Put Your Mind Towards Living the Good Life as a Diabetic

Put Your Mind Towards Living the Good Life as a Diabetic


If you want to live the good life, maintaining a great credit rating makes it easier. It’s something you constantly have to work at because it’s easy to damage and hard to repair. It’s the same constant concern if you are a Type 2 diabetic, like myself trying to live a fabulous and healthy life, but the number you are obsessed with is your A1C. This test indicates the average level of blood sugar over the past two to three months. The American Diabetes Association recommends that most people keep their A1C down to 7 percent or less. For non-diabetics it’s typically under 6. Mine fluctuates between 6.5 and 7. I want them to be lower, but for years my numbers were much, much higher. Out of control. I’d have feelings of defeat, as a result of a high A1C, but I’ve learned methods for maintaining my physical and mental health, so I’d have the strength to continue slaying.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes. African Americans and Hispanics are twice as likely to have diagnosed diabetes. It’s a serious disease that can be managed through physical activity, diet, and appropriate use of insulin and oral medication to lower blood sugar levels.

I’ve been living with Type 2 diabetes since I was pregnant with my first son, more than 11 years ago. I was 37 and classified as a woman of advanced maternal age. Both my parents were Type 2 diabetics, and it ran throughout my family on both sides. Genetics and pregnancy played a big part in me getting diabetes. Keeping it well managed has been my battle ever since. For years, I just couldn’t. My numbers were always all over the place. I felt like a failure and afraid for my future. Getting a handle on this chronic disease consumed me, and in many ways still does.

I literally cringe when people make jokes about getting or having diabetes. You hear this frequently during the holidays because of the gluttonous access to food, sweets, and carbohydrates. In fact, very few people know I’m living with it, I still secretly (and shamefully) think of it as an indictment on my character because of the stereotype that diabetics are fat, undisciplined, and lazy. (These are the same stereotypes for people with poor credit.) But the reality is living with Type 2 diabetes is a daily and often hourly thought, concern, and struggle. I’ve never had one thing take up so much room in my head and have so much control over how I function.

Something as simple as deciding when and what to eat can be a health-altering conundrum.

In the morning, before my feet hit the floor, I wonder, “What am I eating for breakfast? Do I eat before or after I workout? What am I going to eat today, period?” When I do make it down to the kitchen to make my sons’ breakfast, the first thing I reach for is my blood sugar monitoring meter, which allows me to check my blood sugar numbers throughout the day, from hour to hour, to see if my levels are on track. I prick my finger to get a tiny drop of blood to put on a test strip, and wait the 10 seconds to see what my blood sugar numbers are after sleeping and NOT eating for several hours. If my blood sugar numbers are high (as they were for many, many years), I would instantly be thrown into a horrible mood that set the tone of defeat for the rest of the day. If they were on track, I’d be inspired that I could keep them that way for at least 12 more hours.

If I ate breakfast, I agonized over what I would eat: Carbs or no carbs? Absolutely no orange juice (might as well drink pop because it’s just as much sugar). Animal fat or no? And then I’d consider my medicine (I don’t take insulin). I absolutely can’t take it on an empty stomach, but if I take it too early with food, will it make me queasy before my first meeting? And while I fix my sons’ breakfast, I’m already thinking, “What will I have for lunch?”

If I eat out during lunch meetings, I lean towards clear soups, and I always check the menu prior to arriving to see what’s available, so I can stay on track. You see, I not only think about the sugar I consume, but also the kinds of food that break down into lots of sugar. I’m married to an Italian, but I don’t eat regular pasta anymore. Go figure. I’m constantly reading labels and analyzing how my body reacts to what I put in it. And it’s not just what I eat, but when I eat. I have to time it around when I take my medicine. And I really shouldn’t eat after a certain time in the evening because of the way the food breaks down into sugar while I sleep. I can’t eat what I want whenever I want. I have to be incredibly mindful about it all. And that’s just the eating part of diabetes.

Before my day starts, I usually have either worked out or am thinking of working out. At least three times a week, its strength training and cardio or dance. When I don’t work out or am not active for days, weeks, OK months, my numbers sure as hell show it. Yoga, Pilates, and swimming have rounded out my routine, after I learned how these activities help reduce the cortisol levels in my body. I discovered something lots of Type 2 diabetics may not know, insanely high cortisol levels in my body make it hard for insulin to work. And for years, I never knew that the way I manage my stress has positively affected my numbers. Self-care is critical to managing my diabetes. When I don’t “woo-sah,” my numbers show it.

After years of struggling and seeing four doctors, I finally found the right endocrinologist for me. He helped me understand all of my numbers, lifestyle, habits, and genetic background. It’s not just about cutting/counting carbs and cardio. In addition, he listened to my goals and designed a specific treatment plan that’s working for me. I see him every three to six months, depending on how well controlled my numbers are. And we’re always tweaking it. He believes that one size does not fit all when it comes to treating Type 2 diabetes. (The right advisor can also help you achieve and maintain your individual financial goals.)

I work hard to live the good life, and millions of other diabetics can too, if they put their mind to it.

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Contributing Author: Regina Carswell Russo

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