Getting started – and starting again

Starting a new, healthier life isn't easy. Find inspiration here on getting going, and how to re-start after a slip-up

July, 2017

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How do I get started on a new lifestyle when I don’t like exercise?

When you first get diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, or even if you’ve had Type 2 diabetes for a while, sooner or later someone will advise you to get more exercise. No doubt there are people who can sweat it out at the gym five times a week and say they like it, but the rest of us probably don’t do the full 150 minutes of exercise a week that the powers that be tell us we should be doing. For most of us, to stop being that comfy, curled up sofa-hugger and to start pulling on some jogging bottoms and THEN (the horror) run somewhere… that takes a big kick up the proverbial. You just wouldn’t feel like “you” having salad and grilled fish for dinner, then giving it your all at the gym. And your body would scream “What are you DOING to me?” if you made it start dancing.

But you fight on, gasping and wheezing round the park. Missing out on your favourite pizza when out for dinner, or just staying home and being “good”. And maybe you’ll even start to feel the benefits after a few weeks – suddenly, you realise that you’ve got to the top of the stairs without getting out of breath. Or your jeans feel a little less snug. Buoyed by success, you keep at it – even when it’s a bit boring – because you know you should exercise. Your doctor, nurse, and partner all said you should exercise. But be on your guard…

Your enemy: the SIM

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Then comes the SIM. The “Sod It Moment”. You’ve been so good all week, and now it’s your partner’s birthday and you’re meeting friends in the pub for a meal and a few drinks. One night off won’t hurt. And oh but the creamy pastry around your pie, and the rich red wine and crisp, fluffy chips are so amazing. And then you think, “Oh sod it, I might as well have pudding now”. And the next day you think, “Sod it, I’ve blown it now so I might as well have a fry-up” and maybe it’s raining and you think, “Sod it, I’m not going out in that, I’ll do my exercise later in the week.” And before you know it, you’re back on the sofa catching up on a TV box set, and the Indian takeaway is on speed-dial.

How do I get started again after giving up on my healthy lifestyle?

So then you’re not only back where you started – in some ways you’re worse off. Because finding motivation to live more healthily is tougher the second time around. The trick is to find the thing that “flips your switch”. This is the thought that gets you on your feet, out the door, changing your life. Remember, you don’t have to overhaul your entire life in a single day – you just need to find a way to get back into healthier habits. Here are a few ideas of how to frame it to yourself so you can get back on track:

Do I need approval from my doctor before doing exercise with Type 2 diabetes?

Before you start on any exercise program, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first. When you have Type 2 diabetes, exercise can affect your blood glucose levels, and some medications can make it more likely that your blood glucose will drop too low. Rather than guessing or hoping you’ll be OK, talk it over with a healthcare professional who knows about Type 2 diabetes so you can find the right kind of exercise program for your needs.

Do some exercise, but build it up gradually

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Even 5 minutes’ exercise is better than nothing. Once you’re on your feet, you might find you can keep going for longer than your minimal goal. You can always start small, with something achievable, and move on to something more impressive. It’s all about building healthy habits, not running a marathon on day 1.

Do some exercise, but take it easy

If the thought of a full-blown exercise session is just too much, tell yourself you’ll do it but at a gentler pace. Stop for a breather if you have to. Go for a walk rather than a spinning class. Just by moving, you’re already doing better than you would have been on the sofa.

Try looking forward

Think of how smug you’ll feel after you’ve done your exercise. That lovely warm glow of satisfaction, of feeling like you’ve done something good for yourself.

See yourself as an exerciser

There isn’t a difference between you and “people who exercise”. They’re just out there doing it. There’s nothing to stop you joining in and being one of them. Who knows – someone else might see you making a good change in your life and be inspired to do something themselves!

You don’t have to be Andy Murray

There is a middle ground between being fused to the sofa and being a peak athlete. Any improvement, however small, is an improvement for YOU. Don’t worry about what other people are achieving – let them worry about that, your focus is on your own progress.

Food

Just think about THIS meal
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A lifetime of nothing but super-healthy meals can be bit of a bleak prospect – and it’s really not necessary to go to extremes. You only have to think about the next thing you’re going to eat, and make that a healthy choice. Every day you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make healthier choices, and every positive choice will count, and will add up, and will move you forward towards an all-round healthier diet.

Think ahead

When you’re on the go and just have to grab whatever food is available, you’re unlikely to find a lot of healthy meals and snacks. It’s more reliable and convenient to plan what you’re going to eat and get in a good supply of easy, healthy options that you can take out and about with you.

Recognise the power of diet in Type 2 diabetes

What you eat is a huge component of how healthy you are and can make a massive difference to how you feel and function. By taking on goals to do with eating more healthily, you’ll be making great progress almost from the start. Having a diet that’s full of a variety of nutritious, filling foods is a huge step towards having control over your Type 2 diabetes – instead of IT having control over YOU.

Read more about dietary changes

Find your new favourite foods

If you refuse to accept that nothing can ever taste as good as your old favourite, you’ll be setting yourself up for a lifetime of feeling deprived if you don’t have it and guilty if you do. There’s a planet full of amazing food out there, there’s got to be something else you’ll love that’s also going to do you some good. Open your mind to all the possibilities. Like spice? Try learning to make your own curries with more vegetables and less fat. Like the good old British favourites? Try grilling/oven baking instead of frying, and chuck in one more type of veg.

Be clear about your goals

Woolly goals like, “I want to eat better” are difficult to achieve – how do you know when you’ve got there? You need to have something you can measure yourself against – maybe something like, “I want to eat my 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day this week”.

Be reasonable about what you can achieve

Similarly, don’t set crazy goals that will take a superhuman effort and a bit of luck to achieve. So maybe rather than, “I will lose 4 stone by Christmas”, a more realistic goal might be, “I will do some form of exercise every week until at least Christmas”.

Lifestyle

Think about how you’ll achieve your goals

It can be helpful if you set goals for yourself that are about what you will DO, rather than what you WANT. “I’m going to spend five minutes a day relaxing in silence,” for example, rather than, “I want to get my blood pressure down to 120/80”. This is because whether or not you do something is up to you, but you can’t always control all other factors involved in getting to a specific goal.

Focus on your goal

If you pick a small number of achievable goals you’re more likely to be able to keep at it over time. Trying to do everything at once and totally overhaul your life can be a bit overwhelming. Any improvement is better than none, and it doesn’t have to be extreme – even finding more time to relax can be beneficial for your health.

Have you tried our new Better Living app? Choose a health goal to work towards every day, and start building healthy habits! It’s free and easy to use, and you can choose from lifestyle, exercise, food or relaxation activities.

Learn more

Be accountable

If you share a lift to a class with a friend, or are part of a team or group, you’re more invested in going regularly because you don’t want to let people down. It’s just an added motivation to get you there – and once you’re there, that’s half the battle.