When living with diabetes every day, people figure out tricks to help manage their condition and give them peace of mind. Here are some top hacks from people who have been managing Type 2 diabetes (T2D) for decades.
Your blood sugar level will never be perfect.
Always carry something with you in case you have low blood sugar such as juice, glucose tabs, gummies, or candy without fat.
Develop a medication routine.
Learn some easy tricks to help portion size and count carbs more accurately.
1. Your blood sugar level will never be perfect!
Your diagnosis means you will have elevated blood sugars, even if you follow your healthcare provider’s instructions by the book.
Type 2 diabetes is considered a progressive disease, meaning the longer you have it, the less insulin your body produces. As time goes on, you will need additional medication to keep your blood sugar in your target range.
This is hard for Type A perfectionists. It is very frustrating when you are trying your very best and this is not reflected in your blood sugar levels.
Numerous things can affect your blood sugar – stress, sickness, menopause, or even a change in schedule to name a few – and then sometimes we don’t know why it’s high despite our best efforts. However, if you see a trend of consistently high blood sugars you should contact your healthcare team. They may need to adjust your diabetes regimen, such as changing or adding a medication or dosage.
You need to set realistic goals for yourself, so you don’t get too upset. If you set out with the mindset that everything you do needs to be perfect and have unrealistic goals for yourself, you will be angry, frustrated, sad, disappointed, discouraged, and stressed all the time, which in turn can also affect your blood sugar.
If you try to do your best and then problem-solve what caused your high blood sugar, you can learn to prevent it in the future.
Remember: diabetes is a game of averages not perfection.
Planning is key in diabetes. Life doesn’t always go as expected, so planning and being prepared is key. Always carry something with you in case you have a low blood sugar such as juice, glucose tabs, gummies, or candy without fat (like gummy bears or Swedish fish, but nothing with chocolate or peanuts).
When you are going to a party, bring a dish that fits into your healthy eating plan, so you know you have something to eat. When going to a restaurant, look at the menu in advance. You want to take part in all activities, such as eating with family and friends, so it’s a matter of making healthier choices. Think ahead and don’t rely on others to have what you need. Be prepared.
3. Get moving!
The cornerstones of diabetes management, besides medications, are healthy eating and physical activity. Exercise helps in managing and/or losing weight, your overall physical health including your cardiovascular risk factors like lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure, managing stress, improving your mental well-being (get those endorphins going), and it helps make your body more responsive to insulin, thus lowering your blood sugar.
Exercising regularly can help reduce insulin resistance, so you may require less medication to keep your blood sugar in your target range. If you are not active now, try increasing your activity a little each week. You don’t need to do a 5k marathon. Start slowly, perhaps walking 10 minutes after dinner three days per week and then gradually increase that.
Physical activity should be something you enjoy, such as swimming, walking in the woods, kayaking, or try walking the golf course instead of driving a cart! Figure out what you like to do and then ease yourself into it.
4. Develop a medication routine
Most people with T2D are on multiple medications, which often include diabetes medication(s), blood pressure pills, cholesterol lowering medication, etc. These medications are often taken multiple times per day but at different times – e.g., if you are taking thyroid medication, you need to take it before eating in the morning, diabetes medications are often taken when you eat a meal, blood pressure medications are often taken twice a day, in the morning and at night – which makes keeping track of taking your medications difficult.
Everyone has a different organization system. Some people use phone apps or alarms to remind them to take their medications. Other people find a pillbox organizer for multiple pills throughout the day helps. They fill the pillbox organizer once a week with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime meds so it is easier to keep track.
Developing a routine for taking your medications makes it an automatic process, so you don’t have to think about it. Some people have their medications on the bathroom sink so they see and remember to take it when brushing their teeth. Others like to leave meds in the kitchen near the coffee pot for a reminder.
Figure out what works for you so taking your medications doesn’t become something you need to worry about everyday. Instead, it becomes second nature and part of your everyday life.
5. Learn some easy tricks to help portion size and carb count more accurately
Learn portion sizes of the foods you eat most often, as this will help you more accurately track how much food you are eating.
Look at the portion size/ grams of carbs of food labels:
- Many people measure their food by cups, teaspoons or tablespoons, so they have a mental picture of the portion size for the future. There are some apps on the market that allow you to take a picture of your food and it provides the estimated number of carbs, protein, fiber, and other nutrition facts in the portion size.
- There are also tricks to “eyeballing” portion size when you are eating out.
- Your fist is about the same size as one cup of fruit or pasta.
- Your thumb (tip to base) is the size of one ounce of meat or cheese.
- Your palm (minus fingers) equals three ounces of meat, fish, or poultry.
- Your cupped hand equals one to three ounces of nuts or pretzels.
6. Go easy on yourself
You are busy working, taking care of your family, finances, and having a life like everyone else in the world, so at one time or another, your diabetes may take the back burner.
You may forget to take your medication or insulin, eat whatever is easiest (and sometimes the fattest and high carb foods), forget your diabetes supplies and must run home again, or even get into a rut with your management.
This is all normal – it happens to EVERYONE! Don’t be too hard on yourself – forgive yourself, and don’t dwell on what didn’t work out but learn from it. And finally, know that tomorrow is another day with a clean slate.
Follow these six tips to make life easier while you manage Type 2 diabetes.