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If you have type 2 diabetes, you may already have a pretty good idea of what you could be doing to help manage it. But what if your daily responsibilities make it hard to follow healthy habits? That’s the challenge some people with type 2 diabetes may face—and it can make diabetes management feel harder than it already is.

For example, consider a single mom who has type 2 diabetes. She may…

  • want to cook more healthy meals at home, but her children are picky eaters, refusing to eat what she makes.
  • wish she could exercise more, but between work and her kids’ schedules, she just can’t find the time.
  • …have good intentions to see her own doctor regularly, but taking care of her children and her aging parents is prioritized.

What can she do when family life holds her back from her own diabetes management goals? She could get creative. For example, she could…

  • …invite her kids to join her in the kitchen to entice them into eating healthier foods.
  • …fit in more steps where she can, like taking the stairs instead of an elevator while running errands. 

If you can relate to our example and find it a struggle to balance your household with your health, try these tips to try and build more flexibility into your hectic routine.

Do What You Can, When You Can

If your daily responsibilities make a 30-minute workout nearly impossible, try adding physical activity to your day while you’re on the go. For example, instead of bringing a chair to your kids’ sporting events or practices or waiting from the car, try to walk or pace while cheering them on from the sidelines.

You could also try riding a bike or taking a walk to the store, taking a stroll during your workday lunch break, or pacing the living room while watching TV.

Adapt—but Don’t Abandon—Family Traditions

If big meals during the holidays or celebrations are a tradition for your family, you don’t have to cancel plans or radically change the menu to stick to your nutrition goals. Instead, try different ways to make recipes healthier so the whole family can still enjoy the same traditional dishes you know and love.

Simple ingredient swaps are a great way to get started. For example, if a recipe calls for sour cream, try a fat-free or low-fat option. Or if you’ve always cooked your veggies in butter, consider steaming them instead. And here’s more food for thought: If you’re making a fruit dessert, see how it tastes if you use less sugar. Often, fruit is already sweet on its own, so you may not need that extra sugar after all.

Make Appointments Work for You

One of the most common reasons people skip out on their own health care visits is lack of time. After all, how can you possibly fit in a doctor’s appointment when your schedule is already full?

Finding a health care team with clinic hours that work for your schedule is key.  For example, if Wednesdays are a slower day for you, make sure your provider sees patients that day. It can also be helpful to schedule yearly check-ups—like with your eye doctor, for instance, months in advance, and put them on the calendar, so that you save those slots for your own care.

Make Healthy Choices a Family Affair

You don’t have to go it alone. Often, your family may want to support your healthy choices, but they may just not know how. If you make a healthy lifestyle a family affair—rather than something you think you have to do on your own—you may be able to have more fun and even stay more motivated to keep going.

You may choose to encourage healthy habits for your family by including them in your preferred physical activities. Try taking a family walk  or playing a team sport in your backyard. Family dance parties in the living room can be another fun way to stay active as a group.

Learn About Diabetes as a Family

When you’re struggling with diabetes management, it might sometimes feel like your family members don’t understand what it’s like for you. That’s why involving them in your care can be a great way to teach them about your diagnosis and how they can help you reach your goals. As they learn more about diabetes, they may become a wonderful support system for you.

If you feel comfortable, bring them along to your check-ups or other diabetes-related events, like cooking classes. You might also want to send them helpful articles from How2Type2.com so they know what information works for you.

Find Time for Yourself, Too

Managing a family and diabetes at the same time won’t always be easy. Try as you might to make things perfect, you may have slip-ups or bumps in the road—and that’s okay! If you have to compromise here and there or ask family members to adjust their own routines a bit so that you can improve yours, that’s okay, too.

The main thing to remember is that you are the most important member of your health care team, so do what you can to take care of yourself so you can also help take care of others.

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