4 Ways to Conquer Your Inner Critic With Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on September 17, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

You know how to eat and exercise to stay healthy with diabetes. The problem is, you don't always do what you know you should, right?

Before your plans for staying healthy go off the rails, you can spot early signs of self-sabotage: procrastination, self-defeating behavior, fear, and perfectionism. Recognize them, and you can redirect yourself long before you've done any harm.

Pummel Procrastination

Do you catch yourself saying things like “I'll start tomorrow” or “This one time won't hurt”? If so, you’re procrastinating, says Melissa Fredette, PhD, a licensed psychologist.

Get back in gear by reminding yourself what you really want, not just what feels good in the moment. Maybe you want to report better progress to your doctor, or play soccer with your kids without feeling tired.

When you recognize you're putting off the important things, you can stop the behavior in its tracks. In that moment, try to do something healthy that's related to your goal. You might pick a good-for-you snack or take a short walk around your workplace. You'll feel better all the way around, and you'll give yourself momentum in the right direction.

Smack Down Self-Defeating Habits

If you catch yourself eating too much or slacking on exercise goals, something else might be going on. “You’re most likely feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of your situation,” says psychiatrist Sonali Sharma, MD.

To keep yourself on track, first, figure out the healthy behavior you’re about to sabotage (by overeating carbs, for example). Next, find a way to make a smarter choice that feels more agreeable to you.

Let's say you’re about to order a coffee drink with cream and sugar when you know you need to limit both. One option could be to get half the amount of sugar and cream. Or, just drink half the latte. This way you aren’t depriving yourself, but you’re also keeping your behavior in check.

The key is compromise. If you deprive yourself, you’re more likely to fall off the wagon.

Conquer Fear

Nagging doubts about your health are more serious than a single moment when you have a negative thought. And, if you don’t pick up on those lingering doubts, they can get in the way of action.

“Next time you start to doubt yourself, acknowledge your fears and how they are holding you back from acting positively,” Fredette says.

Then, reach out to someone you know will be supportive. A simple text or phone call can distract you from those negative feelings. Your friends or family can also help you stay strong.

Another tactic is positive self-talk. At the end of the day (or in a particularly bad moment) remind yourself of the good things you’ve done recently -- then give yourself a pat on the back. All you need is to remove your focus long enough for your fear to fade.

Pooh-Pooh Perfectionism

Do you get frustrated for not meeting your goals better or faster? If so, you’re letting perfectionism get the upper hand.

It doesn’t always lead to slip-ups in the moment. But over time, it can contribute to self-sabotaging habits.

The best strategy, says a team of experts at the Joslin Diabetes Center, is to make long-term goals so realistic and reachable that you erase the notion of failure. No need to try to do everything at once. Plus, you'll practice patience and persistence.

Work with your health care team to map out a step-by-step plan of small, attainable goals. Once a step feels like second nature, move to the next. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the successes build.

WebMD Feature



National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: "Diabetes Overview."

Melissa Fredette, PhD, licensed psychologist.

Sonali Sharma, MD, psychiatrist.

Joslin Diabetes Center: "Overview of Medications Used to Treat Type 2 Diabetes."

Joslin’s Diabetes Deskbook: A Guide for Primary Care Providers, 2nd ed:" Pharmacotherapy of type 2 diabetes: medications to match the pathophysiology."

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