Ginger Vieira kind of blows me away. She has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease for over 11 years. And she holds 14 national, drug-tested powerlifting records and the Vermont state record for the female bench press. She’s recently established herself as a cognitive Health & Chronic Illness Life Coach at her new company, Living In Progress.
There Ginger works with people (individuals and families) on how their thinking impacts the way they take care of their health. She focuses on a person’s current habitual thinking, and helps them build new, more positive and productive ways of thinking that will help them progress towards their goals of health and happiness. She also helps people overcome obstacles around making exercise a part of their life with Personal Exercise Programs coaching. Today, Ginger shares a bit of her way of thinking with us:
A Guest Post by Ginger Vieira, Chronic Illness Life Coach
Diabetes is so much more than just a disease I live with every day. Diabetes is a constant thought in my head. I am always thinking about my blood sugar, the insulin I just injected, the insulin I need to inject, the food I’m about to eat, the food I ate four hours ago, the workout I’m planning to do tonight, and the jog with my dog I’m planning to do tomorrow morning. Just going for a walk with my best friend causes me to stop and wonder, “What’s my blood sugar? Am I going to be two miles from home when I’m desperately wishing I’d brought glucose tabs with me?”
Diabetes is a giant, enormous, tremendous responsibility that inevitably shapes the way I think about my health, exercise, and even my relationship with food. It shapes how I face this daily challenge, whether I tell myself I can do it, one day at a time, or whether I tell myself I’ll never do it well enough, and I’m always failing.
My doctor can give me the most perfect insulin doses, the perfect diet, the perfect plan to keep my blood sugar as close to “perfect” as possible, but all of these tools can’t help me if the strongest thoughts in my head are, “I’m a failure. I can’t do it.”
But those thoughts aren’t permanent thoughts. They are just a habit. The same way I’ve developed a habit of walking the same path through the grocery store or eating the same exact thing for breakfast every day, I am in control of the habits for the thoughts I put in my own head.
In my work as a cognitive health and chronic illness health coach, I help people develop new habits of thinking about the challenges in their life through a process that breaks down those overwhelming challenges. We start by focusing on what you really want for your life, and how the thoughts you currently fill your head with are interfering with your ability to be in charge of your own health. There are so many nooks and crannies in our brains that we aren’t aware of, or we can’t see clearly — I work with people to help them look at those nooks and start to change what they know isn’t improving their lives.
Everyone’s goals are very specific to them, and the process is their own. One of my clients, for example, has a habit of being very sloppy with her insulin dosing. She knows this. She knows she’s responsible for the ups and downs she sees in her blood sugar, but she wants to change the way she thinks about her diabetes so that she actually wants to stop and take the time to measure her insulin doses carefully.
One of my clients is working on challenges that aren’t actually directly diabetes management, but more focused on how he thinks about himself. He’s developed a habit of telling himself he’s a failure over and over for so long now that it has actually crept into how he takes care of his apartment. We’re working on developing stronger thoughts around caring enough about himself to take better care of the place he lives in.
I’ve also been working with clients whose goals are focused around how they use food to ease their emotions even though it’s very clear that the food never actually relieves those emotions, such as stress, depression or loneliness. What is really behind that desire to go straight to food for a feeling of comfort even though it only seems to drive further negative emotions of guilt, self-defeat and shame? That answer is different for everyone, but it’s something I can help you uncover.
I know that the simplest thoughts in my head often have a direct influence on the way I live my life. I’ve developed habits in my own life to remind myself that I’m not perfect, that I am capable of anything I set my mind to, and that my diabetes is a daily challenge I will face with patience every day. Through coaching, I hope to help others create new ways of thinking so they can live well and live happily, too.
Thank you, Ginger. It’s so great to know there’s a coach for us out there who really ‘walks in our shoes.’