Tag Archives: Diabetes books

“Kids First, Diabetes Second” Book Review

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“Kids First, Diabetes Second” is the first book by Leighann Calentine, who has a young daughter with type 1 diabetes and writes the popular blog D-mom.com.

This book is for someone who has a child with type 1 diabetes.  Whether your child has just been diagnosed or has had diabetes for a while, this book would be a great resource to have at home.

Leighann seems to be one of those moms that is really organized and determined to figure things out.  Her child has only had type 1 for six years and yet she has worked to bring order and efficiency to their routine all the while, prioritizing her child’s experience of childhood.

I really respect these efforts.  I think it’s very sweet to see parents work so hard to acknowledge their child’s feelings and unique struggle while still taking care of their health with something as delicate and volatile as type 1 diabetes.

This book has helpful and practical information on many common scenarios involved in raising a child with type 1 diabetes like school, birthday parties, sports, and play dates.

I would definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone who has a child with diabetes.  Leighann is one smart cookie and I would expect anyone to get lots of value from this book.

That said, speaking as someone who did grow up with type 1 diabetes and is now an adult who can look back, I’d like to share a little bit from my experience.  It’s unique to me but perhaps not so uncommon and I think it may serve as a gentle reminder on the emphasis we may give diabetes:

Now that I’m 29, I can honestly say I don’t regret those times I felt left out at school.  They didn’t scar me.  The times I went to birthday parties and couldn’t have cake were not big deals.  Or maybe at the time they were to my young mind, but I learned to appreciate the true meaning in a get together, which was the friendship and fun and laughter involved.  Other kids may react differently to experiences like this so I understand that everything varies depending on the personality of one’s child.

Now that I’m 29, what I do regret are all the times my blood sugar was less than great as a child with diabetes.  Childhood is a short period of time compared with adulthood.  To face complications in young adulthood is a scary thought or reality that no cake or ice cream could ever relieve.  In adulthood we contemplate having a family and we need to be healthy to do this.  In adulthood we need to get through school or some kind of learning experience and be productive and build a life for ourselves and it really helps to be healthy.  For our bodies to grow appropriately in childhood and our brains to develop well we need stable blood sugar management.

I tricked my parents as a kid, so they’d see a good number on the meter when really, I had mixed my blood with saliva to shield them from a high.  But their efforts were very much on keeping our blood sugars controlled even if it meant missing out on something edible and delicious.

Looking back I feel as if it was a gift and a lesson to me and now I can say that I’m not worried about fitting in or missing out on foods and I’m more concerned with being true to my unique self and focusing on the bigger picture.

To me, part of the bigger picture is that our society and it’s habits around food are in such a dangerous state, that instead of figuring out how I can fit in it, I am figuring out how to live well despite it even if it means not enjoying many things.  Actually, I’ve learned new things to enjoy so that I don’t feel deprived, my blood sugars stay stable, and I’m also leading the way for my family.

I am teaching my two young children not to fit in to the American way of eating and many aspects of the American way of living because I don’t see it as healthy.  And I hope that makes it easier for them to be healthy and happy adults who instead of figuring out how to fit in, choose a better alternative.

So while I have NO DOUBT that Leighann will raise a healthy and intelligent daughter with diabetes and her book is full of information that is not to be missed, I hope you’ll keep in mind that as a child enters adulthood, diabetes may tie for first.  It ties for first in my life and I’m ok with that because I have found no other way to stay very healthy.  And that allows me so many more pleasures in what I hope will be a long, long life.

To buy this excellent book, go here.

Book Review: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Diabetes

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Today for Fabulous Friday where we celebrate and encourage self love and respect, I want to review a book I read recently.

The Smart Woman’s Guide to Diabetes is written by Amy Stockwell Mercer, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting earlier this year at the Diabetes Sisters Conference.  Upon meeting her, I was struck by what a great listener and empathetic person she was.  Then I found out she was coming out with this book and got the opportunity to read it.  Here is my honest review:

Aside from great advice on many aspects of life with diabetes, this book is often a compilation of different voices, gathered and arranged by Amy, into topics such as Eating and Motherhood and Exercise.  The result, I found, was a chicken soup for the diabetic woman’s soul.  Amy talks a lot about her own experience with type 1 diabetes all throughout the book and adds the separate perspectives of many other women with diabetes from all walks of life.

I was particularly surprised by how emotional I became while reading this book.  I wasn’t expecting this at all.  This book portrays the honest and open feelings and thoughts of women struggling with diabetes and since I’m struggling with diabetes, I couldn’t help but relate and find comfort in the fact that I certainly am not alone.

I also became very aware of some repressed emotions about my experience with diabetes.  For example, I read about women who have struggled with eating disorders and realized that although I have never skipped insulin or thrown up, I have had a very intense and harsh internal battle with myself about the weight gain I experienced after my diabetes diagnosis.  I realized that even now, I still have some unhealthy tendencies that I need to work on.  There is advice found throughout the book that is gentle and practical and truly helpful in the area of eating and all the other topics the book covers.  I imagine that for other women with diabetes, this book could help surface some emotions that need to be properly acknowledged and dealt with.  Don’t be afraid of this, it’s a natural step forward towards healing and feeling better.

I saw someone on Facebook ask why a book would focus on women with diabetes.  I think the answer is obvious.  We menstruate, can get pregnant, go through menopause, and society puts unique pressures on us as women.  This book speaks to us individually through the candid and often funny perspectives of different women with diabetes.  I wholeheartedly recommend this book and appreciate Amy’s hard work, honesty, and willingness to wear her heart on her sleeve.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity to recognize some truths in me and another solid truth:  that I’m NOT alone with diabetes.  While our experiences are our own, it doesn’t mean someone out there doesn’t get it.  I curled up on the couch with this book, sipped tea, and felt like I was totally understood by girlfriends.  It was really nice :)

You can get the book here.

Book Review: Your Diabetes Science Experiment

I firmly believe in telling the truth when I review a book or product and this post is no different.

There were particular changes I made to my diabetes management several years ago.  As a result, my blood sugars went from chronically high to very well managed.  Nerve pain in my feet and cramping in my legs ceased.  My kidney function returned to normal.  My head stepped out of a fog.  I had the clarity of mind and the physical and emotional energy to change my job, relationship, and diet.  My depression alleviated.  I’m much happier and healthier now, a wife, and a mother.  So it’s my opinion that getting my blood sugars managed was a completely life altering experience.  I now consider blood sugar management my top priority.

The steps I took, the reason that I have improved my blood sugars over the years had to do with a few basic ideas that I acted upon.  Recently I read Ginger Vieira’s book, “Your Diabetes Science Experiment” and practically jumped for joy when I finished it.  The very information that saved my life and changed it entirely for the better is in this book! This book does what every Endocrinologist should do, but doesn’t have time to do or doesn’t do because he or she doesn’t feel the info is relevant to share with patients. This book educates you on how the human body works in relation to insulin, stress, food, and exercise.  This book does not give you any unscientific nonsense.  Instead, the information in it, if taken seriously, has the potential to make your diabetes management what it needs to be.  Our reality is we need to avoid lows and highs.  We need to know how to manage our diabetes largely on our own.  We need to understand how our bodies work so that we can make our own adjustments quickly and accurately.  This book can help you do that.

The info in this book will empower you.  I find it incredibly useful to know for example, that a low uses up glycogen stores in my muscles and is therefore the reason that my post low blood sugar workout is going to make me feel like a wimp.  For someone who isn’t aware of this, they might be the person to say something like, “Sometimes I have energy for my workouts and sometimes I just don’t, there is no rhyme or reason, and it’s because I have diabetes.”  We need to empower ourselves with knowledge and get away from these general expressions that mean nothing.  They just reveal our vulnerability to the facts about the body and diabetes.  They also take away our power to foresee changes in our diabetes management which could otherwise be dealt with successfully or at least more successfully, more often.

I started this blog to share what I’ve learned the hard way over the years and tell you what has worked for me, just in the case it works for you.  Reading this book has confirmed what I do and why I do it.  It does much more however, as it gives you the full, clear, and organized explanation as to why something is the way that it is.  Ginger shoots from the head but is also quite warm and inspiring.  She is a record holding power lifter and uses the information in the book in her own life.  I appreciate the examples she provides in the book which have to do with her own experiences.  I also really appreciate her positive attitude and the clever metaphors she uses in order to make concepts easier to understand.

This isn’t a book published by a huge agency.  It’s not coming to you through the ADA.  I do however, wholeheartedly recommend it to you.  If you have money to buy only one book this year, make it this one.  And when you get the book, travel slowly through it.  Take your time soaking in the information and sit down with your own data to perform your own diabetes science experiments.  Seriously, do them.  As Ginger reminds us, the work involved is well worth it.  I have little adjustments that I do according to variances in my routine which took some time to get right but now that I have those adjustments, I don’t know what I’d do without them-because they work so well.

Diabetes management can be less of a puzzle.  Many don’t like me to say that I usually know why my blood sugars are what they are.  The old me wouldn’t have liked it, either.  Maybe you don’t want to read this book because the idea that there is a scientific reason behind each one of your blood sugar results seems unrealistic or far fetched.  I assure you it’s not.  I completely understand the place many people are in where they work very hard and don’t see the results they deserve.  It’s too bad that doctors never shared any of this information with me and that people like Ginger and I had to look it up and research it for ourselves.  It’s not your fault that your diabetes causes this cycle of ups and downs but the ability to improve your situation is in your hands.  I promise you can improve your diabetes management with the information in this book.

I have a lot of respect for someone who writes a book that has no BS factor and is altogether upbeat, hopeful, and honest.  Ginger, thank you for writing this book.  I did not know how I’d feel about it.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find this book is a treasure and it is my strong hope that you’ll all read it.

You can buy the book here.  Check out Ginger’s website here.

Review of ADA’s Complete Guide to Diabetes

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A while back I was sent an advanced copy of the American Diabetes Association’s Fifth Edition of the Complete Guide to Diabetes which comes out this June.  I also got to ask the Chief Scientific and Medical Officer, Dr. David M Kendall a few questions.  Read on for the review and Dr. Kendall’s answers.

This four-hundred-some page manual provides the most updated info on:

  • Preventing Complications
  • Managing Blood Glucose Levels
  • Handling Emergencies
  • Using a Meter
  • Insulin Pumps
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Sexuality
  • Coping
  • Family Life
  • Travel
  • Pregnancy
  • And more

I found this book to be the kind of reference book I’d want at home for those times when I need to look something up.  It’s less overwhelming than searching on the internet, although I search there, too for additional information and other opinions.  I’d also expect this book to be purchased by health care providers.  If every general practitioner read this book, we’d have a lot less friction with these folks.  They’d have a very good general understanding of diabetes and the tools it takes to manage blood sugars.

There are helpful discussions in the book which are important to bring up-such as, “Is intensive management right for you?”  and “Choosing a diabetes care provider”.  There is a lot of guidance on these and many other subjects which I found valuable.  I enjoyed the long chapter on insulin and was surprised to learn a few things.

I know a book cannot possibly cover everything in the world of diabetes as it’s such a complicated disease.  One thing that an updated book might have included is information on blood ketone strips.  Only the urine ketone strips were mentioned and the blood ketone strips pick up on trace amounts of ketones before the urine ones do.  Also, the book states there are more than 10 different forms of diabetes. I couldn’t help but wish some of the more unknown forms had been touched upon or discussed. I suppose we serve the masses.

Also, there wasn’t enough information, in my opinion, having to do with guiding a person through their food choices depending on what their blood sugars are.  I suppose this has more to do with the fact that we haven’t come to a consensus about how to change one’s meal supposing blood sugar is elevated.  For example, for a type 1 diabetic, if blood sugar is high before a meal, should one give insulin and wait until blood sugar is lowered before eating?  Or should one go ahead and eat a low carb meal?  Or neither?  This seems to be up to debate and different for each and every one of us depending on our preferences.  It is my experience however, that my lowered A1c’s were achieved only when I began waiting for blood sugar to lower into range before eating.  (Not something that can always be done with children, I know)  I would expect a newly diagnosed to find guidance on this topic rather useful.  For a type 2 diabetic, I would personally encourage them to cut back on grains if it elevated their blood sugars.  Yet, there is that debate going on as well.  Is it healthy to omit carbs?  I think the answer is it depends on who you are.  I think it’s important to remember that some people feel rather good eating low carb and others don’t.  I know for a fact though, that no one does well or feels well with elevated blood sugars.  So if something like lowering carbohydrates helps blood sugars, I see it as a win over carbs not being the ideal fuel-because high blood sugars do more damage. 

The ADA keeps their alliance to the food pyramid as a general guide for all.  And overall it promotes what I would as well.  I just think the relationship between blood sugars and carbohydrates deserves extra attention. 

I asked the ADA’s Chief Scientific & Medical Officer Dr. David M. Kendall about why low carb eating was not discussed or mentioned in the book (it is my understanding that low or lower carb diets help many with diabetes out there) and I also asked him why eggs were not recommended in the healthy eating section of the book.  His reply:

“There are so many pieces that make up the best individual plan for living with diabetes, and the Complete Guide to Diabetes tries to touch upon all of them in some way in these 500 pages: from medications and meal plans to insurance coverage and travel tips. For anyone looking for more in depth information, the Association has even more resources available at 800-DIABETES or diabetes.org.”

I can understand the confusion surrounding how we should eat, especially considering it varies due to personal preference and how our bodies feel with certain foods.  So, I asked Dr. Kendall what he considered to be the most impactful lifestyle change someone with type 2 diabetes can make.  He said:

“Research shows that being physically active (at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week, everything from walking to more vigorous aerobic exercise) and losing weight and/or maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent or delay diabetes complications.”

That’s good news!

I mentioned how people with diabetes are viewed as an economic burden and seen as unwilling to take care of themselves-a great injustice.  Dr. Kendall and the ADA’s statement to that was this: 

“Diabetes is a chronic disease that requires long term attention to limit the impact on a patient’s health and ultimately on our health system. Neither type 1 nor type 2 diabetes develop as the result of an individual’s own “actions” – very simply no one should be “blamed” for their diabetes. Both genetics and a number of environmental triggers (many are poorly understood) give rise to a risk for diabetes. Diabetes does not develop from simply eating “too much sugar” nor is obesity – a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes – the sole fault of an individual who may develop type 2 diabetes. Just like diabetes risk, the risk for overweight and obesity are the result of genetic and environmental factors. While much can be done in hopes of limiting some of this risk, knowing your risk and taking steps to stay healthy, active and lose a modest amount of weight can be helpful in preventing and treating diabetes. If someone feels that they are being discriminated against at work or at school, they can contact the American Diabetes Association at 800-DIABETES to find help”

The reason I’d recommend this book to any person with diabetes is that I’ve found that having all the basics laid out in front of me in an easy to search and read format helps tie loose ends together.  It helps that the second we have a question regarding our diabetes, we instantly have a resource to go to.  I also recognize that although much of the info in this book doesn’t apply to me right now, it doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.  Having a heads up and being aware of things such as medications that can help insulin resistance and knowing the symptoms of diabetes related complications may be crucial to our well being.

As always, my stance is this:  Knowledge is power.  Being informed is a lifesaver.  It’s not always easy or convenient, but having a reference at our fingertips backed by the ADA is a pretty good start.

If I could, the first people I’d hand this book to would be the newly diagnosed.  This book, chapter by chapter, eases a person into the world of diabetes management very gently and I think that is important.

Kudos to the ADA for mentioning the support that can be found online in blogs and message boards. For their next edition, I hope they’ll call it by it’s unofficial title, the Diabetes Online Community.

If you want the book, get it at the ADA’s site or at Amazon.

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