Help Someone Help Themselves

A post written a while ago but still depicts my passion today!!

A night out with my two best friends for dinner. This is a habitual thing but tonight was a bit different. I had met with a business friend right before seeing my friends, and our talk about his work with people living with diabetes inspired me to do what I had wanted to do for a while now. I knew one of my friends had been struggling with on-and-off diagnoses of pre-diabetes. When I learned she had been pre-diabetic for almost four years now, my first reaction was, “Four years?!” She calmly replied, “Well I figure if it hasn’t turned into diabetes yet, I must be doing something right.”

Now I was intrigued. This was a new puzzle to solve; a new language to translate. I have always been interested in psychology, and am now a nutritional science major. With a mixture of curiosity and concern, I was very interested in where this was going. I wanted to help her but I had to see where she was stuck, where this apparent disconnect was forming. Did she not understand the relationship between her high carbohydrate diet and her potential risk of developing type II diabetes? Did she not know how to eat healthier? Did she want help? I was trying to decipher the “chill” attitude. 

She explained that she was fully aware of the issues she was facing, but being aware, has not made a large enough impact to make her want to change. She loves the pastas, breads, pizzas, and French fries she eats on a regular basis. Her large Italian family makes it nearly impossible to resist the tempting five-course family dinners she attends weekly. Her busy schedule, commuting to college and living independently, has made her visit the “drive through” rather than discovering the “joys of cooking” healthier options. Without shame and without hesitation, she said, “Laur, the thing is- I love my food. I don’t have time to cook, I don’t know how to cook, I hate cooking, and I look forward to my meals. Eating has become a hobby and it makes me comfortable. I have a boyfriend and a good family, and if something were amiss I might be more inclined to change my ways.” She followed these statements with, “I get sick of diet food and I give up. If the results are not fast enough I lose motivation and I stop.” 

Sadly, my friend seemed to be building a brick wall of hopelessness and despair. She seemed to resign to the conclusion there was nothing she could do to change her unhappy position and her progression to developing type II diabetes.  There was no bullet that would make a dent in the wall she had built for herself; she was not budging. I was frustrated, but being someone who values my relationships, the struggle of my best friend was not going unnoticed by me. I was determined to help her understand the reality of her situation and to offer my help in any way possible. 

Unfortunately, this is the same situation that many Americans face day to day, without answers. Many people are stuck. Many people, like my friend, shy away from change. I get concerned with this resistance because it makes it difficult to convince someone that any small changes can be can be life altering, and possibly life-saving. I wish I could provide people with an aura of self-confidence, motivation, and hope. No one likes change because it is the unknown, but why not try it if the results are positive?! Why not listen to the cries of your body and make it healthier and stronger? I empathize with people like this because it is so difficult to make these changes, and to see into the unknown future. How do I know my diagnosis will change? How do I know that I can do this?

It is proven that dietary changes and moderate exercise help dramatically! These two things alone are directly linked with reduced risk for developing type II diabetes. Weight loss and exercise decrease insulin resistance and increase insulin sensitivity, so just by a few dietary and behavioral changes, she, and you, could be on the way to a healthier life. No medications, no daily injections, and no additional health complications. Sounds good right? This is all I hope to achieve when I speak to people like my friend. Please just commit to a few small changes, and with time you will see the difference. See if you feel anything change and see if you like the changes! It is all an individual choice, but the facts are there.

It is not an overnight remedy, nor do you need to give up your whole life. Try slowly! If you drink soda, replace it with water! If you eat pasta, try whole-wheat pasta! If you like dessert, eat it once a week. These small steps can make a huge difference. Everyone makes changes at different paces, and it does not need to feel like torture. You do not need to eliminate everything you enjoy! Try to avoid fad diets that tell you to eliminate carbohydrates entirely, and instead make smart choices about carbs.  No nutrient should be completely eliminated from the diet, just balance! Choose foods high in fiber and high in complex carbs (whole wheat products, oatmeal, sweet potatoes), and try your best to avoid foods that are processed and contain simple sugars and starches (white bread, white pasta, high fructose corn syrup, white potatoes). Aim for a diet high in fruits and vegetables, filled with healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, and complete with calcium filled low fat dairy products. Moderate exercise even twice a week can help too. Anything different than your normal schedule will tell your body, “Hey this is different. Do something different.” That something will be your body burning calories, feeding your muscles with good nutrients, and burning fat for energy instead of storing it.  

Understanding the person you are talking to is a critical part in helping someone be successful. Whether is it with a project, with a job-related task, or with a diet change, it is important to empathize and to work alongside the person the needs help. Sometimes helping a friend can mean listening to them, understanding their challenges and feelings, and making small suggestions that are doable and attainable. Asking for too much can result in failure, and that is the last thing we want to see in people we care about. Small changes are all it takes. Build confidence, build the motivation, experience the changes, and let it flow. Most importantly, let them know that you care about them and are willing to help them make these changes. Care, concern, and dedication to helping a friend succeed, makes your presence a gift. It might just be all that they need to make a dent, or even blast a hole in the wall in front of them.

**I am still so passionate about helping people find their reason for not changing. I am NOT someone who will write diet plans for people as I do not believe they work nor are they the way to a more fulfilling life. There are reasons we seek the changes that we do, reasons we want to change who we are and how we look, and I am passionate about helping you uncover those!

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