How Empowerment Can Change Your Diabetes Habits, Health, and Happiness

By Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE —

If you (or someone you love) are living with diabetes, you are well aware that it brings many challenges to your daily life. Regardless of your age or the type of diabetes you have, there are multiple factors to juggle every single day. Out of all these factors, I think the “fear factor” is the worst. Fear can hold us back and keep us from being our best selves and living our best life.

Because of that, the most important goal I have as a diabetes educator and communicator is to empower people to take charge of their diabetes. That doesn’t mean being in control of every single aspect of diet, exercise, medications, and other lifestyle behaviors. Because, of course, it’s not possible to control everything. But if we are empowered to take a more proactive role, that’s when we realize we can accomplish so much more than we originally thought possible.

While food is an essential piece of the puzzle, there are many other key factors to consider such as: taking medications as prescribed, getting enough activity (and enough sleep, too), monitoring blood glucose levels, and practicing healthy coping skills. With so much to be mindful of, it’s important to find practical ways to set yourself up for success. The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) has developed seven key areas to focus on and encourages you to meet with a diabetes educator to help you set priorities and coach you in each of the key areas. (For smartphone apps to help manage your diabetes, see this page on AADE’s website.)

Understanding how your personality and “tendencies” affect your choices and habits can be very enlightening and empowering. Author, podcaster and ‘happiness expert’ Gretchen Rubin has a quiz you can take to help you get a better handle on how to change your habits for the better. Her sister and podcast co-host, Elizabeth Craft, has type 1 diabetes and often shares her struggles and successes on the show. Hear what Gretchen had to say about health, habits, and happiness when I interviewed her recently on my Sound Bites podcast.

Perhaps the most important step you can take to support your efforts is to find a diabetes educator to help you reach your goals. You can find a dietitian here and a diabetes educator here. Keep in mind: dietitians and diabetes educators are not the “food police” – they are more like “coaches” than “referees”. And since diet is such an important factor, there are many tools and strategies that can help you make the ‘healthy choice’ the ‘easy choice’ such as identifying ‘trigger’ foods and finding ‘diabetes-friendly’ recipes that use less sugar or sugar substitutes such as sucralose to decrease the total carbohydrate content.

So whether you are juggling these habits yourself, or supporting a loved one on their health journey, I encourage you to focus your efforts on how you can be empowered to change habits for better health and ultimately, more happiness.


Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist with more than 20 years’ experience helping people enjoy their food with health in mind. Melissa is a certified diabetes educator, a former supermarket dietitian, and also a former national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). She was named Outstanding Dietitian of the Year in Illinois by AND and Outstanding Diabetes Educator of the Year in Chicago by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. She is a paid contributor to Melissa is the CEO of Sound Bites, Inc. based in Chicago, Illinois, and you can connect with her on Twitter (@MelissaJoyRD), Pinterest,Facebook, and check out her blog at

Items of Interest

November 30, 2016 Lifestyle Advice