First, set a goal. Then commit to it.

His expression held the same mixture of awe and concern a man might show if he had just watched someone gulp down a quart of Jack Daniels without coming up for air.

Long before I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, I suspected I had it—it’s much like knowing it’s Monday, even though you’re not close to a calendar.

The symptoms were there; I was alternately lethergic or irritable, shaking or drowsy and thirsty, thirsty thirsty.  I have a family history of it, too. Looking back, I suppose I was merely waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop rather than changing the behavior patterns that might have helped me avoid the diagnosis, altogether. It is possible--despite one’s family health history--to avoid the complications of type II diabetes, if you know the warning signs early enough and if you are committed to living a healthier lifestyle.

I didn’t go that route, of course, and so I found myself sitting in the office of an Oakwood doctor, ready to undertake my first real quest to get my blood sugar levels under control. This was my second visit, where we would  go over the results of my first round of blood tests. When he looked at me his expression held the same mixture of awe and concern a man might show if he had just watched someone gulp down a quart of Jack Daniels without coming up for air. “How,” that expression asked, “are you still alive?”

“In my entire career, never have I seen levels so high,” he said, referring to my A1c results. That test essentially provides an average of what your blood sugar levels have been over the previous two or three months. A healthy person should have a blood sugar level of 100 or below prior to meals and 140 or lower about two hours afterward. Mine averaged out to about 365.

That was about 18 months ago. Things have since stabilized a bit but they are still not in line with what medical experts call ‘normal’ (which you’d see if you read my last post). I’ve followed the medical advice, but didn’t get the proper outcome, and my resulting confusion and frustration convinced me to enter the ‘Vitality for Life’ contest at Oakwood Healthcare. The contest, which was open to employees through the internal Oakwell program, was designed to provide the winner with virtually unlimited access to the healthcare system’s trainers, nutritionists and health coaches in order to inspire employees to live a healthier life.

I clearly needed the help.

Originally, there was only going to be one winner, but so many compelling stories came in that the field of participants was expanded to 15. We met as a group for the first time recently. Some participants wanted to lose weight, others wanted to improve their heart health. Some were recovering from past health issues and wanted more energy. Others, like me, needed help in managing chronic health problems.

I felt a bit out of place because I have only recently (well, somewhat recently, anyway) crossed over to my fourth decade, and I am still fit and active.  But I think that’s a category that more and more of us are falling into: regular people looking for ways to stay active and healthy in an increasingly hectic world. It’s my hope to be a conduit of the useful information I pick up along the way, so that I can make your journey a little easier.

This has already been a pretty long entry, so I will leave you with a couple of thoughts from that first session, and a question.

First, something I’ve learned over and over again since I first saw that doctor’s astonished expression: It’s not going to be as easy as you want it to be. Change is hard, no matter how earnest your efforts. Stick with it; shrug off the failures and embrace the successes.

Second: set a goal, and stick to it. Be specific. Tell yourself not only what you want to do, but why.  I broke it down like this: (1) my ultimate goal in life is to be a published author. (2) In order to be a successful writer, I need to do it more often, so I can get better at it. (3) In order to do it more often, I need more time, more energy or both. (3a.) I cannot create more days or hours in the day and (3b) I do not have or know anyone who has a time machine so (4) the most realistic way to create more time and energy is to control my blood sugar and exercise more often, which will help me feel less lethargic and generally uninspired.

What about you? What are your health goals, and why?

(Next up: Nutrition tips, a cautionary tale…)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Molly Tippen June 18, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Scott, your photo caught my eye this morning, and I'm sorry to hear you are going through this. But I guess I'm also surprised because you are slim. We never hear much about young people (yes, you are still relatively young) coming down with this, and I think people always assume its weight-related. But you are the second person in my social/work strata this week that has said they have diabetes -- and the other one doesn't have a weight problem, either. Have your doctors been able to tell you how and why this occurred?
Scott Spielman June 19, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Hi Molly, In my case, I think family history factored into it, as well as a few too many hasty and unhealthy meals in my 'mobile dining room.' You've touched on one of the eventual focal points of this blog, though: sometimes your body just doesn't cooperate and you have to find a different way of doing things. Tell your friend not to be too upset about it; the changes he or she will have to make will help them in the long run...


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