A recent article from US News & World Report detailing the outcomes of a study showing that almost 10% of the US population has a diagnosis of Diabetes. Given the current state of the Health of America, this report may not come as a surprise. To review about diabetes, there are two main types, Type 1 and Type 2. If you’re pregnant, we could discuss Gestational Diabetes but they were not included in this study. Remember, Type 1 Diabetes comes about from an autoimmune response within the body. A person with Type 1 will require daily insulin injections to live. Type 2 Diabetes, on the other hand, has been referred to as a “lifestyle” disease. While the exact cause or reason Type 2 begins remains a mystery,it is evident that diet, weight and a sedentary lifestyle play a significant role in setting the stage for Type 2 Diabetes. With Type 2 Diabetes, many people get a warning to make change if they are diagnosed with what has become known as “Pre-Diabetes”. Pre-Diabetes simply refers to having blood sugar levels that are elevated outside of the normal range but not yet high enough to be classified as having Type 2 Diabetes.
We know the public health crisis that Diabetes presents. With increased levels of Diabetes comes increased levels of heart disease, stroke, kidney, nerve, and eye damage which all require increased amounts of money to manage health care costs. The remedy to prevent this from happening? Well, it’s known. It requires a change in our lifestyle and food choices. Simple right? No, not simple at all. I want you to think about a purposeful change you’ve made and have been able to maintain. How did you make that change? What lead you to make AND maintain that change? Have you ever thought about how our brains are actually wired to resist change? Take a simple test. Clasp your hands together. Notice which hand is on top. Now, clasp your hands together again. This time, however, reverse which hand is on top. Feel weird? Sure it does. For the next couple of days, try to clasp your hands in this reversed way. Can you do it?
We are used to doing things a certain way. These “ways” become habits. As habits form, our brain develops pathways that allow for those habits to occur without us really having to think about them. The more we follow a habit, the deeper that pathway becomes. Think of those pathways like a river bed. The longer the river flows, the more defined that bed becomes. Altering the bed becomes very difficult the longer that pathway exists and is used.
Can we change our habits? Sure, but it takes time and dedication. Part of the model that makes up Integrative Health Coaching at Duke is understanding the Neuroscience of Change. Survival is the name of the game for the brain. We have developed three basic guides for survival:
- We want to be in control of our own destiny.
- We want stability and predictability. Knowing what is stable helps to make it predictable and allows us to easily determine safety levels.
- We embrace pleasure and avoid pain.
The trouble is, we are in a constant state of change. We are not alone in this world so we will never be in complete control of our destiny. Life is full of instability and unpredictability. While this may alter our feeling of safety, it is also part of what makes life fun and exciting. We all try to avoid pain in hope of only feeling pleasure but we know that won’t happen all the time either. Without pain, we cannot fully appreciate the pleasures of life. A proverb, “The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.”, attributed to the Minquass Nation and the title of a book by Guy Zona, sums up the importance of experiencing all of what life has to offer.
The experiences we have in life is what helps to define who we are and how we act and react in different situations. Those experiences can serve us well. However, when a change in our habits is necessary to help us become better or healthier, that can be a difficult thing to achieve. So what can we do? Start at the very beginning. You are the most important part of this equation. If you want to change something about yourself, you are the expert about that! You may require some help in becoming more aware of how you act or react in different situations but that is good first step to help you find your path to wellness. Being able to visualize what your success looks like will help you formulate a plan. Like Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it!”. The key is to develop your plan, taking small steps. Celebrate all success, no matter how small it may seem. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat the new action you are trying to bring out. It has been estimated that it can take 10,000 repetitions before a new action forms a neural pathway in the brain. That’s a lot of doing but remember why it is that you’re making these changes!
Angie & I are both Duke-trained Integrative Health Coaches who know and live with diabetes and will empower and support you in making health changes that will prevent or better manage diabetes. Interested in working with a health coach? Visit our coaching services page here.
It’s Your Health. It’s Your Life. Make That Change!