How to organize your home for diabetes management
There are two ways people who manage their diabetes well can make their diabetes self-care even better:
- Set up your environment for success
- Practice healthy habits
We tend to think people who do something well do so because they are highly motivated and/or have lots of willpower. But that is not necessarily true. An environment that supports the actions you want to take can make a positive difference. And while willpower is great, it is a finite resource; it will run out.
Think about it this way. Keeping your toothbrush in the bathroom makes brushing your teeth much easier than if you kept your toothbrush in your garage, right? That is an example of setting up your home to support the healthy habit of brushing your teeth regularly.
Setting up your home and work environments to support your desired actions helps you take those actions more easily. Regular repetition of these actions become habits, and habits require little thought or effort.
Let’s look at a some ways you can turn your home into a place that supports healthier behaviors. Also, I’ll share some habits other people with diabetes that they say are responsible for their good diabetes management have developed.
Because healthy eating is a cornerstone to being healthy with diabetes, the foods in your kitchen significantly determine your health. It is much easier to reach for a healthy snack or prepare a healthy meal when you have healthy foods in your pantry, cabinets and refrigerator.
Do a sweep and take most of the bagged and boxed foods and sugar-sweetened drinks out of your house. Particularly those that are refined carbohydrates like chips, canned fruit in sweet syrup and anything with a long list of ingredients, most of which you don’t recognize. Maybe you can donate them to a local food bank.
Then head to the supermarket and fill your cart with real, whole healthy food: vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, eggs, milk, cheese, plain Greek yogurt and lean meats. Go home, restock your kitchen and smile: you have just stacked the odds in your favor to eat healthy. Here are a few more tips for shopping at the supermarket.
By keeping unhealthy foods out of the house, you will eat them less often.
Sidebar Tip: People often choose what they eat not because of what it is but how near it is. Replace sweets that you keep in sight - like muffins on your kitchen countertop - with a beautiful bowl of fruit. Soon you will find you are eating more fruit than muffins.
Lay out your workout clothes before you go to bed where you will see them first thing in the morning. Visual cues are powerful. Author James Clear of Atomic Habits asks if your guitar is in the back of your closet how often will you play it? It’s much easier to do something when you have a visual cue in front of you, and harder to do it when you don’t.
Hang a calendar that has the days marked when you have scheduled doctor’s appointments and need to reorder your prescription medicines and medical supplies.
Looking around your home, think how else you can make a few changes that will support your diabetes tasks. I keep my long-acting, once-a-day insulin in a mug in my kitchen so I see it first thing in the morning when making my coffee.
An environment set up for success will also support healthy habits. Basically habits are shortcuts; they allow us to do things automatically without a lot of energy and decision-making.
Many people with diabetes have told me that the healthy habits they practice are what makes them so successful in their management.
People tend to think you need a lot of discipline to manage diabetes well, but healthy habits help people be disciplined. So, rather than wish you were more disciplined, begin initiating habits that will make you so. Here are some healthy habits people with diabetes have shared with me:
- “I keep two glucometers, one in a bright pink bag in my purse so I can always find it. The other is at home always in the same place, on my kitchen counter.”
- “I store a six pack of small cardboard juice containers in my office drawer.”
- “I put glucose tablets in everything I carry: my purses, backpack, gym bag, and I keep them all over the house: in the kitchen, bathroom and on my bedside night table. I’m always prepared if I go low.”
- “I use 9-inch dinner places at home. They hold less food, and so I eat less. When I eat out, if I’m served a big portion, I ask the waiter to wrap half of it for me to take home. That way it’s not in front of me to even tempt me.”
- “I have standing appointments to work out with friends, just like an appointment I make to see my doctor or meet a friend for lunch.”
- “I schedule my annual doctor visits around my birthday so I won’t forget.”
- “I don’t rely on healthy food being available when I’m traveling, so I pack my own food for road trips or when I’m flying.”
Setting up your home for success and practicing healthy habits are two powerful ways to make you more successful managing your diabetes. What ways do you set yourself up for success in managing diabetes?
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