Category Archives: Diabetes and Diet

Interview with Type 1 Living Abroad, Ariana Mullins

 

Remember earlier this year when I interviewed Nathan ShackelfordHis blog is still one of my faves.  Well, he said I might like to check out his sister’s blog.  Ariana Mullins has type 1 diabetes like her brother, but doesn’t blog about it.  Instead she blogs about her family’s adventures living in Europe.  She is a fantastic writer (she just wrote my favorite blog post ever) and takes some amazing pictures.  Do check out her blog, it’s a beautiful reminder of what living a healthy, fabulous, and grateful life is all about.

I asked her some questions about how she manages her diabetes and what it was like having diabetes and living in Europe (and other places):

How long have you had type 1 diabetes?

I was diagnosed 21 years ago, at age 12.  By the way, I was diagnosed by my dad and his glucometer, and never even saw a doctor  about my diabetes until I was 14.  My dad and older bother are both type 1 diabetics, and we were living in a rural area in the Philippines. My dad helped me work out my insulin dosages, taught me to estimate carb counts, etc.  My brother sent me my first insulin wallet, (which I used for the next 15 years!)  I decided right away that I wanted to be healthier than any non-diabetic, and took everything related to self-care pretty seriously.  Six months after diagnosis, I left for boarding school, on another island– so I was really on my own!  When I did finally see an endocrinologist, he was amazed that I had an A1c of 5.6!

What’s your motto in life?

“Never make decisions based on fear.”  I think I have lived this philosophy pretty well with my diabetes.  I haven’t let my diagnosis keep me from doing anything I really wanted to do, with the exception of snorkeling and scuba diving.  I used to snorkel all the time as a kid, but once I became diabetic, the idea of being in the middle of the ocean with low blood sugar was just too hard to justify!  Other than that, I have not let my diagnosis keep me from living as fully as possible, trying as many new experiences as I can.

Ariana and her brother, Nathan:IMG_1246

What is your diet like and why do you eat that way?

I eat low carb, and follow more of a paleo-type of approach.  I love food, and love to cook.  We originally started eating a grain-free diet because of food allergies that my daughter and husband have, but I quickly realized that it was great for all of us, and simplified my life a lot, since I was already not eating much starch anyway.  We eat plenty of meat and eggs, lots of vegetables, coconut products, and plenty of fat.  If we’ve been to France recently, then there’s plenty of great cheese on the table, as well!
I don’t crave a lot of sweets, but I do make room in my day for dark chocolate (usually 80%) and am happy to try out grain-free dessert recipes for my family, although I don’t usually eatmuch of those treats.  We always eat very well, though, with an emphasis on great quality items.  Who wouldn’t be happy to have a nice steak with herbed butter, grilled asparagus, olives, and a fresh, herbal salad for dinner?  Add a glass of red wine and some chocolate for dessert, and I feel like one lucky lady!  I never feel deprived, and absolutely love eating all of the great food at our table.

I think that one of the most positive, proactive things a person (regardless of health concerns) can do is to look at their food supply– what are we really eating, and where did it come from?  How was it produced?  Taking an interest in our sustenance is extremely rewarding, and eating well does not have to be expensive or difficult.  It’s true that eating quality food is a real priority for me, both in terms of budget and effort, but I don’t spend more than the average person (in fact, probably less!) and we feel incredibly wealthy when we sit down to eat together.

(Sysy speaking-she isn’t kidding.  Below is her cooking.  It’s what I want for dinner.)

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What in your opinion, is the toughest thing about living with type 1 diabetes?

I think the hardest part is just that it’s always there, on my mind, and impacting the smallest decisions in my day.  What I eat, when I eat.  The type of exercise I do, when, how long, etc.  Although diabetes doesn’t limit me much, it impacts everything.  When I leave the house, I have to think about whether I have something on hand in case of hypoglycemia, and whether it’s enough, or where I could get more, if needed.   And I am always counting…  The insulin I took, what I ate, when, what I will eat, what my last number was, what happened yesterday or the day before, trying to anticipate what my blood sugar might do.  There are so many variables– how much sleep I got, the amount of stress I am under, how old my insulin is, which ratio of insulin in my system is basal, how long a bolus dose will be working… The list of factors is endless, and it can be overwhelming at times, when there is a problematic dynamic happening that I need to figure out.  I can do everything “right” and still not get the numbers I am shooting for.  Diabetes takes a ton of mental energy and patience, and when other things in my life are a little wild, it can feel like too much!

Do you ever fear your daughter will develop it?

Yes, I do fear that she might.  Genetically, the chances are not too bad, but there is always that possibility.  Honestly, this is another reason that we eat the way we do– I want to give her the best health foundation that I can.  I do my best without being obsessive, and the rest is really not up to me.  It’s not something I think about every day, though, and it really wouldn’t be the end of the world if she did develop diabetes.

With her adorable daughter, Amelia:IMG_5617

Is it challenging living abroad with type 1 diabetes? What places have been the most challenging/least challenging?

I don’t find living abroad with this diagnosis to be much more challenging than living in the US.  In Germany, I did have to do more work to find a doctor that spoke English.  My diabetes is the same here as it would be anywhere else in the world.  I think it would be more challenging living in a really hot country, where I had to think all of the time about keeping my insulin cold.  Or a place that I couldn’t find supplies so easily.  But so far, it’s not hard at all.  We travel quite a bit, and that of course presents some challenges, but usually nothing too serious.  And of course,  the travel is so worth it!

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If you can’t find glucose tablets, what do you use for lows?

Fruit– I often carry an apple in my purse.  I can’t find Smarties candy here, which is my #1 choice.  Fruit leathers are pretty good, though, and if I am out and about, then getting a little bit of fruit juice is fast and effective.

How many times a day do you check your blood sugars?

This actually varies.  Since I have some limitations of test strip supply, I use a “save and splurge” sort of strategy.  I might use tons of strips for a few days, while I am figuring out a dynamic or blood sugar problem.  Once I have logged all of that information and have something to work with, I will make changes, and then check less obsessively, to see how things are going.  On average, though, I’d say I check 5-7 times per day.

Why did you decide to move abroad? Were you worried about how you would manage with your diabetes?

We decided to move overseas because we wanted to live in Europe.  It’s really that simple!  When we found out that my husband could get a good job working for the US government overseas, we jumped at the opportunity.  We lived in Germany for a while, and now we have been in England for over a year.
To be honest, my diabetes was not even a factor I considered when making the decision to move.  I think this makes sense, if you take into account my first years as a diabetic– completely self-managing in a foreign country.  I had not gotten exceptional care from doctors in the US, and the cost of insurance, co-pays and things like that never made me feel like I was particularly lucky to be a diabetic in my home country.  Once, I went to see a really great endo in Portland, and they booked my appointment and said they would accept my insurance.  But it turned out that they wouldn’t– I found this out after the doctor had run a whole bunch of labs (which just revealed that I was super healthy!) and we ran up a bill of $1,000 for that one visit, during a time of financial strain!  I could not even afford a follow up, which would have been the more valuable visit.  See what I mean?  There are great resources for diabetics, but not necessarily available to the people who need them.

So, here in England, the way they manage diabetes is not that great, either.  But they do cover prescriptions and supplies 100%!  Honestly, it is the patient that manages their diabetes, not the doctor.  So I would rather be empowered by having the supplies and medications I need, than lots of face time with doctors and nurses.  That said, there is a diabetes clinic nearby, and I can call one of the nurses, send them my logs, etc., whenever I want, for help.  The technology is a bit behind, though.  Not many diabetics use pumps here, since the funding is limited, and CGM supplies are not covered.  I am currently on a waiting list for a pump class, and then subsequently getting set up with a pump.  I don’t know how long it will be, and it’s not something I am expecting next week, I’m just waiting to see how it plays out.  Interestingly, you have to sort of prove your worthiness to get a pump– a reasonable A1c, and adeptness at carb counting and adjusting insulin.  I know these are kind of basic in the US, but I think it’s more rare to find PWDs who are very engaged in their own management.  This observation is simply based on the way things are handled– I haven’t met another PWD here yet!

What advice do you have for someone with type 1 who is considering moving to England (where you live now)?

I would recommend that they work to get their diabetes well-managed, through whatever resources they have available to them at home first.  It may vary depending on where in England they land, but I don’t think the management resources here are great.  They would need to be pretty competent with trouble-shooting and investigating issues on their own.  Sure, there are doctors and nurses here to help, but it could take a while to get an appointment at a diabetes clinic, or to find the exact type of help they need.  For example, if I had been working with a great endo before I moved here, I would have tried to set up a way to stay in contact with them, and pay for consults over the phone or via email.  On the other hand, if they qualify for NHS coverage, then they are going to love getting all their supplies for free!

The thing that most positively impacts your diabetes management?

A curiosity about the human body, and health in general.  Being diagnosed at a young age definitely sparked my life-long interest in health and nutrition.  Our bodies are really amazing.  They are always working hard to do their best, and deserve our best in return– the best nutrition we can find, plenty of rest, play, etc.  It makes me sad when I see people feeling angry with their bodies, or fighting them– the body is always working really hard, and never tries to sabotage us! The discomforts or troubling symptoms I may have are just forms of communication.  If I pay attention and respond, I can take great care of myself!  Don’t let the challenges of living with diabetes overshadow all of the really wonderful things that we are capable of through such exquisitely designed structures!

Where in the world would Carmen Sandiego be if she had type 1 diabetes?

Probably in Germany!  The best diabetes technology always seems to be coming from there, and they also have a great healthcare system that allows diabetics to get the care that they need, with minimal personal expense.

Any last words?

I don’t usually write about diabetes, so this was a positive exercise for me, in terms of articulating my experience with this condition.  Diabetes is actually not a big part of my identity.  I learned from an early age that I didn’t like being thought of as “that diabetic girl.”  People either felt sorry for me, or felt like they needed to get involved, or (worse yet!) tell me their best diabetes-related horror story.  No thanks!  Life is so interesting, and there is so much out there to experience, so I do my best to strike the balance between taking good care of myself, and just living and enjoying everything else around me.

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With her husband, Jeff.

Thank you for letting me share a bit about my experiences, Sysy!

Anytime!  Thanks for being so candid and helping prove that people with diabetes can do anything.

Classification of Carbs

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I really believe carb counting alone is insufficient when it comes to my diabetes management.  At least the simple way it’s taught.  It’s just my opinion and I’ll explain why:

I’ve found that for ME, there are adjustments I make for different types of carbs.  These are adjustments beyond just subtracting grams of fiber.  A carb is not a carb.  They vary spectacularly and learning their differences helps me keep my blood sugars in range and helps me decide which carbs to avoid.

I classify my carbs:

-Refined grains

-Sugar/sucrose/plain fructose (no fiber)

-HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)

-Chocolate, ice cream, and other high fat desserts

-Poultry/Meat/Seafood

-Fruits and vegetables

Refined Grains

When I eat anything with processed grains like white rice sushi or pizza or cookies, cake, or crackers, I have to watch out for a post meal blood sugar skyrocket.  It doesn’t happen right away which is why it’s often confusing to dose for these kinds of foods.  For example, last time you had pizza you were high afterwards so this time around you give more insulin, only to get low in the middle-towards the end of your meal.

I find that about 30 minutes after eating anything with refined or processed grains, I have to give another dose of insulin.  An insulin pump option on a dual or square wave bolus works well for a lot of people, but from what I gather, people with and without pumps have a hard time keeping blood sugars in range with processed grains.

Sugar

Eating something like candy made from glucose or sugar or drinking plain 100% juice or sugar sweetened beverage is a bit different.  I find that if I’m going to consume this within a reasonably fast amount time (as opposed to snacking over a period of 30 minutes) then I count carbs and using my 1:15 scale, I give just that amount of insulin.  Then I wait 15 minutes for the insulin to start working (more if I’m not in range).  I find that the insulin cancels out the sugar carbs pretty well and there is no shocking aftermath.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

This one is interesting.  At least for me (remember, this is just what happens in MY body).  I find that candy or beverages made with HFCS works like when I eat refined grains.  But that makes sense to me when I think about corn being a grain!  It’s easy to forget because people serve it to kids and say “eat your veggies”.

High fat desserts

This gets it’s own category because of the large amount of fat (and because they’re my favorite!)  I try to stick with dark chocolate for a low dose of sugar.  I also make sure to buy desserts that do not have HFCS in it as a sweetener.  I try to get the gourmet kind with minimal ingredients and then I count carbs and give insulin in the middle of eating since the fat content really slows down the absorption of most of these foods.  If there is a lot of sugar I give insulin prior to eating as usual.  I’m referring to a dessert like high fat truffles, mostly.

Poultry/Meat/Seafood

I count carbs and then add a tiny extra amount of insulin to my carb count depending on how much I eat.  I don’t have to do this unless I’m really filling up on this protein source.  I love how these foods fill me up and do very little to my blood sugars.

Vegetables and Fruits

I’m a fan of these, especially in terms of carbs.  As you are well aware, the high antioxidant, vitamin, mineral, fiber, and water content of these foods makes them wonderful for our health.  I definitely don’t need as much insulin for these foods.  I count the carbs and then omit for fiber content.  Fruit is something I stick to consuming in it’s natural state and in small quantities.  The sugar in fruit is fructose and too much overloads the liver, causing fatty liver problems.  Oh and it definitely affects blood sugars.  My favorite are cherries, they are very low glycemic.  Have you tried them for a low?  It takes so many!

I know I didn’t talk about legumes or nuts.  I don’t eat legumes anymore.  I think I ate too many as a kid.  I treat legumes like vegetables and I treat nuts like meat.

With any food:  If I eat a lot, I need to give a little extra insulin for the full stomach effect that Dr. Bernstein has talked about in his books.

I adjust for a few other things.  I’ve mentioned them before but here we go again:

BM status.  Eww, I know.  But being backed up might make a person anticipate a need for more insulin.  The opposite of that issue= less insulin.  So watch out for major lows if you get food poisoning!

Stress.  If I’m stressed, I have to give a little bit extra insulin to combat the stress hormones and their affects on my blood sugars.

Exercise.  Different types of exercise require different diabetes management approaches.  Read Ginger Vieira’s book for that info and so much more-even worksheets for getting all these changes right!

PMS.  Days before I start, I need to up my basal insulin.

Sleep.  If I stay up late (past midnight), I have to give some extra insulin (unless I’m active).

Sedentary.  If I’m being sedentary more than two days in a row due to sickness or diabetes burnout or whatever, I definitely have to up my basal insulin substantially (by 30-40%).

Too much artificial sweeteners.  Certain artificial sweeteners in high doses do contain carbs (it’s a small amount per serving so they’re legally allowed to round down to 0) so if you’re binging on diet coke, check your blood sugar and stay alert to a sneaky increase.

That’s all I can think of.  It’s just an example of how you want to be aware of how your body reacts to different types of food and activity.  You can see why I stick with meat/poultry/seafood, vegetables, and fruits.  Much better blood sugar stability and less variability for me.  But when I do splurge, at least being aware of how those foods act differently help me manage them for those occasions.

I write all this out because you can have tighter blood sugar management.  It helps to learn yourself and the foods you’re eating.  Again, get Ginger’s book or ebook and discover how to improve your blood sugars.  I highly recommend it.

Diabetes Blog Week 2012, Me and Food Need to Kiss and Make-Up

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Click for the One Thing to Improve – Wednesday 5/16 Link List.
Yesterday we gave ourselves and our loved ones a big pat on the back for one thing we are great at.  Today let’s look at the flip-side.  We probably all have one thing we could try to do better.  Why not make today the day we start working on it.  No judgments, no scolding, just sharing one small thing we can improve so the DOC can cheer us on!

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Well, reading all the posts from yesterday about what people do well gave me a lot to think about.  With just about every other post I thought, “wow, nice, I wish I did that really well…”.

What stuck out the most for me was something I didn’t catch anyone mentioning and I suppose it’s because many of us people with diabetes struggle with this:  Our relationship with food.

I don’t know about yours but even though I eat pretty healthy, my BMI is within healthy range (um, barely), and my blood pressure, lipid profile, thyroid function, and A1c are all within normal healthy ranges, I still feel like the missing piece to my puzzle is predominately my tumultuous relationship with food.  I don’t remember having this problem before my diabetes diagnosis so I will blame this largely on diabetes.  But also on plain old me.  I’ve abused alcohol, painkillers, and food in the past and it’s all partially connected to the way I really long for an easy escape from my feelings about my problems.  I’ve done a lot better in the past 6 years and now feel like if I could just grip my food struggles, man would that be nice!

So what is what I need to improve exactly?  Well, I’d say…anxious over-eating.  You know, the opposite of mindful eating.  I do pretty well all month long and then bam, about 10 days before my period I’m a disaster eater.  Who cares if I eat too much of something healthy?  It’s still going to pack on the pounds, leave me feeling miserable, and negatively impact my blood sugars and health.

So one issue to work on- pms symptoms.  A second issue is we don’t have a dinner table.  Well we do but it’s one of those high ones and the stools that went with the table all broke over the years (They really don’t make furniture the way they used to, sigh.)  Ok, we’ve got one stool left but sitting in it feels like it cuts off my circulation so geez was that a bad purchase or what!?  Alright, so I eat standing up most of the time which really helps me eat too quickly.  Also, my little ones are the perfect excuse for me to feel like I should really hurry and eat.  I ought to just copy exactly how they eat-slow and in the moment.

Let’s not forget diabetes genuinely causes issues in this department.  Low and not hungry?  Too bad, you sad sap, stuff that mouth full of calorie heavy glucose.  High and nauseated because you ate something you were really craving?  Aww…you just can’t win can you?  lol…Next thing you know food is medicine and food is a drug and food is a vice and a form of punishment and relief and pleasure and arrghhh…

Ok, this post has been seriously helpful.  It’s helped me see the light.  What’s the point in complaining if one isn’t going to make a plan of action, right?

I talked with my husband and we’re going to focus on saving towards a new table…seeing the impact on our health and what our kids are picking up as habits, we think it qualifies as a priority.  Eating with the kids, sitting on the floor, on the ottoman is getting cramped and too messy.  Yes, the living room ottoman is our dinner table.  Bet you didn’t know that interesting fact about me?

Also, what emotions do I have hidden under the surface relating to food?  Why such animosity?  Why do I want to simultaneously praise butter in all it’s buttery goodness and strangle it by it’s rectangular, slippery throat?  Why do I feel like throwing away all the cutlery in the kitchen in a desperate attempt to alienate food?  I will think and meditate on that and get back to you.

So what would you like to improve?  Remember there’s no shame!  In fact, take this time to identify your “thing”, whatever it is, and work on making it better.

As our D-friend Ginger always says, we are works in progress!

Sugarless Tuesdays

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Jessica Apple of A Sweet Life.org has started something that I would love to encourage all of you to consider.  Sugarless Tuesdays.  I asked Jessica “why?” and this is what she had to say:

“Why Sugarless Tuesdays?

Most of us have heard of Meatless Mondays, a movement to reduce meat consumption.  I’m not against Meatless Mondays, but I don’t think meat consumption is the main problem with America’s diet.  I’m someone who feels deeply about animal rights and doesn’t like the idea of eating animals, but I believe humans have evolved to do so.  What has no place in the human diet are foods with added sugar.  Sugar is essentially toxic to our bodies.  For diabetics it’s immediately toxic and for everyone else it’s something that slowly causes illness.  Since I’m passionate about trying to help people with diabetes – and everyone at risk for diabetes (which is almost everyone in America!) – I decided to start the Sugarless Tuesdays movement.  I think that anyone who gives up sugar one day a week will see how easy it is and find themselves giving up sugar many days a week.  Additionally, once you start to think about not eating sugar, you begin to realize just how much sugar you’ve been eating.

Sugar consumption isn’t just connected with obesity.  It’s also connected to heart disease and cancer.

Who could benefit?  Everyone.  It’s the easiest most obvious path to better health.  Just one day a week with no sugar.”

Thanks Jess!  I totally agree.  In my health coaching work I’ve been working on creating a presentation on the topic of sugar consumption and it’s effects on our health.  And the research I’ve encountered about sugar is downright frightening.  Read this article on it by Gary Taubes.  Excellent stuff.

Did you know sugar qualifies as an addictive substance?

According to Joshua Rosenthal in his book, “Integrative Nutrition”, It’s addictive because:

A, If you quit cold turkey, you will endure withdrawal symptoms.  You’ll feel similar symptoms quitting sugar, caffeine, and cigarettes.

And B, a little taste usually makes you want more.

This doesn’t mean we deny ourselves any sweets.  The problem is the way too many of us consume too much sugar.

Sometimes when we talk about “sweets in moderation” we are still consuming way more sugar than what is healthy for the human body.  So try out Sugarless Tuesdays today and see if you feel better at the end of the day.  See if your mood was impacted at all.  Try reducing your sugar intake on other days of the week.  Do you find you miss it like crazy?  Don’t fret.  Awareness leads to all things good.  If you come to the conclusion you are addicted to sugar, join us on Sugarless Tuesdays and then maintain an awareness for the rest of the week and reduce your sugar at a really slow pace so that you don’t have to go through tough withdrawal symptoms.

I will leave you with this:

Dr. Nancy Appleton’s book, Lick the Sugar Habit lists a ton of ways excess sugar can hurt our health.  Here are just 10 of sugar’s effects according to her:

1. It feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, lung, gallbladder and stomach.

2. It can cause autoimmune diseases such as: arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis.

3. It greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida yeast infections.

4. It can increase the size of your liver by making your liver cells divide and it can increase the amount of liver fat.

5. It can increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in the kidney such as the formation of kidney stones.

6. It can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

7. It can cause hormonal imbalances such as: increasing estrogen in men, exacerbating PMS, and decreasing growth hormone.

8. Your body changes it into 2 to 5 times more fat in the bloodstream than it does starch.

9. It has the potential of inducing abnormal metabolic processes in a normal healthy individual and to promote chronic degenerative diseases.

10. It upsets the mineral relationships in your body causing chromium and copper deficiencies and interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.

This is not about fear mongering but about using information as power.  And this isn’t just for diabetics, this is for everyone.  We can do this together.  Click here to like Sugarless Tuesdays on Facebook!

Raw Milk Experiment

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My family and I live in Virginia where it’s illegal to buy and sell raw milk.  However, clever people have found a legal loophole.  The law states a person can consume the milk from their own cow.  So we have bought what is called a cow share.  It allows us to legally purchase raw milk because we’re just drinking what our dear cow provides.

Don’t worry, I researched this farm, talked to people who’ve been drinking their milk for years, and even inquired into the health and total treatment of the cows.  Safety is very important with stuff like this.  Totally unrelated, but I love cows.  Such gorgeous lugs :)

Anyway, why am I trying raw milk?

First of all, I’ve become aware that much nutrition is destroyed in the pasteurization process.  Some don’t agree but I’ve found more researchers agreeing than not agreeing.  Milk is pasteurized to kill anything harmful in it.  However, a cow that is healthy, that eats it’s proper diet (grass, not grains!), is treated with love and care, and is milked under strict sanitation guidelines yields safe, healthy milk.  And that appeals to me.

Also, there have been too many studies for my comfort talking about a link between pasteurized milk and type 1 diabetes in children.  I have two such children and therefore take this information very seriously.

Raw milk proponents say the benefits include:

-More Vitamin A, C, and D

-More readily absorbed calcium and iron, Vitamin B12, and B6

-More minerals, including Iodine and Folate

-Protection against asthma and allergies in children (pasteurized milk has been strongly associated with the increase in asthma, allergies, ADD, auto immune diseases and more.)

(View source for the above info.)

My husband grew up in a rural area and drank milk straight out of the cow’s (and goat’s) teets and he literally is the healthiest person I know.  Literally.  All he’s ever had to deal with is a cold and because this is all he’s ever experienced, he is severely annoyed by something as simple as a runny nose.  (Lucky…)  Is there a connection?  I don’t know but I’m intrigued.

I’ve been drinking the milk for a week now and all I can say is tastes amazing.  It has no strong flavor whatsoever.  It just tastes like creamy heaven.  One of the best parts is it doesn’t taste like stinky plastic because it hasn’t been sitting in a plastic container for weeks or months.

I will let everyone know if I notice any benefits to our family in the next weeks/months.  I’m not looking for any, instead, I’m trying to tie us closer to things as they come in nature-keeping safety as a priority.  I figure that’s the healthiest way to go.

Anyone out there drink raw milk or have any opinions on it?  I’m very interested to hear!

Why I Love the Study of Nutrition

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I love the study of nutrition…

  • Because I’ve learned food is medicine
  • Because what we eat influences what we think.  A world that eats high quality food is a world that has more positivity, love, and patience.
  • Because what we eat communicates directly with our genes.  What we eat is information.  And that information helps determine what diseases we’ll develop or not develop and what health issues our children will be predisposed to or not predisposed to.
  • Because to be sick we either have too much or too little of something.  And a huge chunk of that has to do with food and all that’s in it or not in it.
  • Because the more we know and apply, the better we feel.  The better we feel, the more we can do.  The more we can do, well…the sky is the limit.

As people with diabetes, I think we benefit enormously from learning about nutrition because when you have a chronic disease that impacts every part, every organ of the body, you need all the help you can get.  We eat every single day and so every day is an opportunity to give ourselves something that will make us healthier, stronger, smarter, and happier.  The right foods do that.  And I think it’s amazing.

Closing the Kitchen

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Recently, my kids have gone from eating their brown rice and veggies, quinoa with garlic and ginger, and organic poultry, fish, and meats to wanting only fruit and dairy and grains.  They’d probably want coke all the time except that stuff has never passed their lips so they don’t know what they are missing.  And that’s why they prefer the starchier, sweeter stuff.  They’ve had it and they’re not naïve anymore to the big world of junk food.  I should have kept them in the dark…

Anyway, my only hope is to have them be hungry enough at meal time so that they’ll eat what I have to offer.  I don’t plan on being cruel and force feeding them what they don’t like.  But I need them not to eat processed foods and I want to avoid scenarios where they tire me out to the point of desperately feeding them crappy sugar laden breakfast cereal “Fine, you win!  Just stop the whining!” (yes, it’s happened).

I’m going to close the kitchen.  I grew up hearing that children require snacks in between meals because they’re growing and they get hungry more often.  But, I have been learning more and more about nutrition from experts and many of them hold the opinion that we should be hungry before meals and we shouldn’t snack all doggone day-and this includes children.  And while I don’t think snacking is a sin, I do think that for me and my kids it’s become an inconvenient appetite destroyer.

I try to make every meal and not pull it out of a box.  I also eat different foods than my kids.  And my husband eats different foods from me and the kids.  So by the time dinner rolls around I’ve made seven different meals and cut up fruit or vegetables or cheese for snacks and it just hit me that I practically live in the kitchen.  Not cool.  I grew up hearing the whole “pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen” saying and swore I’d NEVER spend too much time in the kitchen.  In fact, when I was pregnant, I looked down to find myself barefoot in the kitchen, freaked out, and quickly got some shoes on my swollen feet.  You can say feminism has scarred me.  Whatever.  Point is, I hate looking at food all day you know?  It says, “eat me!” and so all day I’m fighting the temptation to eat the kid’s whole wheat pasta or my husband’s rice and beans.  Or I’m sneaking in a bite of food here and there and realizing that one bite of food is enough to throw blood sugars and weight loss efforts.  It’s exhausting.

So I’m closing the kitchen.  I’m going to make sure the kids eat a good breakfast and then I’ll have my grapefruit or avocado or whatever I’m having and then kitchen closed.  It will reopen for lunch and then it will close.  It will reopen for dinner and then it will close.  My kids are used to a bottle of milk or coconut milk or almond milk before bed.  I’ll leave them that luxury.  But snacks in between meals?  Nope.  I need them hungry enough to eat what I know is best for them to eat.  I mean who’s in charge here?  Me or them?

Ok, I’ve adequately pep talked myself.  Let’s do this!

(I’ll keep you posted on our progress…or lack thereof :)

Do any of you stick to three meals and no snacks during the day?  If so, how does it work for you?

Thoughts on the Paleo Diet

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Thoughts on the Paleo Diet

I’ve been pondering the paleo diet lately. Not necessarily considering it, although I probably eat a diet people would consider a paleo-like diet. I’ve been thinking about it because it’s getting more popular. The diet plan presumes that humans evolved to best handle foods that were available during the paleolithic era which lasted 2.5 million years according to wikipedia. Supposedly, we’ve been incorporating grains into our diets for only 10,000 or so years. Therefore it is assumed that our bodies are not equipped to thrive on grains because we haven’t had enough time to evolve to assimilate them. If we’re going with this evolutionary train of thought…I wonder if the Okinawan’s of Japan who are some of the longest living and healthy people on the planet do so well on brown rice and vegetables because people have existed in Asia longer than people have existed in say, South America, and therefore had more time to get used to assimilating brown rice. Maybe we evolve faster than we think? Blacks and Hispanics eating the standard American diet suffer certain health consequences sooner and more frequently than Caucasians. Is this because of the predominance of wheat in the diet? And the fact that Caucasians mostly hail from Europe, where wheat has been eaten for longer than it has in Africa, South America, Central America and Mexico? Do you see where I’m going with this?

If I follow the idealogoy of the paleo diet, I get lost you see? Because it’s based on what we are not sure of yet-evolutionary stuff. We don’t know how long it takes us to evolve to foods but it seems like it’s been happening in the last 10,000 years because Caucasian Americans don’t have the same risk for diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease as African American and Hispanic Americans do.  Or maybe not?  I don’t know enough.

I appreciate how the diet emphasizes whole foods and omits processed ones. The thing is, if a paleo dieter can’t afford or isn’t able to find organic animal products, then they are consuming what our ancestors certainly didn’t consume- chemicals and hormones and toxins galore. That’s where I think the greatest downfall of the diet is. The modern implications of it. Back then meat, poultry, eggs were pure. Now it’s all genetically modified to the point of almost needing to be called something else because it’s been changed at the most basic level.

That said, I do try to eat things I don’t pull out of a box, don’t have to cook, or need to pick up the phone to order.  And that’s often at the heart of paleo, so I do very much appreciate that.  Oh, and the fantastic blood sugars I get from eating paleo-like…priceless.

Anyway I was just thinking aloud :)

Any of you have experience with this diet?  What do you think?

Paula Deen and Her Type 2 Diabetes

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Those are some white teeth ya’ll…:)

I do see how some of her comments don’t help us diabetic people out.  She just said that diabetes is “not a life sentence”.  This doesn’t bother me much because I take it into context and I know she is talking about her type 2 diabetes.  However, I do understand that the majority of the world out there doesn’t know that type 1 and 2 are different diseases (though we haven’t actually figured those details out for 100% certain, yet).  Anyway, the point is that I completely understand the frustration to those with diabetes who say, “Wait just one minute!  Diabetes IS life threatening for me and can definitely be for other people with diabetes!”  I get it.  I don’t however, want to punch the lady in the face for not being specific enough when I know she was just trying to spread a little hope to others.  Even if that hope came across a bit rehearsed.  After all, she can most likely pay for any operation she ever needs of pocket and the rest of us, cannot.

I see the backlash on Paula Deen as a way of our collective society screaming out  and saying “I don’t eat enough healthy food and exercise enough and as a result I am not as healthy as I could be and this affects everything in my life”.  We’re speaking through Paula in light of her type 2 diabetes.  I honestly believe that.  We relate to her.  We enjoyed our processed food and then realized the hard way that those delicious foods are hurting us more than they are pleasing us.  Maybe some of us have gained a lot of weight, maybe some developed a thyroid problem, while others might have developed type 2 diabetes thanks to the last kicker of their predisposed genes.  But all of us who have ate a more or less standard American diet HAVE felt the negative consequences of it in some way, shape, or form.  Whether we know it or not.  You see, that food isn’t meant to be abused and since we’re human, and since that food is cheap and convenient and addicting, the easiest thing in the world is to abuse it.  Paula Deen is just one of us.

Those of us who can afford to buy healthy whole foods vote every time we shop.  If we buy cookies and chips every time we go to the store then we have to know that we are part of the ongoing business for these companies who don’t make healthy food.  We help keep them alive.  Does that mean we should be judged for wanting some treats throughout the week?  As a whole I tend to think we have as much power as someone as famous as Paula Deen.  It’s way more complicated than that though isn’t it?  And I assume it’s more complicated for her than we realize, too.

I’ve heard a few people say that they don’t care what Paula does or doesn’t do because it’s none of our business  I believe people’s actions does affect us all.  So I absolutely do care if you are drinking and then driving.  I care if you are making babies over and over again and dropping them all off at an orphanage.  I care if you are dealing with type 2 diabetes.  I care that you have depression.  It affects you if I have type 1 diabetes and if I use up all my FMLA at work and if I smoke and if I neglect my kids and if I find a cure for diabetes (Ah, we’d all like that one wouldn’t we!).  But it’s not a “just don’t hurt me or mine” kind of caring.  It’s a caring that wants good for all.  I don’t want you to drink and drive because you might hurt someone I love or you might hurt some other innocent soul or…you might hurt yourself.  It all matters.

I believe in something between judging and “live and let live” and it’s caring.

That’s how I feel about Paula Deen.  I respect that she has fans and that those fans cook what she teaches them to cook.  I respect that they look up to her as a jolly country hostess who hugs her southern roots, butter, flour, sugar, and sparkling white teeth and blue eyes, and runs with them all the way to the bank.  But, I also know that if she has type 2 diabetes, she suffers and so do her family and friends.  She is a famous type 2 diabetic that others are going to look to as an example.  It’s possible that her diet contributed very much to her diagnosis.  Let’s not pretend that isn’t possible.  Genes aren’t entirely responsible for type 2 diabetes since in most cases obesity is a factor (another issue we shouldn’t judge, by the way).  That doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve compassion and that doesn’t mean we let her completely off the hook.  But while her diagnosis is her business, her having diabetes is…in an indirect way, our business.  When our society suffers a lot of health problems, we all suffer.  The solution isn’t pointing fingers though, it’s just caring.  After all, the most charming and successful kind of family I’ve ever known is the non-judging, forgiving, communicative, confronting, nosy one.  If we act that way more often as a people, as a society, wonderful changes will come our way.

I think we can say that we want her to be straightforward and sincere and responsible with her position as a famous person with type 2 diabetes and the implications of that.  I think most people rise up to the occasion when we kindly demand that.  Especially if we expect them to with open arms.

As a fellow southern gal, I have a feeling Paula Deen will help us out if we expect her to.  Call me naïve.  The ongoing insults will only make her hide in a closet.  A closet that’s probably as big as a mansion, but still.  We can call her out but do so respectfully. We can ask her questions and persist to get them answered.  If I were her and I read all what is being said online, I’d stick my head in an apple pie for all eternity.  We don’t want that.  We want her on our side.  We gotta stick together, folks.  Diabetes or no diabetes, we’re all in this together.

Interview with Nathan Shackelford about Eating Low Carb

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I like interviewing different people who strive for glucose numbers as close to normal as possible because if that’s what non-diabetics have then that’s what I feel I should work towards (taking in consideration all kinds of factors, of course).  I’m not saying it’s the right decision for everyone, I’m just in the process of figuring out the best diet for me and I know others are on the same wavelength.  I think it’s important that we keep dialogue open about this and by talking with those who feel they’ve made a great decision for themselves we can keep the learning and exchange alive.

Nathan Shackelford is an art teacher, husband, father of three kids, and has had type 1 diabetes for about 26 years.  He also writes a great diabetes blog you can follow here.  Nathan has been eating low carb for some time and I wanted to hear his perspective about it and see what we could learn.

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Nathan, how long have you had type 1 diabetes?

I have been Type 1 since the summer of 1985, so it’s been about 26 years.

And how long have you been eating low carb?

I was motivated to qualify for life insurance in 2003, and going low-carb was one of the things that helped me to get my A1C under 7 so that I could be considered “healthy”. It worked.  Besides better A1Cs I’ve also benefitted from feeling better and getting healthier overall. It’s surprising how many aspects of your life can be affected by poor blood sugar control.

How low carb do you go? About how many grams of carbs do you take in a day?

I go pretty low. My only carbs are usually things like almonds and avocados, and green vegetables. I’d guess that I consume 20-30 grams of carb a day. At this level, carb counting doesn’t have as much of an impact. I find that meals with more protein are the ones that require the most insulin.

Why do you think low carb is the right way to go for you, personally?

I’ve done it both ways, and haven’t been able to get good results with even moderate carb levels. I’ve experimented to see if I can include more carbs and use more insulin and the results always have me back with higher A1Cs. In the day to day, I don’t really see major differences, but the average control over time shows that it doesn’t work as well. For instance, this past summer I took a trip to Europe with a student travel program. I didn’t want to work too hard at getting special food items for myself at hotels with the language barrier, etc. so I ate some of the starchy carbs that came my way and used more insulin. When I got back from my trip I realized that my glucose control was off for most of my trip, and I had picked up a few extra pounds as well. My A1C for summer was up significantly.

What’s a typical meal look like?

I usually have eggs for breakfast, sometimes on top of a pile of arugula. My favorite lunches are tuna salad or chicken salad with greens. Dinners are usually chicken, beef or fish with broccoli or cauliflower and salad. We do a lot of ethnic foods at home, so those look pretty different.

Why do you think so many people with type 1 diabetes choose not to try going low carb?

I think many of us think of eating “normally” as the measure for living a normal life with diabetes. I think if we start defining living normally as having normal blood sugars, we will make changes to make it happen. Carbs are kind of addictive, and most people don’t realize that if you can go for 4-7 days without them, you can leave them behind.

Some people forget to point out that for people who eat low carb, many eat loads of vegetables, which technically, are high in carbohydrate. Are you one of these people who eats a lot of low impact veggies?

My diet doesn’t look vegetarian at all. The protein and fat are the main source of energy and the vegetables are there because I love them. The ones I eat, though, are the types that have small impacts on my glucose levels. If I eat 2 cups of steamed broccoli it would have a pretty noticeable impact on my blood sugars just by quantity in my stomach. If I keep it at ½- 1 cup, it’s fine.

What do you think about the paleo or primal diet?

The Paleo/Primal diets have resonated with me because they are fantastic for diabetics. My sister is also a Type 1 diabetic and she and her family eat Paleo and it has solved many health issues for all of them. I have read the Paleo and Primal literature and think it’s a great thing for people to pursue for better health. I’m already living gluten-free because I don’t consume any grains. I still use cream in my coffee, but that’s the only dairy I typically use regularly. I don’t have any issues with dairy, so I’m not interested in eliminating it. I used to brew beer at home regularly, and that was one place where I was consuming gluten. I found out, almost by accident, that my body responds better to cider than beer. So, I’ve been making my own hard cider at home and haven’t brewed beer in several months.

Does your family eat like you?

My way of eating has impacted the family to some degree. We have less junk food around the house and our typical family meals are centered around protein. My son and my youngest daughter are starting to naturally eat the way that I do. It just appeals to them, and they are thriving. We still have potatoes or tortillas on the table with some meals, but they are not the focus of the meal. I think we have all become healthier since I started pursuing my health goals. People keep asking my wife what she’s doing to get so slim.

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Where would Carmen San Diego be if she had diabetes?

I don’t know her very well, but, I think she’d be at her local farmer’s market geeking out on all the fabulous produce.

What’s the hardest thing about eating low carb?

I’m a pretty easy-going person, so I don’t like anyone to feel obligated to do anything special for me. I try not to put any special attention on what I do or don’t eat, but sometimes you realize that there’s not much in a meal that you can go after… like a spaghetti dinner with garlic bread. I can’t even just eat a polite portion of that. It’s not that I wouldn’t love that stuff… I guess trying to balance between “not being a pain in the neck” with taking the impact of daily food seriously.

You seem to be really optimistic about life with type 1 diabetes. Why is that and have you always been this way?

I’ve always been pretty upbeat about diabetes, despite the seriousness of the disease. My dad is a Type 1 diabetic and he always has had a good attitude about. He lives a rather normal life and views his glucose control as a puzzle to sort out, rather than a drag. You’ll often find him going for an 30 minute walk to get glucose levels back to normal. I find that curiosity about it keeps me motivated to know as much as I can and master it. Instead of accepting the idea that it’s going to derail my life and control it, I plan to be in control. Attitude has a lot to do with that, and I plan to win.

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I really appreciate hearing how someone fits this way of eating into their life and the reasons behind doing so.  I think the reasons for finding foods that lower insulin needs are compelling enough to consider very seriously.  Thanks so much for answering those questions, Nathan!

Remember to check out his blog: Edibles…(the diabetic edition)

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