Category Archives: Healthy Habits

How I Just Be Happy and Manage My Diabetes

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The secret to happiness.  I’ve heard wise people say that we don’t find happiness, rather we simply be happy.  And I always scoffed at that because I thought, “um…easy for you to say, you don’t have diabetes or this or that or blah blah blah…”

And recently, despite being really short on finances, despite having type 1 diabetes, despite living in a world that feels more scary every day, I’ve been really happy.

And I suddenly understood that thing about just being happy.  How many of us think that once we change jobs we’ll be happy?  Or once we lose weight we’ll be happy?  Or once we find the one, we’ll be happy.  I did all three of those at one point in life and was hit over the head with the realization that life felt the same because I was looking at it through the same gray tinted lens.  I went back to thinking I’d be happy if I had this or that and so the search for happiness just went on and on.

I also used to think I’d be happy if I could have well managed diabetes.  Just now, I sat looking at my kids happily squealing over a praying mantis (and petting it no less), and thought, why do I manage my diabetes well now and didn’t back then?  It’s not that I work harder than I used to.

You see, instead of trying to find happiness lately, I just be happy.  And it works.  And while I used to try to manage my blood sugars, I now just manage them.  Just like I am happy no matter what happens.  I manage my blood sugar no matter what it takes.  Being happy means making the choice to be happy, even under difficult circumstances (which are bound to be present).

Well, managing blood sugars, for me at least, means choosing to manage my blood sugars.  Managing my blood sugars even if I don’t want to eat right, even if I don’t want to give a shot, or check my blood sugar.  Even if I don’t want to make any of the sacrifices that non-diabetics don’t have to make.

Some say they don’t want to work that hard, give up that much, or strain to be happy while feeling hurt or anger or pain.  But what I figured out was that hurt, anger, pain, and hard work are inevitable and a part of life.  Those who try to escape these feelings are simply relocating them, losing control over their lives, and not even reaping the benefits.

So try choosing to be happy.  And choose to manage your blood sugars.  You know what to do.  You know what it takes.  You’re worth it.  And it’s not nearly as hard as dealing with the consequences of not doing it.  Ironic, but true.  And am I always happy and always managing my diabetes well?  Nah.  That would be non-human of me.

Now I know this was a big simple post and general and all that.  I’ll get in deeper soon, I promise.

Spending on our Diabetes Supplies

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Here’s my story-I used to get very caught up with how I was going to afford my diabetes medications and supplies.  I would make a yearly budget list of things I wanted to spend money on and I would include all my diabetes stuff on that list.  Then throughout the year I’d make choices from that list as money came in.  I ended up putting off my diabetes related purchases until the last moment or until I was broke and had to ask my parents for a loan.

This was no dignified way to live.  I felt upset every time I did spend money on my diabetes thinking, “This is so unfair, with what I spend on my diabetes, I could have gone to Europe for a month by now!”  And perhaps that’s the truth.  BUT…didn’t I have a high value placed on my health?  Didn’t I realize diabetes wasn’t going to go away and that if I was healthy, I was able to do more things?

I began realizing that my diabetes related purchases needed to be on a list of things that I must spend money on.  And in fact, those purchases needed to be at the top of the list because health really should be my priority.

I was bitter for years because I was giving up small vacations, clothes, cds, and other things I wanted to buy because that extra money was going to my diabetes.  I didn’t like feeling this way so I started working on changing the way I thought.

I realized I was choosing to be miserable, yet healthy when I could choose to be content and healthy.  So I decided to continue prioritizing my diabetes but I also began working towards a goal of getting a new job and making more money.  In the meantime, I’d try to take pleasure in the simple things like friends and family and focus on what I DID have.

Eventually I got to where I’m at now.  Paying for my insulin and strips is just like paying the monthly rent.  I don’t even think about it.  I need it.  I’m grateful to be able to pay for it.  And instead of being upset about it, I’m spending that energy on much better things.

In the end, it’s all worked out better than I ever dreamed.  Some people cannot afford their diabetes supplies.  Some don’t have the choice.  For those of us who do, let’s make it in favor of our health and the rest will fall into place.

July and August Resolutions

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I totally skipped May/June resolutions.  Busy months.  Yikes.  Let’s just go straight to July/August.

My July/August goal is to work on my book proposal.  But I have A1c Champions training and health coaching and some other diabetes advocacy related endeavors.  So instead I’m changing my goal to something I’m needing right now and that’s to exercise more.  I gain weight if I don’t do a lot of cardio (just the way I’m built I suppose) so though I have a lot of muscle tone, I need to jiggle off some fat before my frustration about said fat gets the best of me.  I plan on getting to the gym 3 times a week to do just cardio. Hold me to it.

Ana’s goal is to research graduate schools and programs.  This year she commences her senior year studying studio art and teaching and she has chosen to continue education.  Annie, consider this your reminder.  Hehe.

Anyway, if you’re new to my goal accomplishment system it’s called the 6 change method by Leo Babauta.  He is the widely popular blogger behind zenhabits.net.  Basically, you pick one change you want to make and focus on it for two consecutive months-plenty of time to make it a habit.

This method worked great for me last year and I’m excited to do it this year.  The blog adds a bit of accountability for me, too.  That, and I share it with my husband so he can help remind me of my goals.

Do you have a way of forming habits or making changes or accomplishing goals?  Share!

Healthy Lifestyle Habits and Their Impact on Diabetes Management

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From watching message boards and facebook, I’ve come to understand that more people than I imagined don’t believe that healthy lifestyle habits can improve their diabetes management or are an essential part of their management.  They believe that adhering to the strict rules of carb counting and insulin dosing is all they need to do.  And when their diabetes management isn’t where they’d like, they blame diabetes.  And yeah, yeah diabetes is ultimately the cause of all our blood sugar woes.  But focusing on that is NOT going to ever help.

So I’d like to offer some opinions on lifestyle habits and how they impact diabetes management.

First, I’ll say that my diabetes management was extremely challenged while I ate a typical American diet.  I have never had an issue with carb counting or portion sizing.  My challenge was facing the ups and downs that broke the rules about insulin and carbs.  When I changed my diet to omit most processed foods, most of the time, I realized my blood sugars didn’t swing up and down nearly as much.

Same happened when I began to exercise daily.  Easier diabetes management.  Insulin is much more powerful when we exercise regularly.  When I don’t, I cannot maintain tight control.

These discoveries were so huge for me that I can’t imagine someone not knowing the potential of healthy lifestyle habits on their diabetes.

No matter who you are, the positive impact you stand to gain from changing things about how you eat and move during the day is huge!  I can eat carefully and exercise daily and use 12 units of my long acting insulin a day.  If I eat like I see most people eating and if I don’t exercise regularly, I literally need 25-30 units of my long acting a day.  That’s a HUGE difference.  That difference impacts weight gain, hormone balances in the body, moods, metabolism, thyroid function, cholesterol, and more.  That’s why I take it seriously.

Now, I didn’t make these changes overnight and don’t expect others to either.  But it helped me to be slowly convinced that trying to make small, gradual changes over time were totally worthwhile.  And that’s what I’m trying to do in this post for anyone who isn’t convinced.  I benefited from reading stuff like this long ago and I hope somehow this helps someone else.

I write it over and over again because I believe it through personal experience.  And yes, we all have unique experiences but I’m not saying eat what I eat or exercise how I exercise.  Those details are up to you.  However, if what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else.  And just because it worked for you once doesn’t mean it works for you.  Something has to work consistently in order to “work”.

If you love and respect yourself, and I hope you do, you owe it to yourself to adopt the habits that will nourish your body and mind for the long term, rather than going for instant gratification.

While My Husband Loudly Snores

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It’s 1:30 am and I’m waiting for my blood sugar to come down.  To spend my time constructively I’ve just composed a cover of that Beatles song…

 

I look at the time

Hear the clock tick and tocking

while my husband loudly snores

I wait for my blood

to stop being so sweet now

while my husband loudly snores

I don’t know whyyy, he snores so loudly

How can he breathe?

I don’t know howww, to make him stop it

I think I’m going to scream

I look at his mouth

watch his chest rise and falling

while my husband loudly snores

my blood sugar’s there

where I want it to be now

but still my husband loudly snores…

aaaauuugghhhh

aaaaauuuuggghhhhh

aaaaauuuugggghhhhh!!!!!

On Meter Accuracy and What to Do in the Meantime…

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While I do give my time and energy when it comes to petitioning for better meter accuracy, I also have adopted a few personal safeguards.  These safeguards are like self imposed regulations that I don’t know how to live without.  I used to live without them but there were a lot of close calls.  And sometimes I forego them and scary things happen.

Meters being a good bit off (up to 20% off is it?) is an important issue to tackle, indeed.  But since it’s the reality of our current situation, we might ask ourselves in case we haven’t already, “What can I do about it?”  I’ll share what I do in case in inspires anyone to answer this question for themselves:

It’s been my experience that the further away from 100 my blood sugar is, the less accurate my meter may be.  Well how about that?  My meter and I mutually agree as to what my “target” is.  Just kidding.  Sort of…

Since low blood sugar comes with clearer symptoms for me and is an immediate emergency situation, I don’t question my meter when it says I’m low.  Though, if I don’t feel low at all, I will try jump in jacks and if I have energy for those I will retest because something strange is going on.  Perhaps leftover fruit juice on my fingertips from the apple I had earlier.

When my blood sugar is within my target range I relax, cheer, do a dance, etc.  But I try to have faith in my meter and assume it’s right on.

When my blood sugar is over 250, I retest.  It hurts me to retest because strips are like gold but I do it because this could happen:

Years ago, I tested 350-something.  When my blood sugar is that high, it’s hard for me to bring down so I usually push it down with a larger than usual bit of insulin.  Well, I gave insulin and then stopped.  I thought about how I didn’t feel 350 high.  So I tested again and saw I was 260.  I tested yet again and was 249.  “OK” I thought, “Now I’ve got a heck of a lot of insulin coming my way”.  Sure enough in 40 minutes I was 98 and dropping fast and still had over an hour of active insulin coming.  Nowadays the times that has happened have been handled differently.  I start to eat after 15 minutes to deflect the steep drop.

But better yet, it really doesn’t happen too often because I test twice.  If the second test is really far off from the first, I test a third time and go with the majority rule.  I would never ever test, see a high number, give insulin, and go to sleep.  Our meters are not built to support that level of responsibility.  Not with our lives.  That is a shame, yes, but that’s where our brain comes in handy.  What can we do to help ourselves against this?

Something a lot of my friends do is to eat low or moderate carb.  They have many reasons for eating low or lowish carb but one of the reasons for many of them is that this way, there is usually not a lot of insulin circulating at any given time.  And the food they eat is going to minimize the likelihood for being high enough to see super large discrepancies in their test results.  This works well for me.  In particular, what works well for me is to be careful with processed food.  I find that avoiding it makes my blood sugars more stable and my life easier because I don’t have super high highs.  And then my meter isn’t as big an issue for me as it could be.

But they should totally work on meter accuracy.  Or at the very least give everyone more strip allowance.

Please.

Reminder to Self

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From my head AND my feet.

I recently had a two week stint of…oh I don’t know, diabetes burnout or just feeling “blah” and unmotivated.  I didn’t exercise much for two weeks and I had some processed food and began to need about 25 units of my long acting basal insulin a day.  I’m back on my exercise routine and regular eating pattern and I just wanted to share that I’m down to 15 units of my long acting.  That’s a huge change isn’t it?

I don’t know which I love more: healthy food or exercise.  I feel like I can’t manage my diabetes unless I use the powers of both.

Sometimes I’m jealous of our ancestors.  Exercise was a built in way of life (no cars, no TV, no internet, no food unless you work for it).  Healthy eating was a lot easier (no processed or gmo foods, no two week old produce shipped from another continent.)  See?  They almost had it easier.

How can we make the most of what we have?  How do we exercise smart choices over temptation?

I don’t know about you but what helps me is to meditate and work on being aware of what I want for myself.  This keeps me focused (most of the time) on what needs to be done to get me where I want to go.

I’ll try to remind myself of all this next time I go into a “I don’t feel like it” phase.

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!

Diabetes Blog Week 2012, I’m a Thinker

Click for the One Great Thing – Tuesday 5/15 Link List.
Living with diabetes (or caring for someone who lives with it) sure does take a lot of work, and it’s easy to be hard on ourselves if we aren’t “perfect”.  But today it’s time to give ourselves some much deserved credit.  Tell us about just one diabetes thing you (or your loved one) does spectacularly!  Fasting blood sugar checks, oral meds sorted and ready, something always on hand to treat a low, or anything that you do for diabetes.  Nothing is too big or too small to celebrate doing well!

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What do I do well?  Funny you ask, I was just thinking about how I’m not the fastest at anything, I get lost driving in the town I spent my entire life in, I get nervous easily, I get tempted by ice cream really easily, I get swept up by my emotions all too often, I quit tons of things I start like someone with ADD, I’m too sensitive, and I am really messy, but I’m good at thinking.

Maybe this isn’t a special thing but I feel like it’s the best part of me.  I can problem solve well and think about complicated issues in a simple and organized way.  I’ve thought about a lot of things and predicted an outcome based on all the information I gathered and have usually been right-something that freaks my husband out.

I do this with my diabetes.  I figured out a lot of diabetes stuff that I later confirmed in diabetes books written by doctors.  And I won’t lie, I felt pretty excited to have reached the conclusion before a doctor gave me the info.  Sometimes I feel like it’s a useless skill because of how dependent life is on action.

Basically, I find that I can think things through and make really accurate decisions.  I think that’s how I manage my diabetes pretty well now.  Of course, it takes discipline, too.  I do envy people who are great with discipline and consistency.  Maybe one day I’ll get there.