I’ll admit, a diabetes book with the title “How Sweet It Is” and slabs of chocolate on the cover was not a draw for me. This looked like something either incredibly trivial or simply in poor taste. Two non-diabetic psychologist brothers who write for the society/celebrity site Black Tie International Magazine taking on diabetes care? Come on…
But here’s the thing: this is not a book about diabetes. Not really. Not primarily. Primarily it’s about using “action-oriented healing strategies” to make yourself feel happier, less stressed, more physically robust, and more at peace with yourself.
So yes, it’s a self-helpy, self-empowerment book — also not usually my cup of tea — but an interesting and thorough one (with a 43-page bibliography!) that makes some excellent points about attitude, optimism, humor, hope, faith and the mind/body connection, with many relevant references to life with diabetes.
Of course, there are the obligatory chapters about the science of diabetes and the meds, etc., the ‘diabetic diet’ (explanation of the glycemic index) and why exercise is so important. I found this portion less than impressive, without even a mention of the fact that adults can get type 1 too, for example.
But then chapters 5-10 delve into Flaum & Flaum’s real message: a set of 20 vigilantly explained mental exercises they call “Healing Power Tools.” They walk you through things like meditation and guided imagery for beginners; taking a ‘virtual vacation’ by methodically exploring what calms you down; exploring childhood memories and hurts that may impact your behavior now; a questionnaire to check in on your current emotional state; using positive self-talk to “reformat” your internal disk; awakening your “inner child”; holistic medicine and natural remedies; and learning to treat yourself to rewards regularly — even by taking yourself out on a date.
Sound incredibly touchy-feely? Well, it is. But it’s not nearly as frivolous as it comes across printed in a book review.
These guys know a few things about modern life, and the fact that living with diabetes is a coping challenge, more than anything else. There’s a reason that diabetes and depression are so closely tied together. The authors write:
“We live in a culture of ever-increasing speed. We race through our lives on a constant treadmill of business appointments, deadlines, and play dates. We rush to accomplish and accumulate more, conditioned by the consumer-driven media, and further driven by the frenzy of those around us. Have we indeed pushed ourselves beyond our limits? Perhaps so.”
They also write:
“In dealing with illness, one may easily slip into the ‘poor me’ victim-of-life-circumstances role… You may choose to add in the ‘it’s always my fault’ self-attack blame game … as well as the ‘no one will ever love me anymore’ worry-wart maneuver. So now you can feel helpless, hopeless, guilty and self-loathing all at the same time.”
But there are conscious ways to overcome this dark hole, probably more and easier ways than you ever imagined. That’s what this book is about. So I’d highly recommend it if your mental state is your biggest hurdle, and the book Diabetes Burnout didn’t go far enough for you.
One beef, however: what I do not like here is the author’s choice of terms as they talk repeatedly about “healing from our diabetic illness.” Our? … And didn’t they get the memo that diabetes is a lifelong condition, not something you can make disappear through any amount of ‘healthy lifestyle’ and positive thinking? (especially type 1) So what do they mean by ‘healing’? I have to assume this refers to a citation early in the book from Dr. Mehmet Oz that “health is about vitality and vigor, not just that you don’t have any particular illness and complaint, but that you have abundant energy, exude a keen sense of purpose, and place in the world, and consider the whole rather than just yourself.”