March 2, 2014

Interview with Susan Weiner, co-author The Complete Diabetes Organizer

Diabetes, whether type 1 or 2, is a personally very demanding disease. That’s an understatement! The day-to-day management of diabetes is done by the beholder and/or their caregivers, not the person’s healthcare provider(s). As healthcare providers we spend time teaching people about managing diabetes, from medications to food, exercise, preventing complications and more. It would be great if we had endless time to help give people practical ideas and strategies for fitting their diabetes into everyday life, but we generally and unfortunately, don’t.

That’s THE BIG reason I’m pleased to see this new book come along, The Complete Diabetes Organizer. This all-in-one guidebook, written by diabetes nutrition educator, Susan Weiner and organization guru, Leslie Josel, offers up plenty of practical tips, products, apps and more to help people with diabetes better organize their diabetes into their real (and busy) lives.
In this interview with Susan Weiner I’ve asked her to share some of the book’s key points and insights. Enjoy it! Then read my review of The Complete Diabetes Organizer on amazon and consider purchasing a copy from my amazon a-store.

HW Q: Please share a few details about your background and that of your co-author Leslie Josel? Then let us know how this unique book came to be?
SW A: Thank’s for the opportunity to discuss this book and the topic of diabetes organization. I’m a certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian nutritionist. In my 20 years of private practice in Long Island, New York, I’ve realized that people with diabetes lead busy lives, like everyone else, (with work, school and responsibilities at home), so it’s very challenging to stay organized! Think about it, how can you prepare healthy meals if your kitchen is cluttered? Can you test your blood glucose if you can’t locate your meter or testing supplies? People with diabetes may need some strategies to keep track of medical paperwork to stay up to date with important information. So, I contacted my friend Leslie Josel, an organizing guru, and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. We collaborated on this book to help all people with diabetes organize their supplies, daily routines, medical paperwork, and much more! It’s a hands-on “how-to” book, with simple strategies..

HW Q: What are a few of the overarching strategies you suggest that people should put into action to get their diabetes organized to improve day to day management and efficiency?
SW A: The first step to getting organized is to set goals. Start by “defining” your goals. We suggest writing down each goal. Be sure that each goal is specific and measurable. Once you set your goals (the ones that are most important to you), start to follow your action plan. Take a deep breath first. You don’t have to set a ton of goals and accomplish them in a week. This all takes time, energy and focus. Take small and realistic steps towards your goals. You’ll get there! For example, if your goal is to exercise more often, look at your calendar and set specific times each week to exercise, decide what you are going to do and for how long. Stick to your plan as if it’s an appointment.

A great strategy for the kitchen is to use clear containers in your refrigerator and in the pantry. You’ll be able to see everything plainly in the containers. Label everything using masking tape or food storage labels such as food content and the date the food was prepared. The bonus to doing this is you’ll be able to minimize waste and keep your refrigerator organized.

Another great strategy is to set up a “launching pad” in your home. A launching pad is one place where you can keep all of the items that you need when you leave the house. One place you may try is next to the front door. Pre-pack your diabetes supply bag and gym bag the night before and place them on the launching pad. It will make your mornings much easier.

HW Q: You share the wisdoms of how many people with diabetes (several who are diabetes educators as well) organize their life with diabetes? What were some common themes? What were some surprises?
SW A: The most common theme is feeling bombarded with information and overwhelmed with “to-do” tasks related to diabetes daily management. The book offers step by step strategies to get more organized one step at a time. A small and permanent change in your daily routine will help you get more organized and take control of your diabetes.

Both Leslie and I were delighted by the words of wisdom from parents of children with type 1 diabetes in the chapter The Proactive Parent. There is a wonderful letter from Tom and Jill Karlya written to their daughter’s classmates and parents. The letter addressed issues which are common to all parents of children with diabetes including that you can’t “catch” the disease as well as suggestions for birthday celebrations and classroom parties. This simple and brilliant letter can be modified and used for all children with diabetes.

HW Q: You know one of the biggest challenges to managing diabetes is food and meal planning. That’s especially true in our eat-on-the-run fast-food society today. You include chapters on setting up a diabetes friendly kitchen and organizing your pantry, refrigerator and freezer, as well as meals. Please share a few key strategies?
SW A: The heart of many homes is the kitchen. We put a lot of thought into what you might want to keep in your kitchen and pantry. Start to organize your kitchen storage space. Clean out your refrigerator, freezer or pantry! Then  it’s time to restock. Group like items together. For example keep your condiments together and cold cuts in a separate drawer.

When you go shopping always prepare a shopping list with healthy foods in mind. Here’s why: This will help you stay within your financial, calorie and carb budget. 

Plan out your meals and snacks for the week ahead. Make sure that everything you need (including ingredients, measuring tools and cookware) are available. Chop and dice your vegetables in advance (link to video) and store them in labeled bags or clear containers in the refrigerator. You’ll stay organized and in control of your diabetes healthy meal plan.

HW: Check out how I put this into action in my life in these blogs: and

HW Q: What are those less than everyday occurrences (both positive, like vacations and negative, like a medical test or hospitalization), that people need to be organized for? What are a few key action steps?
SW A: If you are going on a business trip or vacation, make a list of your diabetes essentials (including medications and insulin). If it’s an extended trip and especially if you’re traveling to exotic locations, set up an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your trip at least 4-6 weeks in advance. Keep all of your essential medical documents together in a travel organizer so you have them right at your fingertips. If you don’t travel much and believe there have been changes, check out Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations so that there are fewer surprises when you travel. Bring a refillable bottle for water and healthy, non-perishable snacks and, if hypoglycemia is a possibility for you, bring along your treatments of choice.

HW Q: In the book you mention a number of apps people can use to get organized. Which ones should be tops on readers’ list?
SW A: Here are some of my favorite apps: Fooducate, Evernote Food, Carb Counting with Lenny (aimed at kids), Grocery Guru, Grocery IQ, iAteGreat, smartershopping, Food safety at home, Blue Loop, Awesome Calendar, and mychart.

HW Q: In writing this book, how do you hope it most helps people with diabetes?
SW A: I hope to help people with diabetes feel less overwhelmed and more organized. Permanent healthy lifestyle changes take time to solidify. My hope is that by following the strategies in this book, people with diabetes can take one small step at a time to organize his or her busy life. Try to make one change today and tomorrow you may be a little more organized and a little less overwhelmed with your diabetes management.

Once you start to organize one area of your life, you can choose to work on another. One small change can lead to an improvement in health, and hopefully a reduction in overall diabetes complications.

Susan, thanks for writing this unique how-to book. It’s a valuable and important resource for people with diabetes, caregivers and educators because so much of managing the diabetes balancing act (and care) is to find ways to efficiently and effectively fit diabetes management into an already busy life.