How your mind can help fight diabetes

Your state of mind helps when it comes to diabetes control — read on for tips on how to build your self-confidence to better manage your condition

What does confidence have to do with controlling diabetes? Plenty! Research has taught us a few things about the role confidence plays in diabetes control.

A person’s confidence in his or her ability to change their behaviour - like eating more fruits and vegetables and walking daily - is a predictor of whether that person will reach his or her goals. Several studies show that people who believe in their ability to lose weight tend to lose more weight than those who don’t.

The good news is that confidence can be learned.

People have different levels of confidence when it comes to diabetes control. You may feel confident that you can eat more fruits and vegetables, but not at all confident about turning down dessert at a restaurant. Other people may feel confident about being able to increase their activity level by walking more, but not feel confident about their ability to add weight training to their programme.

"Great!" you say. "My health is important to me, and I want to control my diabetes! Where can I get some of this confidence?" The not-so-easy answer is - it comes from you.

Becoming Confident

Taking two important steps will help you boost your confidence:

  1. Believe that change is important for you in the first place.
  2. Believe that you can learn new and healthier eating and activity patterns. You can do it! You are at the centre of this change. It’s not up to fate, your boss, your family, your upbringing, or your gene pool. It’s up to you.

Acquiring the confidence to change the old for the new happens in different ways for different people. Here are some ways for you to discover and cultivate your own confidence to change.

Go for it: Success breeds confidence. A good way to boost your confidence to make lifestyle changes is to do exactly what it is that you think you can’t do. You’ll see that you have what it takes. If you’re not feeling confident about getting out for a brisk walk, try it for just one day.

Build on your past successes and failures. Think back on earlier attempts to control your glucose levels. What success did you have, and what contributed to that success? What did you learn from that experience? What obstacles kept you from going down the path to your goals?

Be a copycat. Find role models and imitate their behaviour. See a person turn down dessert at a restaurant? Try it yourself. There’s power in saying, "If they can do it, I can do it!"

Listen to what others say about you. Positive comments and words of encouragement from friends and family can boost your confidence and your resolve to change. Listen to yourself, too, if your self-talk is positive and constructive.

Giving It a Try

Change is all about doing. It helps to read about confidence and ways to improve one’s level of confidence to try new things. It’s better to use what you read. Do something with it. What can you do to boost your confidence to make healthier food choices and get more physical activity?

Emotions and diabetes

Emotions can be powerful, and for many of us, they can make us eat. Food can be comforting, but it can also prevent you from tackling your diabetes.

You may be thinking, if emotional eating is so deeply engrained, can anything be done to change it? Follow the AAA strategy: Be Aware, Avoid Triggers, and Look for Alternatives. Here’s how this tool can help:

Be Aware. Be aware and alert in situations that trigger your emotions and do not let the emotions of the moment make you forget your goals. Pause and ask yourself whether the short-term comfort of uncontrolled eating, or missing your planned exercise, is worth the long-term impact on your diabetes control programme.

Avoid Triggers. Obviously, you can’t avoid all situations that trigger you to compromise your goals. But you can avoid some people who push your emotional buttons and stress you out. And if you’re stressed out from having too many balls in the air, let one or two drop and take some time for yourself.

Look for Alternatives. When you can’t avoid the situations that trigger emotional responses, you can look for better ways to respond to them. Write in your journal and describe the situation that pushed your buttons. Make a change in your physical activity, try meditation: even a warm bath is better than beer and chips. If your emotional state calls for food, however, be ready. Make sure you have healthy snacks in your fridge and cupboard, or just eat a very small portion of the food you’re craving.