Maybe you’ve not been getting your blood sugar checked regularly. Perhaps you assumed that you ate healthfully enough, exercised regularly enough, managed your stress well enough not to worry about such things—and asking your doctor about your sugar had never even occurred to you. Maybe you had no idea that pre(diabetes) ran in the family, until you got your diagnosis and then started asking questions. Or you could have been more informed than I was, and were already monitoring your sugar. Either way, whether your prediabetes came as a disappointment—or total shock—try not to panic.

I totally panicked. But initially, I shrugged it off. The school nurse (I was in a doctoral program) had said, “I’d like to see your sugar a little lower” in a gentle voice with such a wide smile that I’d simply smiled back, and even went on to eat a mountain of fries that evening, relatively oblivious. It was only hours later, while researching what it meant to be a “6.3” on the A1C scale, did I freak out. The idea that, depending on how long my sugar had been that high, I was likely to get (possibly irreversible) diabetes in the next two years, scared the living sugar out of me.

Cursing my sedentary-scholarly lifestyle of reading 8 hours a day—and eating pizza and bagels on the go—I cut out all sugar, and most carbs, the next day. I had an idea of what I was supposed to eat, but carbs had always been the mainstay of my diet and without them, I was ravenous. I went overboard trying to fill their absence with gourmet items like lobster in order to feel indulged rather than deprived, ate some unhealthy “sugar free” sweets to placate my sweet tooth (my sugar cravings were embarrassingly base) and, at one point, consumed close to a pound of steak to finally feel full. Satiating my appetite with various concoctions became a half-time job! A friend who was staying with me at the time made a point of staying clear of the kitchen. I was on a bender.

I did lose five pounds that first week, but I was also haggard, and who knows how much of the positive results of my diet change were offset by the sheer stress of going cold turkey with no preparation, since stress also raises blood sugar. (This is what I think of as the obnoxious ‘sugar stress snowball effect’… stress about your blood sugar can raise your sugar further, which stresses you out even more and… you can see where I’m going with this….)

So if you take your results as seriously as I did, you too will want to make major lifestyle changes overnight. But if you can make these changes calmly, and less drastically, you can avoid the added panic of going cold turkey unprepared. By starting out with cutting back on carbs, exercising and focusing on keeping your stress over having prediabetes— and stress more generally—at bay, you’ll be doing yourself a favor. You’ll be moving quickly in the right direction while you figure out how to change your lifestyle and diet more methodically, either on your own or with the help of a dietician, for good.