6 Diabetes Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

From the WebMD Archives

It takes work to manage your type 2 diabetes. That includes the little things you do every day, like what you eat and how active you are.

Start by avoiding these common mistakes.

1. Not Taking Control of Your Condition

Your medical team is essential. But you're not in your doctor's office every day.

“You are your own doctor 99.9% of the time,” says Andrew Ahmann, MD. He's director of the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center at Oregon Health & Science University.

You’re the one in charge, so it’s up to you to watch your diet, exercise, and take your medication on schedule.

You can make better decisions about how to track and manage your diabetes by understanding how the disease works. Sign up for a class or a support group on managing diabetes.

“Not enough patients seek them out, and not enough doctors send their patients to them," Ahmann says. "Not only do these resources offer essential information, but they also bring together people who have the same challenges, giving them a place to meet and talk with each other."

2. Expecting Too Much Too Soon

It's a big step to shift your eating and exercise habits. You need to give it time to see results and for it to feel permanent.

“Most people expect something dramatic is going to happen right away,” says UCLA endocrinologist Preethi Srikanthan, MD. “But it has taken them a decade or two to get to this point, and it will take a while for them to even get to that initial 5% to 10% reduction in weight.”

To make a lasting change, take small steps, Ahmann says. If you try to do more than you can handle, you might quit.

Before you start a new exercise program, talk with your doctor, especially if you aren’t active now. They can help you set goals and plan a routine that’s safe and effective.


3. Working Out Alone

“One error that people make when it comes to exercise is that they try to do it without help from other people,” Ahmann says.

Spouses, partners, friends, and family members make great exercise buddies. They also are terrific cheerleaders.

The same is true for your diet. It's easier to make changes when you have a friend or relative who's also on board.

4. Neglecting Other Problems

Constant stress and depression can really get to you. It's easy to feel too discouraged to deal with your diabetes. That can make matters worse.

“You need to recognize depression and work with it,” Srikanthan says.

Depression and stress can also have a bad effect on blood sugar levels. Constant stress may boost hormones that make it harder for insulin to do its job. Doing “anything to reduce stress will improve your blood sugar," Ahmann says.

Exercise helps relieve stress, and there’s evidence that meditation and massage will benefit blood sugar levels, he says.

5. Misunderstanding and Misusing Medications

Ahmann says many of his patients think medications are more powerful than diet and exercise. But in many cases, type 2 diabetes can be controlled by a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise without the need for medication.

For many people, medication can be helpful.

Ahmann sees one mistake that stands out.

“It’s surprising how many people miss doses,” he says. That's a risky mistake, so tell your doctor. He might be able to change your dosing schedule to one that better suits you.

6. Poor Food Choices

When it comes to food and blood sugar, the big mistake is not the single candy bar that you couldn’t resist, Srikanthan says. It’s ongoing unhealthy eating habits -- what you eat over and over again -- that have a worse effect on your blood sugar.

“People think it’s a one-time diversion, but no, it’s a consistent problem that affects your test results,” she says.

The two biggest hurdles, she says, are calories and carbohydrates. You have to control both to keep your blood sugar level steady.

Keep a food diary to keep track of what you eat and drink, and always read nutrition labels so you know what’s in the food you choose.

Not eating on a regular schedule is another common food mistake. Make time for breakfast and eat regular meals during the day, so you don’t lose control and overeat in the evening.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on October 22, 2014



Andrew Ahmann, MD, director, Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland.

Preethi Srikanthan, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, UCLA.

Mayo Clinic: “Diabetes Management.”

Piette, J. Medical Care, July 2011.

American Diabetes Association: “Recognizing and Handling Depression for People with Diabetes.”

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