meters away, buy a new pair of pants or tell everyone to mind their own business? You could and some people do. This, however, does not allow for change in our lifestyle that we know is necessary.
But how do we get from here to there?
The STAR Principle
The following STAR principle is a way to change the “I should” to “I can.”
Here are some guidelines to help your mind and body start exercising:
Here’s your mind’s chance to switch tracks from negative, blaming self-talk to positive, affirming and encouraging self-talk.
The body follows what the brain believes, and we act in accordance with our views of ourselves. If you see yourself as a non-exerciser, why would you exercise? If you see yourself having no time to exercise, why even try?
Replace that thought process with positive messages like “I can do this,” “I can do this for five minutes” or “This will be easy and I will get it out of the way.” Your mind and body in cooperation are unstoppably powerful. Use the self-talk to your advantage. Would you be as mean to your best friend as you are to yourself? Recall that little engine that could? You can, too! I think I can. I think I can. I think I can! Make it your mantra.
We all need help, especially when starting something new. Team-Up refers to our need to find others to validate and supplement our new self-talk. Wisely select a few people in your life to act as your exercise cheerleaders. Find people who will encourage you in the way you need encouragement and when you need it. Even better, find a friend or family member who will literally team up with you, joining you in your chosen exercise.
Verbal encouragement is also a wonderful gift that you may need to ask for from those who truly care about you. An example of “teaming-up” follows:
Cecelia has diabetes. She and her friend Jenny both taught kindergarten and had busy lives outside of work. They also knew that both their friendship and health would benefit from exercising together. They agreed to take daily walks at lunchtime, and held each other accountable. It may have been only 20 minutes of walking, but after doing this three to four days a week over several months, both women lost weight and felt better. Cecelia had much better feedback from her blood-glucose meter, A1c and doctor.
Teaming up helps keep us accountable when our self-talk isn’t working.
You’ve begun the self-talk and you’ve asked your friend to be your exercise teammate or verbal encourager. Now what?
Create an exercise-action plan that will work for your body and your lifestyle. If you hate jogging, don’t do it! Your body is not your doctor, son or sister-in law’s body. It is yours and it deserves individual attention and a plan of its own.
Try walking briskly, maybe just going to the mail box every morning. Or, perhaps run by jogging a block and walking a block. If you used to enjoy playing tennis, sign up for a community class.
If you know that you are exhausted after work, try getting up 30 minutes earlier three days a week, and riding your bike around the neighborhood. Baby steps will get you going. Push yourself, but not so much that you punish yourself. This action will take some self-discipline, but is doable. Persistence pays dividends, and is the best investment you can make in your future.
Pat yourself on the back with each and every effort you make. How do you want to reward yourself for this very important job of exercising? Plan this part ahead as well. It could simply be done by saying a nice word to yourself, going to a movie, having some quiet time for that new novel, watching TV or making a long-distance call to an old friend. A sugar-free fudgesicle might be in order too!
Celebrate the first time you walk, and the second and the third. Try not to do it with food, if possible, unless you can fit it into your meal plan.
The STAR principle can help you develop new habits and ease into better exercise. It is necessary, however, to think about and plan your personal strategies for each of the four steps.
Positive self-talk will lead you to positive “self-walk” and a better exercise routine. In no time you will change the thoughts “I know I should” into “I’m really doing it” and start feeling better.