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Lifestyle change with diabetes

Lifestyle change after double diabetes diagnosis

When does a person decide it’s time for a lifestyle change? What is the trigger that finally causes action? For me, it was when my endo told me I’m developing a type 2 diabetes. “That’s crazy, I thought! A type 1 can’t be a type 2!”.

Or can he?

Well, you can and you can’t. You can’t have type 2 diabetes, but you can have metabolic syndrome, which is the foundation upon which t2d is built on. So in effect, you as a type 1 diabetic, can have all the symptoms of type 2 diabetes except relative lack of insulin. As a t1d, you lack insulin altogether. The symptoms of metabolic syndrome include insulin resistance and abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, high serum triglycerides and low “good cholesterol” HDL levels.

According to my endocrinologist I was hitting the metabolic syndrome jackpot. DING DING DING! I was prescribed medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol and metformin too. Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases run in my family so I was really shaken up. Somehow I had thought that as a type 1 diabetic, I was safe from those conditions (except for the heart disease part, that I knew was on the horizon). I was only 28 years old and already developing these strong symptoms. This was a crisis.

I was lucky enough to be a type 1 diabetic and under regular health checks, so I got my warning signs at an early phase. I could have been diagnosed 10 years later, which would have been lot worse. After the endo’s decree, I decided to make a turn for the better. My bad lifestyle habits had to go. I had tried eating healthy earlier and doing some exercise, but I had been unsuccessful in my attempts. After a few weeks or a month, I had always failed in my lifestyle change and fallen back to my unhealthy habits.

Knowledge can make lifestyle change easier

This time around, I found out about this idea called transtheoretical model, which basically disassembles lifestyle change into phases. Once you learn about the phases, you can identify them whilst experiencing them during the change process. This insight can help you overcome the most common obstacles of each phase.

The first thing to realise is that you shouldn’t actually try do a transformative lifestyle change. It sounds like a huge decision and research has shown that it’s crazy hard to adhere to major changes. In fact, you should do one small decision at a time.  And you should make that decision an easily trackable one.

So instead of deciding “I will start working out”, you can decide “I will go for a brisk 30-minute stroll every other day”. This way you can log your exercise to the Dottli app and after a while, look back and evaluate your success. After you have been successful in this small, quantifiable decision to walk regularly, you can take up the next small decision.

And the best thing to realise is that failure is an important part of change. Everyone fails at some point during their change. Failure is natural and expected. The important part is what you do after the failure. You climb back on. You start again. Most importantly, you don’t give up.

My change is going on at year three and I have failed many times. And I have learned to have mercy on myself, forgive myself and try again. And while I still have many symptoms of metabolic syndrome, I have never been in a better shape before. I can run 10 kilometers, lift a lot of iron and enjoy life better. And I’m still a candy junkie. That’s my next small goal: I’ll eat candy only on Sundays. I promise.