Healing Is Not Linear – Don’t Give Up!

I’m fortunate to have kept detailed records when I started my diabetes journey almost three years ago. From them, I can clearly see that regardless of how well I stayed on the program, both in terms of food choices and physical activity, my blood sugar bounced up and down for quite a while. The overall trend, however, was down – and the reality is that I had basically stabilized to below 100 within 3 months, and my A1C was back to normal at 5.3 within 6 months. This knowledge is why I’m not freaking out that after dropping from 145 to 111 after the first day back on program, my morning reading went up to 127 the next two days and was 121 this morning. I’m disappointed, yes, but I’m not angry and ready to give up. I know this is normal and that it’s okay. After all, 121 is still 24 points better than where I started from less than a week ago! That is progress!

One problem in a society used to instant results and instant gratification is that we expect everything to happen right away. Healing almost never happens in that fashion – and the other truth is that it doesn’t always go in a linear fashion either. Our bodies and minds are complex – and especially when dealing with a chronic condition like diabetes, we need to have a great deal of patience and compassion with ourselves and our bodies. This isn’t easy – mentally, emotionally, or physically. I’m going to be addressing the issues that are coming up for me as I go along. Perhaps you’ll be able to relate. Some days are better than others. We do what we can to keep on keeping on.

I’m digging back through my notes, reminding myself of things I learned and strategies I utilized. I’ll be going through those as we go along too. I had a reminder two days ago about how important it is to have food that I can eat ready and available. I was busy writing – and when I finally realized that I was hungry, I also realized that I’d forgotten to put the chicken in the crockpot that morning. I had no protein source. The food I needed to stay on my program wasn’t available, and I was too hungry to figure out an alternative that would be beneficial for my blood sugar levels. I made that peanut butter and jelly sandwich I’d been craving the other day and had that for lunch. I regretted that choice pretty quickly as within an hour, my blood sugar shot up to 227 and I felt light-headed and sick. You can believe that I am now well stocked in cooked chicken breasts that I can throw onto salads or heat up in stir-fries or soups very easily.

I’m not beating myself up about my slip-up. Lesson learned, moving forward. Sometimes I need reminders, too, that certain foods are not good for my blood sugar. That’s just a fact. They aren’t “bad” foods (foods don’t have a morality – I will discuss that further another day) – they just aren’t beneficial for my body and health goals. I felt bad enough physically that it will be a long time (if ever) before I have another peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I don’t make the best choices for myself, but again, the point is the overall trend – which is in the direction of where I want to be heading. It’s not uncommon as a human being to take two steps forward and one step back as we pursue any goal, health-related or otherwise. A little grace for ourselves is in order.

If you’re on a path similar to mine, you may want to keep track, at least for a while, of what you’re doing and how it’s impacting your blood sugar. I kept both a food journal and an exercise journal, along with daily blood sugar readings, both fasting readings in the morning and other readings I took one and two hours after meals, testing the impact of those meals on my blood sugar levels. I have excellent notes regarding what worked for me. I stopped taking notes after the pandemic hit and I strayed from my program. I have now returned to taking notes because I’m still learning and growing – and I find them helpful, not only for helping me to stay on track in real time, but also as a reference to consult when making choices.

My notes and journals also help me with encouragement. I may have gone down this path before, but I don’t remember it all. It helps to look back and read about my victories and how much better I felt – and also to read about my frustrations and pains – and to see how I coped with them and/or how over time they faded. Example: I started out with a 30 minute walk the other day. Yesterday I walked 40 minutes and was sore as hell and tired. Today, I walked for an hour, but slowly. And I’m not as sore today as I was yesterday. (I don’t advocate adding time that fast – it’s better to build up more slowly, but it hasn’t been very long since I was in pretty decent fitness shape – and also, I got lost, LOL. I mostly try to feel my way along and listen to my body.)

There is improvement in these few days – and it’s helpful for me to see that in writing. It’s helpful for me to do a check-in with myself about how it’s going. I recognize from my former success in getting my blood sugar under control that physical activity was an important part of it. My goal is to do some form of enjoyable physical activity for an hour each day most days. I’m sad I don’t have my bike with me – that is my preferred exercise – but walking and dancing are good too. Yoga helps me feel better in multiple ways, but I still need some cardio type activity regularly (at least 4-5 days a week).

I used to feel a certain antipathy toward food and exercise journals because those were tools that I used previously in efforts to lose weight, before I discovered body acceptance. I had to work to get to a point where they no longer triggered me. Since I no longer pursue intentional weight loss, I now find these journals to be very helpful on my health journey toward controlling my diabetes. I do not weigh myself – it is not necessary and it is not information that I need to live my healthiest, best life. My success is certainly not determined by the numbers on a scale, but rather by the numbers on a glucose monitor – and by how I’m feeling. Those are the only metrics I care about.

Disclaimer: Please be advised that I am not a medical professional nor a dietician. This site is not in any way, shape, or form providing any sort of diagnosis, advice, cures, or recommendations for medical or dietary treatments. I am simply sharing my own journey and experiences. Nothing I say is intended to replace proper medical care.

Figuring Out A Weight Neutral Diabetes Program

CW/TW: Discussion of diet/weight loss culture, and my personal history with that.

It’s not possible to have a clear understanding of my journey in dealing with diabetes without knowing about my history of dieting and my recovery from weight-loss dieting (which I consider to be an eating disorder). I have decades’ worth of scars and feelings about that – which I am forced to acknowledge and confront as I deal with my diabetes. There is a vast difference between my blood sugar control program and my previous attempts to control my body size – and yet, there are also some areas of similarity where the emotional impact feels too close for comfort and I have to deal with that too.

A brief telling of my history: I started dieting when I was a skinny 10 year old athlete, trying to get thinner. It was a life-consuming obsession for me until my early 30’s, when between having a baby and losing my dad, I gained almost 100 pounds. During that time, I found the size acceptance/fat liberation movement. I started making my way toward a healthy relationship with my body. I mostly stopped dieting (I had a few slip-ups along the way) – and I came to love and have compassion and appreciation for my body at any size, fatter or thinner.

I was exposed to HAES ® (Health at Every Size®), promoted by ASDAH (Association for Size Diversity and Health) – and I learned to put my focus on health rather than weight as I considered my life choices. I threw away my scale and learned to be in tune with my body’s signals: when I was hungry, when I needed to move and be active, when I needed to rest. There were a few times when I got caught up in a “lifestyle change” – and those times led me dangerously close to my former weight loss obsession days. In fact, I went all in at one point, lost a bunch of weight – and my belief is that this weight loss directly contributed to losing my gallbladder (it’s rare that people tell you about the dangers of weight loss dieting – they are worth considering!). The weight, of course, came back. That was okay with me – I just wanted to feel healthy.

I was healthy and active and fat for many years. All of my health indicator numbers were good. My very complicated (and often emotionally painful) relationship with food and my body had shifted to a place of peace and simple pleasure. I was so grateful to not have to worry about food, but just to enjoy it when I was hungry or felt like partaking of something. That happy world came to a crashing halt when I received my diabetes diagnosis. I knew I didn’t want to go on medication if I could avoid it, but my relationship with food became complicated again – and decades’ worth of feelings about deprivation and denying myself foods I enjoy came back into play. Even though this program has no emotional connection to weight for me, I still regularly have to deal with some challenging emotions and triggers because of the similarity to weight loss dieting (counting carbs, basically cutting out whole groups of foods, etc.).

When I first read Dr. Hyman’s book (TW/CW: he uses the word “diabesity”, which I find offensive and annoying as hell, he also has a strong focus on weight – but I took the information I needed and left the bias and BS, although I can certainly see how it could be triggering. Unfortunately, that is the general reality in the medical field and trying to get useful information is nearly impossible without wading through the ignorant bias against fatness), I followed his program very carefully. As time went along and I read other things, I made some small adjustments to make it work for me, including adding a little dark chocolate into my daily regimen. I later experimented with some protein bars and protein powders for convenience and some variety. It didn’t take long to get my blood sugar back to normal and keep it there. I felt mostly good, but at times, I was bored with my food and sad that I couldn’t have bread and some of my other favorite foods. I felt angry that I couldn’t just eat “normally.” But I stuck with it because what other choice did I have? I couldn’t allow my diabetes to spin out of control. I was fearful of going anywhere outside the lines of the strict program I was following.

I was doing well for a little over 18 months, when I developed a pain in my right side that the doctor couldn’t figure out. That pain was quite alarming to me. It plagued me for weeks. I was so annoyed because I was doing everything right (!!!) – this wasn’t fair! A friend, who’s a retired nurse, suggested that it might be a kidney stone, and that perhaps drinking a beer would help me to relax and feel better. I was desperate, so I tried it. It did actually help a little – and it didn’t hurt my blood sugar! Because I tend to be an “all-or-nothing” type of person, that opened the door to increasing forays into the world of foods and beverages which I hadn’t allowed myself for so long. The pain disappeared and I felt significantly happier in general. I felt so much better, actually, that I wondered if maybe I’d been missing some important nutrients by completely avoiding grains.

I monitored my blood sugar as I went – and it seemed to be holding pretty steady. The pandemic hit and it became a little harder to stay on my program. Long story short, my blood sugar started rising a little, but I was feeling good and I was happy to be having pizza and beer once in a while (etc.), so I ignored it. Rice, corn, potatoes, bread – all of the carbs I’d been avoiding – started becoming a normal part of my daily food intake. And then one day, I woke up feeling awful and my fasting blood glucose reading was 145. That was just a few days ago. Now, here I am trying to figure it out and get my blood sugar under control again.

I know the steps, but I need to make it long-term livable for me too. I need to find the balance that will allow me to control my blood sugar without feeling deprived and unhappy about what I eat – and without causing myself nutritional deficiencies. I’m not happy if I can’t ever have, for example, bread, or lasagna, or a burger with fries. I’m also not happy if I’m feeling light-headed and nauseous because my sugar is too high. I want to be happy and healthy! And I remain committed to not going on medication. So, this dance with diabetes continues for me. It’s not all smooth and easy – and I am far from perfect at it. I’m still figuring out the balance, but I feel hopeful. I know that I have some leeway – I just need to be mindful of how far from the original program I stray. It took many months of being pretty careless before I really paid the price. It’s daily decisions that add up over time, not every single meal. I know this – now I just have to do it – in a way that supports my emotional and mental health as well as my physical health. Physical activity has been an important factor too, which I was very consistent about before the pandemic and have struggled with since the pandemic. I need to make that a priority in my life again too. I’ve got this!

Disclaimer: Please be advised that I am not a medical professional nor a dietician. This site is not in any way, shape, or form providing any sort of diagnosis, advice, cures, or recommendations for medical or dietary treatments. I am simply sharing my own journey and experiences. Nothing I say is intended to replace proper medical care.

What A Difference A Day Makes!

I’m not healed in one day, obviously – but I am feeling significantly better. My fasting blood sugar dropped from 145 to 111 (close to my target of under 100) in one day. I just want to get to feeling really good – and I know I’ll get there. I simply have to stick with it. I know the steps. I’ve been here before. I’m a little mad at myself that I waited until I felt so terrible to make the effort to get back on track – but I give myself some grace for being a human doing the best I can under stressful situations in the middle of a once in a century pandemic. Onward!

I woke up this morning seriously craving a peanut butter and Bonne Maman raspberry preserves sandwich on multi-grain bread with granola sprinkled in, served with a big glass of cold 2% milk. I did not have that. Interestingly, I drank my Calm magnesium and the craving went away. I haven’t had that experience before (or haven’t noticed it, anyway). I do believe that the Calm magnesium helps me to keep my blood sugar balanced – and I need to be highly committed to drinking it every day! I can tell the difference in how I feel when I don’t. It’s also helped me to avoid leg cramps. Whenever I go too long without it, my body will remind me with an excruciating charley horse. Talk about motivation!

I find this Calm magnesium supplement indispensable in my health care regimen!

While I find Calm magnesium to be an important part of health and wellness care for me, I feel like I should offer the caution that if you plan to try the Calm magnesium, start slowly with just a little bit! It can help to keep the bowels regular – and you’ll want to test the impact it has on you. I don’t ever drink it right before going out anywhere. (Sorry if that’s TMI, but it’s important to know!)

So, my plan here on this blog is to share some things that help me to keep my blood sugar under control – and just be open about my journey. Some of it is easy and some of it is more challenging.

I will reiterate every time (usually a blurb at the end) that I’m NOT a medical professional nor a dietician. I am NOT offering medical nor nutritional advice. I am a person who has been fortunate enough to be able to stay off medication in spite of a diabetes diagnosis – and to have gotten my A1C back to a normal level (which, yes, I lost when I wasn’t sticking with my program – getting it back under control now). I’m sharing the strategies I’ve used – and am using – to control my blood sugar, and the story of my journey to health, in case it may be helpful to someone else and offer hope. I was very scared when I was first diagnosed. My doctor didn’t have much to offer me beyond the diagnosis. I read a lot and figured out what I need to do. I’m no longer scared because I know what works for me. You’ll have to figure out what works for you – read, research, and seek professional help as needed.

By the way, I am not sponsored (at least, not yet – I’ll let you know if that changes) by anyone. Nobody is paying me to recommend their products. I’m just sharing what I like and what’s helped me. I hope this information may be helpful to you!

Another Dance With Diabetes

Welp. I admit that I got cocky and stopped doing the things I knew were keeping my blood sugar at a healthy level. After being super strict for over 18 months, due to a massive fear of diabetes (and doctors/medications), I had a little slip. When that little slip didn’t result in disaster, I started to relax how stringently I followed the Blood Sugar Solution (by Dr. Mark Hyman) program. (TW/CW: he uses the word “diabesity”, which I find offensive and annoying as hell, he also has a strong focus on weight – but I took the information I needed and left the bias and BS, although I can certainly see how it could be triggering. Unfortunately, that is the general reality in the medical field and trying to get useful information is nearly impossible without wading through the ignorant bias against fatness). When I had pizza for the first time in almost two years, I felt joyous – like my life was returning to normal. Maybe I was healed? Maybe, as I’d suspected, my diabetes had been caused by a reaction to an antibiotic I’d taken just before my diagnosis. I had felt it wreck me. Between that and working 60-80 hours a week and being completely exhausted, I thought that maybe this whacko blood sugar reading over 200 was just a fluke. Now, I was better.

As the pandemic hit, I slid further away from the program. My blood sugar started to rise, but not to a level that inspired panic. I was okay with finding a balance that worked for me – allowing me to enjoy “regular” foods (carbs, pizza, ice cream, bread, cheese, etc.) while also being mindful to stay within a certain range. When it looked like my blood sugar was teetering on the edge, I would be more careful. Until I wasn’t. Between being afraid to go outside, thereby exercising far less than I’d been, and not shopping regularly for groceries, just eating what was convenient, I landed myself in my current position – which is that I feel awful.

My blood sugar was 145 this morning. That is horrible. I knew it was bad because I felt light-headed and nauseous. I’ve been sick to my stomach all day. When I was on program, my blood sugar ranged from about 80-105. Over these past few months, it’s been more like around 110-120. Not perfect, but I was prepared to live within that range. Then I started hitting into the 130’s here and there. I didn’t feel bad, so I wasn’t too alarmed. Until today. I finally feel bad enough to acknowledge that there is a problem and I need to do something about it.

When I was first diagnosed, I lived in Florida and could ride my bike around my neighborhood every day. Good for my knees and fun for me. Since then, I’ve moved across the country and I don’t currently have my bike with me. I’ve been dancing a little bit, one of my favorite things, but not every day. This morning, I went for a walk – just a little over half an hour. I will build that up to an hour a day. That’s how long I rode my bike – it seemed like a good amount of time to be active. I felt healthy and strong. On rainy days, I can dance. I’m re-committing to making time to be active every day for an hour. I’ve also been doing yoga a little bit here and there – that’s definitely helpful for my sense of well-being.

As for my eating program, I am going modified strict for now and see what happens. When I first started, I didn’t do any fruits or grains at all. After a few months, I started having some citrus, blueberries, strawberries, and other low-glycemic fruits with my breakfast. I also added a half of a sprouted grain English muffin with almond butter to the two eggs I ate daily for breakfast. By the way, look at the picture on my home page. Watch my cholesterol drop from 220 to 159 while I ate two eggs every single day. I brew six cups of some sort of herbal tea (usually peppermint or green tea) each morning and drink that throughout the day. I’m starting now with allowing the fruit and half of an English muffin. If my blood sugar isn’t returning to normal as quickly as I’d like (within a week or two), I’ll drop those as well until I am well within the normal range (under 100).

For lunch and dinner, I’m keeping it simple: returning back to chicken and veggies, with a few nuts as condiments and snacks. I did include carrots today, but I won’t include potatoes, which I’ve found to have an undesired effect on my blood sugar. I generally cook my eggs in coconut oil and use olive oil on my salads and to saute my veggies. By the way, I used a poppyseed salad dressing on my salad last night – and I think that’s part of the reason my blood sugar was so elevated this morning. I’ll be sticking with just olive oil and balsamic vinegar on my salads from now on.

Today’s lunch: chicken, onions, broccoli, carrots sautéed in coconut oil, seasoned with Vindaloo curry (which I get from Penzey’s spices – love their products!), with a few cashews thrown in.

Okay, so day one of this journey back to health and balance is almost complete. I’m tired and feeling crappy, but I know I’m on the road back to wellness and I’m grateful for that! I’ll be checking in regularly to let you know how it’s going, what I’m doing, give you some recipes, and share some other things that have been helpful for me. In the meantime, we breathe.

Once again, I am not a medical professional, nor a nutritionist. I am not offering any sort of medical or dietetic advice. I am simply sharing my own personal journey and what is working for me. Please do consult your own medical professionals and do your own research.

Disclaimer: Please be advised that I am not a medical professional nor a dietician. This site is not in any way, shape, or form providing any sort of diagnosis, advice, cures, or recommendations for medical or dietary treatments. I am simply sharing my own journey and experiences. Nothing I say is intended to replace proper medical care.