Diabetes Basics

Beginning Anew With Diabetes

Each of us has the opportunity every day to begin life anew. But we usually grab that chance only at the beginning of the year. This is the time for resolutions. We make our resolutions in January, but to avoid breaking them in February, we have to accept where we are and know where we want to go.

The key to resolution success is to set our sights low. When we focus on one goal for one resolution, we are much more likely to achieve success than if we adopt the usual scattershot approach. We can concentrate on only a limited number of objectives at one time. That’s why people who meditate generally focus on the breath alone.

Take, for example, the very common resolution of losing weight this year. If we decide that we want to lose a lot of weight, exercise more, stop smoking and drinking, and get along with our mother-in-law, all at the same time, we are setting ourselves up for failure. That’s the main reason studies show that we generally keep on track for one month just 55 percent of the time, and for six months only 40 percent of the time.

Those studies show that weight loss is at the top of the list of New Year’s resolutions that Americans make every year.

Because two-thirds of Americans are overweight, that’s not a surprise. I’m sure that those of us who have diabetes are even more likely to pick weight loss year after year as one of our top resolutions. And yet, 85 percent of people with diabetes are still overweight, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

Seven years ago I made a resolution to lose weight. At the time, I weighed 312 pounds, which meant that my BMI was 39.5—right on the borderline of being morbidly obese. I resolved that by October 26, 2007, I would bring my weight down to 195, which was at the top level of a normal BMI. That date was the 50th anniversary of my honorable discharge from the U.S. Army. My discharge papers say I weighed 195 pounds that day.

I made sure to write down my goal, when I would start on it, how I would accomplish it day by day, why I wanted to lose weight, my progress toward it, and when I planned to achieve it. Even though the experts told me that weighing myself every morning would be counterproductive because some days my weight would be higher in spite of my efforts, I knew that I had to measure something to be able to change it. I also knew that some days I would slip, simply because I am human.

I told my doctor and anyone who would listen what I intended to accomplish. That social networking is important, according to many studies. Actually, my doctor said that my goal was too optimistic—too much too soon—and it may have been. But I made it with four months to spare because I was committed to succeeding at weight loss and weight loss only.

In fact, I later resolved to reset my goal to a BMI of 22, and I made it. I had read a study, which I reported here, that reached the conclusion that we have the least risk of cancer if we have “a low normal BMI.” Since a BMI of 18.5 is too low, I figured that a goal of a 19.5 BMI was appropriate. With my height, that meant I should weigh 154 pounds, and that has been my goal ever since. I first reached that weight on May 27, 2008, and maintained that level ever since.

I offer these personal details in hopes that they will encourage you to set modest goals for one big resolution this year. If you are among the great majority of those with diabetes, a weight loss resolution makes sense. You will not only be healthier, but also happier, and will have a much easier time managing your diabetes at a normal weight. If I can do it—an old man who has battled his weight since he was eight years old—then you too can achieve a normal weight.

We are never too old to change.

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

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