As if it’s not difficult enough to say so long to sugar, if you want to put the kibosh on prediabetes, you’re also gonna have to cut ties with stress. And not just the short-term emotional and physical stress that impacts your blood sugar in the ‘flight or fight’ moments when your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol, but the chronic stress that keeps your cortisol levels high and glucose in your blood, making you resistant to insulin—your blood sugar regulator—over time.
So, at the very moment you are pining for, and grieving over, sugar, and making some very difficult diet changes, you are also essentially changing how you react to both short- and long-term life circumstances that are causing you stress. Talk about doubling your workload!
In my case, when I got my prediabetes diagnosis, I’d long been adept at remaining calm “in the moment” (even earning such nicknames as ‘grace under pressure’ and ‘little buddha’). However, I’d not focused as much on those big picture stressors we all face related to work, finances and home life that are associated with metabolic syndrome and, thus, (pre)diabetes.
While we tend to recognize this kind of stress when it comes with major life events and losses like getting divorced or fired, we pay less attention to the slow-burn, circumstantial stress that can creep up on us in less obvious ways, and we often don’t acknowledge its cumulative impacts until we receive a medical diagnosis of some kind—and then we seek advice on stress management (for which the American Psychological Association offers some solid building blocks here).
And it seems you have to be willing to accept difficult trade offs in order to make significant changes: if such major trade offs were easy, everyone’s health would be improving! The reality is that many people have great difficulty parting with stress that is intrinsic to their identity or their motivation to get things done. For me, being in a doc program that was sedentary, financially draining and not a good fit was one of those creeping situations that required major trade-offs in my life plans in order to address stress.
The mindset I adopted for prioritizing health and stress management may seem counterintuitive to the need to “let go” and to the many mindfulness-based approaches that are known to succeed, but I’m sharing it anyway in case it can work for you. (Drumroll…..) I found that getting angry at stress worked wonders! Since my diagnosis (which coincided with some other health warnings), I’ve made stress the villain in my life story, and my focus remains defeating it and getting even with it—by improving my health. I refuse to give stress—which takes so much away—the time of day. When it rises up, I shut it down as if it were my nemesis personified, and ruthlessly cut off whatever line of thinking it’s feeding on. You too can be as tough on stress as you are on sugar! When you tap into anger over what stress does to you, you will become strong enough to kick it to the curb with your superhero shoe.