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Diabetes Basics

Positive Motivation

You need to help me a lot with this one.

All of you who read my articles here are motivated to control your diabetes. Almost all of you have a positive motivation. I doubt if many of you have a primarily negative motivation based on fear of the consequences of uncontrolled diabetes. Negative motivations just don’t keep us doing what we need to do for long.

What are your positive motivations? What do you tell people you know who have diabetes to encourage them to tame it?

Every week someone writes or tells me that they just don’t have the motivation to do what they know that they need to do. This week I got another plea for guidance.

She is a wife and mother whose husband and children don’t accept that she has to change. Food is of course the biggest issue.

“I still have a family to cook for,” she writes, “and it is very hard to cook a meal for them and decide what I can eat. Should I cook my own meals?”

And exercise is a problem too. Because of injuries, she can’t do most forms of exercise.

Then, she tells me, as I read it, that negative motivation doesn’t do it for her. Here’s how she closes her message.

“I am worried I am wasting precious time…to improve my health. I do not want to lose a limb or have a heart attack or stroke.”

In my reply I tried to steer her toward positive motivations to control her diabetes. But what I wrote simply wasn’t good enough. And this article isn’t either. I know what works for me, but I don’t know what has worked for you or what will work for her.

She knows what she has to work on, as all of us do: The amount and kind of food that we eat and the weight that we need to lose. The exercise that we need to get. And, implicit in her message, the need that we have to control the stress in our lives so we can control our bodies. All of the above just to keep our blood glucose in check.

Ever since a doctor diagnosed my type 2 diabetes 15 years ago this coming Saturday I’ve been doing that work. My work on these issues went very slowly at first. And even now I need to work a lot more on controlling the stress in my life.

But it does get easier with practice. At first it’s so hard to change because of inertia. I wrote here earlier about overcoming exercise inertia, and inertia is everywhere, including our diet and weight control. Eventually, it becomes hard not to continue all of these practices. Then we are putting inertia to work positively.

I could tell my correspondent — as I tell you now — that for me the positive motivation is that I feel better. I feel better than I ever did. I have more energy and am happier (most of the time). I feel more alert. None of this is surprising; it’s the direct result of lower blood glucose levels.

But how can I show that to somebody who doesn’t know me? Who doesn’t know how I was? Why should she believe me? Why should she think that I am not more of an outlier than an example, as somebody suggested last week? How can my correspondent know that what works for me will work for her?

That’s my dilemma. Please help. What is your experience? What are your positive motivations?

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

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  • minismom at

    my positive motivation ofcource, i don’t want to be liability plus i want to raise my kids, i want to live life, i find it funny that anyone wants to be motivated to live when u know what the consequences can be if u don control ur sugars.

    their are inertia days no doubt, today i had my fav dish and i forgot to add the usual salad bowl and protein balance, and lo! sugars hit 171 in an hour.
    agreed its tough but my best days are the days my sugars are normal, and yes, i am getting more out of life now than i did before.


    i slept like the demon king kumhkarna
    i ate like a wwf champ
    no apparel looked good on me
    my productivity was low
    i was a habitual postponer
    i did not enjoy outings!!


    i sleep standard hours and get up by 7 surely
    i look good in what ever i wear
    i look younger too due to all the greens i eat
    i work fast and am free by noon to play all day!!

    i am living life now, what else can i ask for?

  • Robert Russell at

    I found in 2001 that I had type II diabetes. I had suspected it for six or seven years, after experiences where my feet felt like I was walking on coals of fire while walking trails I had loved for years, and when I became aware after the fact that I had made decisions that were drastically wrong. As an engineer, my career suffered badly from some of those decisions.

    Perhaps these are negative motivations, but I view them in a positive light: when I make a decision now, I review it before taking action, to make sure I haven’t missed something. As I look back on even small successes, I can feel good about having done it right after having had the opportunity to mess up, big time.

    I recently received a lifetime achievement award from the local Chamber of Commerce after having been treasurer and gofer for four years — I feel really good about that one.

    Like the others, I find that

  • Bonnie at

    I have been a diabetic for about 10 years and have found that learning about my disease and making sure my family understands what the risks of having “high numbers” means has been a great motivator. I first read a book called “The First Year: Type 2 Diabetes, an essential guide for the newly diagnosed,” by Gretchen Becker at my local library. They also had tons of cook books, my favorites by Dana Carpenter. The family ate what I ate, with an added side dish of brown rice or pasta, the pantry was cleared out of anything tempting, and if they didn’t like it, they had to eat somewhere else or keep junk food in their room. Websites like Mr. Mendosa’s, Dr. Richard Bernstein’s, and lately RealAge.com help me stay motivated. Find a forum online to find others like you that can share your worries and support when you need it and helping others helps me feel better, too. I joined a forum on a subscription website SouthBeachDiet.com since I have been following their diet modified slightly to conform to the one in Dr. Bernstein’s book. The Centenial Club forum has a group of members who share ideas, inspiration, and recipes that help me so much. A quote that keeps me motivated is from Dr. Bernstein’s book, “Diabetes Solution.” My mouth waters whenever I pass a bakery shop and sniff the aroma of fresh bread, but I am also grateful simply to be alive and sniffing.” Current reads are “You, on a Diet” and “You, the Owner’s Manual” that are really funny and informative. I think you will find them very motivating. Understand that their advice is for non-diabetics when it comes to food, so disregard what doesn’t work for you. When you understand how your body works (which may not be like other diabetics) and what works for you to make the glucose numbers in the normal range, you will feel more in control-and that’s a very good motivator. Take control, make a u-turn when you lose control sometimes since you are human, and build a support group of family and friends both online and in your community, and read these books and websites so you are armed with the tools you need replace the feeling of helplessness I know you have felt, the inertia that holds you back from knowing you are worth the work it will take to stay as healthy as you can to dance at the grandchildren’s wedding and any other important personal milestones you may choose to help keep your motivation strong.

  • Chas at

    Over 20 years on insulin and I think it that the negative motivation drives me just as much, if not more than any positive motivation; I ate healthily ,exercised and was never over-weight before diabetes came along, so where was the positive motivation to continue in similar vein? Hands up who would like some diabetes associated complications? Nobody. So by being respectful of the negatives can be equally powerful motivation to comply with your ongoing self-welfare .