It’s January so perhaps you have been thinking about what you’d like to change in 2016. Now is a perfect time to think about setting diabetes management goals – here are my best tips for how to set yourself up for success in the next 338 days and beyond.
Goal setting best practices
- Give yourself some time to think about not just what you want to achieve, but also why. When the going gets rough and your initial enthusiasm wanes, remembering why you chose this goal can help keep you focused and motivated. A great suggestion from a trusted coach last year was to write down my list of “whys”, snap a photo, and turn it into the screensaver for my mobile phone so that I always have it in front of me; this works well for me.
- Break large, lofty goals into smaller, measurable to-do items. Three years ago when I started on a journey to improve my blood sugar readings, I wanted to be able to complete the recommended 60 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise on five days a week, but I could barely walk 15 minutes at a very slow pace, so I set my first action item to walk for 15 minutes one day a week. I also wanted to eat smaller amounts of food at each meal and eliminate my binge eating, but that prospect was overwhelming so I decided to focus on adding more fruits and vegetables to my existing way of eating. In both of these cases, I knew I needed to do more eventually but doing something small and measurable that would lay the groundwork for more ambitious goals later on was what worked for me.
- Track your action items each day and evaluate how you are doing at regular intervals. You can check in on your progress on your own if that works well for you, or you may consider finding someone you trust to check in with, for additional accountability.
- Adjust your action items as needed to continue growing stronger, healthier, and happier. If walking twice a week is one of your commitments and you find that you are easily accomplishing that then perhaps it’s time to add a third day or a few extra minutes to the existing days of walking. For eating changes, it took a few weeks for me to be ready to start tracking everything I ate so that I could evaluate whether (and where) I wanted to reduce calories.
- If you’re not sure where to start with setting diabetes management goals, seek professional help. I have a wonderful endocrinologist (diabetes doctor), a registered dietician (for meal planning ideas), a physical therapist (for strength training and flexibility regimens), and a psychotherapist (for emotional support when it all feels overwhelming) on my diabetes management team. If you don’t like visiting any of the professionals who are supposed to help you manage your diabetes then ask around for referrals to alternative providers – you are paying them to help, you are their customer, and they should put your needs first instead of offering generic ideas about how best to manage your life.
- Remember that anything that takes you in the direction of achieving your long-term goals is progress and should be celebrated. Find something that you love – preferably not food – to use as a reward for sticking with your action items. I rewarded myself with a facial after the first month of eating differently and exercising more. In the intervening months, I have gifted myself massages, pedicures, new running shoes, a cashmere sweater, and perfume as rewards for continuing to make positive changes. Choose something that you know you’ll enjoy, find a picture of it that you can place somewhere prominent in your environment to remind you about what’s waiting for you.
Finally, be gentle with yourself as you start making changes – this isn’t a race and you won’t always be perfect, so settle in and enjoy the journey.