Before I retired I worked as an educational psychologist in schools. Contrary to popular opinion I didn’t work directly with the students but rather with the adults who worked with them either in a support capacity or as their teacher or parent. There weren’t enough EPs to work with the students even if that had been a good model which I don’t believe it was, so we worked with the people who were with the students on a daily / hourly basis. Anyway that’s neither here nor there now assuming it was then. So why do I mention it now in this blog which is about helping myself?
The point was / is that to be effective in the above role you needed to help the adults develop their own solutions to the problems the child or young adult (who in turn might be encouraged to develop their version of the strategy) was presenting. They were the ones who would be left to implement the possible strategies after you’d packed your briefcase, climbed in your car and disappeared into the sunset. So the ‘trick’ was the get the support person or teacher or parent to genuinely develop (by asking the right kind of questions) or at least believe they had developed, the solution themselves. In simple terms that it was their idea. It could be a very frustrating way to work because there were times when success happened and you wanted to shout out, that was my idea or at least, I helped you do that. But you couldn’t.
And why am I going on about this, so many years, well, five, ago? Because it’s relevant to the success I am so far having with my losing weight and getting off of insulin plan. I’ve mentioned twice now in these blogs the unsatisfactory (in my opinion) nature of the help I received from the professionals. Briefly I felt they lacked an understanding of the psychology involved in improving my diabetes. And yes, I would say that wouldn’t I? So I have. Maybe the two health workers I met had a plan so cunning that I overlooked the bleedin’ obvious. If they pissed me off sufficiently I would do what I did which was to take control of my own destiny diabetes-wise and yes, I do realise that I might be being a tad precipitous in writing this, but not smug, oh gosh no, not smug.
I read a book a few years ago entitled Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman (see cover above in case you were wondering about the relevance of photo) about success or lack of it in Hollywood. His most quoted quote from the book was, ‘nobody knows anything’. The quote is self-explanatory I think. Point is I have come to feel a bit the same way about the diabetes ‘industry’, for that is what it can seem to be. The problem being that every health professional I saw had a somewhat different view of way to ‘help’ people with diabetes and none of them included the individual in question’s view of what might happen.
So having made the decision to somewhat (not entirely) go it alone, I found a way of working with my diabetes that made sense to me*, that I could, in a sense, believe in and commit to. And, make no mistake, committing to the strategy is essential even though, and this is equally important, you see the strategy as an experiment. A line I used frequently with my ‘clients’ in my professional days. Let’s try this for a couple of weeks and then we’ll see if we can see any progress be it ever so small. It might be wrong but no matter, if so we’ll try something else.
My strategy to experiment with was based on a calorie-controlled diet, as opposed to the, currently quite popular, carbohydrate approach and nothing wrong with the latter it just didn’t hit the spot for me, whereas the simple – eat less calories (continue walking the dogs), lose weight, reduce insulin at the same time. A virtuous circle I’ve called it elsewhere.
My strategy was carefully monitored by me which meant frequent finger-pricking unfortunately. Another component of being successful in a plan that I constantly tried to get my ‘clients’ to engage in, not always with complete success but, I argued to them and now to myself, if you don’t know whether things are improving or not, whether you’re roughly on the right track, you’re not going to keep going, particularly when times get tough. In my case there was the added bonus of making sure I wasn’t killing myself. Quite an incentive to keep going with the monitoring.
In one sense I was lucky in this area in that my monitoring involved more than one source of ‘data’. A vital part of any strategy, if at all practical, because when one data source isn’t going well you can keep your motivation high by looking at another. Yes I know there’s a flaw in this. My two obvious and interacting data sources were, of course, my weight (against number of daily calories) and my blood sugar levels. I also tried to supplement these with reduced stomach fat, as measured by belt notches, blood pressure measurements which didn’t work so well when I developed some kind of chest infection but it was there at other times. Finally, I tried to make sure I noticed my increased, I was going to say fitness, but that might be over-stating it, feeling a bit better, even lighter, on our walks. Easy to miss this and again unfortunately, not helped with the infection.
My final weapon was Mrs Summerhouse, and realise that not everybody is lucky enough to have their own Mrs SH, and no, she’s not for sale / hire. She did the hard yards in working out the calories, the balance of the day, the search for suitable recipes and the stalwartness (is that a word?) to put up with yours truly responding with – you must be bloody joking, yogurt has how many sodding calories? You’re reading it wrong.
And the point of this blog? Hmm, I’m not entirely sure. I said I’d write about my diabetes strategy in more detail in case anybody out there is interested. True it’s early days, and not everybody has diabetes so whether there are aspects of the above plan that have relevance to what the medical profession loves to call ‘conditions’, I don’t know. Maybe. To stretch the point, there may be a lesson in all this for us retired folks with our increasingly long list of ‘conditions’, something to do with taking a bit of control, but then again probably not and I’m just over-stating my position. In another couple of months I’ll probably be writing about how it’s all gone wrong but that would be embarrassing so maybe not. Yours, confused in retirement. Enough about retirement and health for a while.
*based on The 8 –week blood sugar diet by Dr Michael Mosley