Early on in my diagnosis, I was told that I could potentially reverse my diabetes if I lost some weight and changed my lifestyle habits. Those words gave me hope that I didn’t have to live with a chronic condition and be on medication for the rest of my life. Those words also drove me to develop an obsession with food and exercise, making me miserable and angrier when the effort I had put in wasn’t reflected in the numbers that looked back at me from my blood glucose meter.
That was some 13 years ago. A few months ago, while chatting with my psychologist, I realised how much that initial advice is still affecting me. I was telling them about how I felt I needed to do some sort of exercise every day, especially now that I had joined a gym with a mums and bub session during the weekdays. Partly because I wanted to get my moneys worth but mostly because I had this unconscious need to “close all my activity rings” on my Apple watch. Over the years I’ve found physical activity that I’ve genuinely enjoyed rather than thinking that if I didn’t break a sweat, the exercise didn’t count. The activities that I enjoy changes over time too and that’s okay. I’ve done things like boxing, circuit training, weight lifting, swimming, yoga, pilates, spin classes, walking, running etc.,
Some days I still catch myself thinking about whether I’ve worked hard enough or burned enough calories rather than focusing on feelings of being strong, healthy and fun. Some days I still wonder about how much I weigh and how that compares to before I had kids. Some days I catch myself being anxious when I see my total carbohydrate intake tick over 150 grams or if I’m bolusing more than 10 units of insulin for one meal. There’s no rationale behind any of those numbers other than something my mind had decided was the limit.
I wonder if my relationship with food, exercise and weight would be different had I not been diagnosed with diabetes. It has taken many years to switch my mentality around them and to start developing a healthy relationship with what I eat and how I move. And it’s something I’m extremely conscious of when it comes to my daughters, which can be difficult at times because of how engrained some of these toxic notions around food, exercise and weight have become.
At least recognition of the issue is the first step. Once I catch these thoughts, I try to remind myself what the bigger picture is rather than focusing on the numbers. Unsurprisingly, the language I use to frame these thoughts plays a huge role. I exercise to feel strong and healthy. I choose to enjoy the food I eat; there is no guilt associated with different types of food. Tell me again that the words we use aren’t important as health educators and individuals and parents.