The best (expert!) diabetic advice

What’s the one piece of advice all diabetics should listen to?

We asked our Panel of Experts… Here’s what they had to say:

diabetes advice

“Focus on the good-for-you foods you want to include in your diet, rather than the things you want to limit.”
Cheryl Meyer, Dietician.

“Make small changes to your diet that could bring about a bigger change in your health. Swap white bread for low GI bread, for example, and leave off the butter.”
Faaiza Paruk, Dietician.

“Exercising, keeping to the right BMI and eating a good diabetic diet are all essential because these factors determine the amount of medication you need. It’s also important not to smoke, to take your medication properly and to visit your doctor regularly.”
Dr. Joel Dave, Endocrinologist.

“Ask yourself: ‘Have I got diabetic retinopathy: Yes or No?’ The only way you can know that answer is if someone competent and trained has looked at your retina and given you the answer. So visit an ophthalmologist every year!”
Dr. Dale Harrison, Ophthalmologist.

“Always use a good diabetic foot cream. Examine your feet every day, especially if you have neuropathy. Check your shoes with your hands before you put them on to be sure there isn’t anything in them. Ensure your shoes fit properly and have enough space so that there are no pressure areas that could cause blisters or wounds.”
Andy Blecher, Podiatrist.

“Go to a qualified podiatrist for a thorough Diabetic Foot Assessment at least once a year. Ask questions and be informed.”
Anette Thompson, Podiatrist.

Any advice to add?


How to fix bad eating habits

I feel like my husband thinks that if I don’t see him cheating on his diet, it doesn’t count. I don’t want to be a nag, but I know he isn’t eating right… How do you suggest I encourage him to eat better?” Cheryl Lee.

Dear Cheryl,

I have no magic advice for you, but I feel the pain of your situation. As a caring partner, you feel worried about how his eating habits are affecting his diabetes. From his side, he is obviously trying to please you by eating correctly in front of you (but cheating on the side).

You need to get your husband to take responsibility for his condition and accept the importance of eating correctly. After all: it is his health at stake here.

Perhaps you could help him figure out a meal plan that looks at his likes and dislikes, eating habits and schedule, and any other health issues that may affect the way he eats. Try and come up with a meal plan that’s realistic – and one he may actually stick to. That said, it’s always important to be sensitive when advising someone about their eating habits. Change is hard for everyone, especially older adults who’ve been doing what they do for a long time.

Communication is the only way that you are going to resolve this issue. Do it in a gentle way and if he does not hear what you are saying, be as honest as you can and tell him exactly how you feel.

Help him set small, achievable goals. Do this as a couple and focus on what is important. You know he doesn’t want you to be disappointed in him and your opinion is therefore important. This gives you the opportunity to help him. Maybe if you communicate to him how hard it is for you see him hiding his cheating, he might be more open with you and make everything a lot easier for both of you.

– Jeannie Berg, Diabetes Educator

Helping a friend through a diabetes diagnosis

“My friend was just diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and weirdly the thing that’s bothering him most is what people will think. He doesn’t want to tell anyone because he says they’ll blame him for becoming diabetic – because he didn’t eat healthy or exercise enough. How can I help?” Shan Moyo

Dear Shan,

First of all, I think your friend is lucky to have someone like who cares enough for him to help him work through the barriers of accepting his diabetes. Because of all the studies that have shown that diet and lifestyle have an influence on Type 2 diabetes, uninformed people forget that there are numerous other reasons for developing diabetes as well. And the Type 1 and Type 2 labels also make people more judgemental.

To some people, their personal health problems and issues are exactly that: personal. Frankly, your friend doesn’t have to share with everybody that he has diabetes, but it is a good idea to let someone close to him know, in case of an emergency. One of the hardest things that newly diagnosed people with diabetes experience and fear is that those who have known you for years start treating you like you’re different. They see your diabetes and not you. But help him look at it this way: no one today would accuse someone with AIDS of giving themselves the condition. So why allow anyone to do it with diabetes?

What can you do? Be an active reader and read your friend like an open book. Listen more and talk less. Help him come to terms with his diabetes and find confidence in managing it. Don’t let him assume that others are judging him: nobody has any power over what other people prefer to think.

Finally, if your friend is really struggling with a lot of mixed emotions, remind him that it’s perfectly normal to feel that way, and that it’s okay to need some help with the burden of managing a demanding condition. And lastly, one of my favourite quotes by Lao Tzu for him: “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”

Help him to live free and happy.

– Jeannie Berg, Diabetes Educator