Diabetes Lifestyle – A Holistic Approach

As the number of people living with diabetes continues to rise, so too has interest in lifestyle as a potential preventive tool for this disease. However, there is confusion around what exactly a ‘lifestyle’ means and how it is defined and measured. Many researchers have interpreted it as the sum of health-related behaviours, such as smoking, alcohol use, diet and physical activity. Others believe that a lifestyle is a pattern of activities that reflects a person’s values and beliefs, and the way in which these are lived out.

A recent development is a focus on lifestyle as a way of life, a holistic approach that is more than just a series of habits or routines. In this context, the term relates to a person’s whole identity and sense of meaning in life, including their relationship to themselves and the world. A person’s lifestyle can also include their spirituality and their level of involvement in the community.

There are different theories of lifestyle, which can be differentiated based on their main focus: those that emphasise the external dimension, for example those derived from sociological models (such as Weber’s model of status groups and Bourdieu’s concept of habitus) and those that stress practice and behaviour, especially those related to consumer research (such as those of Berzano and Genova). However, all of these models share the common feature that they tend to underestimate the complexity of the individual and that they are unable to explain a person’s choices in the social environment, or how their lifestyle is influenced by it.

Theories that emphasise the internal dimension, on the other hand, focus mainly on an individual’s personality. These approaches are characterised by an attempt to give lifestyle its aesthetic meaning, and they have as their aim the idea of recognising a personal imprint in the ways a person lives their life. They also consider that people’s lifestyle is a reflection of their values, beliefs and interests.

These theories of lifestyle are rooted in psychoanalytical and Gestalt psychology and have as their central theme the idea that an individual has to construct a personal identity, which is then reflected in their daily life. These identities are constituted by the values, beliefs, and expectations that a person has built up in their early years and which influence their reactions to the environment and their interactions with other individuals and society as a whole.

These models consider that lifestyle is the result of an individual’s attempt to achieve a satisfactory balance between physiology and security needs, on the one hand, and self-gratification and fulfilment of egoistic needs, on the other. The person then chooses the lifestyle that is most appropriate for their needs. For example, some people live a Fitness/Body-centered lifestyle while others are Hedonists and still others are Service/Spiritual. Nevertheless, there is considerable overlap between these different types of lifestyles and a person may live more than one of them. Moreover, they can change over time.