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Beyond Diabetes

About four years ago I started a diabetes support group here in Boulder, Colorado, where I live. A few days ago my friend, Phil, and I happened to be talking about it.

“The support group can help people who don’t have diabetes,” Phil told me. “We should include people with pre-diabetes or weight problems or anyone who wants to have as healthy a lifestyle as we do.”

Phil talked about how the very low-carb and paleo diets that we follow have made such a big difference in our lives. He also mentioned how active each of us are.

I agreed with Phil that the members of our group are some of the healthiest people I know and that we could share what we have learned the hard way. The lessons that managing our diabetes have taught us apply just as well to people who haven’t yet had to face up to the need to making health their first priority.

But I told Phil that it wouldn’t work.

Until I wrote an article about our diabetes support group for a magazine last month, I had hoped that our support group would keep growing. But three of our members who I interviewed for that article know a lot more about group dynamics than I do. One of them has taught it at the university level and two others have studied it. All three told me that the current size of our group — about a dozen people at each meeting — is ideal for giving us the mutual support we need to manage our disease.

We do have a lot that we could teach other people. I might start another support group for people who know that they have pre-diabetes and want to avoid the full-blown condition. Maybe a group for people who really want to lose weight. Even a group for “healthy” people who would like to be and feel as well as the members of the diabetes support group.

But this isn’t the American Way. We always have to go to the brink of disaster before waking up. Whether its politics or health, we keep on playing Russian roulette.

For most people a diagnosis of pre-diabetes doesn’t feel like being on the brink of disaster. Neither does being overweight or obese.

Even when we learn that we have diabetes, most of us go into denial — even the typical people who go to support group meetings. They tend to drag down the level. That’s the big reason why I started a group limited to those of us who want to be as healthy as we can be.

The irony is that those of us who have diabetes are on the brink of disaster. And at the same time we can be even more healthy than most.

Fortunately, our bodies have amazing recuperative powers. With a little work we can manage our health before we completely destroy it.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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