PEOPLE diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (T2D) are used to being handed a long list of dos and don’ts. Now, they are being warned to keep healthy or risk falling seriously ill if they catch coronavirus. Together, this can feel overwhelming.
Dr Amir Khan was interviewed as part of the Make T2D Different campaign, which has been developed and funded by Novo Nordisk. Speaking in support of this campaign, he says: “Often patients are given lots of leaflets about what they should and shouldn't be doing. Do this, don’t do that. Do more exercise, change your diet.”
“We know this can be incredibly overwhelming for people with diabetes. We talk about ‘lifestyle’ changes, but someone’s lifestyle may not always have been their choice and the advice dished out is not always applicable to everyone.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you have T2D, making even small changes to your routine could make you healthier – and happier.
“The aim of this campaign is to provide a more personalised approach to managing type 2 diabetes and to encourage people to make small changes that are less daunting but can make a big difference” Dr Khan says.
“People might think they have to cut out carbohydrates or make a radical change to what they eat. That might be achievable in the short-term, but in the long-term you may end up back at square one, with your blood sugars uncontrolled again. Sadly, this also makes people feel as though they’ve failed and that can be disheartening.”
Dr Khan says that another reason that even small lifestyle changes can make a big difference is because they could help to tackle something called “insulin resistance”, which causes high blood sugar for many people with T2D.
He supports a four-step plan, which could help you make and stick to small changes, to help better manage the condition.
STEP 1: SELF-ASSESSMENT
Work out what you would like to change. To do that, think about what areas of your life you are happy with and the parts of your lifestyle that could be healthier.
Maybe you could think about your eating or exercise habits, or even your mood or the amount of sleep you get. To get you started, maybe identify two to three areas to prioritise, rather than trying to change everything at once.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY GOALS
Whatever you decide to change, these are your goals, so they should fit with your lifestyle and what is achievable for you on a day to day basis. Making them small and specific enough to be realistic and going step by step is important. Setting yourself a timeframe may also keep you motivated.
Think about why you want to achieve this goal. Is it because you want to be fit enough to play football with your kids or grandkids, or well enough to care for elderly parents? This is the motivation that will keep you going.
Dr Khan says, “for a doctor like me to suggest 30 minutes of exercise, five mornings a week, is no good if you already feel there are not enough hours in the day.”
Making small changes is important. If you can’t go for a walk five times a week, maybe once a week is enough initially. The goals have to be right for you. Be specific. Trying to overhaul all of your meals might not be achievable, but perhaps changing one meal a day is.
If people with type 2 diabetes keep motivated, they are likely to see results and when that happens they may be inspired to make further changes. It might be that you take just one unhealthy item off the weekly shopping list.
STEP 3: MAKE SMALL CHANGES
Think practically about the small changes you need to make to be able to achieve these goals.
When will you do your extra walk? Can you get off the bus one stop early or walk your child to school once a week? Could you march on the spot when the adverts come on in the middle of your favourite programme?
It is no use planning long exercise routines that you don't actually have time for, as they may be harder to stick to.
Make a shopping list rather than walking into a supermarket without a plan. Perhaps you want to reduce processed food and cook from scratch two or three times a week. If so, what nights will you do this, and what ingredients do you need?
If you want to go to bed at 10pm, you could make a plan for achieving this, by planning meal times or making sure you record any favourite programmes that start or end after your bedtime.
STEP 4: TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Keeping a diary can be a great way to track your progress. This could be as simple as making a note of how you feel at the end of the day.
Maybe you are sleeping better or have lost weight. Maybe you have more energy.
If you don't achieve it that week, don't worry. You shouldn’t beat yourself up about it.
Just start again the next week and try to think about where and why you found it difficult.
If you are struggling – and most people may struggle at some stage or another, that is only normal – remind yourself of all the reasons you started on this journey in the first place.
The most important thing is to stay motivated, be kind to yourself and celebrate your achievements when you notice the changes you’ve made making a difference to how you feel, both mentally and physically.
Dr. Khan encourages you to speak to your doctor or nurse with any questions or concerns related to your Type 2 Diabetes and how to manage it.
For more information about how you can make small changes to help to manage your T2D, or to download your own goal-setting guide containing information to help put these four steps into practice, and a tracker you can use to record your progress, as part of the Make T2D Different campaign, visit novonordisk.co.uk/MakeT2Ddifferentforyou.
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