What is the Carnivore Diet and Why am I Doing it?

The carnivore diet generally consists of eating only animal meat. For many, it includes other animal products that don’t raise blood sugar like cream and butter.

There are various reasons why people are doing this diet. Some are doing it because they’ve heard that it boosts physical performance and they want to see if it does that for them.

Some are doing it because it sounds appealingly primal. For these people, this sounds like a temporary fad diet.

Others, connected to Bitcoin, are doing it as a lifestyle statement of sorts protesting centralized banking and healthcare–or something like that. You’ll have to read more about it as I do not have an affiliation with this group.

One of the more common reasons I have found for people taking on such a limited diet is that they have ailments they are suffering from and are desperate to treat in a way that doesn’t include harsh drugs but rather work at the root of the problems. This is the camp I fall into.

I’ve been following this diet for several years out of curiosity as an objective observer. I’ve read claims of an all meat diet healing one’s gut and therefore being useful for those with multiple food allergies, sensitivities, and autoimmune conditions. The goal here is to heal and then reintroduce foods.

This past year I’ve had several months long bouts of fatigue and joint pain flares. These have happened over the last decade but the pain and duration of the flare-ups have been getting progressively worse. I’ve also developed some kind of dermatitis on my face and have psoriasis. Things get real when they happen to your face because you can’t hide it and you’re constantly reminded of it.

My doctor said that he could give me prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Naproxen but those can damage kidneys over time. He said he could give me steroids but those would raise my blood sugars. Neither option seems like a solution to me. I’m only 35 years old.

My kids have my genes and another motivation for me to figure out what might help autoimmune problems is to know what may work in the case my kids were to develop something.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

So anyway, I finally became fed up enough recently that I decided to find out if the diet could be tried without serious health consequences.

I did research on the topic of how bowel movements happen in the absence of dietary fiber, the need for vitamin C changing while not consuming carbohydrates, and what the latest science says about cholesterol. If you’re interested, I urge you to research these fascinating topics.

Sufficiently armed with a base level of confidence that I wasn’t going to kill myself by doing this for a few weeks, I plunged into the diet one week ago. I haven’t removed coffee because I don’t want to deal with caffeine withdrawal just yet. I’ve been eating beef, chicken, salmon, sardines, pork, eggs, butter, and cream.

One Week Symptoms

Here’s what I’ve experienced so far:

The first two days I had cravings for everything except meat. I also started sweating a lot, which for me isn’t much, because I am not one to sweat, so just sweating period was a strange occurrence. I would sweat at each meal which wasn’t very appealing. I sweat a lot the first two or three nights, too. My weight, after 3 days, went down 3 pounds which may have been initial water weight loss.

On day 3 I noticed that my stomach has flattened. That’s weird, I thought my belly was just really pudgy. It appears I was bloated or retaining fluid there. My husband was surprised to see a little bit of a four pack of abs. He said, “Wow, your waist is actually really small, isn’t it?” Apparently so.

Another thing I noticed on day 3 was that I sprung out of bed so easily in the morning. For many, many years, since I was a teen, I’ve been trying to wake up while feeling happy and energized. I couldn’t do it. These last 10 years have been brutal. I have needed more than 8 hours of sleep each night and I have had such a hard time in the mornings that I had extended my waking hours into the night (since I feel pretty good then). So two years ago I was going to bed at 12-2 am most nights and getting up late. All this time I’ve been wanting to get my sleep schedule in sync with my husband’s–he gets up at 6 am, sometimes earlier. Well, since day 3 and each day since, I’ve been up at 5:30 or 6 am.

In the past 20 years, I’ve consistently struggled in the morning because when I wake up I feel like I’m dying and feel super depressed and stiff for about 30 minutes. Eventually, I feel better but it makes life hard when you don’t welcome the day. Maybe I’m just excited and these effects will wear off soon. We’ll see.

Another thing I’ve noticed is my coffee has started to taste much sweeter despite me drinking it the same way I have been having it for a long time.

As you can imagine, my blood sugars have been ridiculously stable. On the first three days, I had to treat a  few low blood sugars with a glucose tablet or two but I’ve since lowered my basal and haven’t had any more lows. I am now taking 6 units of Tresiba in the morning and 3 units of Tresiba at night. I take about 6-8 total daily units of regular human insulin with my meals. I may take a unit or two of Humalog as a correction to stay below 100 mg/dl.

Speaking of meals, I’ve needed only two a day because the food is so filling.

My digestion is fine (I was worried I’d get constipated but that hasn’t happened). I take a magnesium supplement every day and Vit D3. I’m thinking of adding a little bit of Vitamin C.

The other thing I’ve noticed is I seem to be much more sensitive to the effects of alcohol this past week. Just the other night I had two shots of liquor (something I do only a few times a year with no problems) but this time I suffered the worst hangover of my life and the first one as a mother, which truly embarrasses me. I endured nearly 8 hours of vomiting–that was just yesterday.

I don’t know how that happened. I threw up bile for the first time since I was in the hospital with severe kidney stone pain 12 years ago and had to keep a hawk eye on my blood sugars while sipping water infused with electrolyte drops. Lesson learned the hard way. Take severe caution with alcohol.

Maybe I’ve hurt my liver in the last week and that’s what happened? Not likely. I’ve been eating mostly meat and veggies for a long time and my liver tests have been great. I do have high bilirubin levels but always have and providers have speculated that it’s a harmless genetic thing (possibly Gilbert’s Syndrome).

I Will Keep You Updated

It’s still early for me so I will strive to be objective as I continue to note whatever positive and negative things pop up. I have no big hopes or expectations. I just want to find out if this helps. If not, I’d be very happy to go back to my beloved vegetables, nuts, and dark chocolate.

The good days of my monthly menstrual cycle are currently happening. The effects of rising estrogen and the oomph of extra testosterone make everything better. I’ll have to really test this out through my monthly week of low hormone hell which nothing–not even rainbows or ice cream can survive.

I do want to point out that I’ve never been a big meat lover. For the past decade, my favorite foods have been mostly vegetables, flavorful sauces, herbs, spices, and sweets. I joke that I like steak only because I get to have steak sauce. Or that I like shrimp because of that tomato-based cocktail dip. Wings dipped in blue cheese–you get the idea.

Eating only animal products has made meals so strangely satisfying. I can’t figure out why that is if I love veggies but am no longer eating them. I’m entirely weirded out. Since I’m feeling fine, I’m going to keep it up for a while to observe my symptoms.

Time will tell me more. If you think this sounds crazy, I’m with you, but I hope I am not judged harshly for trying to stop my widespread pain. It’s bothering me enough now that I’m willing to try anything. I don’t feel like I have anything to lose. I have other ideas to try to help rule out causes to my symptoms. I’m determined to somehow make things better for myself. Right now, it’s the carnivore diet.

For better or worse, I will update you soon.

Why There is Nothing Wrong With Sharing Your A1c

Why do some people with diabetes share their A1c? Why do some not share that info? For various reasons, of course. I support people doing what they feel is right to do for themselves. If you don’t want to share your A1c or weight or the square footage of your home, I respect that.

Why do I share my A1c? Because I used to think that normal or near-normal blood sugars were not something I would ever get to enjoy as a type 1 diabetic…until I heard that some people like me had A1c levels in the 4-5% range and I thought, “wait a minute? this is possible? It couldn’t be…how do they do it?”

Their A1c level was like a signal for me. It led me to seek out these people and what they were doing to get that A1c. It led me to figure out what might help me improve my blood sugars. Along the way, I had to learn how to avoid lows and what technology best served me and how insulin works. But, I eventually became one of those people with a “normal A1c” and darned straight I’m going to tell people about it because others once did me a huge favor by telling me!

That said, I don’t care if no one cares about my A1c. What matters to me is why I share. I think it might be helpful to someone and I’m willing to spend time sharing on that hope.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with sharing your A1c because it doesn’t hurt anyone to do so. Some say it does hurt some people’s feelings but so does announcing a pregnancy, engagement, or job raise.

Those who insist on speaking for others need to think twice–are you sure they want you to speak for them? Those whose feelings are hurt who notice that others are doing just fine with the same information may want to look inward and consider that shame or jealousy may need to be addressed. I say that because someone gave me that line and I found that focusing on my personal issues was a life saver. Who cares if someone shares their health data? Not me.

Calling Things by Their Proper Name and Why High Blood Sugars Always Make You Feel Bad

Dr. Stephen Ponder, an endocrinologist living with type 1 diabetes, has been posting thought-provoking questions on Facebook. One of the latest questions was: “How often do you say “good” or “bad” when talking about blood sugar (or an A1C)? If not, then how do you describe them? Should kids use “good” and “bad” when talking about their sugar levels?”

I thought I’d answer in the form of a blog post since this sparked a whole long train of thought for me.

Confucious supposedly said, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” If something causes you harm–for example, as high blood sugar does, then I hesitate NOT to call it a “bad” blood sugar because it simply is, whether we acknowledge it or not. I believe it would be bad for my health if I didn’t identify, accept, and name the truth on a regular basis. It’s hard to swallow but my reality needs to be very much imposed on me if I am to act in my best interest.

Houston: We Have a Problem

People email me all the time asking what the secret is to my pretty good diabetes management and how I have the discipline for it. Honestly, any good I derive from my actions begins with calling things by their proper name. That means that I admit that eating what I want and covering it with insulin doesn’t work well enough (for me). I openly say that low carb for type 1 diabetes is the only way I know of, to get close to achieving normal blood sugar levels, a healthy weight, and safety from severe hypoglycemia. And I say that not having normal blood sugar levels is physiologically harmful because we know it is. If it weren’t, no one would be diagnosed with pre-diabetes with a 6% A1c level but, they are every minute of every day. It is on that basis that I call a 6.5% harmful and deem it not good enough for me.

If I don’t acknowledge that something is “bad” or “not good” then I don’t follow with the appropriate response or actions which have to do with changing those blood sugars or anything else. We need to apply judgment in our daily lives. It’s necessary. I have to be able to admit to myself when I’ve mistreated a loved one or I’ll certainly continue to do it. I have to be able to admit when I’m overeating, or I’ll keep gaining weight. And I have to be able to say “no, that’s not good for me” or I will suffer various potentially unlimited consequences. What is it they say to those with an addiction? “You must first admit there is a problem.”

High Blood Sugars Make You Feel Bad Even if You’re Told Not to Feel Bad

I understand parents of children with diabetes don’t want to use “good” and “bad” in relation to blood sugars or diabetes management in part because the child didn’t have anything to do with getting such a brutal condition and we don’t want them to feel bad about themselves due to diabetes. And I do support the effort many parents put into saying things like, “It’s not that you did anything bad, it’s that this isn’t working and we need to figure out what will work better.” There is still an acknowledgment that something isn’t working and the troubleshooting can begin and the child can feel better, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I’ve recently put quite a bit of thought into why I struggle to do what I needed to as a kid with diabetes. There are several reasons but I think the main one is that doing what my parents and I were told to do didn’t ensure my success, at all, and made me feel sick and anxious anyhow and thus I acted out of hopelessness, by lying about my blood sugars, not always doing my blood sugar testing, and sneaking sugary foods to self-medicate my feelings of despair. I knew what my high blood sugars meant for my future, and in the immediate moment, my self-esteem took a hit. High blood sugars (especially really high blood sugars) make you extremely sluggish, make your saliva thick and foamy, your thinking slow, and make you not look and feel generally healthy (albeit subtly, at first).

Let’s face it, anything that is a detriment to health is a detriment to outwardly attractiveness, if not now, then later. I remember thinking as a teen that I was totally ok with my ears sticking out–there was nothing I could do, and they functioned properly, but I wasn’t ok with the weight gain I was experiencing from the way my diabetes was being managed. I wasn’t ok with becoming less attractive due to diabetes nor slower as I played sports which requires you to compete using your energy and speed. I couldn’t prove to myself or anyone else how just how good I could be as I couldn’t fully apply myself to anything. Within my capabilities, I tried SO hard, though. Not getting results for your efforts because of diabetes makes a person crazy. And successful diabetes management relies on the most effective efforts, not the most industrious ones so I lost out.

For those without diabetes, think of how you feel about yourself when you’ve been injured or come down with a bad cold–you’re knocked down a few pegs, right? Even if people are kind to you and don’t make you feel bad about any of it. Admit it, you feel less attractive, less productive, and you may feel motivated to do whatever it takes to get yourself back to feeling good, even doing things that you were not willing to do before that experience.

I believe many people with diabetes, including children, are in an impossibly precarious situation when their blood sugar management is less than ideal. This is particularly true once they learn what elevated blood sugars can do to them over time or once the negative effects stack up over the years. No, it’s not fair, or whatever, but all I know is my “good” diabetes management began when I admitted to myself that my diabetes management was “bad” and that if I were willing to make some sacrifices in the name of tight blood sugar management, I may have a ticket to health and happiness. It’s been more than worth it, which is why I keep annoyingly banging this tired drum.

Is it Possible to Do Better?

I am partial to diabetes management for adults and children which makes it easier for them to be successful with their diabetes because the alternative leads to misery. No matter how much you tell a person they are “good,” if their blood sugar levels are often high, they are going to be feeling poorly much of the time, and that is going to make them feel “bad,” regardless. It’s very hard for us to separate how we feel, physically, from how we feel, mentally. One follows the other. Feeling unhealthy does not lend itself to feeling good and it never will.

Do some people who don’t feel healthy manage to feel good and happy? Yes, but this is a feat not accomplished by most, and while children amaze us with their resilience alas, they do grow up, and many will suffer the weight of high blood sugars and blood sugar variability and fear of hypoglycemia as evidenced by personal social media accounts and all the studies pointing out rates of anxiety and depression in adults with type 1 diabetes.

This is why I encourage the attempt at a low carb diet for anyone with type 1 diabetes. Thanks to those who do very low carb diets, we’ve learned that it is possible to do better with glycemic control. Did you know that for a long time no one did better than a 4-minute mile and experts said it was impossible and once Sir Roger Bannister did, many others followed suit soon after? That’s because we can only accomplish what we believe is possible. I’m telling you that I’m not special, I don’t have more discipline than you, and that it is possible to achieve very tight and safe, blood sugar control.

The repercussions of this are incredible. In my experience, it leads to better moods, better relationships, improved ability to work, less fear of highs and lows, less anxiety, less depression, better sleep, and on and on. The positive effects are hard to quantify but they are exponential and eventually make going back to another way of managing diabetes something I won’t consider.

You can’t easily feel good about yourself if you don’t feel good physically and you likely can’t feel your best physically if you don’t have blood sugars as close to normal as possible. For more: check out the Sir Roger Bannister of the type 1 diabetes world: Dr. Richard K. Bernstein.

To conclude, I don’t worry about good/bad and any similar terminology when I think to myself, I worry mostly about my outcomes and my actual experience. It’s surprising how happy I can be while honestly telling myself that something is “bad”. That’s because I then put my energy into finding what makes it “good” and focus on that, instead. What you focus on matters and makes all the difference.

(If you manage your blood sugars well without low carb and you’re happy and healthy, I’m not directing this to you, at all.)

Why Dr. Bernstein is an American Hero and Why Doctors Should Be Curious About Him

My colleague at Diabetes Daily, Maria Muccioli, Ph.D., wrote an excellent and in-depth coverage of a remarkable study on very low-carb diets for treating type 1 diabetes in children.

The study found that a group of type 1 diabetic children following a very low-carb diet à la Dr. Bernstein style were not only experiencing normal blood glucose levels (this is nearly unheard of in type 1 diabetes) but also growing well (a top concern as macronutrient intake of carbs is widely believed to be essential for growth in children).

The researchers of the study looked at children from a Facebook group called Type1Grit. This group consists of adults with type 1 diabetes and parents of children with type 1 diabetes who all follow Dr. Bernstein’s regimen. This regimen includes very low-carbohydrate intake but so much more–put just any type 1 diabetic on a very low-carb eating plan, and I promise you’ll likely not get the results you are hoping for–though if you pay close attention to blood sugars you may notice some interesting things regarding the statistical range of error after giving smaller amounts of insulin. It’s about more than low-carb eating. Low-carb is essential to the plan but to do well, there are more things to do and understand. One must understand how to use and adjust insulin properly, understand how different physical activity impacts blood sugars, and so on. The Type1Grit group does so well because they utilize Dr. Bernstein’s decades’ long expertise to guide them (which is all in his book) and like any good support group, they help each other stay focused, informed, and motivated.

Some people on social media have voiced strong opinions against the group due to some of their outspoken members. It is my hope that we focus on content over delivery when it comes to important matters. After all, if fellow thinkers had rejected Issac Newton’s findings simply because he was a jerk (and according to the book I’m reading my kids about him he was) wouldn’t that be a shame? Personally, I strive to be gentle with others because I am quite sensitive. However, I also try not to put my feelings above critical thinking, and I think that serves me well. I also hope that the communication of a few doesn’t cause some to dismiss the whole group or worse–a promising idea. That said, I have not personally observed anyone from that group being rude to others, though some have been quite open and blunt with their opinions and I have observed a very strong response to that, in general. I do not consider an opinion shared in a straightforward manner to be rude.

My Personal Story Following Dr. Bernstein’s Advice

I have followed a loose version of Dr. Bernstein’s protocol for about a decade, further lowering carbs and adding in more of his advice gradually over the years (I now follow his advice very closely). His logic struck me like lightning when I read his book, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution. In particular, I was deeply moved by a line that said something about how people with type 1 diabetes “deserve normal blood sugars”. Dr. Bernstein’s protocol includes the use of Regular insulin to cover high protein meals versus faster analog insulin such as Humalog or Novolog. In fact, after using a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) for the first time recently, I quickly saw how my Humalog was a bit too quick and potent at mealtime and then a bit too short hours afterward, so I bought Novolin R at Walmart for $24 and have improved my blood sugar levels. This is to stress how following Dr. Bernstein’s protocol is about more than just reducing carbohydrate intake.

Many years ago, I found immense value in attempting just a little bit of Dr. Bernstein’s advice. Small changes like lowering my carbohydrates and understanding how to use my insulin better led my A1c to drop from 8-9% down to 6%. Before this, just covering high amounts of carbohydrates with insulin had mostly succeeded in making me fat, tired, depressed, and anxious (oh and with protein spilling into my urine as an 18-year-old in her “prime” of life). You have to understand how terrible this was for me–I was a bright-eyed kid who was intelligent, hopeful, hardworking, patient, and super determined. In a few short years, diabetes messed with my potential–I didn’t recognize myself anymore. It’s particularly sad to spend years recovering as a young adult when you’re supposed to be at peak performance and potential due to your youth and energy.

Dr. Bernstein, who many dare call a “quack” or “nutjob” saved my life just as he saved his own. My A1c hasn’t touched 6% in many years. I have a wonderful husband. We have twins who are about to turn 9. I’m still trying to reverse some of the consequences of very high blood sugars from my first 10-12 years with diabetes. What if I didn’t have to?

What Actually Does More Harm?

People tell me that eating low-carb will hurt my cognitive abilities. Do they know that studies indicate that typically managed type 1 diabetes may do that, anyway? Type 1 diabetes (with the average management of 8.2% A1c in the U.S.) has been shown to possibly lower intelligence and negatively affect memory and speed. Low-carb in the long-term may hurt my cognitive abilities (I haven’t seen anything to indicate this possibility though) but what if it just takes the place of what high blood sugars would have done to my cognition? And what if low-carb additionally helps protect my cardiovascular health and my kidneys and my eyes–oh and allow me to have healthy children! Do you know how fortunate I am that I turned things around when I did? I have children because of the information that turned my health around just in the nick-of-time. I can’t begin to describe the level of rage I might have had I never had children yet discovered that Dr. Bernstein has been trying to tell the world about his successful method for decades.

Where is Our Curiosity?

If you find Dr. Bernstein followers as angry or overly-passionate, this may help explain why: Unnecessary suffering is a tragedy. We’re in a country whose founders had been curious and open to acknowledging ideas that are worthy, pushing those ideas to the top where they can be put to the test and then accepted as the best ideas because they can create the best outcomes. This is the great thing about Western Civilization. The embracing of objective principles which allow the best ideas to rise because even if they come from someone we can’t stand, we know that ideas, critical thinking, and truth reign over all else and push us towards progress. Dr. Bernstein’s protocol isn’t an expensive training center and it’s not just for the elite of the world. He thrives using a cheap insulin in the same country where people die because they don’t know they can change their dietary habits and purchase cheap over-the-counter insulin in most states and survive.

From an economic and financial viewpoint, Bernstein’s protocol is also a stunning success. I don’t use an insulin pump or a CGM (I only got to test one out) and yet I can achieve my glycemic targets. I don’t need any apps, certified diabetes educators, or expensive technology. I don’t anxiously await a closed-loop hybrid insulin pump system because I don’t need it. I put all my energy into my simple but effective daily lifestyle. Providers who want to see healthier patients, please read Bernstein’s book. Your lower income patients may not want to follow the regimen in part or entirely but those who are willing deserve to know how to thrive with diabetes despite being poor or lower middle class, like me. I give myself excellent care for cheap–doesn’t that peak your interest?

People are justifiably angry over insulin prices but what about the medical community’s unwillingness to be curious about one doctor’s personal plan to keep himself at peak health and fitness well into his 80s? Without curiosity, what on earth then drives a doctor to investigate the issues in each patient as well as find the proper and least harmful solution? I tell my doctor how I managed a huge drop in A1c for the first time in my life and he has no questions regarding how I did it? I read doctor responses to research that shows a teeny tiny improvement in A1c and now they think “this shows wonderful promise and we should look into it further!”? I basically told my doctor I might have just saved my own life and drastically improved my quality of life, and he’s like “meh”. I told another how I did it and he said, “good for you.” Yes, good for me, but what about some of your patients who are as I was, struggling to get a halfway decent hold on their blood sugar and suffering? What about them? Don’t you have an obligation to check this out? This gives my doctor less work, by the way! For a decade now my doctor does nothing to manage my diabetes–he just orders labs. Aren’t doctors wanting more patients that can manage their blood sugars and don’t need them so desperately at all hours?

It Takes “Too Much Discipline” or “Restraint”

Nothing terrible ever happened by being disciplined. Think of all the amazing people out there and from history–what could they have accomplished without discipline? Probably nothing but a few moments of greatness. Discipline encompasses you within a realm of potential greatness. And if you create a system, discipline isn’t a show of willpower as much as you just loyally following your regular routine.

Much research backs up the potential of the ability to defer gratification. Who is more likely to become successful? The person who can restrict themselves from their impulses and short-lived desires, right? Let me put it this way: who would you rather marry? Someone who can keep their impulses in check or someone who can’t? Or who would you rather be? Someone who doesn’t overeat or someone who regularly does? I remember having hearts in my eyes when my husband told me “I never overeat”. I have long struggled with overeating, and when he said this, I was impressed by him and thought, “wow, I want to be like that.” I believe this is the empowered response. I could have given the common humorous response of “ugh, you make me sick” but where would that have gotten me? Instead, I tried to learn from my husband and improve myself.

I also think the healthy response is to admire someone like Dr. Bernstein for what he has accomplished against great odds. Dr. Bernstein is respected by so many because he created a well-functioning system to get himself thriving and generously shared his findings with others. In fact, as an engineer, he became an endocrinologist so that he could help others after he figured out how to save himself. He should be regarded as an American hero, whether you want to do what he recommends or not.

I believe in freedom and personal rights. I’m an immigrant who is incredibly happy to live in the U.S. Growing up when I found something challenging and I didn’t want to face it, my dad would say “Are you an American or an American’t?” I would often roll my eyes but, yes, I’m an American and believe I have the power to set my mind to improve myself if I want and I’m grateful for those who have set their minds to things and laid out paths before me. Thank you, Dr. Bernstein. I may never reach your astounding level of discipline but what I have been able to achieve with your advice has been most valuable to me and my family and I am forever grateful.

En fin, I’m certainly not saying you should do what he does or what I do. And I can respect wherever you are on your journey. I’m saying that Dr. Bernstein’s method has shown undeniably incredible potential and results and the general lack of curiosity and investigation on behalf of the global medical community makes absolutely no sense to me. There are now thousands of people doing it and doing it well.

Newton supposedly struggled with his ego and an inability to face criticism or questioning during his lifetime. Let’s have his overwhelming curiosity without the pride, his determination to dig and experiment properly without his emotionally unstable and anti-social ways.

I will leave you with one more thought:

Just a little bit less damage sustained is a great deal to the person enduring it, especially when they still have many decades ahead of them.

4 Things I Learned During My 2 Weeks on Crutches

It’s been a little over two weeks, actually.

The quadriceps tendon basically attaches your knee to your thigh muscle. I badly hurt mine stretching one morning. You might agree with the urgent care doctor who told me I “need a better story.”

In thinking about how stupidly easy I hurt myself and how it resulted in severe inconvenience, I realized there were many lessons I was getting out of this experience if I so choose to embrace them.

4 Things I Learned During My 2 Weeks on Crutches

1. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” doesn’t go far enough in my opinion. I would change that to “Be sweet and patient towards the hand that feeds you” even though it’s not as catchy.

My husband, Alex, helped me out of bed in the morning. He made my food. He did the laundry. He took over things with the kids. He washed the dishes. He took the time to make my “second coffee” because the first is for me to wake up and the other to enjoy slowly. He even visited with me so that I wouldn’t feel lonely in between all his work, which included building an entire fenced-in garden.

At first, Alex was overwhelmed. Why wouldn’t he be? He has an entirely different routine every day of the week. Stepping into someone else’s busy day without having their habits and experience is harder than it sounds. I’ll admit I was secretly a little pleased that he saw how hard I work, even though he doesn’t make me feel like I don’t work hard.

I initially insisted that things be done a certain way or asked him to do more and realized this was counterproductive. The first two days were rough with him trying to adjust to some rhythm, and I worked hard to bite my tongue and really sweetly say nothing other than “thank you”. My gratitude for all he was doing and patience for his learning curve paid off. I saw my efforts rewarded with a superman I’ve never seen before. Alex was like a young Alfred Pennyworth. For various brief moments, I considered never walking again.

Be sweet and patient with those helping you out. 

2. It’s a real act of courage to be vulnerable. Now, normally I’m all about doing whatever we all can to avoid being pitiful. I try to take care of myself, handle my problems on my own whenever possible, and I don’t let myself be a pushover.

Sometimes, we simply are vulnerable. Not only could I not walk, my tendon was causing me a lot of pain so even if I was sitting still, I was grimacing or tearing up. For the first week, I tried doing everything myself and hopped around so much my good leg started feeling sore. I didn’t want my husband to help me or see me having a hard time because I didn’t want him to pity me. I told him this, and he reassured me that he didn’t pity me in an “ugh” way but in an “I love you, and I’m sorry you’re hurt” kind of way.

So, I tried to let go and be what I was–someone who couldn’t even put pants on. After all, if I was going to heal, I needed just to accept help and be ok with someone looking at me like “awww…”

I cried a bit over the helplessness I felt at everyone doing everything for me. But maybe I also cried because of how lovely it was to be taken care of in all those ways.

Accept help when you need it and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. 

3. Sometimes life makes us stop and smell the flowers because we’re too busy to remember they’re even there. I found myself looking out the window at the lovely trees and wishing I could take a stroll around the block. I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t taken the time out to enjoy Spring! How silly of me!

I’ve made a list of things I want to do, like plant some stuff in the garden, as soon as I am able. It’s funny how we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone.

In the meantime, I’ve embraced what I can do now, so I’ve been watching movies that Alex enjoys (he deserves it) and reading books and sleeping more. I cleaned out my closet while on crutches by throwing clothes I don’t wear on the bed to fold once I was sitting and then putting them in a bag for donation. I’ve also been able to catch up with my parents and brother and sister who have come over to help me.

Do what you can, today, because tomorrow you may not be able to.

4. I’ve also surprised myself by missing chores like cleaning the floor, cooking, and washing dishes. Not because I particularly enjoy these tasks, but because doing these things keeps the house nice and tidy and they are acts of love for oneself and one’s family.

I watched my family doing these things, and I felt the love. And so I thought, “Is this what Alex and the kids feel when they see me doing all these things?” This felt like an epiphany, and I vowed to never complain about cleaning and cooking again but be glad I have the privilege to do it and the loved ones for whom to do it.

Work isn’t a drag, it’s an honor.

I try to go through hard times gracefully, and I think I manage ok, but always only after a rough start. The first week of my injury I woke up every single morning from a nightmare. I cried every single day. It seems silly now that my leg finally feels like it’s beginning to heal. I’ve been nervous because the earliest a specialist could see me was weeks away! What if I wasn’t doing the right things for my leg to heal properly?

But I think it’s going to be ok, and I believe I’m going to be better off because of this experience and what I’ve learned from it.

5 Ways My Husband Supports Me and My Diabetes

  1. I eat low-carb because coupled with proper use of insulin it’s an undeniable way to get out of the blood sugar roller coaster (aside from those days when I forget I have diabetes–it happens). My husband eats whatever low-carb food I prepare with zero objections because while I try to make great tasting food, the fact is that he understands I do better if I’m not alone in the way I eat at home.
  2. He jumps up to get glucose tablets when I need them. When someone does something for you with a controlled sense of urgency, don’t you feel loved? I mean, I’m not going to die from a 50 mg/dL blood sugar level if he doesn’t swiftly get my glucose for me but I like that he moves quickly to get what I need. Nothing says “I love you” like showing someone you want to shorten their discomfort by a few seconds if you can, by acting quickly.
  3. He lets me have a pity party but he does not participate in it. I really appreciate that on the days I am wallowing over my diabetes, my husband respects that and is a shoulder to cry on. I also appreciate that he doesn’t join me, though. I like that when I see things through considerably foggy lens for a time, he is still seeing clearly. He doesn’t get all sad and pitiful with me because he sees that in objective terms, I’m alright and will continue to be once I have my good cry or time to vent.
  4. He doesn’t lie to me. This is one of the most important ways he helps me with my diabetes–and everything else. If i’m fat, I don’t dare ask my hubby if I’m fat because he’s going to look at me like, “why are you asking me a question you know the answer to?” To his credit he’ll say “you’re beautiful and I love you” (cuz that is what I was fishing for all along!) but to tell me i’m not fat, if I am? Nope, he does not support me having any delusions. He also wouldn’t pretend a 200 mg/dL blood sugar level is fine for me to have all the time and he also wouldn’t let me believe that me having ice cream each evening isn’t a problem involving a lack of self-control when it fundamentally is (speaking for myself here). As a result, I have a partner who wants the best for me and that is something we all deserve.
  5. My husband takes care of himself. In doing so he inspires and leads me to do the same. When someone who respects themselves loves you, you can’t help but want to respect yourself, too. Then when they’re having a weak moment, you can help lift them up as they’ve done for you. I hope I do that for him sometimes.

When Diabetes News Overwhelms You

I write about 6 articles a week for Diabetes Daily.

Most of what I do is share information regarding diabetes news and a great deal of that is comprised of studies that effectively help us learn more about the effects of diabetes on our bodies.

If it depresses or overwhelms you to read this types of news, believe me, I completely understand. I felt sick for the first few months of doing this kind of writing because every piece of what seemed like bad news gave me a strong negative physical reaction. I quickly realized I needed to do two things: compartmentalize and use actions to attack my fears.

What many of these studies iterated to me was that I needed to find a way to avoid as many high blood sugars as I could. One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this is that I’ve already dealt with the negative effects of prolonged high blood sugars and if I had been diagnosed last year, I’d likely feel a little less motivated to employ some serious interventions. Yet, maybe not, who knows.

Time and too many high blood sugars has taken it’s toll and I must fight to win back as much health as is humanly possible. I’m stubborn, as I’ve said before many times, and I want not just so-so health, but I want to be as healthy as a healthy person without diabetes. Will I achieve that? Probably not to the degree I’d like but I believe in striving for the best possible outcome, so that when I fall a little short, I’ll still be in a great place and proud of my efforts.

So how did I compartmentalize? Well, I started to read these harrowing news stories almost as if I was outside of my body and I didn’t personalize anything of the data for myself. For example, if I was looking at how many people with type 1 diabetes suffer kidney damage after a certain number of years with type 1, I did not allow myself to apply that to my many years with type 1. I basically pretended I didn’t have diabetes while I read and wrote about this. It sounds robotic, and it certainly kind of is, but my sanity is crucial to my overall health so I needed to get through the information, log it into my brain, and keep it there as pieces of useful data available to guide or influence my future decisions.

Now for the real important bit–attacking fears with action. The best way I know of to feel more in control and more motivated about a situation is to act on it. Action needs to be fueled by knowledge and caution, of course, but action is THE catalyst for any positive outcome we might enjoy. No one ever lost weight by thinking about it or wishing for it.

Here’s the dialogue that plays out in my brain:

What is my fear? That i’ll develop any number of complications.

What causes diabetes complications? If I’m going to generalize and I am, it’s high blood sugars both acute and prolonged over time.

So what should I do to manage my fear? Avoid high blood sugars.

How do I avoid high blood sugars? For about 8.5 years i’ve written about Dr. Bernstein and his low carb recommendations for people with type 1 diabetes. I’ve lowered my carbs gradually over the last 13 years and seen much fewer highs as a result. I’ve continued my efforts to the point of following a very low carb diet in a more consistent manner and i’ve seen even fewer episodes of high blood sugar and fewer episodes of low blood sugar, too. Also, the catastrophic highs and lows are nearly non-existent.

Fewer highs and lows have literally been the remedy to my fears. Now, I still have fears about certain aspects of this condition and I get tired of living with diabetes, but just like any human, I can’t expect to live without fear, I can only hope to manage it in a way that lets me accomplish what I want and be happy with my life.

Each time I read or write about diabetes, I keep it impersonal but I save the information away to use when I need motivation or information with which to make a decision.

I hope that you, too can consider new information carefully versus letting it alienate you from something that might help. Don’t be afraid to talk to a healthcare professional about what you read, too. Some studies are not as reliable as they seem. Others are funded by the very companies that stand to make a profit.

Remain skeptical but don’t turn away from information–it might be just what you need.

Review: Diabetes: The Real Cause and the Real Cure

I wrote about a new book about type 2 diabetes which raises some good questions about the current acknowledged theory of insulin resistance.

I really recommend checking it out.

You can read what I wrote about it here at Diabetes Daily.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Do These 3 Unexpected Things to Manage Your Diabetes Better

Month after month and year after year you struggle with checking your blood sugar, taking your medication properly, eating the right foods, exercising enough, and staying away from actions that undo all your two steps forward.

You’re a perfectly smart individual, completely capable of doing what needs to be done. You read about how people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes do amazing things and quickly realize that some of your excuses fall a little short. You can’t figure out why you aren’t able to manage your diabetes well even though you have the tools and resources you need with which to do it.

Besides, diabetes is just one of a bunch of other problems you have. You too are dealing with relationships and work and finances.

But some people with diabetes are doing well and you wonder if you could be one of them. Deep down you know you could. You just need…something…

Now I don’t know you so I’m only going to ask you to consider the possibility that perhaps, mostly what  needs to change are your surroundings,

Your surroundings would include any people, places, or things in your proximity.

The People You Surround Yourself With

Let’s start with people. If you’re an adult you probably have a choice regarding who you spend your time with. Are these quality people? Do they treat you well or poorly? Are they negative? Do they manage to bring you down with their words or actions? Do they abuse themselves and do things you don’t respect?

You might first try telling the people in your life how you feel and what you would prefer from them. If they can’t do any different and are only helping to pull you down, you’ve got to let them go. Your diabetes will eventually destroy your health if you don’t manage it and it won’t help blaming anyone in the end. Not when you get to decide who to spend your time with.

Where I come from there is a saying that says, “Better no company, than bad company”.

Try being a person who is just, honest, hardworking, and virtuous. You’ll alienate the wrong people and attract the right ones. Those qualities will also be major boosts to your arsenal for managing diabetes.

The Places You Live and Work

Now for places. Do you hate where you live or work? If so, are you working on a plan that will slowly get you out of there? It may take 5 years (as it did for me to leave a job I hated) but you’ve got to at least lay out your plan and take steps toward it. We spend a lot of time where we live and work so, again, if that is what brings you down then work towards getting that obstacle out of your way.

Don’t despair if things seem impossible. They always do–especially when we are feeling overwhelmed. Just start writing down what you want and the steps you think you should take to get there. Try to be calm, daydream a bit, get creative, and figure out your escape.

Talk to a loved one about what you are trying to do. Maybe you can get some support. Perhaps someone you trust could also help give you feedback about what you want and why. Go to a rational thinker, not someone who will give you emotional advise, which is great for some things but terrible for your life’s practical maneuvers which require you to be wise.

The Things You Own, Which Own You

There is much value in cleaning up our possessions in a way that will minimize anxiety and stress and maximize efficiency and value. Have you heard of Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying guru? Her book may not be for everyone but I dare say she is on to something. She recommends owning only what we all need and love.

You know how most people love going to hotels? Well, I spent the last few years staying in dozens of them–three and four star hotels. And what I discovered was that they are all pretty much terrible. No, really. They are dusty, mildewy, smelly, and the only thing actually going for them is that they are minimalist and tidy.

So when you and I first step in we go into “spa brain” where we get a sense of peace and relaxation even though we are walking on a carpet that contains blood, semen, and urine. Again, no, seriously. A friend contracted MRSA from walking barefoot in a very nice New York City hotel and spent many weeks in a hospital.

Now what if we could come home and feel “spa brain” every day? Don’t you think that would help you stay focused and more relaxed on what you need to do to maintain your healthy habits?

The key is to strip your belongings of things you don’t love, as Kondo recommends and to only keep something if you truly can’t live without it. I got rid of so much stuff recently that I was able to put my diabetes supplies in a pretty box that was previously used for something else. I have been better about changing my syringes and lancets ever since and I also stay on top of what needs to be reordered because everything is so nicely organized.

Check out Kondo’s book from the library or purchase it on Amazon and start making some darn space for a life in which you manage your diabetes and health (let’s face it, those take up enough space on their own).

I Think This Because I Live It

I have done these three things I’m suggesting, not perfectly of course, as we’re all a work in progress. But, I have experienced major changes that have been well worth all the little steps it took to get here. I once felt hopeless and worried that diabetes would kill me at age 40. I thought diabetes was too hard to manage even for just 24 hours. I felt depressed and anxious and didn’t know how to alleviate my symptoms.

I’ve found that for me, it has truly helped to keep quality company, mold my life so I spend my days where I want, doing what I want, and chucking items that are only going to stand in my way, mentally and physically.

In a way, it’s all about removing what isn’t going to support what we want or need. When you remove what isn’t wanted or needed you are left with everything you want and need. It’s quite perfect.

The bit I wrote about how we have to be virtuous and all that…that part is instrumental. Deep down we all recognize quality. When we think and act like quality people we are self-motivated to hold our heads up high and finally treat ourselves with self-respect. The best anti-depressant I’ve ever experienced has been working to be a self-respecting and useful person.

It isn’t self-respect to live amongst clutter, surrender to a dead-end job, or to maintain a toxic relationship. These aspects are huge in our lives and we either surround ourselves to an environment that promotes and supports our success, or we don’t.

I don’t have it all figured out and I have a long way to go still but, I get emails from people who want to know what advise I have on how to manage diabetes well and some who ask about relationship and parenting and other topics. So what i’ve shared is what I rely on to help me maintain an A1c between 5-6 %, a healthy marriage, happy kids that I unschool, and work I enjoy.

I’ve noticed that people who manage their diabetes really well do these things, also. You can learn to do them, too if you want. Just pick one and begin.

XOXO

My Experience With Intermittent Fasting for Type 1 Diabetes

In a nutshell, intermittent fasting means closing the window of time during which you eat.

If you have breakfast at 7am and finish dinner at 7pm, you’d be eating during a 12 hour window and fasting for the other 12. Many of us don’t do that, though.

Nighttime snacking is likely an epidemic and from what I hear/read, it is wise to give your body at least 12 hours of fasting time.

Have you ever skipped a meal and felt lighter, recharged, and not hungry? I have often felt this way. I understand about a third of you will probably be about the opposite but such is my experience.

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

I was interested in intermittent fasting years ago when I read what Tim Ferris had to say about it. He has access to exceptional people, is wildly curious, and respects science to as much as a degree as I can tell so I tend to consider what he has to say.

I started trying it a year and a half ago in the hopes it would help me lose some stubborn weight. If I didn’t have type 1 I might have type 2 diabetes. In other words, I become resistant pretty easily and quickly to insulin. If I eat my disciplined way and exercise my basal insulin is about 11 units every 24 hours. If I eat the standard american diet and don’t exercise it goes up to about 30 units every 24 hours. Big difference.

Anyway, I began by just not eating breakfast and having my first meal of the day at lunch (noon) and then having dinner at about 6pm and finishing up at 7pm for the night. I continued my walking most days, trying to walk at least 3 miles a day.

This was easy for me because I have always regretted breakfast. Seriously, I eat it and feel too full for lunch and if I skip lunch I get hungry so it just complicates things and zaps my precious energy. For so long though, the commonly heard “never skip breakfast” has prevented me from doing what felt right.

I lost 10 pounds in about 8 months. I’ve since lost another 5-6 pounds by having lunch not at noon, but at 3pm each day. I’m never hungry before 3pm each day so it seems I have adjusted to this way of eating, which is cool.

Intermittent Fasting for Better Blood Sugar

The other reason I’ve enjoyed intermittent fasting is because instead of figuring out insulin for three meals or more a day, I’ve cut it down to two, giving me one less variable to mess up my blood sugar levels with.

Skipping breakfast helps with the dawn phenomenon and morning exercise, too I think.

For example, when I get up, I first test. I adjust with insulin if needed, usually giving the tiny bit extra for the dawn phenomenon and then get on the treadmill. Exercising in the morning before food has proven to help burn more calories AND it has been proven to keep exercise happening in the first place. If we put it off for later in a busy day, it may just not happen at all.

During and after my walk on the treadmill I will drink coffee, which is my personal way of incentivizing my walk.

When Will I Stop Losing Weight?

I’m very curious about this question because if eating well, consistently walking, and fasting keeps reducing my weight, what does that mean?

Does it mean that intermittent fasting is helping to boost my metabolism? I swear I eat as much food as I used to, if not more. My last blood tests from 2 months ago show my thyroid working much better than it did 2 years ago when it was at the very lowest end of normal, so that is encouraging.

I’m not done losing weight so I will just continue on the path i’m on. I estimate that for my 5’4 height and very small frame I should weigh less, still. Belly fat is my main concern and as my kids lovingly tell me, my stomach is a “cozy and squishy pillow” to lay on.

I’ll be very interested to see if my blood pressure changes in a positive direction with any additional weight loss (fingers crossed). You’ll be the first to hear about it if it does.

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