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To reach your long-term goals for managing diabetes, I think it’s helpful to stop and write down what short-term steps you can take that will help you reach your objectives.
Say your long-term goals include reaching an A1c of 6.5% or better for a year, or maintaining your weight within five pounds of what your doctor thinks is perfect for you.
A sure way to help you accomplish these ambitious goals is to attack them in small, incremental steps. Simply stated, set small goals you can incorporate into your daily routine that are doable.
Here are three modest changes in your routine that can set you on the way to achieving your long-term goals:
1. Make one weekly meal change—Find at least one new item to bring to the table once a week. This forces you to expand your healthy options and possibly find a new food item that’s not only delicious but is also diabetes-friendly. Don't be extreme with the change: If you completely rearrange your diet, most likely it’s not going to be a pleasurable experience. Remember to start small.
2. Exercise at least 15 minutes three days a week—Exercise is critical to everyone's health, not just people with diabetes. We’ve all heard this point stressed over and over again, but it needs to be taken seriously. I personally think it’s important to exercise for a little while each day. It not only helps regulate blood glucose levels, it also burns some calories in the process.
Play a sport with friends, run, walk, or even make it a point to take the stairs every day. Do something over and above your daily activities. Start off slow and add to your distance, time, or effort weekly. Even if you walk just a few extra steps per day, you will be amazed how they will add up over the next couple of years.
3. Record Your Meals—Before meal time, do your best to record what you are eating and the amount of insulin you plan to give yourself. Keeping this record will allow you to see which foods work best for you and show an overall pattern you can use to organize future meals.
I find that doing this helps me stay more disciplined in making the right food choices. If you make it a habit to think before you eat, acknowledging the consequences of what you are getting ready to put in your body, it can help you to avoid that tempting cream sauce that will add 250 calories to your meal. Is it worth having to walk for two hours just to burn off excess, unnecessary calories? Little “right” decisions will help you make big gains in managing diabetes.
The main thing is to start somewhere and begin to move in a positive direction. Your short-term goals are like signposts or guides in reaching your full potential in managing your diabetes.
Also remember that your short-term goals need to be flexible because there are many times our daily routines get interrupted with something unforeseen. Don’t beat yourself up because you miss one day of exercise or couldn’t eat the right foods because the event you were attending had nothing but poor food choices.
Stay focused on these little goals and you’ll find that properly managing your diabetes and good health will be your reward. Go for your goal!