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How setting diabetes goals can help you achieve remission

If being in the same health position this time next year would make you feel anxious or disappointed, you might find it helpful to learn how to set realistic and achievable goals that can help you to take your health into your own hands.
Anna Cutler
12/22/2021
11
min read
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Quick summary

  • Decide for yourself what success means to you so you can plan to work toward objectives that inspire you and are within your control.
  • Setting informed and well thought-out type 2 diabetes-related goals can increase the likelihood of you achieving them.
  • Asking what you’re willing to sacrifice helps to clarify what you really want and can better prepare you for the journey ahead.

Why should I be setting goals to reverse type 2 diabetes?

A common misconception is that life comes at you but actually, it comes from you. This doesn't mean that you’re responsible for everything that happens to you, but rather that you can define what success and failure look like for you, and you can control how you react to them. 

So, where does setting type 2 diabetes-related goals fit into this? Well, deciding what your personal goals are is a great way to realise what success means to you. We often talk about success in terms of financial gain, career status, or starting a family, but it can also be reversing type 2 diabetes, or reducing (or stopping) medication. As our in-house health-psychologist Dr Silja Voolma says, once you know what you’re working towards, you can start “taking your motivation and creating a new reality with it”, no matter the goal. Having clearly defined objectives can act as a motivational tool for those moments, well, when you don’t really have any motivation. Nobody is motivated 100% of the time (and that’s okay!), but lacking motivation doesn’t have to mean putting your journey towards better health on hold. Having a concrete list of your aims helps to keep you accountable and track your progress, and it has been noted that ‘goal setting encourages a person to try harder and for longer periods of time’.[1] All of this is key because when it comes to health, sustainable improvement often takes commitment and patience.  

Set goals that are for you and you alone. Choose goals that feel most like you, regardless of what everyone else is doing!

Dr Silja Voolma

Ticking off goals can be an incredibly motivational part of your journey because they’re proof of what you’re capable of. It’s important to remember that ‘skills are developed through practice and learning from previous attempts’, so each time you tick off a goal, take it as an opportunity to give yourself feedback and to assess how you would face the challenge differently a second time round.[1] Even if you think you lack a certain ability, reflect on what you have previously achieved and the chances are you will have displayed at least some qualities that are crucial for that skill.

The process of detailing your goals is not only great for developing a long-term vision and a sense of greater purpose, but it should also allow you to break down your big ideas into small actions, which helps keep up momentum in the short-term. Don’t underestimate the power of a well-thought-out plan; having a clear picture of your goals in mind is useful for organising yourself and knowing what to prioritise. If you know how much time and energy a certain task will require, you can prepare for that, increasing the likelihood that you’ll go through with it, your efficiency whilst performing it and ultimately, the overall enjoyment of the process. 

Knowing your health aims will help you to focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t. Giving time to things that are out of your control is neither useful nor productive—it’s simply a waste of your precious time. Although easier said than done, focusing on what you can control will help you save time, effort, and potentially even money.

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Different types of goals for your type 2 diabetes reversal plan

There are loads of different ways to think about goals and how to set them. It’s worth trying out setting different types of goals to see which ones work best for you. Remember, these are your goals, so make sure you find a way of goal-setting that makes you feel comfortable, excited, and motivated!

Set goals that are in your control

A common mistake people make when setting goals is to aim for things that are out of their control. For example, whilst a sole aim of reversing your type 2 diabetes is great, many factors will have contributed to your diagnosis and some of them will be beyond your control. To avoid disappointment, make sure your objectives are not dictated by external factors; this could mean that instead of concentrating on remission, you set goals to reduce your daily sugar consumption, and increase your fibre and water intake, all of which are positive changes you can make regardless of your diabetes status. It's also important to remember that you are in charge of your day and what you do with it. "Knowing what to leave out of your day is just as important as adding something in when it comes to achieving your goals," says Dr Voolma. "New goals require extra emotional, cognitive, and motivational resources. To help yourself through, choose one thing to postpone to another day or drop from your to-do list completely to make space for your new goal that day."

Set realistic goals

Don’t spread yourself too thin - grabbing the motivational bull by the horns and making lots of changes in one go may seem smart, but you risk doing yourself a disservice in the long run. In her book, The Kindness Method: Changing Habits for Good, behaviour change specialist, Shahroo Izadi, recommends making an initial plan that is ‘enough of a change to challenge you, but not so much that you doubt whether you can manage it’.[2] Take it step-by-step and focus on one goal at a time!

This also means that your objectives will likely be more realistic. You know yourself, your inclinations, and your habits better than anyone else, and your health journey is about you and you alone, so setting yourself unrealistic expectations will simply hold you back. This is a shame-free zone, so if your daily goal is something as simple as having one sugar instead of two in your tea, then that’s a great place to start! Every little helps (thanks for that, Tesco!); doing one small task a day to work towards a healthier lifestyle is a huge success and something your future self will thank you for.

New goals require extra emotional, cognitive, and motivational resources—make space for it in your day.

Dr Silja Voolma

Set goals that inspire you

Health-related objectives should be about introducing a positive habit rather than about guilting or shaming you for how you currently live. So, instead of ‘stop eating so much sugar’ or ‘stop snacking’, try ‘eat more fruit and vegetables’ and ‘eat meals that are nutritionally balanced’. We all hold beliefs that drive our actions, so in order to change, it’s important to first consider what your incentives and core values are. Understanding more about why you want to do something makes it more likely that you will effectively execute it. When goals are about identity rather than outcome, they tend to be more successful. For example, rather than setting a goal to lose weight you could instead set a goal to become a healthier person.

Set goals—and write them down

Whilst you may pride yourself on your ability to remember your entire to-do list in your head, physically writing down your goals will not only force you to put time aside to properly analyse them and to create a strategic plan, but it can also help to make the goals feel more concrete, and thus increase the probability that you’ll hold yourself accountable. According to James Clear, creator of the Habit Journal, what actually matters is not your motivation, but your intention; delineating when and where you will implement your chosen task or habit was shown to have a significant positive effect on the likelihood of completion.[3] If it’s a long-term goal, then jotting down the reason why it’s important that you make the change can also be a motivational hack as it will serve as a reminder in moments of disillusion where you may want to give up and revert back to unhealthy habits.

Set goals that reframe your thinking

Switch from asking yourself what you want and instead try to have an honest conversation with yourself about what sacrifices you’re willing to make and what inconveniences you’re willing to endure. Our greatest successes, like reversing type 2 diabetes, take time to achieve. Recognising what challenges you expect to encounter will allow you to plan more accurately and increase the chances that you’ll be ready to face and overcome them. Try to consider which elements of the goal or upcoming events, such as a holiday, might throw you off track and then think about how you will resist temptation if those things do occur.

Set SMART goals

If you need a bit more guidance on how to get going, try using the SMART framework, which involves making Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound goals.[4] When specifying your objective, think of the ‘w’ questions: who, when, where, what and which. Next, consider how you will measure your success and if you have the necessary tools or skills to attain your goal. Finally, ask yourself why this goal is important in order to ensure that it’s relevant to the type of person you’re trying to become, and to determine how long you think it will take you to see the desired results.

Most importantly, remember that it’s about the journey and not the destination. Nobody gets it right all the time, so be kind to yourself and try to avoid hinging your happiness entirely on a goal—you deserve happiness regardless of how successful you believe you are. Keeping a positive mindset will help you to stay motivated, put in the work, and achieve your goals, whether they’re type 2 diabetes-related or otherwise.

References

[1] Strecher, V.J., Seijts, G.H., Kok, G.J.,  et al. (1995). Goal Setting as a Strategy for Health Behavior Change. Health Edu Q 22(2):190-200. Accessible here

[2] Izadi, S. (2018). The Kindness Method: Changing Habits for Good. Bluebird, London.

[3] Achieve Your Goals: Research Reveals a Simple Trick That Doubles Your Chances for Success. James Clear. Retrieved 29 November 2021. Accessible here.

[4] SMART Goals: A How to Guide. University of California. Retrieved 29 November 2021. Accessible here.

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