Good Life

People Centre’d on Diabetes | Journaling encourages a healthier self

In my experience, there is no practice so beneficial to health as journaling, whether it’s keeping track of weight, blood pressure, blood glucose or lots of “Dear Diary” entries.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind and put aside the bigger picture goals of physical health, or mental, emotional or spiritual well-being.

Journaling, keeping a log or whatever you want to call it — tracking consistently — helps us find and keep the big picture in focus. Sometimes patterns indicate a problem that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Happily, there also are times when the trends give us a boost of encouragement that we’re actually making progress and doing something right.

So, what needs to be written down? That depends on what you want to focus on.

For people living with diabetes, blood glucose levels are always on the list. And A1Cs. Blood pressure often is, too. Perhaps weight and finger-stick sites. Maybe injection or insertion sites, if you use insulin. Using the same place over and over can lead to damage to that site, whether you’re using a lancet, needle or pump.

Journaling can also help you keep track of the pills — did I take them this morning or not? (Hint: Pill boxes rock.)

Fortunately for those of us with diabetes, glucose meters can track hundreds of readings and often can be linked to a computer with a simple cable or Bluetooth. Being a geek, I like the tech options. Use that expensive smartphone or tablet, because “there’s an app for that.” Others prefer the simplicity of pencil and paper taped to the fridge.

It doesn’t really matter — just pick some system and work with it.

If weight loss is the focus, then, in addition to weight, you might keep tabs on what you eat every day and how much. Remember: “If it goes into your mouth, write it down.” Sometimes just being aware of the food you eat helps you cut back. Maybe your behavior specialist or therapist suggests you keep note of what you’re feeling when you open the fridge. A lot of Americans eat as an emotional reaction to life. We try to drown our sorrows in ice cream or celebrate the joys in an avalanche of pasta. Or just because we’re bored, watching TV or surfing the Internet, we’ll graze. Awareness of the whats and whys can be really helpful in getting to the root of a problem.

Awareness is what journaling is all about.

I would be the first to acknowledge that it is inconvenient to write everything down multiple times a day. But having that information makes living-well decisions so much easier that it’s worth the effort. No, I am not consistent with it; but in that is an important message: Most of us cannot be perfect, but some journaling is better than none. Don’t sweat the small stuff. OK, you missed a meal or three, or you forgot to track your meals for a couple of days while on vacation. It’s no big deal, just start up again. Some data is better than no data.

Talk with your health care team and find out what they suggest you track. Make a list. Then pick one thing and work on it for a month or two. When that gets to be a no-brainer, like brushing your teeth in the morning, add another item from the list. You do brush your teeth, don’t you?

I am my best health advocate. I do my homework. I take it one step at a time. The point of managing diabetes is not simply to live longer but to enjoy the trip.