Monday, February 28, 2011

In the beginning: God said, “Let them eat cake” and it was good.

Well, alright, maybe that isn’t exactly a quote but you get the idea.  It’s my opinion that our society has been, for quite some time, a society that feels that it is entitled to have whatever it is that we want.  It is our unalienable right to eat cake!  I think it may be in the constitution.  As children, many of us were rewarded with treats when we accomplished something or were exceptionally well behaved.  I was raised in an era where there was always dessert after dinner, I could buy a bagful of candy for $.50 and was lucky enough to have a mom who worked at a bakery during the summer who brought home boxes of day-old donuts.  (chocolate eclairs were my favorite!)  The ice cream truck made the rounds daily and the Helm’s bakery truck pulled right up to our door with drawers full of goodies to buy.  Ahhhh….life was good!

Thankfully, that was also a time when kids were very active.  We played outside riding our bikes and swimming at the beach; kickball in the street until the streetlights came on. (That seems to have been the law in our land: all kids had to be home when the street lights came on.  Was that true everywhere?)  I was never overweight as a kid.  In fact, I wasn’t overweight until my twenties when I got married and began to have kids of my own.  (That dreaded baby fat!)  The problem was that I had learned how wonderful sweets were.  I became used to eating anything I wanted and was not in the habit of eating lots of veggies. We all know that our metabolism slows down as we age, especially if we become sedentary.  Working full time and raising a family is draining.  It’s so much easier to sit on the couch after a long day than it is to jump up and exercise. (And no, chasing after kids doesn’t make you thin.  If it did I’d be in great shape!)

All of these things contributed to me becoming an unhealthy eater.  That, combined with my family history, developed into diabetes. I’m not complaining, even if it sounds like I am.  The events in my life have made me who I am today.  I am much more than a PWD (person with diabetes).  Being diabetic is just a fact and something that I have to deal with. When that doctor called me to tell me that I, in fact, have diabetes, it changed my life forever.  The time has come to put on my big-girl panties and deal with it.

How am I dealing with it?  Over the course of several years, I have made changes to what I eat on a daily basis.  I cut out fast food and as much processed food as I could.  Thankfully I like to cook well enough so fresh and homemade were the goal.  It really is true that the less salt and sweet you eat, the less you need.  (This does not include chocolate!  You can never get enough chocolate!)  Case in point: The first time I tried low sodium V8 I gagged.  Yuck!  Now, however, I prefer it over the regular V8.  Not that I drink it often but it makes a decent “snack” and doesn’t seem to spike my glucose.

I’ve made these changes slowly over time.  When you’re first diagnosed it feels like you have to make drastic changes NOW or ELSE!  I think it’s important not to try and become this other person overnight.  If we deprive ourselves of things we’re comfortable with it feels like a prison sentence.  When in prison all you want is out (this is purely conjecture on my part having never been in prison, really!)  Diabetes is here to stay (I hope I’m wrong) so we need to get comfy with it.  Making small changes that are healthy feels good. 

The flip side of all this is to not beat yourself up when you blow it.  What is it they say?  It takes 28 days to make a new habit or something like that.  So then, if you drive thru a fast food place and have a burger and fries for dinner, don’t hate yourself in the morning.  Just move on.  No one is perfect and no one is judging you.  Do you need to stop doing that very often?  Yes.  What are the benefits if you do stop?  A longer, healthier life.  That burger isn’t going to kill you but if you continue to live an unhealthy lifestyle your life will likely be shorter than you want and not nearly as much fun.

I hope you all realize that most of what I’m saying here is being said to myself.  I am not the “all knowing diabetic”.  I am not perfect.  I have been known to eat a burger (shhhh….don’t tell anyone).  I just hope that talking about this will not only help me but motivate someone else as well.  Here’s to a healthy day for us all!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Testing Zealot

Ok, so I’m a diabetic.  Now what?  The doctor said that I need to exercise and change my diet.  Losing some weight would be beneficial.  Get a glucose meter and check my blood glucose at various times during the day: first thing in the morning, 2 hours after a meal, before a meal, at bedtime, when the moon is full, on trash day…..What?  What did she say?  Be mindful of what you’re eating and how much of each thing:  no more than 10 grams of fat, 10-20 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbs per meal.  Huh?  What’s a carb? (I later discovered that a carb is something that I absolutely adore.  Damn the luck!) I left that doctor’s office in a daze.

Alright, I think I can handle one thing at a time.  I could grasp the whole testing thing and understood where my readings should be based on what time of day it was, when I’d eaten (and whether the trash had been picked up).  My doctor gave me good advice when she said to buy the meter with the cheapest test strips.  I armed myself with my supplies and created a spreadsheet to log my results.  I became a testing zealot!  I lived and breathed testing.  My poor fingers were pin-cushions and my nerves were shot.  I recall a camping trip not long after I had been diagnosed.  I was determined to take care of business regardless of where I was.  I carefully watched what I ate (or so I thought) and diligently tested first thing in the morning.  167?!?!?  That can’t be!!  I was so good last night at dinner!  I burst into tears.  I had failed. I’ll never get the hang of this.  

The reality was that I was obsessing about my blood glucose.  I thought that if I didn’t watch it carefully it would sneak up and do something dastardly to me overnight.  I eventually settled down and realized that I had to take a logical approach to this and remember that I am an intelligent person.  I CAN get the hang of this!

I began to systematically chart how different foods affected my blood sugar.  I tested before a meal and then 2 hours after to see if those foods would help or hinder me.  The kicker is not to test before and after every meal.  That first step, assessing how what I normally ate affected my blood glucose, was a very important step.  It allowed me to understand how what I put in my mouth landed me in this spot.  I could then slowly make healthy changes.  My education had begun!   

I need to insert here how important testing is.  I’m not on insulin so it’s not as critical for me, but testing helps to keep me on track.  It can be a wake-up call to tighten my control as well as a reason to break into the Happy Dance when my numbers are good.  It’s important but it doesn’t have to consume your life.

After some time I was no longer a testing zealot.  I had now become a “the world needs to know every little thing about my diabetes and how I’m doing” zealot.  But that’s another story.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

and so it begins....

Welcome to my world.  I begin this blog as a way to help myself stay on track with the control of my diabetes.  If, along the way, I’m able to encourage, interest or assist fellow diabetics then I’ll be quite pleased.  I’m also hoping that non-diabetics can learn something as well.  We can all benefit from a more informed approach to eating and it is helpful if those who aren’t living and breathing this way of life understand more of what we’re going through. I am NOT a doctor, dietician or expert.  Do I know everything there is to know about diabetes?  Heck no, but I do know what it’s like to live with it.
So here I go!

My name is Kate and I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in June, 2005.  Has it really been nearly 6 years?  Wow.  Needless to say, it was a huge shock.  My paternal grandmother had diabetes late in life and I have a sister-in-law who was diagnosed with Type 1 in junior high school, but I didn’t really know that much about the disease.  Disease. I have a disease!  It was discovered with a routine blood test by my gynecologist.  She called me on the phone and dropped the bomb, “you should see your regular doctor as soon as possible”.  I didn’t have a regular doctor!  I felt fine!  I made an appointment.

Maybe it’s a mistake. How many out there thought that at first?  Go ahead, raise your hand.  “Surely this can’t be correct.” “Maybe they called the wrong person.”  “Doctors don’t know everything, do they?” Well, it wasn’t a mistake.  I wish I could remember what my first A1c result was.  I know it was under 7 but not by much.  I started out following the diet and exercise routine.  As I blog I will talk about my experiences and what I’ve learned along the way.  I hope you join me in my journey.