I’m a social worker. More specifically, I’m a social worker who works in health care. Many of my clients over the years have been diabetic, lots of whom are what the medical world calls “non-compliant“; basically, folks who aren’t doing what their physician instructs them to do.
I’ve seen the consequences of non-compliance, what Type II Diabetes: The First Year (my favorite diabetes book) calls the O’Pathy sisters–neuropathy, retinopathy, and nephropathy. Neuropathy typically is nerve damage in the lower extremities, which is the reason you see so many diabetics with amputations of their feet (and higher). Retinopathy is damage to the eyes–many diabetics go blind or close to it. And nephropathy is damage to the kidneys, which is why so many diabetics end up on dialysis. None are pleasant.
Yet, like so many other things in life, negative consequences aren’t always enough to change behavior, and the threat of negative consequences is certainly even less effective.
I knew this much about my diabetes early on: people had really bad things happen to their health due to it, not just the O’Pathy sisters, but strokes (like my dad) and heart attacks. Some of it–if not all of it–was avoidable. But I had to know more. And I knew this much about myself: I had to be an example–a positive one–for the clientele I worked with.
I also needed to be healthy enough to outlive my mother.
So it was time to figure out what to do. Since I consider the Internet (and Google, in particular) to be the repair manual for everything, I started doing research. I went to the library. I ordered Gretchen Becker’s Type II Diabetes: The First Year. I exchanged email and chat messages with one of my friends in Rochester, New York, who was a long time diabetic and on dialysis. And I read.
It became clear to me: losing weight–which, like so many other Americans, I had tried to do so many times, and eventually failed at so many times–would be job one.
And this time, failure wasn’t an option.