As a book lover who happens to be a person with diabetes, I am pretty much the kind of guy who can't resist checking out any and every book about this illness.
So I was especially excited when we heard that the fabulous Riva Greenberg was publishing her third book, and I'd have a chance to review it here at the 'Mine!
For those who don't know Riva, she's lived with type 1 for 40 years and is a D-advocate and writer who now covers diabetes for the Huffington Post. She also lectures across the U.S. and abroad on diabetes, as well as being an adviser to D-organizations and Pharma companies.
Based in New York City, Riva has just released her third book in six years: "Diabetes Do's & How-To's: Small Yet Powerful Steps To Take Charge, Eat Right, Get Fit, And Stay Positive." Published Jan. 3 and available on Amazon for $16.95, this is a beginners' guide to healthy habits and practical advice for living with diabetes, with workbook sheets to plan out your own goals for adopting these tips and tricks in your own D-life.
The 272-page book is broken up into four main sections — Food, Medicine, Fitness, and Attitude. The first two sections each include 20 items, while there are 12 fitness-focused Do's and 8 related to attitude. Plus there's a "Bonus Do's" section that adds five additional tips. In total, it contains 65 Diabetes Do's and How-To's.
Each "Do" is only a page or two, and includes a "Quick Start" part where readers can commit to the task at hand by checking a box and then read on to take it a step further, if they want. For example, in the Food section, #15 is about not going low when drinking alcohol. The Quick Start portion offers tips about carrying glucose tabs when out drinking and snacking on crackers or pretzels if no food is going to be ordered. Then the additional How-To's section suggests giving a D-101 lesson to someone you're with, eating before going out to have slightly higher blood sugars to start with, and knowing ahead of time whether the D-meds you're on react badly with alcohol.
One highlight that I enjoyed was how, at the end of each section, Riva includes a boxed-roundup of the topic and also a trio of personal stories from fellow PWDs about what they've done or tips they use in dealing with that particular topic. Then, she offers a few workbook-style pages at the very end to let readers take their own notes on what they will do and how they plan to do it.
There are sections on all sorts of actions to take, whatever your health situation, from the universal "Learn Your Diabetes A-B-C's — A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol," to "Give Up Smoking If You Smoke" to "Know What To Expect Before Expecting."
Riva also scatters some fun cartoons throughout the pages, drawn by fellow PWD Haidee Merritt who also did a series of cartoons here at the 'Mine. The illustrations made the book much more entertaining for me.
But I have to be honest: I don't think I'd buy this book for myself, simply because it truly is a beginner's guide. The information will appear very basic to anyone who's lived with diabetes for decades already like me and has likely been hearing this advice since a young age.
On the other hand, what kept coming to mind as I flipped through the book was: "There's a difference between knowing and doing." Because it's all about motivation, right?
Of course, I know I should have A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol checks done with my doctor regularly, but DO I? Sure, I know the importance of all this info, but I've been managing to put off my endo visit for many months now, so technically at this moment I don't actually know my numbers. We veteran PWDs are great procrastinators, no?
In Riva's description of why she wrote this book, she mentions hearing all kinds of questions from people not knowing how to manage or live with some aspect of diabetes. She wanted to provide valuable (yet easy-to-digest and actionable) answers to those many, many questions.
Even as a long-timer who knows most of the answers already, there was a line in her intro that jumped out to me: "If you apply a 'How-To' from this book today, then you have made today a little bit better than yesterday." Then Riva recommends taking another small step forward tomorrow and so on, to keep making life a little bit better.
Right. Whether I actually "Do" each item in my own life is different than knowing "How To" do something in theory. Often, it's a matter of choice that I simply don't embrace for whatever the reason. Of all 65 items Riva presents, I realized that I actually know and follow 29 of them by my own account. Some aren't easy to distinguish between "knowing and doing," and I realized the line's a little fuzzy since sometimes I embrace the "Do" but don't necessarily act on it as regularly as I should. Eating with a smaller plate to limit portion sizes? Limiting fast food? Checking blood sugar without judging yourself? These are all easier said than done, and they remain a work in progress for me.
Of course there are some tips that just don't apply to everyone, like in my case the Do's about smoking, pregnancy, weight loss surgery or eating oatmeal (yuck!). So, that can skew the math for how many I actually follow.
There were even a few Do's that I double or triple check-marked, like "Develop a Personal Support Network" to help manage your diabetes. Uh, hello Diabetes Online Community!
As I thought deeper about applying this book to my own D-life, I recognized a universal lesson we all can take from Riva's writing. Stepping outside of my own shoes, I really see the value of the book. One could view the information as basic, but really it's more "fundamental." The tips are useful, necessary, and possibly even life-changing for the segment of the Diabetes Community that needs it most.
Through the years, I've met so many people who just don't know some of the D-101 points that Riva discusses in her book — in both the type 1 and type 2 communities. One woman vividly comes to mind, whom I met on an airplane traveling to a diabetes conference in early 2012. We started talking, and she mentioned her father-in-law and husband have both been living with type 2 but were both completely flustered with trying to learn and comply with the D-life needs. Now I wish I could go back in time to that meeting and recommend this book.
But as it happened, at that time I had with me a copy of Riva's first book, The ABCs of Loving Yourself With Diabetes. I gave that book to the woman and offered some support. We've actually kept in touch by email a bit, and she has told me that her husband and father-in-law have both read Riva's book and incorporated some of those tips into their lives with diabetes! That made me very happy, and I have no doubt that Riva's newest book will offer desperately needed help to many others out there -- if they can get their hands on it.
Here's to helping get one copy of Riva's new book into the hands of someone who needs and wants it...
The DMBooks Giveaway
Here's what to do:
1. Post your comment below and include the codeword "DMBooks" somewhere in the comment (beginning, end, in parenthesis, in bold, whatever). That will let us know that you would like to be entered in the giveaway. You can still leave a comment without entering, but if you want to be considered to win the book, please remember to include "DMBooks."
2. You have until Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, at 5 p.m. PST to enter. A valid email address is required to win.
3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org.
4. The winner will be announced on Facebook and Twitter on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, so make sure you're following us! We will also update this blog post with the winner, and we like to feature our winners in upcoming blog posts, too.
The contest is open to all. Good luck!
UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed, and we want to say congrats to Paula Fairchild for being selected as the winner!