Treat yourself kindly, and watch how this simple act helps you better manage your type 2 diabetes.
Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can come with emotions you might not expect. When I was diagnosed at age 21, I felt guilt for letting my weight get out of control, scared about the changes I was going to have to make, and worried about what others would think of me when they found out.
To “fix” myself, I tried every diet under the sun. Surely, if I was thin, my life would be better. I’d be happier! The feelings of guilt, shame, worry, and fear would all disappear.
I joined a gym. I restricted calories. I eliminated whole food groups. I tried diet pills. I logged every calorie I consumed and berated myself if the numbers didn’t add up. I picked myself apart.
As I lost weight, I realized that I still hated what I saw in the mirror.
Why was that?
Here’s what I’ve learned two decades in: We can’t hate ourselves into wellness. We must love ourselves there.
Happiness and love for yourself and your body doesn’t begin when you hit a certain weight on the scale or a certain clothing size.
If you don’t love yourself as you are right now — and throughout the process of getting healthy — the physical results you achieve will be temporary.
When trying to build lifelong healthy habits from a place of self-loathing, everything feels like a punishment.
Instead of looking at changing our nutrition habits as an opportunity to nourish our bodies with beautiful plates of nutrient-dense foods, we often focus on rules, limitations, restrictions, and the distance our diagnosis places between us and the rest of the world.
This, of course, can make us miserable, which doesn’t bode well for long-term success.
If we view exercise as a way to burn excess calories or as a penalty for going “off our diet,” we miss out on seeing our daily workout as a celebration of what our bodies can do and how our fitness continues to improve when we practice movement on a consistent basis.
I spent a long time in a battle with my body. But, luckily, I’ve found that self-love can be learned. Here are a few suggestions that may help you have a better relationship with yourself.
Appreciate your body daily
Your body does amazing things every day. Notice them and be grateful.
Create a gratitude journal and implement this practice every day. List two or three things you appreciate about your body.
For example: “I’m grateful for my legs that carry me through the day. I’m grateful for my arms that hug my children every night.”
Speak to yourself the way you would speak to someone you love
Have you noticed we are amazing cheerleaders for others, but when it comes to ourselves, we can be hyper-critical?
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re beating yourself up for straying from your nutrition or exercise routine, try this:
Imagine you are speaking to someone you love, like your best friend, sister, or daughter. What would you say to them?
Go a step further by writing it down in a letter and reading it aloud to yourself. Internalize your own pep talk. You should be cheering for yourself the way you cheer for the people you care about.
Strive for progress over perfection
When embarking on a new path to improving your overall health, it’s natural to want to set big goals and do a complete lifestyle overhaul. In the short-term, this may work. But it often leads to feeling overwhelmed and ultimately giving up on goals.
Instead, start out small. Choose one healthy habit to focus on.
For example, over the next 2 weeks, aim to hit your water goal every day. Once the habit of drinking water feels like second nature, it’s time to add another healthy habit to the mix.
The goal is long-lasting lifestyle change, without the guilt that comes with quitting on yourself.
Slow and steady goal setting is a way to celebrate every win along the way.
When you wake up every day, remind yourself you are worthy of a healthy and fulfilling life.
You are in charge of how you nourish your body, how you move your body, how you talk to yourself, and how you react to situations around you.
Treat yourself kindly, and watch how this simple act helps you stay the course toward your fitness, wellness, and diabetes management goals.
Mary Van Doorn lives in Georgia with her husband, their two kids, three dogs, and three cats. She’s a type 2 diabetes advocate and the founder of Sugar Mama Strong and Sugar Mama Strong Diabetes Support. When she’s not taking care of the kids, the house, or the zoo, you can find her binge-watching her favorite shows: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “This is Us,” and “A Million Little Things.”