Who motivates the motivator?

Ian Simpson has been living with Type 2 diabetes for 30 years. He explains how he has managed his diabetes – he motivates the motivator.

Ian Simpson (68) is retired and lives in Walmer Heights, Port Elizabeth with his wife, Diane.

Who motivates the motivator?

This is a question that I have asked myself and colleagues on many an occasion over the years. Sadly, you cannot rely solely on others for motivation, you need to motivate yourself!

Climbing the corporate ladder

The joy of being appointed the youngest CEO in the blood transfusion industry, at age 36 years, was short-lived. The stress that came with the position and making final decisions took its toll two years later. I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at my annual medical check-up. Having grown up with a father who had the same condition, I should have recognised the signs and symptoms.

motivate manage diabetes

Setting goals

What motivated me was that I had a family, wife and kids, to take care of. I needed to be in good health for them. For this reason, I set myself short-term goals to motivate myself:

  1. Be present when my children matriculated.
  2. Celebrate and dance with them at their 21st birthday parties.
  3. Be present when they graduated from university.
  4. Celebrate and dance with them at their weddings.
  5. Reach retirement age, which my father was not able to. Fortunately, I was able to retire two years early. I have now passed normal retirement age.
  6. Enjoy at least five years retirement.

Having achieved these goals, I set two further goals, over which I have no direct control. These are to see and hold some grandchildren and to reach age 70.

Lack of knowledge

At the time of my diagnosis, the knowledge in the medical fraternity was lacking. There were no specialist diabetologists nor support groups in Port Elizabeth.

As a medical technologist by profession and a member of the Port Elizabeth (Host) Lions Club, it seemed logical that I re-established the PE Branch of the Diabetes Association, as a means of obtaining this much-needed information and knowledge.

With tremendous support from the Diabetes Association Head Office and the Lions Clubs this happened in 1991. I became Chairman of the local branch, District Chairman of Diabetes and Health for Lions Clubs International, and a Board Member of the South African Diabetes Association, as it was then called. The PE Branch of Diabetes SA is still running successfully today. This was and is still one of the best ways for any person with diabetes to obtain knowledge about their condition and to motivate them to avoid complications of poorly controlled diabetes.

Current treatment

My current medication includes 1 Diaglucide tablet with breakfast and dinner, with 8 IU Apidra (short-acting insulin) with meals, and 20 IU Lantus (basal-insulin) at 9pm each night.

In addition to this, I take a mild blood pressure and cholesterol pill per day as a precaution. I don’t have high blood pressure or cholesterol, however, I underwent a successful quadruple bypass at age 53 as a consequence of my condition.


Soon after my diagnosis, I consulted two dietitians. Although, I don’t follow a strict diet as such, I do believe in ‘everything in moderation’ and know the importance of reading and understanding product labels. Within one week, I no longer missed sugar in my hot beverages nor on my porridge/cereal, and I don’t use sweeteners. I only consume sweets, chocolates and soft drinks if they are sugar-free or low-GI.

For breakfast, I eat two slices of low-GI anchovy toast, or Jungle Oats, or All Bran Flakes with fat-free milk. Lunch consists of fruit and two slices of low-GI bread and dinner consists of a protein, a starch and two vegetables or salads.

Mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks include a few dates, or nuts, or ProVita biscuits. My evening snack is either a few dates or spoons of fat-free plain yoghurt. I start and end the day with black rooibos tea. I have coffee with fat-free milk after breakfast and Ceylon tea with fat-free milk mid-morning and mid-afternoon. In between this, I drink filtered tap water as and when required. Within a short time, I made the switch from beer and whisky to whisky only, and once again only in moderation. I now only take a few tipples on three days of the week.


For most of the first 20 – 25 years, I walked daily at lunch time, which not only formed the bulk of my exercise, improved my circulation but gave me time away from interruptions to solve many work related problems. In addition to this, I walked the dogs every 2 – 3 days, played tennis and rode my bicycle on a weekly basis.

These days with my advancing years, I organise and play bowls twice per week at PE Bowling Club, the oldest bowling club in South Africa, and swim during the warmer months. I also make use of an exercise strider when the weather is not too good for outdoor activities.

During the last 10 years of my working life, having taken the early morning flight to Johannesburg at least once per month, I now remain in bed until 8am each day. During this period, I often quoted the following to my colleagues, which seems appropriate in this situation:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

motivate manage diabetes

That’s 30 years in a nutshell, so be informed, get as much information and knowledge as possible, set yourself some short-term goals, motivate yourself and follow the instruction from your healthcare professionals. ~ Ian W Simpson