Create a support network that helps you manage diabetes

Everyone living with diabetes does better with support. And now there’s a new APP that can help anyone build a personal support network so they don’t have to do diabetes alone. 

I’ve just developed 3 FREE great short, smart videos to help you invite people to be in your circle of support. There’s an APP under “EatSmart” ‘Build Your Personal Support Network’ or you can also find the videos online on the left hand side of the page under “Build Your Personal Support Network.” 

Video #1- Will help identify what you might need help with – for instance perhaps a drive to the doctor’s office, a walking buddy or someone to learn healthy cooking with, and, who might be available from your circle of loved ones and acquaintances to be on your team.

Video #2 – Gives you tips how to ask for help in ways that people will want to help you. Yes, it’s a little bit science, a little bit art and a lot of just being honest, open and appreciative.

Video #3 – Gives examples how you can use people’s help to help you develop and maintain healthy habits. 

Take a look and a listen. It will only cost you a few minutes of your time and there’s so much to be gained. I don’t know what it would be like having to manage my diabetes without the support of my husband and several of my great friends. 

Second International Positive Psychology conference

If you read my last post you won’t be surprised that I just spent 4 days in Philly at the Second World Congress on Positive Psychology sponsored by ippa – International Positive Psychology Association

ippa promotes the science, practice, collaboration and communication of positive psychology. Let me tell you first, that doesn’t merely mean thinking good thoughts. 

In a nutshell, positive psychology is a practice and a means to greater well being and happiness. The road is largely composed of: Being engaged more of the time in positive emotions (love, play, curiosity, compassion…) than negative ones (fear, guilt, shame…); Being engaged with life – you know those times when you lose track of time because you’re in “flow” with whatever you’re doing; Enjoying loving and supportive relationships; Having meaning/purpose in your life; Having a sense of accomplishment. 

In a practical sense, it also involves discovering, focusing on and using our strengths (you can take a surveyhere), being engaged in a mindfulness or meditation practice and being solution-focused rather than problem-focused.

The conference speakers were the world’s heavyweights in the field including psychologists and PhD’s Martin SeligmanBarbara Fredrickson and Ed Diener (these are merely the names I remember) as well as scientists, neurobiologists, university professors, psychologists, you get the idea. We participants were largely 1200 therapists and coaches from 62 countries around the world. I was indeed struck by the amount of Australians, Asians and Europeans who’d made the journey.

In general the conference is a coming together to share scientific research that validates the positive effect of positive psychology. 

There was so much to take away after 4 days of back to back lectures, workshops, and symposiums that I, and my mind, are rather exhausted. But these are a few things I took away:

1. Positive psychology is not just about being positive. It’s about living with your full range of emotions – including the negative ones – in a healthier way. Or as Dr. Fredrickson would say, it’s about using your positive emotions to broaden and build your resources, skills, connection to others, flexibilty and perspective to create greater well being and happiness.

2. Meditation and mindfulness do increase biological (slow and strengthen heart rhythm, increase circulation, lessen inflammation) and psychological health (increase compassion and awareness, make your thinking more open, quicker to see solutions) – and, it’s high time I got back to a regular practice.

3. If people are not ready to change behavior, they need information not persuasion. If they’re ready they need a plan and if they’re taking action they need to know how they will prevent relapsing back into their old behavior.

4. Focusing on what you want is a much more compelling strategy to move forward than avoiding what you don’t want.

5. “Coping” is a word that signifies “less than.” Whereas “thriving” and “flourishing” are words that signify “more than.”

6. Love is the seed that forges bonds, weaves social fabric, promotes health

I’ll also give you three things you can do right now and on a daily basis to up your Positivity Quotient and create greater health –  and you can do them without attending a conference or reading a book: 

1) Reflect each evening while falling asleep on 3 things you are grateful for or that went well that day

2) Give out more praise and compliments than you do criticism

3) When you get angry, catch your breath, pause, and try to see the personwho’s making you angry, not what they just did. We are all caught up in the stresses of life. Slow down and change or reframe the interaction.

My mind and my heart are all about this field and it’s a strong place to work from for anyone who has, treats or coaches anyone with a chronic illness. The next conference in the U.S. will be in two years. Maybe I’ll see you there.

What if we change the question?

Raw foods for 30 days

 

Now that Labor Day weekend is over and the cool fall breeze is bringing me to life, my thoughts raced back to something that happened earlier this year. (Yes, there’s a video here, but I’ll get to that later.)

I was giving a talk at Time Inc as part of their employee wellness program in June. About 20 employees were there, some with diabetes, some who have family members with diabetes and a few who have pre-diabetes. 

What I remember most about the talk was a very open, overweight man who asked a lot of questions. He had pre-diabetes, was already taking pills for diabetes-related conditions and wanted to know more about pre-diabetes and its link to type 2 diabetes. 

I told him that most people with pre-diabetes get type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years. That there’s a reason why they call it “pre-diabetes.” I also told him you may prevent this by losing some weight and getting active. Both of which he needed to do. 

Not unusually, he gave me many reasons why losing weight and getting active were nearly impossible for him. And then my mouth got the best of me. “So, you’re telling me,” I said, “that it’s almost impossible for you to lose weight and get some exercise?” “Yes, he agreed.” “What if the only choice you had was to lose some weight and get active or die?” He looked at me. Intensely. I could see I had shocked him. I could also see he was thinking. “What would you do?” I asked.

“Well, when you put it that way,” he laughed, “I’d lose some weight and exercise.”  

If you have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes and have wanted to lose weight and get more active, ask yourself the same question, “What if there were no pills for you to take and the only choice you had was to lose some weight and get active or die?” What would you do? It may just help you see that you do have some power over your health, and your choices. 

In the Diabetes Prevention Program in 1992, 3,000 participants with pre-diabetes proved that moderate weight loss (5-10%) and exercise reduced the risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58! A higher percentage than the control group taking Metformin (brand name Glucophage.)

On another note, back to the video up there, here’s one choice I can’t say I subscribe to, but I do find interesting. Eating raw foods. Some swear by it. 

The Power of our health possibility

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 9.15.24 PMListen more closely to your body and your thoughts

I’m reading a great book, Ellen Langer’s Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. It’s about being more mindful in everything we do and how that breaks through many of our assumptions and beliefs and can help us maintain and attain greater health, and happiness. 

It’s about thinking about our health, and aging, differently, turning our own stereotypes on their head, and taking back much of our power.

It’s about how language either empowers or disempowers us, and sets us down a path of expectation, and how we then tend to create what we expect. 

For instance when you go to get a “second opinion” don’t those two words already make you feel it can’t be quite as credible as the first doctor’s diagnosis? After all now you’re going for “second” and it’s only an “opinion.”

Langer, a social psychologist and teacher, has written a book, this is actually her fourth on mindfulness but first on health, that is philosophical in part, and practical throughout. It is based on many of her studies and those conducted with her students. One classic study Langer conducted had senior citizens, some of whom were in nursing type facilities spend a week living as though it was 1959 again, wearing the type of clothes they wore then, doing things like carrying their own suitcases, which they hadn’t done in years, bringing photos of who they were then and “acting as if” they were their younger version, again. A week later, most were actually livelier, stronger and healthier, they expressed more vitality and took more interest in life than they had in years.  

Langer pokes through our routine thinking as in where did these thoughts come from? Do they make sense? And she beseeches us to be mindful, to notice new things. And she reminds us that our routine thinking may indeed be deteriorating our health rather than vitalizing it. 

For instance she proposes that maybe older people are thought to have poor memories not because they lose their faculty to remember but because they’re not much interested in what’s going on in a world geared for younger people. So they don’t pay attention. What looks like memory loss may be a case of older people never having listened to something to begin with because it doesn’t interest them. 

Or maybe older people seem weaker because we’ve been socialized to see them that way, and they’ve been socialized to expect they will become that way. Maybe 80 year olds have trouble getting out of a car not because they’re feeble. Maybe cars just aren’t built for 80 year old bodies.

Langer and her students’ experiments will offer you lots to reconsider that may change how you think which may impact your health more positively. 

Counter clockwise tests many of our assumptions about healthfulness and reading it would be a very healthy choice. 

When quitting is a good thing

This is something I was going to post over the weekend until Saturday night I exited my friend’s car and walking down her block, where a lot of construction was going on, twisted my ankle. I twisted it so badly that an hour later I felt like my foot had been run over by a truck. Since it was Saturday night and I was not at home, my friend went out to a neighborhood drug store to buy pain relievers. I spent the next two days basically with my foot up and being waited on. Alas, all dreams must come to an end, and I returned home last night to fare for myself.  

The ankle still needs rest, the pain relievers continue although at a lower dose, and I’m still wondering if my 2-day blood sugar rise was my body’s reaction to the stress or the excess unbelievably delicious whole wheat peasant bread I was gorging on all weekend at my friend’s house. Guess I’ll know soon enough now that I’m back in my bread-less house.  Proof positive, 35 years after getting diabetes every day comes with episodes and more questions. 

O.K. that out of my system, this is what I wanted to post if there’d been no drama this weekend. I was watching Oprah last week and she had on Dr. Oz, heart surgeon and one of her resident experts. He was talking about quitting smoking. While I don’t smoke, I was intrigued to see if Dr. Oz would offer any advice that would be applicable to diabetes. I was not disappointed. Here are a few transferable actions you can take to improve diabetes management.

1) Pick a quit date –  that might be the date you will chuck the junk food out of your house or quit eating as much refined carbohydrates like white rice, white potatoes, pasta, white bread. But what’s important is to pick a date.

2) Prepare yourself mentally, physically and socially – In other words decide how you’re going to handle it when you go out to eat with friends and they’re ordering desert and you’re in conflict. Know ahead of time you’ll just have two bites, for instance. If you’re starting an exercise program, what will you do if the weather’s bad and that curtails your walk? Have a back up plan.

3) Make 2 lists – Write down all the reasons why you want to improve your management, what will you gain? Then write all the reasons you don’t want to improve your management, what do you get to keep? Compare lists. What conclusions do you draw? Write them down and review them when your motivation flags.

Above all, Oz advised to take it one day at a time, one hour at a time. He went on to say, phrases like “Don’t Smoke!” just make you think about smoking. Like don’t think about a pink elephant. Like “don’t eat cake.” Instead tell yourself  the advantage of not smoking like “Breathe Free.” It keeps your mind focused on what you want. So I think phrases like “Don’t have that incredible, chocolate cheese-cake covered with lip-smacking raspberry sauce” is probably not helpful. If you replace that with, “I’m going to look fabulous at my friend’s wedding next month!”I think there’s a much better chance you will. 

Lastly, I admired Dr. Oz for an admission he made. He summed up with, “We are a society that’s not comfortable being uncomfortable. (Thus the miracle diets, 5 steps to anything, drugs for everything, addictions that momentarily seem to relieve our pain – my thoughts). Yet discomfort is the best way to grow in life. I don’t feel great every day, and it’s OK. It’s life. Some days you just don’t, accept it, it’s life.” 

I think Dr. Oz’s smoking advice makes sense for any behavior change you want to make and his admission that we don’t feel on top every day takes the pressure off. Normally I’d be really pissed off that I can’t take my daily power walk because of my ankle. But I’ll accept that some days are just not as good as others. Moreover, if I feel really sorry for myself by tonight, Ill only have one bite of my beloved gingerbread and put the rest away remembering that I’d rather have another year on the planet than another piece of gingerbread.

Hope, the new 4-letter word?

The new face of radical chic

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Reading the New York Sunday Times Arts & Leisure section yesterday I read an article titled, “The Rebel Director, Sincere and Hopeful.”

It’s about Carl Forsman, artistic director of a theatre company that stages only performances that embody hope and humanity. “I’ve thought for a while now that maybe true theatrical rebellion isn’t saying, ‘And then a guy raped a 4-year old and shot his mom,” said Forsman, “that’s not radical anymore because we’re so desensitized. Now I think true rebellion is saying anything optimistic or positive about humanity. Hope is radical.”

Wow, my ears tingled. I made an immediate connection between what he said to what I’m trying to do here — teaching how we can better manage diabetes through positive emotions like joy, courage, confidence, gratefulness, love, hope and pride – rather than the more usual focus on negative emotions – denial, guilt, shame, depression, anger. Wow, maybe the positive landscape I’m trying to paint isn’t squishy or naive or infantile, but radical! Gutsy even and hiply progressive! Cool, I’m a radical hipster!

I’ve wondered these past few weeks getting more aggressive about posting my “thrive” rather than “survive” attitude that you will think I just dropped out of a Kansas cornfield or was born with a silver spoon. Actually neither are true. My Buddhist ‘appreciate everything’ mantra comes from an ordinary middle class upbringing in the Bronx and on Long Island and my extremely shy, formative years when I learned to observe others rather than talk much.

Thankfully, those days are long gone, and while they were lonely and painful, I developed a keen eye for observation, a curiosity for what people really feel deep down, and an empathetic understanding for people’s hardships and hurts. But wait — now I can consider myself a “radical hipster.” Oh, how long I’ve waited!

Perhaps I’m catching a new wave where being positive is gutsy in our overly cynical, negative culture. I do so often feel I’m sticking my neck out against the chorus of nay-sayers who prefer to moan and groan.

Mr. Forsman went on to say, “There’s no question that the cynical viewpoint is viewed as more sophisticated. There’s a real fear, especially among the intelligentsia, of generosity and compassion because they look like the acts of someone who’s naïve.” God knows I live in the land of which he speaks, New York City, where black is our representative color. Now I’m thinking maybe black here is not just a fashion statement but a statement of mind.

So, I am all tingly and excited as a radical diabetes auteur and I will continue to say, adopt an attitude of gratitude, despite your diabetes or because of it — because it can give you a second chance at life — the life you’ve put aside, let remain a dream or run into the ground without really noticing.

Diabetes is your second chance to get fit and healthy and avoid a far worse fate that may be heading your way. Now maybe it will help you to think of yourself as ‘radical’ not ‘Pollyanna’ or ‘compliant;’ to be brave enough to fly in the face of the general public’s and mass media’s mass cynicism.

After all, it’s the people with guts and vision, who moved by their very personal dreams and hopes, end up changing the world.

 

7, a lucky number, even with diabetes

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 4.10.43 PM

 

Remember that ground-breaking management book from Stephen Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Well, Mr. Covey and the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), with support from Bayer Diabetes Care, have released a small pamphlet applying his 7 habits to diabetes care. Covey’s inspiration for the booklet? His wife was diagnosed with diabetes.

I imagine the thinking behind this booklet is to give patients a new tool to manage their diabetes, adding to the typical diet, exercise, meds routine. This tool has the patient draw from a more emotive place: understanding, listening, cooperating and picturing your perfect life. What impresses me is the head-nod to the fact that managing diabetes is not just about medical management, but includes our emotional, mental and spiritual being. Covey’s habits are:

1)   Be Proactive – Choose your actions, and be responsible for them

2)   Begin with the End in Mind – Create a vision for your life based on what is most important to you

3)   Put First Things First – Prioritize tasks based on importance and what one thing can you do regularly that will make a positive difference in your life?

4)   Think Win-Win – Build relationships with others by helping them succeed, too. From this you create the positive energy of cooperation which leads to success in all things in your life, including diabetes management.

5)   Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood – It’s about listening. Listen to your health care team to gain the practical skills of self-care

6)   Synergize – Combine guidance from your team and support from friends and family

7)   Sharpen the Saw – Keep everything sharp: your body, mind and spirit

It’s hopeful watching the AADE move in this patient-empowerment direction. In a perfect world, patients’ attention, with the help of their educator, would be on greater quality of life, not so singly focused on diabetes task management, but weaving that into a vivid picture of a happy and healthy life. For a positive vision of our life is truly where our motivation and energy come from — for all things — including managing diabetes. Diabetes educators would exhibit less ‘directorial skills’ and more coaching skills, helping people design a ‘life plan’ with diabetes in it, rather than just a ‘numbers plan’ — blood sugar, blood pressure, lipids, you get the idea. But since we can’t ignore the numbers aspect of diabetes management, at the back of the booklet you’ll find the AADE’s 7 self-care behaviors.

The booklet is a nice start. To get yours – and it’s free – go to: http://http://www.diabetes7.org. What we need now is a well-trained team of educators ready and able to help patients put these habits into play. Well, I guess one can’t ask for the moon, the stars and the sun all at once. But this moonbeam is a small ray of hope. For more information about the AADE, particularly if you’re looking for a diabetes educator in your area, go to: http://www.diabeteseducator.org.