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Type 2 Diabetes: Education and Empowerment

Thursday 15 February 2024
6 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Self-Care Barriers

II. Safe Exercise Practices

III. Role of Nutritionists

IV. Importance of Self-Education

V. Conclusion

After receiving a diabetes diagnosis, one of the most empowering things you can do is educate yourself on your health. While your doctor and care team are key resources, you are the expert when it comes to your body and needs.

In this article, we'll discuss the many aspects of diabetes education and empowerment. We'll cover self-care barriers, safe exercise practices, the role of nutritionists, weight-loss and the importance of self-education.

Self-Care Barriers

Living with diabetes can present daily challenges in maintaining your health. Feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by the constant need to monitor your blood sugar, watching what you eat, and staying physically active is entirely normal. But with the right mindset and tools, you can overcome these challenges.

The key is to identify the self-care barriers holding you back and then develop strategies to push past them healthily and sustainably.

  • Problem-solving: It's impossible to plan for every situation that may arise with diabetes, but by learning from your struggles and developing plans based on your experiences, you can confidently navigate them.
  • Healthy eating: Contrary to popular belief, having diabetes doesn't mean giving up your favorite foods or avoiding dining out at your favorite restaurants. The key is to educate yourself about how different foods affect your blood sugar levels and then plan your diet accordingly.
  • Blood sugar monitoring: Monitoring your blood sugar regularly is essential for making informed food, exercise, and medication decisions. Don't avoid testing because you're afraid of the number on the meter. Use the data to understand what's working and make positive changes.
  • Physical activity: Exercise helps control weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and mental health. Staying active doesn't mean intensive training every day. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
  • Healthy coping: Diabetes can take a toll on your body and mind, so healthy coping strategies are essential. It's important to recognize that the emotions you experience are normal and then take steps to take care of your mental health. [1]

Safe Exercise Practices

Woman with a continuous glucose monitor on her arm preparing for a run

If you have diabetes, physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your health and quality of life. Exercise makes your cells more sensitive to insulin, which helps lower blood sugar levels and reduces health risks like heart disease and nerve damage. [2]

The good news is you don’t need an expensive gym membership to be active. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate activity like brisk walking, housework, gardening, or swimming. Start slow and build up your endurance over time. The key is to get your heart pumping and work your major muscle groups. [2]

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. They can help you choose activities that are safe and effective for you. Testing blood sugar before being active is also important, especially if you take insulin. Here's a quick guide:

  • Blood sugar below 100 mg/dL: Eat a small snack containing 15 to 30 grams of carbs before exercising. This can be as simple as half a cup of fruit or two tablespoons of raisins.
  • Blood sugar above 240 mg/dL: Your blood sugar may be too high for physical activity. In this case, it's important to test your urine for ketones. The presence of ketones indicates that your body lacks sufficient insulin to control your blood sugar. Engaging in physical activity with high ketone levels puts you at risk of ketoacidosis, a serious diabetes complication that requires immediate medical attention. [2]

The benefits of regular physical activity are well worth the extra planning. Work with your healthcare provider to tailor an exercise routine that is appropriate, safe, and effective for your needs.

Role of Nutritionists

Managing diabetes can be a complex journey, and having the support of a nutritionist can make a world of difference. A nutritionist has extensive training in nutrition science and can provide personalized guidance to help you manage your blood sugar levels through your diet.

Here are some of the key benefits of partnering with a nutritionist for diabetes care:

  • Meal planning: A nutritionist works with you to create a meal plan that suits your lifestyle, preferences, and activity level. By considering these factors, they ensure your meals contain the perfect balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and other essential nutrients to stabilize your blood sugar.
  • Losing weight: A nutritionist will calculate the ideal calorie intake that aligns with your activity level, ensuring you lose weight safely and effectively.
  • Managing blood sugar: Working with a nutritionist can help you identify foods that may negatively impact your blood sugar levels, allowing you to make informed choices and maintain better control.
  • Education: Nutritionists teach you how different foods impact your blood sugar so you can make informed choices. You'll learn to count carbs, read nutrition labels, and modify recipes. They'll explain how timing, portions, and food combinations affect blood glucose. [3]

Importance of Self-Education

Elderly man talking in a diabetes support group

One of the most important steps you can take after a diabetes diagnosis is committing to learning as much as possible about managing your condition effectively. According to the CDC, people with diabetes who receive education are more likely to follow recommended self-care and clinical care practices. [4]

  • Self-care practices: Abstain from smoking, regularly monitor your blood sugar, check for foot sores daily, and engage in physical exercise.
  • Clinical care practices: Get regular eye exams, foot exams, and A1C tests twice a year [4]

The good news is that diabetes education programs, such as diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES), can teach you valuable skills to manage your condition. DSMES covers everything from practical tips to essential skills in diabetes management. [5] With DSMES education, you can:

  • Save money on healthcare
  • Adhere to your treatment plan
  • Learn how to use diabetes devices
  • Learn how to eat healthy and be active safely
  • Improve your hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol
  • Take care of your mental health [5]

While doctors and nurses play an important role in your diabetes care, self-education is the key to becoming your best advocate. Plan to keep learning and stay up to date with the latest diabetes research and tools for managing your health. 


Managing type 2 diabetes holistically begins with education. Attend classes, join support groups, and stay up-to-date on new developments. Arm yourself with information to overcome barriers to self-care.

Connect with nutritionists and diabetes educators to build your support network. They can guide healthy eating and safe exercise tailored to your needs. You don't have to figure it out alone.

If you have more questions about managing type 2 diabetes, visit our dedicated diabetes blog.

The content provided in this article is based on thorough research and, in some cases, reviewed by a medical professional. Our goal for the information is to provide helpful, general health information. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.