If you are of the female persuasion, and happen to have diabetes, you will not want to miss this book! "A Woman's Guide to Diabetes: A Path to Wellness" by Dr. Nat Strand and Brandy Barnes may possibly be my favorite-ever guidebook published by the American Diabetes Association.

At just over 200 pages, it's pretty concise, clearly and frankly written, and aside from some very good diabetes basics, itWomans Guide to Diabetes book cover includes a lot of great unique information and prompts that you won't find anywhere else. After all, when was the last time you opened a diabetes book to find whole sections on puberty, hormones, conception, menopause, mood changes, relationships, guilt feelings, coping mechanisms, soul-searching and spirituality? All stereotypically female topics, but also sorely neglected in the diabetes literature to date.

Many of you are probably already familiar with these power-women authors: Dr. Nat Strand, who won the Amazing Race reality TV competition in 2010 despite her type 1 diabetes and has since become a huge D-advocate; and Brandy Barnes, founder of the DiabetesSisters national network for women. Per the book preface: "one lives in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, CA, practicing medicine, while the other lives in a quiet suburb of Durham, NC, running a national nonprofit organization... one of us is more free-spirited, and the other, more serious."

All I can say is this collaboration is a good fit; the ladies' differences probably help them to connect with a wide swath of different women with diabetes who'll be picking up this book. (That's right Guys, we don't all approach 'girl stuff' the same way!)

I love the flow of this book, nine chapters starting with Basics and then launching right into: Mental Wellness, Physical Wellness, Understanding Hormones, Sexual Wellness, Creating Better Relationships, Travel, Exercising, and Navigating Your Career.

Mental Wellness long before Career? Yes, that's the healthy order of things and the way it ought to be, IMHO.

In order to make the book interactive, the authors include "journaling sections" that prompt you to think about your life and write some key things down:

  • Notes - blank areas to scribble down the most valuable info you're taking away from the book
  • Soul-Searching - sets of questions that help you reflect on your own feelings and struggles. For example: "What has diabetes taught you/revealed to you about yourself?"
  • Life Application - to record specific steps you can take to address your own health or life situations, for example: "Ask your partner what surprised him/her about your daily diabetes management requirements?" (conversation opener!)
  • My D-Journal - to record insight about your own behavior and emotions. For example, related to the above: "What was most surprising about your spouse's view of your diabetes and its impact on your marriage"?

Now I know these kind of prompts sound cheesy, but as I read through this book, I found myself pausing to form answers to these questions in my head -- with the realization that being forced to mull these things over can actually be very cathartic and useful. My answer to the Soul-Searching question above: I'm way more resourceful and resilient than I ever thought I was. If you'd have told me when I was younger that I'd one day have to deal with this all-encompassing, incredibly exasperating disease till death do us part, I would have surely expected my future self to fall apart! OK, I did that, but only for the very first week or so after diagnosis. It's been full steam ahead since.

Other treats in this book include frank talk about the mental games women often play with themselves: "Sometimes women don't even realize what they are doing to themselves or what they are doing is actually an eating disorder." There's also chronic anxiety, loneliness, and the incessant self-loathing of our bodies for not being perfect. I like the way Nat and Brandy relate stories from their personal lives to address all of these emotional and physical issues.

They also talk a lot about "healthy and unhealthy behaviors that have become ingrained in your life" -- how important it is to recognize these, and take responsibility for the choices you make. As I'm relaying this, it sounds preachy, but in fact the book talks in very productive terms about avoiding the "victim mentality" and strengthening your self-respect so that you can make the best possible choices, and also deal with mistakes in a non-destructive way. Good stuff.

Womans book statsSex of course gets a substantial chapter of its own; it's one of the few resources you'll find that goes into depth about "female issues" with diabetes in a friendly and relatable voice. I like that Brandy writes, "Let's be clear: sex is not just important to men. It's important to women, too." Her DiabetesSisters org actually conducted a survey of over 800 women with T1 or T2 diabetes in advance of writing this book, and the results on sexual issues are eye-opening. For example, nearly a third of women surveyed said diabetes had negatively affected their desire for sex, and nearly 40% reported that their body image had been negatively affected by diabetes. Many women also reported not realizing that diabetes has an impact here; a full 58% did not know that menstrual cycles can play a role in blood sugar levels. Wow!

There are little quizzes nestled in the chapters to test your knowledge, and I found myself puzzling over questions about menopause and birth control methods. There's always something new to learn, obviously! (Insider Tip: Don't miss the lists on pages 132-133 titled "Ten Things Potential Partners Wonder When it Comes to Sex with Women with Diabetes" and "Ten Things Women with Diabetes Want Their Sex Partners to Know About Them" ;) )

In the chapter on Creating Better Relationships, I was utterly charmed by the letter from Brandy's husband Chris Barnes (who also wrote a partner post here) addressed to Diabetes itself, in which he rails at the disease for how it can hinder his wife, but also talks about how diabetes has inspired them both. The chapter covers dating, marriage, erratic emotions, changing plans, food/nutrition, pregnancy and even finances -- a whole array of things that come up in relationships (with diabetes). Family relationships are also covered (Tip: Don't miss the page 156 list titled "Tips for Friends and Family Members of Women with Diabetes.")

In short, I find this book both wise and approachable, not to mention highly informative and a breeze to read. And so I end where I began, with the statement: If you are of the female persuasion, and happen to have diabetes, you will not want to miss this book!

{American Diabetes Association; 1st edition December 2014; $13.17 on Amazon in paperback}  

And now, here's your chance to WIN one of two free copies from us...  


A DMBooks Giveaway

Interested in winning one of two free copies of "A Woman's Guide to Diabetes: A Path to Wellness" by Dr. Nat Strand and Brandy Barnes? Here's how to enter:

1. Post your comment* below including the codeword “DMBooks” to let us know that you’d like to be entered in the giveaway.

*NOTE: Our comment system has changed since our move to Healthline.com; at least for the time being, you do need to log in to Facebook in order to comment. You can also enter this giveaway by emailing us at info@diabetesmine.com with the subject header "Womens Book" if you prefer.

2. You have until Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, at 5 p.m. PST to enter. A valid email address is required to win.

3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org, and will be announced on Facebook and Twitter on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, so make sure you’re following us!

We’ll update this post with the winner’s name once chosen. Good luck to all!

This contest is now closed. Congrats to Deb Rygh and Alison Robinson, winners of this giveaway! Please contact us ASAP at info@diabetesmine.com so we can get the books to you both!

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