Inside diabetes – what it does and how it happens
Learn more about what's really going on in your body when you have Type 2 diabetes
When you’re measuring out a precise ration of foodstuffs for what seems like the hundredth time that week, or lying on the sofa feeling like you really should be out doing something active, and your partner is telling you again that you should probably be testing your blood glucose about now… well it can feel like you’re living by everybody else’s rules. Life is reduced to either being:
It doesn’t feel like much of a choice when it seems like the world is saying, “Eat salad or something terrible will happen!”, or you think that the only way to be healthy is to eat plain veg and go for a miserable jog while your friends are at the pub having a great time without you.
When you’re diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you should get some help from a dietician or diabetes specialist nurse, so you know that healthy doesn’t HAVE to mean boring. But it’s still a mental hurdle to overcome – some people feel like they have to say goodbye to all the things that made their life pleasurable, and find the prospect of life without those things rather underwhelming.
We wrote this website to help you get over that hurdle, and start to see healthy living with Type 2 diabetes as a “work in progress”, something that is for you, and something that will help you get more out of life.
Taking charge of your diabetes doesn’t have to be about what other people want you to do; it doesn’t have to rule your life. It might be more useful to think about diabetes as something that’s a part of you, and most importantly something you have some control over. There are definitely lots of things you can do yourself to improve your health, and help keep diabetes in its place. You are the one in charge of your body, what you put into it and what you do with it – Type 2 diabetes does not control you!
A lot of people with diabetes struggle to manage their diet and exercise and blood glucose monitoring. Nobody gets it right 100% of the time. A group of researchers carried out a survey of people with diabetes in 2012 to find out why they found dealing with the practicalities of diabetes so difficult – here are some of the reasons they reported.
For some people it’s a case of just not understanding all the complicated advice and guidelines. It seems like every week there are different news stories saying, “Fat is bad!” then, “Fat is good, sugar is bad!” then, “THIS kind of sugar is ok but THAT kind is bad!” How on earth do you make sense of it all? Apparently, it’s not just us mere mortals who get confused by healthy living advice – even experts are often debating about what exactly is healthy and what isn’t.
The good news is that there is no such thing as a “diabetic diet” – what’s healthy for people with Type 2 diabetes is healthy for everyone else. We all pretty much know the basics – we know vegetables are good for us and deep-fried battered chocolate bars aren’t. Taking small steps in the right direction is a great start, and you can find some more information and ideas on this website.
“I feel alright, my diabetes can’t be that bad.”
“One little biscuit isn’t going to do me much harm”
“Oh, I should get some of those blood testing strips. I’ll do it next week.”
If you’ve ever heard yourself saying anything like this, you’ll recognise that feeling of pretending that diabetes isn’t happening, not taking it seriously, and trying to minimise its effect on your life. Trouble is, by leaving diabetes to its own devices it can really get a hold of your health and start making you suffer for it. It’s time to show diabetes who’s boss. (Clue: it’s you. Not the doctor, pharmacist, nurse, internet, daytime telly presenter, bloke from the pub or the medicine manufacturers.)
Meet Derek*. Derek has Type 2 diabetes. He feels that he must do as he’s told, and cannot enjoy himself in any way. Derek often feels like no-one actually asks HIM about how HE feels and what HE wants to do. Type 2 diabetes has made life pretty boring.
Getting that diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes can make some people feel like Derek – your whole identity can alter overnight, and you can start to think of yourself in a different way. It takes time to change how you think of yourself, to accept a new kind of “normal”. Some people feel very alone with their condition, as if no-one else understands. Others say that they’re not treated like a person anymore – all anyone talks about with them is diabetes: it becomes their identity.
Don’t forget, though, that diabetes doesn’t change who you are. You still have all the same thoughts, feelings, opinions, memories, friends and family you always had. It’s just that now, you are going about things in a slightly different way. It doesn’t mean giving up fun or treats – Type 2 diabetes could be the opportunity to make life MORE fun, by being more active, more social, more adventurous in the kitchen. It could be the start of a whole new lease of life!
Some people in the Diabetes UK survey said that diabetes makes them feel like a slave.
“[My diabetes] is like a tax collector, pushy, arrogant, always present… it has persecuted me for four years and still does.”
It’s important to remember that you are the one who decides what to eat and what to do. No-one likes having to do something they feel they’re being forced to do. But if you think about it as making a conscious, positive decision to live well and live long, it takes the focus off the diabetes monster, and puts YOU in the driving seat.
You are the only person who can get in control of your health, and you are the person who will feel better if you do. You must have had times in the past when things were tough, or when you had to do something you didn’t want to do. If you’ve got through that, you can get through this too. The diabetes monster is no match for someone with determination who puts their own health as top priority.
Although diabetes can sometimes be tough, there are still a lot of things that you can do for yourself that will help reduce the damaging effects and increase your wellbeing. It’s not about obeying the rules – it’s about being in control, making choices that bring YOU benefits, finding changes you can live with that help you feel good. Don’t take action against Type 2 diabetes because you’re told to – do it because you’re important, you’re capable, and you deserve it.
*Derek is not a real patient and is intended for illustrative purposes only.