Spring feels like it is getting ready to spring. I bet most of us wish it had already
sprung. This time of year is always my
favorite. It is a time of birth, growth,
future planning and playing. I enjoy
every aspect of spring. Recently,
gardening has been a focus at my home.
We are learning much about planting, pruning, and process. My 3-year-old is enthralled. Nearly every day we check on our flowers and
measure how much they have grown. It
makes me nostalgic about the little girl I am teaching and how fast she too is
growing. This week, while watering the
plants, I started to think about growth and diabetes. Those thoughts lead me to consider a personal
health check-up. How am I growing in my
care? How is my knowledge expanding as
my experience broadens? How am I
cleaning out the old and implementing the new to make sure my care and practice
are relevant? Have you thought about these
things? Maybe this notion could be a
version of spring-cleaning for your diabetes.
If we were to do a personal check up, where should we
That is a tough question to answer. I often find success approaching things in a
systematic manner. With that in mind,
let’s start with some general health questions and then move to a systematic
approach of our every day life with diabetes.
The first questions on most personal health check-ups relate
to smoking. Do you smoke? Why do you smoke? How often do you smoke? Have you tried to stop smoking? Do you want to stop smoking?
If you smoke, you should do everything you can to stop. It is well proven in scientific literature
that smoking is dangerous and a risky behavior.
Next, if you have diabetes, do you test your blood
sugar? How often do you test? When do you test? Is there anything that keeps you from
These questions help establish the basics about your pattern
and personal approach to living with your chronic disease. If you don’t test, start! If you test infrequently or inconsistently,
talk with your healthcare professionals about new strategies. Knowledge of glucose levels, patterns and
trends is essential to success with diabetes.
Now, do you exercise?
How often do you exercise? When
do you exercise? Do you enjoy
exercising? What exercises do you
enjoy? What is most challenging about
exercise in your personal scenario?
These are always tough questions to answer. Exercise is often the most challenging
personal health behavior. It takes time
and effort, qualities that are often scarce in our schedules. However, we know from diabetes research that
exercise is crucial to good diabetes management. Exercise can come in all different
forms. It doesn’t have to be intense, it
doesn’t have to in large time blocks, it simply must happen. If this is a stumbling block in your health
check-up, I encourage you to think about how you can strategize and implement
small steps to modify your approach to exercise.
The next general assessment or inventory relates to
food. Argh! I can hear the sighs now. I understand and am with you. Food management, preparation and modification
are major challenges. I struggle with
this daily! What are you eating? Do you eat 5 fruits and vegetables a
day? Do you eat three balanced meals a
day? Do you eat snacks? Do you skip meals?
These general questions will reveal plenty about your
habits. For diabetes to be optimally
managed, one must have a level of culinary consistency. That means, eating at nearly the same time
each day, balancing all meals, incorporating fresh produce and planning. Does it seem unreasonable or overwhelming? I know at times it can. This is my major impediment to care. I don’t plan my meals well and often get in
patterns that lack the proper balance and nutrition proportion.
So, from my perspective, those are the big general categorical
questions in starting a health check-up or health assessment. However, it is important to recognize that
true diabetes mastery requires a detailed approach to personal care.
With that philosophy in mind, let’s look at our daily
routine and see if there are places that need to be cleaned up a little.
A good place to start with the assessment is a diabetes
journal. A record of actions,
activities, meals, times, etc. will show so much. It will also be an invaluable resource for
your next meeting with your healthcare team.
The journal doesn’t have to be fancy. Any kind of notebook will work. Start with your earliest actions…what time do
you wake up, what is your blood sugar, what did you eat for breakfast, what
medication did you take, how did you feel?
After the starting questions, consider your daily routine
and chart your activities and actions for several days. Once you get information, you can then begin
to spring clean. You will probably find
that you are like most people, you eat far more than you think and you exercise
far less than you wish you should. You
will also detect patterns of laziness and even hormone fluctuations. The best diabetes patient has a good
knowledge of how their body works. (I am
trying to restart my efforts of creating a diabetes journal.) I know the
process seems, even feels daunting.
Start slow and build up to your ideal.
Eventually, an ideal record would have listings and logs of
blood sugar readings, food intake, medication delivery, emotional health,
exercise and health professional visits/encounters. Don’t forget to include lab reports in your
book as well.
Once you have your data, you will be completely prepared to
take your diabetes care to a new level.
Your check-up will reveal opportunities for growth. Maybe you need new types of treatment, maybe
it is a new perspective on life with diabetes, or maybe you need support.
So, if you are thinking that you are doing just fine with
you diabetes care, I encourage you to still check yourself. Think about exercise and the philosophy of
plateauing. Even the best and most
successful routines lose their effectiveness over time.
We all should take advantage of the opportunity to grow in
this growing season. What are you going