When does a book go beyond being just "a good read"? When it changes how you think and allows you to learn more about yourself, for one thing. That's how I feel about the new title Bright Spots & Landmines written by fellow type 1 D-peep Adam Brown, who many may recognize as the popular writer and tech expert over at diaTribe.
Available as downloadable PDF e-book as well as in paperback, this 237-pager is a colorful run-through of D-tips and priorities that Adam describes as "The Diabetes Guide I Wish Someone Had Handed Me" when he was diagnosed at age 12 in 2001. For those who don't know Adam, the California Bay Area 28-year-old has over the past several years become a go-to expert for many in our community based on his personal D-management experiments and explorations of new technologies.
Almost as testament to that, his new book begins with a glowing foreword from T1D advocate and consultant Kelly Close (Adam's boss), and equally glowing quotes of support from almost three dozen experts across the Diabetes Community, including Aaron Kowalski of JDRF, Dr. Fran Kaufman of Medtronic, Phil Southerland of Team Novo Nordisk and former Miss America-turned-advocate Nicole Johnson.
Kelly of course "discovered" Adam and brought him onto her Close Concerns and diaTribe team years ago. The two have just posted a great Q&A between Kelly and Adam on Facebook that's very much worth watching for some basics on Adam's new book.
A Bright Frame of Mind
Adam's theme of concentrating on so-called "bright spots" and "landmines" for what works and doesn't work in his diabetes management is absolutely brilliant, IMHO. I really love that train of thought, and have already started looking at different parts of my D-life using that frame of mind.
Adam starts out with a "Start Here: How to Use This Book" section that's already super-motivational. He recognizes how darn hard daily life with T1D is, but impresses on us that "We Can Do Better!" He lays out how important it is to craft goals that are specific and actionable, realistic and sustainable, and "in my control and changeable." And then he explains how to observe your own weak spots ("landmines") in D-control and how to go about experimenting with a fix.
The book is then divided up into four main sections -- Food, Mindset, Exercise and Sleep -- with 40 bright spots and 16 landmines in total (or 10 and 4 in each chapter). Each of these explains tips and tricks on "what works for me," complete with colorful photographs and interactive worksheets and checklists for readers to use in their own experimentation.
Be aware that there's a whole lot packed into this book in terms of ideas and new tactics to try, and it can feel overwhelming. So for me, I found it best taken in small doses, jumping around from section to section as needed. Adam actually recommends that method early on, encouraging readers to move freely about the book.
A Perfectionist Streak
You should know going in that this book has a motivational speaker-esque, self-empowerment feel to it -- an approach that can sometimes be frustrating for readers, because it can feel like the author makes it all seem so easy, like you just need to "retrain your brain" to achieve optimal behaviors and habits.
Thankfully, Adam does manage to toe the line between "motivational" and embracing "Your Diabetes May Vary," often noting that it's not so easy to adapt these behaviors and that his idea of achieving perfection is one of his regular landmines. The two viewpoints may seem contradictory at times, but I really enjoyed how Adam keeps it real and admits that even for him, these encouragements don't always pan out as planned.
"My perfectionist streak sets unrealistic expectations for living with diabetes," Adam writes. "Encouraging my diabetes bright spots and avoiding landmines helps enormously, but it still won't eliminate ALL out-of-range BGs. And that's okay."
btw, the book is not limited exclusively to Adam's personal experiences -- he sprinkles in scientific findings and what leading researchers have said on these various topics over the years, from low-carb diets to exercise habits and BG effects, to the need to have adequate sleep. You really can learn a lot of handy info here.
Low-Carb Insights & Exercise
Without apology, Adam is a low-carb eater. Much of what he writes in Bright Spots & Landmines reflects that, as he describes it as the biggest game-changer for his diabetes. But he also points out it's not for everyone and there are differing POVs among medical experts even, so that's refreshing to read.
Still, as someone who is trying to eat lower-carb myself, it was great to read what works and doesn't work for Adam, get a glimpse at an actual grocery list, hear how more nuts and protein-based snacks help him throughout the day, and even learn how one can experiment to make low-carb food choices more interesting. I like that!
Of course, exercise is a big part of the book and Adam runs through the ways he has made exercise a regular part of his day. From starting off in the morning with a walk, to doing stretches for 10-15 minutes before bed, to even moving his body while watching a TED talk or funny video.
Also, being a dog-lover myself, I couldn't resist grinning when Adam mentioned that he and his girlfriend have adopted a miniature schnauzer that they've named Sencha, after their favorite Japanese green tea. He says having a pup around is a double-win in both the exercise and mindset categories; my own Riley Dog and I couldn't agree more on that front, Adam!
A Community Effort
Tying it all together, Adam clearly points out this is a community and family effort.
On that note, while he talks a lot about his own life and how CGM is important to him and many people, he also makes a point of recognizing that access and affordability are big issues in our D-Community that he's painfully aware of. The book even includes a break-out box section on how to find more affordable test strips, and how sometimes embracing more exercise can help lower the amount of insulin one has to use.
Adam admits that the purpose of this book is about thinking of what diabetes means for you today, not some far-off time of uncertainty.
"My Bright Spots and Landmines have enabled me to live well today, to reflect more happily on yesterday, and to have hope for a better future," Adam writes. "I wish the very same for you."
As noted, the book helped me learn some things about myself. It made me reflect on the fact that both bright spots and landmines happen regularly with diabetes, and the landmines are virtually unavoidable. Traditionally, I've just stumbled through them -- even having them explode and throw me off balance -- in order to learn and move on. But if I'm in the mindset that landmines are out there, perhaps I can be better prepared to thwart the explosion. Sometimes I may need those explosions under my feet in order to evolve, but it's all about being best prepared for what is lurking in the land of diabetes.
I'd add that both ups and downs important parts of living with diabetes no matter what age you may have started.
Thanks to Adam, I also discovered that in many ways, I really do want to do better than I have been in terms of living with my diabetes. Despite my initial reluctance to any kind of motivational pep talk, I started thinking that Adam is spot-on about finding the right style of motivation that works for you personally -- whether related to food, exercise, sleeping, or mindset in general. After reading this book, I'm more willing to accept the "failures" and am weaving some of his "bright spots" thinking into my own life.
So, that's my verdict: Bright Spots & Landmines is one of those essential reads that any PWD should own, as there's something in there for each of us to discover and use, to be sure.
And you know what's even more awesome? On Amazon, the book is priced at $6.99 in paperback and $1.99 on Kindle, and in order to ensure that cost isn't a barrier and offer access to as many people as possible, the book can also be downloaded for "name your own price" at diaTribe.org/BrightSpots. -- whether that's $0 (free!), or whatever you'd like to donate as 100% of the proceeds go directly to support the non-profit diaTribe Foundation.
Definitely worth a read if you haven't had a chane yet!