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Diabetes and Valentine's Day: What's Love Got to Do with It?

When it comes to Valentine's Day, I'm not a fan.

It’s not only the onslaught of chocolates that tempt me from my eating plan, but the exclusionary idea of it: if you aren’t in a relationship, it’s not for you. So this year, rather than celebrate the pleasures of coupledom, I’ve decided to concentrate on the idea of self-love, and how it can benefit everyone. I don’t mean narcissism, but how caring for yourself may not only improve your outlook on life, but help with your diabetes care.

What is self-love? When it comes to diabetes, it’s caring enough to eat right, exercise regularly and keep up with your blood sugar readings. It’s also about not beating yourself up if you don’t always do these things and to be willing to grant yourself a break. It might also mean keeping up with friendships that bring you joy, spending time pampering yourself in a warm bath or with a mani-pedi, or setting aside time to read a book. It may mean making a meal that you particularly enjoy, or taking up a new hobby—tennis anyone?—to keep you on your toes.

It means appreciating and nourishing yourself as you are.

I know this isn’t the main message of Valentine’s Day, which celebrates romantic love and Cupid’s arrow. But it’s often been said that until you love yourself, you can’t really love someone else. And while a partner can help you with your diabetes care: aiding you in weathering lows and highs, being there to pass glucose tablets or orange juice or listening when you’ve simply had enough of dealing with a chronic disease, caring about yourself can help you stay on track.

Forget the heart-shaped chocolates: Believing that you’re worth the trouble, that you deserve to be healthy, may be one of the best gifts you can ever receive.

How do you love yourself? For some of us, it isn’t easy. We may have been taught to put others first: kids, husbands, boyfriends, or bosses. We may be too self-critical, picking apart how we don’t measure up as opposed to how we do. In terms of diabetes care, this may involve disappointment or depression over how we can’t lose weight or get our blood sugars under control. It could be an inability to stick to an exercise program, or a weakness for sugary treats.

First of all, I think you have to forgive yourself for any and all of these things. Second, start small. Pick one trait that you want to change, and direct your attention to that. Resolve to walk a few extra blocks when you park at the mall, cut a sugary treat into quarters and eat one part, weigh yourself once a week rather than every day. Think about how you might treat a friend who was undergoing your struggles—probably with kindness and love. Think about applying some of that good stuff to yourself.

And Valentines’ Day, with its emphasis on love and caring, might be the perfect day to start. 

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