Deal With Your Emotions to Improve Your A1C

When it comes to advice on improving one’s A1C score, there are some familiar suggestions that we often hear:

· Check blood glucose more often
· Exercise regularly
· Eat healthy fats and protein and minimize carbs

And, so on. What do these suggestions all have in common? They are all physical solutions.

Here’s the problem: while these tips may be sound advice, physical is only part of the story. The real question is what will it take to overcome an individual’s resistance or unwillingness to carry out these physical recommendations? We need to go beyond the physical and address the emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of people with diabetes, as well.

When Morgan Patton had an A1C of 16, she already knew the recommendations touted in the list above, but she had no reason to change her behavior. She didn’t want to test her blood sugar much, so she didn’t test her blood sugar much.

According to an interview with the College Diabetes Network, that changed when she met Phil Southerland’s Type 1 bike racing team, now Team Novo Nordisk. It was her first exposure to people doing what she wanted to do AND checking their blood sugar, and it was a life-changing experience for her. Suddenly, it occurred to her that it was a great idea to check your blood sugar, especially if you loved to bike as she did.

Within a relatively short period of time after Morgan met Phil, her A1C came sharply down, in inverse proportion to her self esteem and feelings that her life had purpose. Her narrative had shifted from a rebel without a cause to a champion with meaning. Her new story was that it was now imperative to check her blood sugar so she could perform better in something that really mattered to her. She’s now a competitive athlete with diabetes who organizes a cycling team for others with Type 1.

So, in trying to aim lower in A1C targets, the answer does not lie just in the physical. People with diabetes (as well as those who care for them) must uncover what’s emotionally holding them back from taking care of themselves. Once you do this emotional work, physical change is much easier to undertake.

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Andrew Deutscher is a speaker for The Energy Project and author of typecast: Amazing People Overcoming the Chronic Disease of Type 1 Diabetes, inspired by his youngest boy who was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 2. His experience speaking on the topic of sustainable high performance in major corporations worldwide has enabled him to frame diabetes care in an empowering way.

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