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A Makeover for Your Home and Habits

There are 2 ways even people who already manage diabetes well can make their self-care even better:

  1. Set up your environment for success

  2. Practise healthy habits

We tend to think people who do something well, do so because they are highly motivated or have lots of willpower. But that is not necessarily true. An environment that supports the actions you want to take can make a positive difference. And while willpower is great, it is a finite resource—it will run out.

Think about it this way. Keeping your toothbrush in the bathroom makes brushing your teeth much easier than if you kept your toothbrush in your garage, right? That's an example of setting up your home to support the healthy habit of brushing your teeth regularly.

Setting up your home and work environments to support your desired actions helps you take those actions more easily. Regular repetition of these actions makes them habits. And habits require little thought or effort.

Home makeover: Organize diabetes supplies and more.

Kitchen—because eating well is a cornerstone of being healthy with diabetes, the foods you keep in your kitchen matter. It is much easier to reach for a healthy snack or prepare a wholesome meal when you have nutritious foods in your pantry, cabinets and refrigerator.

Do a sweep of your kitchen and get the bagged and boxed foods and sugar-sweetened drinks out of your house—particularly those with refined carbohydrates like chips, canned fruit in sweet syrup and anything with a long list of ingredients (most of which you don't recognize). Maybe you can donate them to a local food bank.

Next, head to the supermarket and fill your cart with real, whole healthy food: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, milk, cheese, plain Greek yogurt and lean meats.  Go home, restock your kitchen and smile—you've just stacked the healthy-eating odds in your favor.

Replace sweets that you keep in sight, too. Replace muffins on your kitchen countertop with a beautiful bowl of fruit, and soon you will find you are eating more fruit than muffins. People often choose what they eat not because of what it is but how near it is.

By keeping unhealthy foods out of the house, you will eat them less often. Think of less-healthy foods as indulgences you have now and then, outside your home.

Bedroom—Before you go bed, lay your workout clothes out where you will see them first thing in the morning. Visual cues are powerful. Author James Clear of Atomic Habits asks, "If your guitar is in the back of your closet how often will you play it?" It's much easier to do something when you have a visual cue in front of you, and harder to do it when you don't.

Bathroom—Hang a calendar with the days marked for scheduled doctor's appointments, as well as when you need to reorder prescription medicines and medical supplies. In the bathroom, you know you'll see it every morning.

Organize diabetes supplies—Look around your home and think about how you can make changes to support your diabetes tasks, like keeping long-acting, once-a-day insulin in a mug in the kitchen so it's there first thing in the morning when you make your coffee.

Habits makeover

Basically, habits are shortcuts. They allow us to do things automatically without a lot of energy and decision-making. Many people with diabetes have stated that the healthy habits they practice are what makes them so successful in their management.

People think it takes a lot of discipline to manage diabetes well, but healthy habits help keep people disciplined. Rather than wish you were more disciplined, begin initiating habits that will make you so. Here are some healthy habits people with diabetes have shared:

  1. "I keep two blood glucose meters. One is in a bright pink bag in my purse so I can always find it. The other is at home, always in the same place—on my kitchen counter."

  2. "I store a 6-pack of small juice boxes in my office drawer."

  3. "I put glucose tablets in everything I carry—my backpack and gym bag—and all over the house in the kitchen, bathroom and on my bedside night table. I'm always prepared if I go low."

  4. "I use 20cm salad plates as dinner plates at home. They hold less food and so I eat less. When I eat out, if I'm served a big portion, I ask the server to wrap half of it for me to take home. That way it's not in front of me to even tempt me."

  5. "I have standing appointments to work out with friends, just like appointments I make to see my doctor or meet friends for lunch."

  6. "I schedule my annual doctor visits around my birthday so I won't forget."

  7. "I don't rely on healthy food being available when I'm traveling, so I pack my own food for road trips or when I'm flying."

Taking time to arrange your home, organize diabetes supplies and practise healthy habits are powerful ways to make you more successful in managing your diabetes.

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