Happy New Year!
How was 2015 for you? Did you achieve all you wanted to in the management of your diabetes or weight loss (or gain)? Are you rightfully proud of how you stayed on track and lowered your A1C and/or your medication(s) dosage(s)? Or are you desperate and discouraged at how things are seemingly worse now than they were a year ago even though you’ve tried harder than ever before to stay in control? Either way, please know that today is another day–no matter what day of the year it is.
I stopped making “New Year’s Resolutions” long ago, but I still take a look back on New Year’s Eve and take time to write down things I’d like to see happen in the coming year. Goals, objectives, strategies, tactics. What’s the difference? Goals are statements you make about your future. They represent your aspirations. Objectives are the exact steps you must take to reach your goals. They are typically measurable and quantifiable. They also are realistic and attainable and have an associated timeline. After you have defined your goals and objectives, you can get even more specific in your diabetes management by developing strategies and tactics. Strategies are more abstract than tactics, and tactics are the exact things you can do to achieve the objectives that will help you reach your goals.
As a diabetic, your priority goal is probably pretty simple: to keep your diabetes “in control” (whatever that means to you). For those who follow your doctor’s instructions explicity, it may mean keeping your A1C at 7.0 or less (or 7.9 if you are over 65). Others may have a goal to get and keep your A1C in the non-diabetic normal range of 4.0-5.6 (above which point you become pre-diabetic). Still others may simply want to keep your A1C low enough to delay any collateral damage of diabetes, such as Alopecia areata (hair loss), foot neuropathy, dental disease, liver and kidney disease, dialysis, blindness, and amputation. Or heart disease or stroke. If you are a Type 2 diabetic, you may have a goal to lose weight; or if you are a Type 1 diabetic, you may want to gain weight. Some more specific goals could be to practice portion control, to increase your insulin sensitivity, to take better care of your teeth and your hair, or to exercise more consistently. Or to exercise at all.
For goals to become objectives, you need to add a measureable quantity and a time frame, such as to lose 10 lbs. in the next 5 months, or to lower your A1C by .2 by your next 3-month checkup. It has always distressed me to hear my doctor say, “You’ve got to lose weight!” without giving me anything more specific than “eat less” or “exercise more.” And the most frustrating thing is that when you’re on insulin you tend to gain weight! Yet, the more weight you gain and the worse your A1C, the more insulin your doctor prescribes. Is there even any hope?!?
This is the point where you have to create strategies to achieve the objectives that will help you reach your goals. For losing weight, your strategy might be to keep your calories under 1200/day or to keep your carbohydrates under 60 grams/day or to totally eliminate all processed (meaning anything not 100% whole) grain products. You might develop a strategy to exercise a minimum of 30 minutes a day for at least 3 days a week.
These are the most specific of all. You might define an exercise tactic to include walking 30 minutes and/or 2,000 steps on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and ride your bike for one hour or x number of miles on Tuesday and Thursday. Your specific tactic for a dietary strategy might be to keep a food journal that records calories, carbs, and fats for 5 days every week. You may get even more detailed with using a system that calculates percentages of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) based on the grams of each that you consume.
To keep it simpler, just ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish?” and “What can I do to accomplish it?” Whether you are a high-carb low-fat vegan, an Adventist non-vegetarian following ADA recommendations, or a low-carb high-fat vegetarian–or a totally different combination–you can succeed in reaching your goals in 2016! But you must define your goals/objectives and develop strategies/tactics, whether simple or complex. And you only have to do it one day at a time. Starting today.