Diabetes requires attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Almost everything you eat and do affects your diabetes. This 24/7 commitment is part of what makes diabetes so different and so difficult.
Most people who have diabetes spend no more than several hours a year with their health care professionals. Because there are more than 8,000 remaining hours in the year, the primary responsibility rests with you and not your health professionals.
The LIFE Plan is a way we recommend to take on this responsibility. The LIFE plan helps empower you to live with diabetes in a way that works for your life, goals and priorities.
The LIFE plan consists of four distinct but very fluid steps:
LEARN not just about the care of diabetes, but about your own priorities, values, capabilities and the real life circumstances in which you live with and manage your diabetes.
IDENTIFY your guiding principles: the role you wish to take in designing your self-management plan, the amount of flexibility you need to match your lifestyle, and the targets you set f for A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight.
FORMULATE your own personal self-management plan.
EXPERIMENT & EVALUATE with how well your plan works for you.
For downloadable forms to help you develop and monitor your LIFE plan,
For further information, read
The Little Diabetes Book YOU Need to
Diabetes education occurs at two levels. While it is important to learn about the disease of diabetes and how to care for it, it is equally important to understand how diabetes affects you personally. The concept of Real Diabetes encompasses more than just how your body reacts to drug and other therapies. It is equally important to understand your feelings, wants, needs and capabilities. This requires honest reflection on your part.
Your health professionals are experts about diabetes and will have many valuable recommendations. Different health care professionals offer different types of advice based on their area of expertise. It is important to learn how each of them can be of help.
However, you are truly the expert about your own diabetes – how it affects you physically, emotionally and practically. It is essential that you understand your own concerns, feelings, priorities, other life stresses and goals and keep them in mind as you create your LIFE plan. Your plan needs to fit your life, rather than trying to adapt your life to accommodate diabetes.
It is also important to identify your sources of emotional and practical support. For most people, the primary support team will consist of family members. It is not uncommon, however, for some to seek support from friends, health care professionals, clergy and other people with diabetes. The important thing is for you to have someone with whom to share worries and concerns. Both your support and health care teams need to know what you needs and expects from them. This helps reduce potential frustration and misunderstandings.
Identify Your Guiding Principles
Before you can develop your actual plan, there are three basic decisions you need to make to set the ground rules for managing your diabetes. These are: the role you want to assume in the design of your plan, how much flexibility you need, and the targets you wish to achieve.
Your Role. First, you need to decide how actively involved you want to be in the creation of your personal self-management plan. One option is to allow your health care professionals to design the entire plan. This option may be helpful at first or until you have a better idea of your personal needs, likes and other circumstances that need to be reflected in your plan. Alternatively, you may choose to become an integral member of the plan design team. Neither of these options is right or wrong. The important thing is to develop a plan that your can comfortably use most of the time.
As you learn more about yourself and diabetes, you may assume a more active role. It may also be that the first option works for some aspects of your plan while the second option works better for others. For example, you may choose to accept your health professionals recommendations about medications, but design your own activity or meal plans.
Flexibility. Second, you need to consider how much flexibility you want and need in your life. Some people find it easier to follow a strict meal plan and timetable. Others want the ability to change their daily routines to suit their own schedules. Once again, you have a choice to make and need to consider the costs and benefits of the various options. For instance, in order to have more flexibility it will likely be necessary to make more daily decisions and monitor blood sugar levels more often. More flexibility may also require more medications or insulin injections. On the other hand, creating a more rigid plan may require more self-discipline.
Targets. Target levels for A1c, blood pressure, cholesterol and weight have been established for people with diabetes. You may choose these as your targets or you may choose different ones. The advice of your health care professionals can be very helpful in making these decisions. You may also find it helpful to set interim targets designed to bring you closer to your ultimate goals. For example, if your A1c level is 10%, success may be more likely if your goal is to reduce it one percentage point at a time. For more information about recommended target levels, go to
Formulate your Self-Management Plan
This is the “what” of self-management. There are many options to consider and from which to choose. These include meal planning, exercise, medications, insulin, blood sugar monitoring, stress management, problem-solving and emotional support. Your plan needs to also encompass what you have learned about under Step 1 about yourself and your ability to incorporate these into your life and the targets you have set in Step 2.
Experiment with and Evaluate Your Plan
This last step of the LIFE process recognizes that all of the LIFE steps are fluid and will change as you live with diabetes. Much of your plan will be trial and error. Because this is the implementation phase of your plan, you need to create behavioral or action goals to make your plan a reality. There are 5 steps in this process5:
- Define the problem or concern
- Recognize your emotional response to this issue
- Choose a long-term goal to address this issue
- Make a plan to reach the goal by identifying specific behaviors or action-steps towards reaching the goal
- Evaluate the outcome
One way to think of your action plan is as an experiment. Diabetes care is not a perfect science. Regardless of the outcome, you have the opportunity to learn from your experience. When something in the plan works, keep it up. But if a part of the plan is not working, take the time to think about why it is not working so you can adjust your plan rather than being frustrated or feeling like a failure.. Sometimes the plan does not work because of a decision to ignore it. Some people may refer to this as “cheating”, but in reality it is just a choice. You can then decide to adjust your plan to accommodate that choice.
Diabetes self-management is not easy. It requires knowledge, commitment and a clear understanding of your needs, feelings, priorities and goals. While it is not easy, it is possible. The place to start is to understand the importance of your role and then to create and believe in your LIFE plan - or to simply ”Think LIFE”.
For downloadable forms to help you develop and monitor your LIFE plan,
Diabetes Book You Need to Read
||The Little Diabetes Book You Need to Read
by Michael Weiss, Martha Funnell
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