Building Your Diabetes Support Team
Diabetes can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go it alone. The theme of World Diabetes Day 2018 is “Family and Diabetes,” which has us thinking about the ways diabetes can actually help our families grow closer and healthier together. That may not have been what you thought of when you read the word diabetes, but it is true. Regular communication about our health and how we feel with those closest to us can have a positive impact for you and the ones you love.
As you look at those around you to develop your team that can help you navigate your life with diabetes, the following is a list of the people you might consider as part of your personal diabetes support team. Plus, we included some tips for talking about diabetes with the people you love.
Your Lunch Buddy
The first member of your support team, your Lunch Buddy. This is the person you count on at mealtimes. When you live with diabetes, there is no magic recipe for the perfect diet. But if you can bring someone along with you as learn about counting carbohydrates and how food affects you, it might be easier to make healthy decisions. Think about who in your life you share most of your meals with, and start small. Plan meals together, cook together, and take your time to review restaurant menus to find ideal meals.
Starting the Conversation:
- At first, finding a Lunch Buddy could be as simple as preparing an extra lunch and inviting a friend to eat it with you. Talk about why you chose the ingredients you did, and how your diabetes guides your food choices.
- As you learn more about counting carbs and identifying snacks you can enjoy, tell your Lunch Buddy about them.
- If you choose a Lunch Buddy who you sometimes cook with (or who cooks the occasional meal for you), share low-carb, high-protein meal ideas they will enjoy, too.
- If you choose a lunch buddy you work with, consider challenging each other to pick healthy meal options for each other—or take turns choosing where you will eat and talk about why it was or why it wasn’t a good choice.
Next up, your Teammate: The person who is there to help you stay active. Moderate physical activity is a must for anybody living with diabetes. Regular exercise keeps your blood sugar down by helping your muscles become more sensitive to insulin and burn sugar more easily.1 And while you may not be excited about working exercise into your daily routine, you may find that working out is more enjoyable if you have someone to work out with. Is there someone in your life who is very active, who may be able to help you commit to an exercise routine? Do you have any friends or family who enjoy the same sports as you who might be interested in getting together regularly to kick a ball around? Or maybe you know someone that is trying to lose weight or maintain their blood sugar that you like to talk to and you could start a new activity together.
Starting the Conversation:
- Start by asking your Teammate to join you for a workout—whatever that looks like to you. It could be time at the gym, a pickup basketball game, or even going for a walk. If they agree, pick a time and stick to it. For example you might ask a co-worker if they want to take a walk after lunch.
- When you are keeping active with your Teammate, look for easy opportunities to talk about how much exercise helps with your diabetes. For example, you could talk about how your workout is going to really help you make room for a good, balanced meal later.
The final (and maybe most important!) member of your support team is your trusted Confidant, the person who will be there just to listen. Make no mistake: diabetes is tough. Self-care is as much about keeping on top of your mental and emotional well-being as it is about making healthy food choices and staying active. What would it mean to you to have someone (or several people) who you can talk to when the day-to-day gets you down? If you called your parents for a few minutes every week to talk about diabetes, what would you most want to talk about? Would your siblings or cousins be able to give you good advice when it comes to fighting your late-night food cravings?
Starting the Conversation:
- You already know who you trust most in your life. Speaking to these people as your Confidants can be as easy as letting them know how you feel today, just as you did whenever you spoke before your diagnosis.
- When you need some help or advice about diabetes management, it is okay to start small. If it is too much to talk to your friend about how hard it is to skip the fries when you meet up at a restaurant, try asking if they have ever had to change their diet. Find ways to relate, and you may find the help you were looking for without having to focus on the technicalities of diabetes. • Remember to share your small wins with your Confidant! Emotional support does not have to be only about talking about your challenges; when you share your victories and joys with those you love, it can help you keep moving forward positively.
Remember, building your own personal diabetes support team does not have to be formal. Think about those people you already see and talk to on a daily basis, and how you can open up to your loved ones more often to stay on track with your new lifestyle. In turn, you may find that talking more about your own health could have a positive impact on theirs, too.
Are you ready to begin talking to your friends and family about diabetes?
Download the Family Field Guide to Living with Diabetes for some quick tips for communicating with your loved ones.
1 Gardner, Amanda. “How Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar in Type 2 Diabetes.” Health.com, Meredith Health Group, 29 Feb. 2016, www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20188779,00.html. Accessed October 23, 2018