Living with diabetes means keeping track of more than just your insulin and blood sugar. On a daily basis, you might be logging your meals, workouts, weight, blood pressure, even your sleep patterns and stress levels. And that doesn’t even include the regular lab exams you’re probably getting to keep an eye on your cholesterol, kidney function, and A1C levels. To say the least, managing diabetes can be a lot to handle—especially when it comes to finding patterns in what works (and what doesn’t work) for your health.
“Some of the most common feedback I receive from people with type 1 diabetes is that they’re using their health data to make day-to-day decisions (for example, knowing current blood sugar and carb intake to calculate mealtime insulin doses), but they’re not stepping back and looking at the big-picture patterns,” explains One Drop health coach, Alexa Stelzer, a registered dietitian (RD) and certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES). Some people say they get overwhelmed when looking at weeks or months of data, she continues, while others admit they’ve never really been taught how to interpret the data, so they rely on their doctor to do it for them. “Sometimes the experience of reviewing large amounts of health data can even provoke anxiety and almost feel like having a test graded and getting a scorecard of your performance,” adds Stelzer.
That’s where a One Drop health coach like Stelzer comes in. Yes, she’s there to help you set up reminders and sync your One Drop app with other health trackers on your phone. But she can also help you make sense of all that data you’re gathering, so you can feel more confident making decisions based on those numbers.
Here are some of her tips for anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed by their diabetes data.
1. Reframe Your Mindset
With so much data to track, it can be easy to focus on all the areas of your health that need improvement and how to “fix” them, explains Stelzer. But concentrating on the negative can be disempowering, she notes. “If you’re constantly looking at your data from an approach of where you ‘messed up,’ it can feel like you’re fighting a never-ending battle,” she explains. “These feelings of inadequacy can ultimately lead to less tracking of data and less informed decision-making.”
Instead of looking at your data in terms of what went “wrong,” she recommends asking yourself: “What went well?” Look at the days when your blood sugars were in range most often; review the meals in which you managed carbs well and included lots of nutrient-dense foods; note the days when you got the most steps or made time for a workout. “Take a few moments to acknowledge and be grateful for the things you did to take care of yourself and manage your health,” says Stelzer. “Just the act of logging and tracking your data is something to commend yourself for!”
After finding a few factors that are going well in your health management, reflect on what strategies you used and how you can recreate those days, suggests Stelzer. “For instance, if you identify a day when your blood sugars were in target range all day, consider the specific things that may have made an impact,” she explains. “Did you pack lunch rather than eat out? Were you mindful of carb portions? Did you incorporate movement throughout the day? Aim to find the cause and effect of your behaviors in a positive light.”
Of course, it’s still important to recognize and take action on patterns of high and low blood sugars or other concerning data, adds Stelzer. “But we need to balance that with identifying the positive,” she says.
2. Connect Numbers to Feelings
When you’re constantly crunching numbers to manage your health, it can make you feel like, well, just a number. If you can relate, the key is to remind yourself of the meaning behind these numbers, says Stelzer. Being in “target range,” for example, is about more than just reducing your risk for health complications down the road.
“When blood sugars are stable and in a healthy range, people often feel their best,” explains Stelzer. “The same is true when we’re practicing healthy eating patterns, exercising regularly, or practicing stress management techniques. These things do more than prevent complications later in life; they help us to feel our best right now!”
So, rather than thinking purely in terms of raising or lowering certain numbers when looking at your health data, consider how those numbers make you feel, and reflect on ways you can increase the “feel-good” moments—like carving out more time for walking throughout the day, or committing to a stress-relieving self-care routine every night to decompress after work.
3. Talk It Out
You probably already know that sharing your goals with others can help you stay accountable and committed. But talking about your intentions with another person—whether it’s your One Drop health coach, or even a trusted friend or family member—can also help you gain a new perspective on how to achieve those goals, says Stelzer.
“New insights can be reached when we talk through data with someone else,” she explains. For example, while working with someone who has type 1 diabetes, Stelzer says she noticed a pattern of blood sugar highs followed by lows in the afternoons. “The odd thing was it was happening every other day,” she explains. “I mentioned it to [my client] and asked if she had any idea what may be causing the significant highs followed by lows. She shared that her son came to visit her every other afternoon, and she always baked cookies, pies, or some kind of baked good to share with him when he came to visit.”
That routine with her son was clearly “very special to her,” continues Stelzer, so she had no intention of giving it up, despite the way it was affecting her health. Instead, Stelzer helped her find an alternative solution.
“I assured her that she didn’t have to give up sweets,” explains Stelzer. “We ended up having a conversation about how to cover high-carb snacks with insulin. Once she started doing this, her spikes decreased significantly and she stopped having rebound lows. She’d certainly been aware of those highs and lows before our conversation, but until we discussed the data together, she hadn’t realized there were other options besides cutting out the sweets.”
Ready to start wrapping your head around your own health data? Download the One Drop app and connect with one of our health coaches to get started.
This article has been medically reviewed by Jamillah Hoy-Rosas, MPH, RDN, CDCES, and VP of Clinical Operations at One Drop.