I love my clients and my patients.
It’s not uncommon for me to hear from either that they blame someone or something for their lifelong struggle with diabetes. It’s funny how our minds search for a reason, and they get pretty creative in the process.
There is such a range of explanations our minds find to make sense out of this fate: a diagnosis like Type 2 Diabetes. It’s totally normal for us to ask the question, “Why me?” Especially if you feel like you are the only one.
Someone I met the other day told me that she is the only one of her sisters that has to deal with Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. She related how her sisters shamed her for her food choices (when she’s trying to choose healthy alternatives!).
Another client told me that when she’s feeling poorly from her high sugars, she feels judgement from her grandmother. She imagines that her grandmother believes, “You did this to yourself.”
This literally hurts me to hear. This guilt and shame that so many of you are carrying.
Then I might hear the opposite side of this on any given day. I meet people who feel that this situation is completely out of their control. They say something like, “Well, my mom and my grandmother both had diabetes, so it was only a matter of time.” They have resigned themselves to an inevitability. They become the victim and their sugars are usually poorly managed.
So what’s the truth?
Is it genetic predisposition, written in your story before you are born? Or is it a consequence of recklessness or carelessness with your lifestyle?
I want to offer that it could be both. I like to use this example because I think it makes this easier to understand:
You might be genetically predisposed to alcoholism. Maybe it “runs in your family,” and even your own parents fought this disease. You can feel pretty confident that you are genetically susceptible to the same.
But what if you never take a drink? Does it matter that you are genetically predisposed to alcoholism? Would you ever know? No, you wouldn’t have the occasion to find out because you never exposed your genes to the trigger. The environmental switch to turn on those genes was never flipped.
It is clear that in both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, there are genes associated with these diseases (approximately 60 genetic variants have been identified for Type 2). Here are some fun facts: 🤓
- In Type 1 Diabetes, if one identical twin develops diabetes, there is a 65% chance the other will develop diabetes by age 60 years.
- In Type 2 Diabetes, if one identical twin develops diabetes, there is a 90% chance the other twin will develop diabetes in their lifetime.
You might conclude that genes are a strong predictor, and this seems logical seeing these facts. But remember, identical twins have the same DNA. They are like clones. And they also live in similar environments and cultures, raised with the same lifestyle, likely exposed to the same “switches.”
There appears to be a complex (aka poorly understood) relationship between genes and environmental factors in the development of either Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes. But it’s clear that genes aren’t the end all, be all:
- Pima Indians living in the United States have the highest prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes in the world at 38% of their population.
- Pima Indians living in Mexico have a prevalence of only 6.9%, similar to that of non-Pima Mexicans (2.6%).
This is valuable to know, because it gives you permission to assume influence over your genetic makeup.
Blaming or shaming yourself for your blood sugars is counterproductive and usually undermines your ability to affect any improvement.
Why? Because most people do not take positive actions from negative emotions. Their actions look more like avoidance, resistance, and even self-sabotage. Read this blog post if this is something you recognize you do.
On the other hand, knowing you have some control over your body is EMPOWERING. It gives you inspiration and motivation to affect change where you have control.
You can control:
- Your beliefs and mindset, as well as your level of commitment to your goal
- What you eat (protein, fat and carbs; how often; portion sizes)
- What you drink (sweetened or alcoholic beverages)
- How much what kind of physical activity you get
- How much sleep you get every night
- Whether or not you take your meds
- How often you are checking your blood sugars and learning about your body
There’s probably more you can think of that is within your control. Focus your mind here.
What can you control?
Where are you willing to take responsibility, not blame?
This is your ticket to a future without Type 2 Diabetes.
Yes, that is what I would love to help you have. A future free from fighting your blood sugars, feeling sapped of energy, and worrying about your deteriorating health. Let’s imagine it together and then create it by focusing on what you can control.
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