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New Year, New You
Tips for resolving to take care of your health


by Lynn Baillif

Every year, Americans make New Year’s resolutions, which unfortunately often go by the wayside before February begins. Why not make this year different? Resolve to take better care of yourself!

These tips will help you fine tune your diabetes self care and stick with your plan.

1. Build Your Team

A woman squeezes the muscle on her arm with a triumphant smile on her face.You are the main player on your diabetes care team and you must carefully choose the others. Your physician, nurse and dietitian should be strong members. A primary care physician can be a great help in caring for your diabetes. An endocrinologist, however, who is focused specifically on diabetes can also assume this role. These specialists have advanced training in diabetes care and are more likely to be aware of new treatments. For the same reasons, select a nurse and a dietitian who are certified diabetes educators (CDEs). Ask your doctor for a referral to an educator near you or go to http://www.diabeteseducator.org and search for those in your state. If you already have your basic team in place, consider adding other members such as a pharmacist, exercise specialist or psychologist, depending on your goals.

Your diabetes team can provide you with medical care, ongoing diabetes education and support. Unfortunately, less than one-third of people with diabetes ever have a formal diabetes education course. Take advantage of this resource. It will be easier to stick to your resolution with a team. If you had education many years ago, now is a good time for a refresher course. I recommended that after you have completed your initial education program you follow-up with your educators at least annually to reassess your diabetes control. Most insurance plans including Medicare will pay for diabetes education. Contact your insurance provider or ask a certified educator for information on what is covered.

2. Be Specific

Resolving to “take better care of my diabetes” can be an overwhelming prospect because it encompasses so many tasks. Find your resolution with the help of your team. Take some time to think about specifically what you want to accomplish. Some examples are: better blood sugar readings, weight loss, lowering your cholesterol, or, if you have recently lost vision, you may want to be able to do your diabetes self care tasks independently.

3. Set Yourself Up to Succeed

State your resolution as a goal that is reasonable, measurable and attainable. If you plan to lose weight, saying “I want to lose a lot of weight” is vague and “I will lose 150 pounds” may be just too much. But, “I will lose one or two pounds a week 80 percent of the time” is more realistic. That way, you can keep track of your progress and have room for the weeks when you do not lose weight. You may decide to restate your resolution as the year progresses. Ask your team for ideas.

4. Plan for Behavior Change

It will take many specific behaviors to meet your goal. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you may need to do some or all of the following: adopt a new meal plan, increase your activity, plan for and limit episodes of low blood sugar, and adjust medication doses as your weight drops. This is where your team comes in handy. As a team you will work together to make these things happen.

5. Plan for Challenges

What will you do to stick to your resolution when you go on vacation or when the Valentine’s Day chocolates show up? Planning with these situations in mind will make them easier to deal with when. As with your goal, be realistic with yourself. Maybe you can have two pieces of chocolate and throw the rest of the box away. Although your mother may have said “waste not, want not”, it is really okay to do this.

6. Seek Support

You can’t do it all alone. Your diabetes team will give you support, but you also need people in your daily life to be there for you. Ask a family member or close friend to attend education sessions with you. Afterwards, they can support you in your efforts. It can also help to get support from other people with diabetes who share your experiences. The Diabetes Action Network of the National Federation of the Blind is an excellent resource. You can also ask your team if there is a diabetes support group in your area.

7. Gather Resources

Stock your diabetes tool box with the information and devices you need. You are currently reading an excellent resource. Read Voice of the Diabetic cover to cover to gather all of the information you can! You can also read Diabetes Self-Management available on NFB-NEWSLINE®. If you’re losing vision, there are many accessible devices, like a talking scale and insulin measurement tools that will help. For information about resources, call the National Center for the Blind at (410) 659-9314 or visit http://www.nfb.org.

8. Think Positively

Your thoughts can support your behavior change or sabotage it. If you slip up don’t beat yourself up. Tomorrow is another day to try again. Avoid using the word “cheat” because it can make you feel guilty or like a failure. Realize that over the year things won’t always go the way you would like and that’s okay. Do your best, and ask for help when you need it.

9. Reward Yourself

We all need positive reinforcement and praise for our hard work. Plan your rewards in advance to provide you with motivation. Reward yourself for your progress throughout the year rather than just waiting until you have reached your long-term goal. With the weight loss example, you could do something nice for yourself with every ten pounds you lose, but don’t let it defeat your goal. Rather than celebrating with an ice cream sundae, buy yourself a non-food treat or treat yourself to a special activity like seeing a show or concert. When you reach your long-term goal, give yourself a bigger reward like new clothes.

Regardless of what your New Year entails, we at the Voice wish you and your family a joyous and peaceful 2008. We hope this year the Voice will help you to uncomplicate your diabetes.

Lynn BaillifAbout the Author
Lynn Baillif has been a registered dietitian for 15 years and a certified diabetes educator for 7 years. She has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind since 1987 when she was a national scholarship winner.