Tag Archives: diabetes and motivation

My Favorite App is a Mood and Period Tracker

I struggled with the title for this post. I wanted to call it “You Need This App!” but I imagined people would then start reading and be discouraged by the surprise theme of menstruation on a diabetes blog. However, I am certainly talking about a mood and period tracker app and it really is my favorite app.  It has improved my well-being.  It has helped my relationship with my husband.  It’s got an alienating and cheesy name-are you ready for it?  “Hormonescope”.  Look beyond that and let me explain.

We women know all too well that in the days leading up to our period, our hormone levels change.  What I have learned is that they fluctuate all month long and these fluctuations are legitimate motivators to our changing moods and behavior.  I got this app last year and quickly realized that each day, when I read what was going on with my body and why, I could easily be more in control of my day(s).

This app tracks you from the starting date of your last period and then gives you a daily “hormonescope” that is not ridiculous at all but based on science.  I decided to test it out by writing down how I was feeling each day and then reading my information for the day.  What I found was that when I was feeling more sensitive to pain, the app knew about it.  When I was feeling like a homebody, the app knew about it.  When I was feeling like dressing up and wearing lipstick, the app knew about it.  When I was about to become almost irrational with my emotions, the app knew about it.  In other words, the science was well researched to generally describe what our hormones do throughout the month and when they would do it and how that translates into typical behavior.

What about those people with irregular schedules?  Well, usually, that would be me.  For the last few years, I have normally been between 3-10 days late each month.  This app helped me with this by keeping me aware of my irregular cycle.  Combined with information about how to increase overall health, I used this awareness to motivate me to eat healthier, exercise more consistently, reduce sugar, stay away from soy, keep my blood sugars consistent, and to constantly work on stress management.  I have always had pretty terrible menstrual cramps that have diminished with better eating and exercise.  I spent the last three months working hard at my healthy habits and just had a cycle that included none of my typical cramps, nor ovarian and breast cyst swelling and pain, smoother moods, and an on time predictable schedule. It was heaven.  I’ve heard of women having this kind of cycle and I thought it would never happen to me.  I feel very much supported by this admittedly simple app and the daily dose of information it shares.

I also struggle with depression and anxiety and this app has helped me with that, too. When estrogen and progesterone start to drop about a week before our period, gloominess and worry can set in.  But what if you got a hint each day of what to expect with your hormones and behavior?  In the days leading up to menstruation, I used to get into a terrible depressed mood and be lost in my weary haze, always slightly unsure if I would ever crawl out.  Now, because I have a heads up and a reassurance that nature will help reverse the mood  in a few days, I work through this hard time of the month much better than ever before.  I drink herbal teas, wear loose clothing, and cut myself slack when it comes to chores and things that have to get done.

This app has also helped my relationship with my husband.  It has been hard on him to lose a generally happy and loving wife for about 10 days every month to extreme mood changes.  This app hasn’t just increased my understanding of what is going on with me, it has increased his understanding of what goes on with me.  “Oh, you aren’t crazy, it’s your hormones!”  Just kidding, he has never said that.  It also helps give him insight into how he can support me during that time.  I appreciate when he plans an outing out with the kids on one of the days I really need it, for example.  And I think he appreciates not having to freak out over my sudden crying at sappy animal commercials.   It’s also a bonus to be aware and take advantage of “sexy days”, days when hormones support the mood being just right.

There have been days when I feel like I can tackle a big project and the app knew about it.  I have felt like “a genius!” and the app knew about that, too.  (Too bad that doesn’t last more than a day or two) I no longer guilt myself on the few days I eat more than normal or the feelings of wanting to stay at home and chill with a book.  I jump up and embrace social outings on the days my body and brain are feeling more friendly and chatty and outgoing.  I deep clean the house when energy is up and cook simple and easy foods, otherwise known as microwave meals when it’s really low.

I never thought I’d rave about this kind of app but, it has brought me tremendous value and I recommend it to any woman who menstruates or any human who wants to better understand and support a woman who menstruates.  Just now I read my “hormonescope” for the day and it mentions that with progesterone and estrogen on a gentle rise after a previous dip, I’m supposedly feeling more creative flow and introspection but am physically jumbling my words so writing is a perfect thing to do today.  Voila.

Get it here!

Reminder to Self

563765_328755247181612_254597271264077_965188_506626418_n

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.

Is it Your Doctor’s Job to Motivate You?

378908_257601624296975_254597271264077_771616_637257805_n

I hope everyone’s Holiday weekend was grand.  Mine was full of wonderful memories, highly excited children, and some laryngitis.  I still sound like a dying squawking bird but luckily I can still write!

I recently read a doctor’s article on how health coaches are becoming more accepted and recognized for the service they provide.  His case was that doctors endure many years of medical school and get no training on human behavior and how to motivate others.  He says that really isn’t a doctor’s job.  He says that is why he “prescribes” patients a health coach, someone with the time and training to help get a person’s motives down to a nitty gritty and support them to follow through with lifestyle changes they want to make.

You know, I have always assumed it was a doctor’s job to motivate patients but now that I think about it, doctors really are trained in medicine and I doubt they get classes on perfecting their bedside manor and figuring out how to engage people.  I don’t think they’re trained in counseling.  Not to mention, most doctors have a very limited amount of time with each patient.  A former doctor of mine said he had about 7 to 15 minutes with each patient.  That’s barely enough time to figure out what’s wrong with a person let alone talk to them about how life is going and how they are feeling about their diet and exercise and the stress in their lives.

Ideally, health counselors or life coaches are built into the system and covered by insurance companies for widespread accessibility.  That is not the current state of our health system however and that means that so many people are left to their own devices.

I think that’s why I focus SO many of my posts somewhere inside the realm of motivation.  Every totally impressive person I know has locked into what personally motivates them.  They latch on to this and keep it in the forefront of their mind.  They eat, breathe, and sleep it.  There is no other way to be very successful at something than to know exactly why you want to do it.  Losing sight of this equals failure. The what, when, how, and where all sorts itself out as long as you know why you want to do something.

I’ll be taking on clients soon as a holistic health counselor and I am making plans right now to remember all those who can’t afford this service.  I’m thinking about giving local group sessions and seminars for free or at highly discounted rates.  Those with less money are probably those who don’t even make it to the doctor often enough and could use more support with their lifestyle habits.

Sometimes all some of us need is a little encouragement and attention to what motivates us and perhaps, in the current paradigm, it isn’t our doctor’s job to do all those things.

What do you think?

Dressing Up and Cheering Up for the Endo Visit

Fingers crossed for a good A1c


I went to my endocrinologist appointment yesterday.  I was nervous about this appointment because if they were to find my blood pressure high again, I’ve been told meds will be considered.  And I would like to not have high blood pressure or more medications so I was a bit of a wreck.  I got up early and fixed myself up more glam than usual.  The usual varies according to my mood but I don’t normally wear much make up and I often wear clothes that should have been run by an iron first.  I decided to walk into the endo office looking put together, rosy cheeked, and most importantly-happy because when I was little, I’d see miserable looking people at the office and once home, I’d cry my eyes out.  It’s not that I thought they looked bad, it’s that so many of them looked sad and in pain and I feared I would become like them.  I’d leave endo visits feeling my life was over before it had begun.

After I arrived, signed in, and sat down, I saw a 6 or 7 year old girl walk in with her mom.  She was smiling ear to ear and had her hair neatly tucked under a baseball cap.  She wore a Nike T-shirt tucked into some cargo pants along with a few beaded bracelets.  She was adorable and then I practically burst with glee when I saw her pink sparkly shoes.  You gotta love a girl that puts an outfit like that together.  When the nurse came and called a name the little girl ran up and said, “That’s me!”  The nurse said hello and “What cute shoes you have!”  The little girl cocked her head to the side and said, “I dressed up for my endo visit today”.  I had to blink away the water in my eyes.  The nurse followed with, “But where is your dress to match your shoes?”  In my mind I’m cheering “girl power, girl power!” and the girl says defiantly, “This is what I like.  I dressed up because I want to make diabetes look good”.  Then her mom stepped in saying something about how she has been trying to teach her daughter to dress sharp and clean when she doesn’t feel well or is afraid because it will make her and others feel better.  She explained that going to the doctor made the little girl feel afraid.

I was too overcome with emotion to say anything.  I was trying to give hope to little girls like her by appearing happy and healthy and there she was beating me to it.  I wanted to jump up and tell her she was awesome and her outfit rocked but instead I sat and humbly watched the moment play out.  It was a scene that will forever soften my mood whenever I’m sitting in a doctor’s office.

A few minutes later it was my turn and I smiled at the nurse, said hi, and she said, “Geez, you look nice, too.”

“I want to make diabetes look good”, I said.

Are We Choosing to Be Insulted?

Don’t be a squashed tomato, courtesy of Boaz Yiftach

 

When someone assumes something inaccurate about our diabetes, why are we often insulted? Does their ignorance lash out on us or is there something else causing most of the pain?

I believe we choose to be insulted. I’ve done it a thousand times and have eventually recognized the pain always comes from a place of insecurity, shame, guilt, or anger inside of me. I’ve always struggled at not taking things too personally and being too sensitive. I can’t control being sensitive but I’m slowly learning that I can control how I react to things. While I’ve been plenty insulted over all sorts of things, I haven’t really been insulted much about my diabetes. For example, when people have come up to me and said, ‘Maybe if you quit sugar, you’ll be cured?’ I am for some reason not the least bit insulted. I assume their level of ignorance on diabetes by this type of comment and depending on my given state at the time, I may be frustrated with their ignorance. I am never insulted though. I mean, we’re all ignorant when it comes to something. When we wrong someone else without meaning to, do we want them to be insulted? I prefer to be kindly corrected and avoid the attitude or anger that a person might lash out at my mistake.

Anytime someone insults us, we should recognize that we don’t have to feel insulted if we choose not to. It’s hard, obviously, but it’s the empowered thing to do. And we’re empowered people, aren’t we? When someone insults us, we are reacting to what they did or said or think of us. Our reaction is what causes our being insulted. So if we have enough confidence in ourselves and in what we’re doing and thinking, we can just react with indifference or with care and concern for a negative or ignorant person. If we don’t have confidence in what we do or think, maybe we should spend time reflecting on whether what we do and think is right in the first place.

The DOC is fabulous but would be even more so if we could all find our place of confidence and stand strongly with that. We may have diabetes but, we’re not victims.

Being Ok with Being Different

The road to health is often lonely  (Thanks to Renjith Krishnan for the image)

 

I often say that acceptance is the key to beginning to really manage one’s diabetes.  You have to work it, not fight it.  A part of accepting your diabetes is to accept the fact that you have to be different.  This, as you know, isn’t easy.  We humans like to follow each other, hang out together and do similar activities.  We feel comfortable and cozy this way.  So when it comes to those who best manage their diabetes, one thing I’ve noticed them doing is standing alone on many of the things they do.  They have the strength and confidence to do so.  Don’t you think?

Check out my post over at Diabetes Care Club about Being Ok with Being Different.

Thanks for reading and have a great Saturday!

The “You Can Do This” Project

 

Sometimes all we need to get through another day with diabetes is the knowledge that it’s possible to do so and that we’re not alone in our struggle.  Kim at Texting My Pancreas started a wonderful initiative called The “You Can Do This” Project.  Here are the details in case you’d like to participate.  If you don’t have a blog, feel free to have The Girl’s Guide to Diabetes put up your written post or video if you just want to get it out there.  The more participants, the more hope and empowerment we send out to others :)

Here is my video blog for this project:

The Importance of the Right Road Map

Photo courtesy of Luigi Diamanti

Photo courtesy of Luigi Diamanti

 

Someone asked me what the difference was between my “achieving” an A1c around 5% versus my past A1c’s much higher than that.  They wanted to know the secret to going from a high A1c to a lower A1c.

Well, interestingly enough, I want to first say that there is no more sacrifice involved.  I work just as hard as before.  I also feel a lot of frustration and anxiety just as I did when my diabetes management was less than ideal.

So how did I change the number?  Well, you can read a lot about it all over this site but essentially what happened was I got a new road map. 

I informed myself about the glycemic index and the dangers of processed foods.  So then instead of cereal with milk for breakfast, I started the day with an egg and a slice of whole grain bread. 

I learned about the power of positive thinking (as dorky as that line sounds) and instead of thinking that I was a failure, I began saying to myself that I was a making great progress. 

I realized that people all over the world walk miles to and from school and work and so instead of thinking that a one mile walk was a great workout, I started believing that 3 miles was great and doable. 

I learned what a healthy BMI was and that my bone structure or frame is considered to be very petite.  When at 165 pounds my doctor told me I didn’t need to lose weight, I decided he was wrong and did all of the above. 

Some nice things happened along the way.  My insulin resistance lowered dramatically.  This made blood sugar management much easier because I needed less insulin.  My meals became easier to bolus for.  My body responded nicely to the 3 mile a day walks which turned into runs.  My confidence grew slowly but surely.  After a short while I was keeping an A1c in the 6% range, which I was really happy with.  I lost weight and got my body fat under 25% where it needed to be.  These mini successes made it really hard to go back to old ways.

So yes, there are concrete things I did to change a lot of outcomes but as you can see my road map, or set of beliefs were what really made the difference.  Back when I had a 10% A1c, I tried super hard.  I did the best I could to give the right amount of insulin for my pasta and chocolate milk.  I tried really hard to exercise through a 300 blood sugar average.  I relentlessly scolded myself about doing better. 

See, that’s just it.  Effort can be misplaced.  What good is it to try hard, commit, allot time, and persevere if you believe that you’re a terrible diabetic, that doing groceries is a major workout, and that you can settle at 35% body fat and be really healthy?

Having the right road map isn’t going to magically solve your problems.  It will however, make it possible for you to reach your destination.  And what we all deserve is that opportunity.  We are strong, smart, and capable enough to do the rest.

Life Gets in the Way

This would stop me but maybe not you.   Photo courtesy of Tom Curtis.

This would stop me but maybe not you. Photo courtesy of Tom Curtis.

 

Something I’ve always struggled to understand is how some people manage to be so productive.  Life gets in everyone’s way so how do some people charge through that better than others? 

I made really good grades in school up until my last two years of High School when I struggled more with my diabetes or perhaps with myself.  Then I barely made it!  I graduated because my kind Advanced Government teacher gave me a test with one question on the last day of school that went like this, “How does one be a good citizen?”  I answered it on a blank sheet of paper laid up against the wall of the school office and I scribbled my long answer with a dying pen while standing, propping one foot up on a stool.  She looked at me with genuine concern and said, “You’re a smart girl, you just need a break and some time to figure out what you want.”  Wow she was psychic!  Anyway, she knew I wouldn’t have a hard time answering the question on my “test” which I “aced” and she pretty much swooped me up and carried me to my graduation with her charity.  I felt that I could have made straight A’s if I wasn’t so depressed about my diabetes.  I love learning, dang it!  I wondered for a long time.  What went wrong?  I did other things despite diabetes, why couldn’t I just do my homework?  Well, I guess life just got in the way.

About 8 years later my type 1 diabetic sister, Ana, graduated High School a valedictorian leaving me absolutely dumbfounded.  How did she do it?  I mean, I felt it was impossible at the time and I thought it had to do with my diabetes, so how did she do it and make it look so easy?  Part of me was worried people would compare she and I and then look at me as if to say, “So the diabetes ISN’T an excuse, eh?”

Years later I began to realize that life gets in everyone’s way only this manifests itself differently for everyone.  Some people struggle with their weight, others struggle with grades, some can’t keep their house clean, others are crabby people, some abuse alcohol, etc, etc. 

What I’ve come to learn about my own diabetes is that it doesn’t prevent me from doing things.  It simply aggravates any task I want to accomplish.  Depending on how motivated I am to complete that task, I either push through despite my diabetes or I don’t. 

When I look back and try to imagine my life without diabetes, I feel like I would have had many of the same struggles.  Because fundamentally I’m the same person.  I would have still been messy, complicated, sensitive, and into learning about health.  When my sister was diagnosed with diabetes before me, I read for hours in the library about diabetes and found it was easy.  And at that time you couldn’t get me to read a book about math or history if you paid me to do it.

It helps me psychologically speaking, to remember that the hardship I endure is largely life getting in the way, or something rather natural.  Because if some diabetics are doing marathons, flying planes, bravely studying their passion of studio art in college, and getting doctorates, this means diabetes doesn’t stop us from anything.  I think diabetes helps blur the line for us.  The line between what we don’t really want to do and what we think diabetes isn’t allowing us to do.  In other words, diabetes may just be the greatest excuse of our lives.

This was hard for me to deal with at first but now it’s liberating.  I didn’t want to just take responsibility for my own downfalls.  Now I can think, “Oh thank goodness, so I was depressed and completely unmotivated for school during the last two years of High School.  It wasn’t my diabetes.”  Well…not 100% anyway.  Now I just think “life gets in the way” because we’re all meant to fine tune our interests and desires until we get where we’re supposed to be.  The path of uncertainty surely doesn’t make this easy and yes, diabetes adds a major dramatic flair and struggle to one’s story. 

But, isn’t it comforting to know that having diabetes doesn’t dictate whether we’re straight A students or not?

Things I’ve Learned from Playing Sports with Type 1 Diabetes

Sports 002

 

Almost all of my fondest childhood memories come from playing organized or recreational or school sports, which I did with my type 1 diabetes for about 10 years.  I think part of what makes those memories so wonderful and triumphant in my mind is the fact that I did it with diabetes and although many had no clue on earth how hard it was to balance, I did, and because I knew, I appreciated and loved every second I had on the field or court.  Looking back on my kid self, I’m kind of proud even, because there were times I felt the effort was not worth it.  Recently, Reyna at Beta Buddies, whose son Joe has type 1 diabetes, wrote an amazing post that brought a lot of my sentiments from playing sports back to life. 

I wanted to share the following for a long time for several reasons.  A) I made some major mistakes I wouldn’t want a young person to live through, B) I want to add to all the existing data out there that you can do it, you can do it, you can do it with type 1 diabetes, and C) I want young people to know that because of diabetes, you can do it better than others because you can use the fact that you have type 1 diabetes as extra motivation that others often lack.  And believe me, motivation to do well takes you further than skill.

Sports 008

Things that didn’t work for me:

-Playing with blood sugar over 250.  I did this a lot because it felt so important at the time.  Looking back…I really wish I had been smarter.  My parents were always checking on my blood sugar readings to make sure I could play but I would rig the meter by adding saliva to the strip…which wasn’t smart either.

-Playing while feeling low.  Sometimes I’d feel just a little low and know that there would be only a few more minutes until half time or quarter or the end of the game.  So I’d stubbornly wait it out and keep playing (without much energy) and although I never passed out, what if I had?

-Straying from my diabetes “schedule”.  During most of the years I played recreational or organized sports I used injections and the old regular and NPH insulins.  This required I stay on my strict eating schedules.  These days, it works pretty differently but, it doesn’t mean that you can’t figure out what works for you and try to stick to it.  (Obviously this is easier for older children-like teenagers)

-Not preparing in advance.  I had better blood sugars come game time if I prepared the day before.  When I played varsity soccer, I had 2 hour practices every day and weekly games around dinner time.  This meant pre-packing snacks, juice, glucose tablets, extra strips, glucose gel, and back up insulin.  My game was really affected if I didn’t get my mind focused on my daily goals of blood sugar management.  I remember soccer season being tough on my grades in high school because I spent all day making sure I had good blood sugars prior to playing.  Once I played, all the work was totally worthwhile!  Forgetting to pack glucose tablets or juice, pretty much ruined practice since I had to leave the field to hunt down sugar somehow.  Forgetting extra strips and running out of strips in the middle of a game felt like bad luck but was really just me forgetting to prepare.  So it became really important once I realized all this.

-Ignoring injuries and overdosing on painkillers.  During my 10th grade year of varsity soccer, I had major foot arch, knee, shin, and hip pain.  I took about four Advil pills and three Tylenol pills before each practice-all at the same time, every day!  (the insanity of wanting so badly to play).  I should have just spoken up about how bad the pain was instead of trying to mask it.

Sports 006

Things that did work for me:

Gel candy, I found, is a great way to fix a low quickly on the side lines without having to chew

Testing an hour or two before playing to make sure if I was high, I had time to correct. 

Testing right before playing to make sure if I was under 120, I’d get some peanut butter crackers before starting to play.

-Knowing that because diabetes made it much more complicated for me to play a simple soccer match, I’d put in that much more effort to compensate for any diabetes related setback.  My coaches always told me, “I never have to worry about you giving 100% out there”.

Thinking that I could teach others about diabetes if I tested in front of them, gave insulin in front of them, and explained what I was doing and why I was doing it.  Many of my teammates had a great general grasp of my diabetes.  Once, on the bus before a game, a friend saw me test and remembered that I was 75.  Later on I forgot to get sugar before the game and she must have noticed because she brought me a granola bar and encouraged me to eat it so my blood sugar wouldn’t drop too low during the game.  I thought, “Oh yeah!  I totally forgot!”  It was so nice to have some back up.

-Communicating with my parents and others instead of handling a tough situation alone. Despite being sneaky about a lot of blood sugars, I never wanted to die or come close to it.  So when I was having a major low blood sugar or was unable to lower a high after a few hours, I would tell my parents and explain what I was feeling and what protocol I had followed.  I did fear the possibility of passing out and felt the best thing to do was fill in those near me about the details surrounding my diabetes management leading up to a blood sugar situation.  If I was with friends, I’d explain what they needed to do should something happen to me, including what they might inform a paramedic should it be necessary.  Nothing ever did happen and maybe it’s because I let others in and allowed help when I was in over my head.  There is no shame in asking for help.  Sometimes I didn’t want to ask for help because I wanted to be the tough soccer/softball/basketball player that could take care of herself but knowing I couldn’t ignore the serious realities of type 1 diabetes won over my pride.  In the end, people seemed to respect my asking them for help so I didn’t feel too bad.  And I know my parents were certainly glad I didn’t scare them more than I already did :)

I often wonder how many young athletes out there feel their diabetes is totally blocking their way.  If this is you, feeling this way is normal.  The key is using diabetes as a motivator to try harder than the rest.  A motivator to remember you’re not invincible and want to take care of yourself.  A motivator to do what many others can’t which is not to take the game for granted.  You can be a professional athlete if you play hard and smart with diabetes.  At the very least, you can end up an adult who can reminisce happily and be around to pass on the wisdom and share the love of the game with others.

Sports 009

Copyright © 2017. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.