Do you have the right mindset to reverse prediabetes?
I’d like to discuss some of the work you need to do ahead of starting a new health journey. Whether you are working on reversing prediabetes or just want to live a healthier life, before you actually make changes, it is crucial that you prepare your mind and motivate yourself.
In this post, I’ll address some of the common obstacles to making lifestyle changes; I’ll talk about the power of recording your health journey, thoughts and ideas; and I’ll give you some ideas on how to define your goals. People often tell me things like, ‘I wish my husband would eat better.’ Or ‘My adult daughter is overweight and I am worried about her health. I wish she would start exercising.’ The problem with that is that you cannot force anyone to change their lifestyle, right? You may want this so badly for your loved one, but only they themselves can decide to change. The information on how to eat, how to lose weight, how to start exercising, how to better manage stress levels – all that is out there. As you know, I provide some of that education, and so do millions of other people. The information is at our fingertips - that’s the beauty of the Internet and social media. The question is: are you ready to make a change? Have you prepared your mind? And have you figured out what motivates you?
Let’s start by looking at common obstacles people face when trying to change their lifestyle.
One is your beliefs about what is actually possible. Maybe you’re thinking, “There is no way I can lose 20 lbs.” If that’s the case, that could be a problem.
This goes along with how you view yourself and your body. If you have a negative relationship with yourself, making changes will be even harder. When you are improving your lifestyle, you want to love yourself and give yourself a lot of grace, because it will not always be easy.
This goes along with self-defeating thoughts or behaviors. Maybe you fell off the bandwagon and ate a whole bag of chips in one setting after you had been eating clean for a while. Some people might see this as a sign that it’s not working or that they cannot do it; or that they just undid all the previous great work. Have you had these thoughts before? I know I have. Instead, show compassion to yourself, and figure out, what is the first baby step to get back on track.
You might think that genetics plays a huge role as well. I often hear people say, ‘everyone in my family is diabetic. So there is nothing I can do. I’m sure I’ll get it, too.’ Oh no, please stop that! Yes, your genetics predispose you for certain things; however, the exciting new field of epigenetics has discovered that we can turn on or off our genes through our lifestyle. Around 90% of disease is preventable through lifestyle. Isn’t that exciting?! So it IS in your hands after all.
Another obstacle, of course, is what kind of foods are available to you. Do you have access to grocery stores with fresh produce? What if you want/need to eat out, are there restaurants that offer healthy options? Think about where you live and work, and go through the options you have before embarking on your health journey.
Believe it or not, aggressive food marketing can be another obstacle. So many products that claim to be healthy or natural, are anything but that. Be aware of processed foods, especially snack foods, that claim to solve your food worries. Don’t be swayed by those claims, instead always go to the ingredient list and form your own opinion.
Another obstacle, and this might not be a popular one to discuss, but here it is: are there people who are sabotaging you? I have seen it with my own eyes. Someone might post a picture on Facebook about a new food they tried - maybe it’s a salad or a smoothie; or maybe they used cauliflower instead of rice. Unfortunately, some of the comments from people can be very discouraging. From ‘how disgusting’ it is, to ‘OMG you’re turning into one of those people.‘ I call these folks food-pushers. They’d rather see you go down with them than see you better yourself. I also deal with it myself on a regular basis. Comments like, ‘Oh that’s right, you don’t eat that kind of stuff.’ Or repeatedly asking ‘Do you only eat salads?’ [I am rolling my eyes here.] So, if you have people like that in your life, I’m not saying you need to end the friendship, but just be aware that there might be comments like this. At the same time, you want to surround yourself with folks who will support and love you through this. Figure out who this will be, and maybe you can even convince them to improve their lives with you.
Time can actually be a factor for some. It takes time to learn about new foods, to shop for them, to cook them; to incorporate exercise or meditation. Right? If you think this is you, I want you to look closely at how you are currently spend your time. Does everyone else come first, and you come last? Do you spend a lot of time on social media? What else has you occupied? Social media is actually a big one. Bring your awareness to this issue and just see how often you pick up your phone on any given day without a reason. Bingo, I would say. I know it is true for me, and I am working hard to stop this.
Lastly, maybe you have tried in the past to lose weight or start exercising and you never succeeded for too long. So why should this time be different? Maybe this is you. And of course that goes together then with self-sabotage. Become aware of those kind of thoughts, because they may hold you back.
Take the time to work through this list of obstacles. Which ones apply to your situation? What does it look like for you specifically, and what can you do to get around these obstacles?
This brings me to my second point, recording your health journey, thoughts, ideas and goals. It’s worth writing down your thoughts and ideas. You can call it journaling or simply note-taking. Writing these kind of things down helps you get in touch with yourself and can help you break negative cycles or self-sabotage. It can also serve as a place where you are brutally honest with yourself, not in a mean way, but to hold yourself accountable. The beautiful thing is that there is no right or wrong when you are journaling. Aside from identifying your obstacles in a journal, you can also track your food intake. This doesn’t have to be fancy at all. Simply write down what you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Again, be honest with yourself about what you eat and how much. And to be clear, I am not talking about recording calories here but simply whether you’re having several servings, for example.
A quick side note on calories: there are many apps that will help you track your calories, and it seems like this is helpful for some people. Of course, when you restrict your calories and eat at a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. However, it might still not solve your prediabetes. The reason for that is that you can eat fast food and processed foods all day long, and as long as you stay in a caloric deficit, you’ll be ok as far as counting your calories. But whether you are healthy on the inside is a whole other story. That’s why you see skinny people with diabetes and other diseases. Yes, calories matter to a certain extent, but the quality of your food – fresh, whole foods – is much more important.
Also, don’t see this little exercise of recording your food intake as a way to then get down on yourself. That’s not what this is about. Instead, it will give you a starting point, or reference point, when you begin to change the way you eat. What is super-helpful is to also write down how you feel when you are hungry and are eating.
I love what Dr. Mark Hyman wrote in his book ‘The Blood Sugar Solution:’
Before you eat something, ask yourself:
Am I hungry?
Is this what I feel like eating right now? And is there something else I could eat instead?
If I am not actually hungry, what am I feeling? And what do I need?
Some of these questions may seem completely unrelated , but you’d be surprised how often when we think we’re hungry, or when we have a craving, we’re actually 'craving’ something else. Maybe we’re lonely and craving attention. Maybe we’re tired, because we didn’t sleep enough or well. So instead of food, maybe we need a nap. I go through this all the time. I usually wander to the fridge when I have to work on something that I’m not into – something that seems like it will be hard or challenging. So I get up and think, ‘I am actually a little hungry. When was the last time I have eaten?’ Procrastination at its finest!!! Asking yourself these questions will bring you more in tune with yourself, and you might be able to identify certain patterns. Many times when we’re not feeling ‘right,’ food is our answer. The great thing about journaling is that you can record all that in one place. How did you sleep, how do you feel, what changes do you notice as you make lifestyle changes, such as incorporating exercise, starting to take certain supplements, and more. Creating this kind of self-awareness will be very helpful on your health journey. Be completely honest with yourself. The journal is only for you, and as I said, there is no right or wrong here.
Lastly, your goals for your particular health journey are important, and of course, a journal is a great place to write about what motivates you, and define your specific goals. To get to the root of what motivates you, ask yourself these general questions: What motivates me? What makes me want to wake up and get going in the morning? What is my life’s purpose? What stands between me and living my life’s purpose
To get more specific, think through different categories:
What health problem do I want to heal and how will I tackle that?
What is my current relationship with food like? How would I like it to be? What would I like to eat?
How do I view exercise? Why, or where does this view come from? How can I change it?
Is sleep and rest a priority for me? How many hours sleep do I get nightly? How can I get more rest?
How do I see my body? Do I love it? Make a list of things you do love about your body.
Do I typically view the glass as half-empty or half-full? Are there beliefs that keep me stuck? What are they? Do I deal with anxiety, depression or anger? What is the source of my feelings?
What are my relationships like? Are there any toxic relationships? What do I need to do to heal those?
How do I view my work? How do I want to spend my time, energy and talents? If I am unhappy, how can I change things?
What is important to me? What do I want to see written on my tombstone?
These are all just ideas. Focus on what is important to you. Is it about feeling well, living a long life, making a difference in your community, spending time with your family, starting a new business venture, working your way through your bucket list? I’m sure you see my point. We’re all different and have different things that move and motivate us. Find out what is important to you and keep it in front of you. Write it down, as I said. You can simply put it on a sticky note on your bathroom mirror or your fridge where you will see it every day. Keep your goals and your motivation front and center, because they will drive you as you make changes to your health and they will help you through rough patches, because no journey is just easy sailing.
The last thing I want to leave you with is to also set a starting date for your health journey. Commit to a date, write it down, and get started. That way, you are making it real and you know what’s coming towards you.
There you have it! I hope this is helpful to you. Oftentimes accountability helps, so if you need help and would like to chat with me on how I might be able to support you on your journey, send me a message. If you’d like to hear from me with more tips on how to reverse prediabetes, join my tribe.