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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Self-image

Being a teenager means going through some physical changes. But remember, most of your friends will be in the same position. People tend to grow up gradually, and the different phases of puberty happen at different ages for different people.

Poor diabetes control can delay puberty, so keeping good control of your diabetes will help you grow and develop at the right time.

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Self-image and self-esteem are all about how you feel about yourself. How much do you feel you are worth? How much do you feel other people value you?

 

Self-esteem is important because feeling good about yourself can affect your mental health, how you behave, and your diabetes. 

 

Self-image is how you view your physical self – including whether you feel you are attractive and whether others like how you look. For many people, body image can be closely linked to your self-esteem. 

What influences your self-esteem and self-image?

There are lots of factors that can affect the way you feel about yourself, and living with diabetes can sometimes make things feel worse.

Puberty and development

Puberty is a time when your body goes through lots of changes which often make some people struggle with their self-esteem and body image. These changes, along with wanting to feel accepted and liked by our friends, means we often compare ourselves to others. It's important to remember – everyone is different. Not everyone grows or develops at the same time or in the same way.

Family life and school

Sometimes our family life may affect the way we feel about ourselves. Maybe your parents or teachers are too focused on you looking a certain way, and we are all often sensitive to other people's comments. You may experience negative comments from friends or classmates, remember those people are often struggling with their own body image and self-esteem.

Media and other influences

We all consume media everyday, and the media has a powerful impact on how we see ourselves and how we think we should look. Women's and men's magazines often feature images of 'the perfect body' and it's easy to feel bad if you don't look the same. It is important to know that these representations are not realistic and, often, not real.

Weight issues

When you first start taking insulin you may put on weight, but this could just be your body recovering from the huge weight loss and dehydration you may have experienced before diagnosis.

When your diabetes is well controlled, your body weight eventually recovers, but it can take a while. Talk to your dietitian or nurse if you're worried that you're not gaining weight or you think you're gaining too much.

Don't skip meals or snacks

Skipping meals isn't the way to avoid putting on weight. Thinking about what you eat is more important than not eating, which will lower your blood glucose levels and increase the risk of hypos.

Be active

Activity is also important. Being active will do you good, keep your weight down and allow you to keep control of your diabetes rather than put yourself at risk.

Healthy self-esteem tips

If you have a healthy body image, you will like and accept yourself for the way you are. This healthy attitude allows you to explore other aspects of growing up, such as friendships, becoming more independent, and challenging yourself mentally and physically. Developing these parts of your self is important. Here are some tips:

  1. Try to have a positive attitude – if you make a mistake, or perhaps your blood glucose isn't under such great control one day, be positive and recognise what you have taken from that experience.
  2. Recognise that your body is your own, no matter what shape or size – focus on how strong and healthy you are, recognise what you can improve and take steps to get there. Regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet have great impacts on your body image and self-esteem.
  3. When you hear negative comments coming from within, tell yourself to stop – we are complex and always changing, try to focus on what is unique and interesting about yourself.
  4. Put your energy into something that makes you happy; often, doing things for others can give you a great feeling and self-esteem boost.

Where can I go if I need help?

Sometimes feeling low is too much to handle, and if you are feeling this way it is important to talk to someone. Family, friends, a teacher or guidance counselor can all help. If you feel you can't turn to anyone you know, you can call the Diabetes UK Helpline where we can give you information and support.

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