More than 30 million people in the United States today live with diabetes—an astounding 9.4% of the U.S. population, according to the CDC. As a Certified Diabetes Educator, I know first-hand that living with diabetes is challenging. Ideally, you have to eat healthily, monitor your blood glucose levels (BGL), exercise, and more. Most of the time, the small changes people with diabetes make to improve their health go unnoticed. I think it’s time to change that.
According to a recent survey sponsored by LifeScan, Inc., over half of diabetes patients reported that if a loved one recognized their everyday effort in managing their diabetes, it would motivate them to increase their efforts to live a healthier lifestyle.1 Recognition is a simple thing. It could come in the form of a “good job!” or a hug, maybe even a high five. That high five can make all the difference—even if it’s for something seemingly small and insignificant.
That’s because small changes lead to big success, and I am a firm believer that success breeds success. It’s incredibly important to empower people with diabetes to continue making small changes in their daily lives.
What are small changes?
A small change is exactly as it sounds, something gradual that you can build upon over time. It doesn’t mean you should plan to run a marathon tomorrow or drastically change your diet in a day. Start with setting small, achievable goals that you can stick with. Once you start reaching or surpassing them, set even higher ones! Soon enough, you’ll see how all those small changes add up.
So what are some examples?
1. Monitor your diet
It can be as simple as eating healthy and watching your food intake. Write down what you’re eating and make small adjustments to your diet that will improve your health. For example, try swapping one snack per day that isn’t necessarily healthy with fruit or vegetables.
2. Wear a pedometer
Another great first step in improving your health is wearing a pedometer and tracking the number of steps you take per day. Know what your long-term goal is and work your way, slowly, to that goal. For example, if you normally walk 500 steps a day, try walking 550 the next day. Maybe one day, you can build your way up to the recommended number of 10,000 steps.
3. Build up your daily steps
Find ways in your daily routine to get more steps in. Maybe opt to take the stairs over the elevator. If you’re running a nearby errand, try walking instead of driving. The next time you drive somewhere, try parking a little bit farther away from your destination location. For example, if you usually park right in front of the movie theater, try parking a few yards farther away. These are great ways to help you build up your daily steps. If you live in a city and don’t normally drive, work towards walking to a destination instead of taking local transportation.
4. Monitor your blood glucose levels
Blood glucose testing with meters is a great way to help people see how these small changes can affect their blood sugar levels. This form of testing (also called Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose) is the most accurate, effective, and accessible way people with diabetes can track their blood sugars, and is standard of care in managing diabetes. People living with diabetes can also use meters that connect to apps so they can share their progress with their loved ones and healthcare providers.
5. Stay hydrated
Drinking water helps to control your blood glucose levels. It’s even recommended to drink 2 liters of water a day—sometimes, your body’s cravings for something sweet can be your mind also telling you that you need to consume more water. For example, take a reusable water bottle with you everywhere; it’ll be a small reminder to take a sip throughout the day.
Always speak with your doctor before you make any changes to diet, exercise, or diabetes management routine; it’s important to have an open dialogue with your care team about your diabetes management.
Celebrate the small victories that move you forward
Encouraging people to make these small changes, these small victories, is key to helping them better manage their diabetes. That’s why I am excited about the OneTouch® #SmallVictories campaign.
In honor of National Diabetes Awareness Month in November, LifeScan, the makers of the OneTouch® brand, launched an initiative to change the way we recognize our loved ones by honoring people with diabetes across the country with in-person surprises.
For example, Franklyn Abbott is a 74-year-old Miami resident who has been living with type 2 diabetes for 20 years. Although generally hesitant with new technologies, he embraced the use of his OneTouch Verio Flex® meter and Reveal® app, to help him track and share his progress with loved ones and his doctor. To recognize Franklyn’s achievement and hard work, when he crossed the finish line at the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out Walk in Jacksonville, Florida for the first time, and with his wife at his side, Franklyn was congratulated with a huge surprise confetti celebration for his efforts.
And all the way in San Diego, California, Sally Schwaesdall, who lives with type 2 diabetes attended the Taking Control of Your Diabetes (TCOYD) class. She has become more proactive about her diabetes care, testing her blood glucose levels as her doctor recommended, 3-4 times a day and walking 8-miles almost every day. What she didn’t expect was to be called on stage at the event by her own endocrinologist, TCOYD’s co-founder Dr. Steve Edelman, and celebrated for her efforts with fanfare by the audience. Both of these small victories deserved to be celebrated, and as a result, both Franklyn and Sally feel more motivated than ever to continue living healthier lifestyles.
Even though National Diabetes Awareness Month is over, that doesn’t mean the celebrations should end! It’s time to help prevent people living with diabetes from feeling so alone in their diabetes management. As we head into the holidays and New Year, I invite you to recognize the accomplishments of your own or of others living with diabetes on social media, using the hashtag #SmallVictories.