Tag Archives: diabetes lifestyle habits

Note to Self: Try New Things

We moved recently and bought a small house on a small triangular shaped property with dozens of trees on it.  Most of the trees are pines and other evergreens, which are my favorite.  The unique shape of the property captivated us and we’ve been dreaming up cool garden ideas.  Even before we moved we saw a lot of work in the yard.  There are several different types of vines growing wild, choking off trees, and beginning to threaten others.  While envisioning the future, I imagined myself making Alex a sandwich while he worked hard to clear the vines and clean up the yard. 

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That’s part of the back yard, a wild and wonderful mess.

Once we moved in I realized that Alex was at work from sun-up to sun-down and the clearing of the property needed to be done and waiting until warm weather would mean watching out for snakes and dealing with pests (and I’m not confident in my ability to do either).  I thought to myself, “I’m going to absolutely hate this, I’m not the gardening type”.  But I went out there and starting pulling up vines, some half an inch thick, others thin and twirled around tree limbs and branches.  They have formed a massive thicket and run up and down many of our trees.  I used to think this look was desperately charming but I started to look up the vines to identify them.  One in particular is a terrible invasive type which takes down trees (oh no, the house!) and covers up plants (how rude!).  It grows really fast and we just so happen to have it all over the property.  I worked for 4 hours one day only to clear about a puny three ft radius of land.  Then I went inside, washed my dirt covered hands and that’s when it hit me.  This was the most fun I’d had in a really long time.  I felt so healthy!  My allergies weren’t acting up because it was late fall.  I felt peaceful and energetic.  All from pulling up vines, uncovering trees and plants, and finding artifacts left behind in the ground such as Twizzler wrappers and lots of old socks (I have questions for the man that used to live here). 

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Doesn’t look like much, but these mounds are massive in person and reflect only a tiny amount of cleared land.

Since then I’ve spent several more afternoons doing the same, enjoying myself so much I only stop when it’s too dark to see and my kids remind me it’s time to do my motherly job and feed them (think of all I’ll be able to accomplish when they can feed themselves!)  Each time I feel a sense of euphoria.  I did recently pull or rip a pelvic floor muscle doing this which makes sense considering I jumped into a new physical activity without any caution and without working myself up to the task.  But, I’m healing and learning not to over strain.  And I’m still loving it.  And I’ve become a nerd to my husband who just shakes his head back and forth as I call myself the “tree whisperer”.  I struggle a lot of with anxiety and depression, something I’ve blogged much about, and this activity is like strong medication for me.  I don’t quite know what it is.  Maybe it’s being out in this time of year with the smell of pine,  the crisp fresh air, birds, squirrels, and deer all around, and no pollen to make me sneeze.  All I know is I’m just going to keep it up.  It’s built in exercise, too so my blood sugars love it.

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See how much there is?  I can’t even find my husband when he’s out there.

I was so sure I would hate doing something I turned out to totally love doing!  So, this is a serious note to self: try new things!  Who knows where it will lead.  And if you have any tips for dealing with invasive vines, I’m all ears.

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.

The Case for Lowering Carbs, Part 2

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So continuing from The Case for Lowering Carbs, Part 1

I often hear/read people remark that so many diabetics have lived decades with 7% and 8% A1c levels and they’re fine. That’s all well and inspiring but I can’t count on that being what will happen to me. How many people with 7% A1c averages are no longer with us because of heart disease? How many people are dealing with complications of diabetes after only two decades with it? Two decades is nothing. To a person diagnosed as a child, a few decades means that their prime of life is going to be rudely interrupted.  Maybe that is why now that I’m done with the high carb needs part of my life that all young people go through, I feel like I really need to buckle down and get blood sugars as close to “normal” as possible.

Growing up people said to me, “I bet the toughest part of having diabetes is the needles isn’t it?” Or they’d substitute “needles” for “testing” or “counting carbs” or “feeling different”. I always felt misunderstood because my biggest issue with diabetes is that you can manage it really well and still suffer bodily damage. I may not have much for complications after 17 years with diabetes but I have other issues that doctors directly attribute to my having diabetes. All of these issues are a big deal to me.  Recently, a conversation with some ladies who’ve had type 1 for several decades made me realize that I’m realistic to expect more challenges or complications from here on out.

I’ve been thinking about how badly I really want to avoid complications. I’ve decided I want this badly. And if that means eating fewer carbs than I’d like in order to keep a low A1c without risking too many dangerous lows, I may have to suck it up for my ultimate desire of being healthy in 50 years. I don’t want to sit around regretting my actions or wishing I’d done different. The truth is that a healthy body makes me happier than just about anything else because of all that leads me to. But that’s just me.

Of course, maybe a lowered carb diet will be the thing to do me in. However, my thoughts return to the fact I have always understood about diabetes: that high blood sugars are extremely damaging to the body, especially in the long term. So I know I’m gambling, but I’m doing it in faith alongside all the hours of research I’ve put in and personalized knowledge of myself. I’m going to be lowering my carbs again and trying to see how that works. I won’t be going as low carb as Dr. Bernstein recommends, but a little lower than I am now. I will also try to eat only healthy fats and keep those to a minimum.  Sounds like I’ll be restricting calories a lot doesn’t it?  Low carb…low fat…well that’s possible.

If your belief or decision is different from mine, I don’t judge or blame you one bit. Everyone longs to live a happy and wonderful life on their own terms. That is as it should be.  Though I do consider taking good care of myself part of my citizen duties since my health or lack thereof does affect others.

I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.

American Culture Revolution for Health

Courtesy of Simon Howden

Courtesy of Simon Howden

 

We hear all the time how America needs it’s citizens to undergo lifestyle changes for the better.  And despite how hard that is, I guess it’s true.  I just think that we’re stuck in a slump.  I mean, if my friends and family and I are used to and enjoy certain activities and foods and many others are the same way, then how are we supposed to produce a massive change that sweeps the nation and improves the health of millions? 

When health care professionals say we all need to do be more active and eat healthier, I can’t help but think about how the typical health care professional is educated to really know and understand what to do and they make pretty decent money for a living, too.  That combination is probably an asset.  What about the rest of us?   

I think we need a revolution.  We’re Americans, we know about revolution.  Our future is in jeopardy as they say and yet how are we supposed to get ourselves out of this slump while being so busy just trying to survive?

I sometimes wonder if our situation will progress to a breaking point.  Maybe a mini revolution will take place.  People will hit the streets demanding particular health care reforms.  Mass numbers of citizens will band together and slowly change their customs and traditions to adapt to the new health movement.  They’ll demand better access to quality foods, more health education in classrooms, and encourage the development of lots of sidewalk additions all over the country. 

When we’re proud of our culture, how do we go about altering it?  I genuinely feel giddy inside just thinking about going to a baseball game and having a hotdog and beer.  I know many of us just love watching Glee at night with our favorite snack.  And popcorn and soda at the movies.  Cookies and pastries at social gatherings.  Our favorite Ben and Jerry’s when we’re sad.  Our favorite cupcake when we’re happy.  Barbeque, potato chips, and pie on the Fourth of July.  I think of all of this and my first inclination is to say, “Well…but it’s on special occasions that we eat this way-no biggie!”  And then I think about how all this can add up in the course of a week.  Next thing you know our way of life is to eat inappropriately.  It doesn’t help that it’s still funny to poke fun at the yoga loving, tree hugging, granola munching types out there.  Although, they are growing in numbers.

So when I think about the task that lies ahead of us I must say I feel quite overwhelmed.  I know it’s hard on willpower and expensive and a hassle to keep up.  I can only hope that my neighbors will create awareness with me, fight for our rights with me, contact our policy makers with me, and slowly adapt our culture to one that is just as much ours as ever-only healthier for our children and their children.

I think we need a culture change because living in the present one and expecting people to break from it is unrealistic. 

How do we do this?  I don’t know exactly, but I will leave you with the quote I always remember when I feel like quitting:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”

~Mohandas K. Gandhi

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