One of the best bits of my job is meeting people living with diabetes and hearing about their experiences. Sometimes I don't get to meet them in person - sometimes it is a patient survey or letter or email. How people talk about their diabetes and deal with it is diverse and fascinating. Joe Freeman - our social media guy - pointed me in the direction of the Diabetes UK blog - which I knew about but hadn't made time to go and see [bad me]. The first post I read was about a person who wanted to know what they looked like when they have a hypo. What an amazing thing - it wouldn't have occured to me that someone would think of that and yet it makes perfect sense. Knowing your condition includes knowing about how it manifests itself and as the blogger notes how it looks may not automatically mean people know it is a hypo. I know of people who have been assumed to be drunk or on drugs when having a hypo - of people being picked up by the police or thrown out of shops/restaurants etc for being disorderly. Hearing directly from people with diabetes reminds all of us that raising awareness and making sure everyone knows about diabetes is really important. And that being let into a persons experience is a real privelege. Go read it!
But don't say I said that. Working for a health charity means you are much more conscious than usual over what you are 'supposed' to be doing to be healthy. I have a heightened awareness for the foods and exercise avoidance that mean a less healthy lifestyle. However, heightened awareness also means I think even more about chips than I ever did. And chocolate. And gin. I want them.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been trying to clean up my act. Moving job to a health charity may mean I know more about and are more aware of health messages - but this hasn't turned into a super healthy lifestyle. If anything the travel, odd working hours, evening events with buffets and a weakness for comfort eating when juggling 'competing priorities' means I have in fact put on weight and developed some not-so-great habits.
While working on our South Asian Community project a lot of the feedback from participants has been about the basic, simple changes you can make. How to give up sugar in your tea, or change your cooking oil. It's easy to say - harder to implement. Everyone in a household may need to make the change around you. For many they are trying to break the habits and practices of a lifetime. More than that, it is about culture too. For me food is a social thing. Breaking bread - or sitting down to a lovingly prepared meal and sharing the food and our reactions to it - is part of my culture and background. So taking a leaf out of their book, instead of thinking 'I must be able to cycle 50 miles before work NOW' I have taken a gentler approach.
I haven't fully given up coffee but I have limited myself to coffee on a Sunday. The cravings were bad - the headache coincided with a few stressful days at work so I convinced myself it wasn't the caffeine withdrawal. I even tried - horror of horrors - decaf coffee at work.
I haven't fully given up chocolate either - but I have cut down drastically. No Milky Bar on the train home [they are really small these days!]. I did have a dark chocolate covered ginger biscuit - but that doesn't count?
And last night on our walk along the river to get ice cream I went for a modest small scoop - not my usual greedy two scoop with a Flake.
I now also walk a lot more when I am in London instead of resorting to the tube. I get some exercise but also get to see and learn about the city I am working in. I am also walking to the train station in the village at home and back each day. Not quite my 'big goal' but better than nought.
These are all small changes - but I am proud of making them. They are the first step to getting healthier - and without that sense of failure when in the first week you haven't lost a stone and bagged a Munro, because who could achieve that? I am also reminded though of how hard it is to make those changes. I am surrounded by the information and guidance needed - and yet I still find it hard. It makes me realise how much we ask of those around us when we talk about five-a-day and doing more exercise. We need to realise that this stuff isn't as easy as it looks in a leaflet and that daily life and ingrained habits are hard to change.
And I have my wee brother coming to stay next week. So the next step is some big walks in the amazing countryside I have around me. He is great company and likes to get out and about so that will get my walking legs up to speed again.
So - back to the gin - I have not given up alcohol. I am not a big drinker but I do like 'a wee swally'. And I am not a martyr so I have to keep one fun thing. I can go weeks without a glass of wine - although in the modern way of the young professional I will have several glasses when out with friends but rate it ok because we were also having dinner - bourgeoise drinking is just as bad as any other kind. Also cocktails are not necessarily better than drinking Buckie. It's just more stylish. But I don't believe in giving up every fun thing. So I have this evening sat down to a lovely Blackwood's gin which has aided my 'work diary tidy up' and allowed me to feel like working late isn't too much of a bind. For me it is small steps, big changes, and if I am going to preach the message I should live it too.
It has been a while since I last posted which has been down to a combination of moving house, no internet and an incredibly busy time at work. I am back on the internet though and blogging has recommenced. I will be sifting through the scraps, photos and other flotsam and jetsam I have gathered thinking 'that would be good for the blog' and getting it posted. So bear with me - I am gearing up again for the blogosphere!
In the meantime, you can catch me on twitter @JCJudson...