When You Slip Up

People with diabetes of any type, including prediabetes, know that maintaining a healthy eating plan, regularly checking blood glucose levels, following insulin therapy, medication routines and getting lots of regular exercise are all essential components of keeping blood sugar levels regulated. This also allows diabetics to enjoy life without the stress of hyper or hypoglycemia resulting in potentially life threatening situations.

However, despite good intentions, slips ups can and do occur. You may forget to test your blood, indulge in the extra large piece of chocolate birthday cake or choose to go without exercising over your summer vacation. The good news is that slip ups or backsliding on an exercise and healthy eating plan can be planned for without having to feel guilty or go to extremes. As a matter of fact, going to extremes to try to counterbalance whereever you slipped may result in compounding the problem instead of making it better.

The type of diabetes that you have will also impact on the significance of a slip up. If you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes the oversight or momentary lack of judgment that led you to go off of your diet or activity plan can just be a learning experience. You may not need to specifically adjust your medications, insulin or exercise program, particularly if your diabetes is controlled by diet and lifestyle changes and not through insulin therapy.

Type 1 diabetes slip ups can be more significant; however, with insulin therapy it is possible to balance your blood sugar using rapid acting insulin or through very careful monitoring of blood glucose levels until you are back on track. If there are any significant signs of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia it is important to notify a support person and contact your doctor immediately. You may also need to go to an emergency room or your doctor to be proactive about any complications that may occur.

Preventing The Problem

Developing a “doable” plan for your life with diabetes or prediabetes is the best way to prevent slip ups or get back on track. This means that if you want to have a dessert or a sweet treat every now and then, plan for a day where you don’t have to go to the gym and include social time with your friends and family in your plans. The more realistic your lifestyle plan is, the more you can be flexible while still staying within your exercise and food intake goals. This not only makes life much more enjoyable but it really can help to eliminate problems.

One simple way to ensure that diabetes does not pose additional problems to your health is to find ways to limit the amount of time that you are inactive. In studies it was learned that women that were more frequent TV watchers had a higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes than women of the same age that watched TV less and engaged in light to moderate exercise. 1 Changing one hour of TV time per day to a walk or playing with the kids can provide huge benefits in diabetes management.

People that allow themselves to enjoy foods they love, set realistic weight loss goals and live life to the fullest are less likely to fall into the trap of going overboard when they get off track. When you lead a highly restricted life with regards to foods, you may find that once you eat the piece of cake you can’t stop and you literally binge. This is much more harmful to your blood glucose levels, resulting in the spikes that are so damaging to insulin sensitivity and overall health.

Getting Everyone Involved

Friends and family members can be instrumental in helping you if you do get off track. Having people in your life that will be positive and supportive of your lifestyle change and will help you to achieve your goals is important. If you do get a bit off track having a friend stop by to take you to play tennis or to go for a walk is a pleasant way to work more exercise into your life. Friends and family that encourage healthy eating and avoid tempting high carb foods will also provide guidance and support in making those lifestyle choices that are so important. 2

Friends and family are also essential in changing more significant aspects of your life after a diagnosis of diabetes. They can learn to watch for symptoms of blood glucose imbalances and also to help remind you to test you blood and stay on track. Smokers will also find that support from friends and family is important in making the all important choice to end the addiction to cigarettes or tobacco products.

Reward Yourself

It is so easy to blame yourself for a slip up but forget to reward yourself for staying on a healthy eating plan or by participating in regular exercise. When you reward yourself you can find something to do that you enjoy or even treat yourself to a special event. Keeping charts and data about all the healthy changes you have made will help you stay positive if you do fall back to a bad habit.

Journaling is a good way to be able to talk about positive changes that you see in your body, health and in your overall outlook on life. You can also track your progress through journals, which gives you an easy to use progress report on the improvements you are making in various aspects of your life. Journaling is also a great way to talk about short and long term goals for weight loss, healthy eating, exercise and life changes you want to make.

Education about diabetes self-efficacy and self management is very important in learning just what to expect if you do slip up on your plan. Attending group trainings that teach specific skills as well as encourage discussions about the reality of dealing with diabetes are instrumental in making good choices. 3

Slipping up in following your plans for living your life with diabetes is certainly nothing to dwell on negatively. Reflect on the reasons why you made the decisions you made and come up with a plan to make a better choice the next time you are presented with the same issues. If you do each time you will soon find that the slip ups stop happening and you are successful in the lifestyle changes that promote your good health.


1 Hu, F. B., Li, T. Y., Colditz, G. A., et al. (2003). Television Watching and Other Sedentary Behaviors in Relation to Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Women. Journal of the American Medical Association , 1785-1791.

2 Wen, L. K., Shepherd, M. D., & Parchman, M. L. (2004). Family support, diet, and exercise among older Mexican Americans with type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Educator , 980-993.

3 Krichbaum, K., Aarestad, V., & Buethe, M. (2009). Exploring the Connection Between Self-Efficacy and Effective Diabetes Self-Management. The Diabetes Educator , 653-662.

This article was originally published July 12, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/10/2015.