Diabetes and Discipline: My Daily Struggle
Now, more than ever I am desperate for deep, lasting change. After indulging in a plethora of self-help books and a season peppered with attempts at self-validation—I am tired. It is not the “pick-me up” mantras or gentle reminders of forgiveness and self-love that leave me weary, instead, it’s my own bullcrap. I’m tired of me. Before you write this off as an overly harsh, self-loathing commentary regarding my life with diabetes, rest assured, it’s not. Instead, this piece serves as an honest reflection on the habits and mindsets that have inhibited my ability to live well as a Type-1 diabetic.
Though I’ve frequently visualized my highest self—a diabetic who makes healthy food choices, loves a good workout, and achieves an A1c below a 7—I‘m not quite there. When I reflect on this gap between my current and desired self, I must reluctantly admit that at times I hinder my own progress. No, I am not unhealthily obsessed with an unattainable standard. Nor am I being too hard on myself. (Confession: I am a recovering perfectionist growing daily in my display of self-compassion.) I’m just finally surrendering to the inward charge to actively do better.
Life with diabetes is no easy feat. During my most attentive, gung-ho seasons, daily stressors, hormonal fluctuations, illness and the unknown have all wreaked havoc on my blood sugars. Even with these elements beyond my control, I’m well aware that I’m living below my physical and mental potential. Like many on their journey to whole-body wellness, I’ve started and stopped too many times to count. I’ve spent days outlining my journey to mental and physical ascension. I’ve created exhaustive schedules allocating meal, exercise and research times, and I’ve also written out and reread detailed vision statements describing my ideal diabetic self. Still, after a week or two, or month of changed habits and noticeable progress, I retreat back to my old ways.
In trying to pinpoint what has stalled my health journey, I’ve realized that my lack of discipline has emerged as my biggest stumbling block. My tendency to pass up a workout opportunity, or privilege mystery take-out over more familiar home-cooked meals, attests to my inner struggle— I find it difficult to commit to the unpleasant to achieve my desired health outcomes. When thinking of how I may resolve this issue of discipline, the following points come to mind:
- Being consistent in my visualization of this healthier self. So in as much as I love writing down vision statements and reciting daily affirmations, I must confess that I haven’t always done this on a consistent basis. There was a month-long period where I spoke with conviction and authority over my life. I declared that I made healthy food choices and engaged in physical activity daily. For a moment, these affirmations provided the motivation I needed to do “the work”. I began religiously logging my numbers and spent afternoons running in the park. I communicated with my educator and took notes on my daily management. But as days became busier, my affirmations grew less frequent. I went from reciting them daily to rushing through them every few days. Eventually, weeks passed without me affirming a darn thing. As one who’s witnessed the power of positive thoughts and declarations, I’ve recently re-committed to these daily affirmations and now read my vision statement at least once a week. To increase the feasibility of this task, I’ve limited myself to 3 affirmations a day.
- Stop planning, and just do. I love planning—parties, meet-ups, my future. I especially love planning my day. Previously, I’d block off moments for diabetes research, cooking, workouts and journaling. I even blocked off specific times that I would complete these tasks and would modify my schedule weekly. When it came time to act however, I rarely followed through. Either unexpected urgent tasks would take precedent over long-standing scheduled events or after meticulously crafting a schedule, I simply lost the urge to commit. It seemed that in the practice of planning, I had worn myself out. I had no desire to wake up early, nor did I want to spend a half hour researching vegan recipes. To remedy my inability to stick to a schedule and to ensure my productivity, I decided to stop investing so much time in rigid hourly breakdowns of my day. I also began rethinking what was realistic for me to accomplish within a day’s time.
- Accept the reality that it won’t feel good, well, at least not at first. There was a point when Youtube was my personal trainer. I watched cardio and weight-lifting videos, or at least attempted to. Within the first few minutes of my workout, wobbly knees and a burning chest had me calling time. Sometimes I’d hop right back up and continue where I left off, and other times, I’d take my barely sweaty-self right back to my room. After complaining to bae, he quickly reminded me that I needed to get over myself. If I really wanted a more toned physique, then I had to be willing to push through my discomfort. Though I initially found it quite difficult, I’ve noticed it does get a tad easier with time.
- Don’t allow excitement to slow your stride. This summer there was a three-week period where I religiously went to the park for a run. Everyone was impressed, especially me. My calves and biceps had become more visible, and my love handles were shrinking in size. (I was souped y’all!) In fact, because I had made noticeable progress, I began to give in to that little voice that told me I could afford to take a day off. Soon, one day became two, and two became five, and there I was struggling again to drag my behind back to the park. I’ve since learned, that though progress excites me, it should never slow me down.
Now I don’t want you to think that these reflections signify my successful attainment of discipline. I struggle daily. Still, my newfound awareness does assist me in slowly cultivating it— a reality necessary for living well with diabetes.
Photography: Alfred Sarpeh of Royal Light Photography