Type 2 Diabetes: Where Do I Start?


You’ve just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and if we’re being honest, you’re probably nervous about the lifestyle changes you will have to make and don’t know where to begin. The good news is, getting started on your new life with type 2 diabetes is simple. With just a few steps, you’ll begin to redefine normalcy and live a full life with diabetes.

Set Realistic Goals

You and your doctor are working towards a goal to make sure you’re able to manage diabetes well enough to live a full, healthy and happy life with it. An essential part of the beginning of type 2 diabetes management is understanding what your numbers mean and setting realistic goals for lowering your daily blood sugar numbers and A1C. Know that type 2 diabetes affects everyone differently, so ask your doctor what numbers are optimal for you.

This includes asking your doctor or another member of your diabetes care team what your ideal blood sugar numbers should be before your first meal of the day, two hours after your first bite of a meal, which ranges are too high or low, and what to do in the event your blood sugar is too high or low.

Build Your Support Team

When it comes to building your diabetes care team, always remember you are the most important person in it. While specialists certainly provide the expertise, only you fully understand how diabetes affects your body. Seek recommendations for endocrinologists, nutritionists, dietitians, diabetes educators and peer support groups from trusted sources such as your primary care doctor. When choosing members of your care team, ensure they respect your values, including cultural ones and provide a holistic approach to your treatment plan and address the mental and emotional tolls of diabetes self-management.

Also vital to your support team are the people who care about you the most. Whether this consists of family, friends, colleagues, or neighbors, identify loved ones you can confide in about your struggles, fears and successes with diabetes management. Those in this circle should be non-judgmental, supportive and help find solutions to your problems, even if they aren’t living with diabetes themselves. Research also shows people with diabetes who join peer support groups are more likely to manage diabetes well, less likely to experience diabetes complications and have a higher quality of life. Diabetes Canada has put together a diabetes resources manual, which includes a list of support resources by province and territory. If you live in Quebec, Diabetes Quebec has a list of diabetes services available by region in the province.

Find the Right Diet and Exercise Plan For You

The general advice for those living with type 2 diabetes is to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. But what does that mean for you? In short, whatever you make of it. Living with diabetes doesn’t mean cutting out cake, burgers, or your favorite guilty pleasures. It means adjusting the quantity and the frequency with which you eat them. If you’re someone who’s had a negative view of healthy foods, living with diabetes can change that perspective for you. Healthy eating can be as simple as recreating your favorite dishes with healthier ingredients.

For example, if you enjoy creamy dishes typically high in fat and carbs such as chicken alfredo and pasta, make it at home instead of buying the canned sauce or pre-packaged meal. Substitute heavy cream for half-and-half, use fresh parmesan and garlic, cook chicken breast in extra virgin olive oil and substitute white pasta for whole-wheat or quinoa pasta. You can add flavor boosters using fresh or dried Italian herbs such as basil, parsley and oregano and control the amount of salt you add. Learning to cook healthy at home carries health benefits by helping you control your sodium, fat and carbohydrate intake, plus it’s fun!

If you’re not a gym person—don’t sweat it (pun intended). There’s no need to purchase an expensive gym membership you’re not going to use. In fact, exercise can be completely free! Lace up your shoes and go for a run, walk and jog around the neighborhood. If you don’t exercise already, set a goal for the amount of time you’re willing to dedicate to physical activity per day. If that’s five minutes around the block for the first week, awesome! Stick with it and build on your progress. The following week, you may want to bump it up to 10 minutes and so on.

Check out resources such as the Beyond Type 2 Food and Diabetes and Exercise pages to generate ideas on how to construct your diet, determine which foods and workouts suit you.

Identify the Costs of Diabetes Supplies and Care

Diabetes can be expensive. High costs of supplies such as glucose testing strips, glucose monitors, medications and syringes—and the fact that provincial and federal coverage is often limited—means that people living with diabetes often spend more than three percent of their income to treat their diabetes. It’s estimated that people will pay from $1,000 to $5,000 per year out of pocket, depending on how they manage their diabetes.

Because of this, it’s extremely important to understand how your health insurance plan can help you cover the costs of diabetes management. Adequate coverage can be the difference in preventing serious complications. Read about health coverage in your province or territory and see if you’re eligible for financial assistance: the diabetes resources manual from Diabetes Canada has information about financial support and insurance coverage. If brand-name diabetes medications and supplies are too expensive, ask your doctor to prescribe generic versions. Also, you can purchase some diabetes supplies such as blood glucose meters, lancets and test trips over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. 

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can be scary, but it’s not a death sentence and with proper management, you will be able to live your best life with it. This guide is meant to relieve the stress and confusion diagnosis brings. Another important reminder is diabetes does not define you. You are still a whole, entire person who deserves to enjoy everything life has to offer and with a positive outlook on your treatment plan, your support system and access to adequate resources, you will thrive with type 2 diabetes.

Written By Beyond Type 2 Editorial Team, Posted , Updated 08/24/23

This piece was authored collaboratively by the Beyond Type 2 Editorial Team.