It’s a goofy movie to be sure, but “What About Bob” is one of my favorites. Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) plays a character paralyzed by obsessive-compulsive disorder who finds hope in psychoanalyst Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) and his new book “Baby Steps.” I won’t spoil it for you, but I will tell you that I was using the “baby steps” concept with my diabetes patients long before Dr. Leo Marvin and Bob Wiley hit the big screen.
The concept is pretty much what you might guess – take things slowly when you’re learning something new (like a baby learning to walk). You already know how many new responsibilities you have to take on in order to manage diabetes effectively, all thrown at you at once. There is an excellent chance that you feel completely overwhelmed right now.
One baby step leads to another
So, taking “baby steps” is to adopt your new diabetes-related responsibilities slowly and deliberately so that you can form habits. And, while this is a great strategy for newly diagnosed individuals, it may even be more effective for those who are overwhelmed and lost trying to take on everything at once.
Where you start depends to some extent on the status of your health, and I obviously can’t know that. But, here’s an example that may be relevant. Managing diabetes effectively almost always requires that we modify our diet – what we eat directly effects blood glucose levels. But, modifying our diet is difficult – there are many new things to learn, there are old habits to address, there is conflicting advice to sort out, and food has great emotional attachment. What if, while overwhelmed with diet challenges, we shifted our focus to exercise? Exercise is mindless (no thinking required), exercise increases insulin sensitivity (will help manage blood glucose levels), exercise reduces stress and anxiety (like the anxiety modifying what we eat causes), and making exercise a habit is a huge personal success. Not only will this new habit have great payoff for your health, but one success gives you confidence to tackle the next challenge. One baby step leads to another.