CW/TW: Mention of weight loss dieting (but NOT in a positive way), some discussion of mental/emotional health issues.
Am I ever glad I kept a journal (pictured above) the first time I went down this path! I recorded everything: my morning sugar reading, my readings after various meals, everything I ate, supplements I took, my amount of exercise, many comments along the way of how I was feeling, both physically and emotionally. Perhaps the most helpful thing for me to be able to review this morning is the string of profanities laced throughout my notebook. See, even when I was staying on point, the journey wasn’t always smooth sailing. My sugar regularly spiked a little (sometimes a lot!) for no discernible reason. But I stayed the course … and over time, it kept trending in the right direction until it stayed in the good range almost all of the time. Until recently, when I had veered off course over many months during the pandemic.
I was feeling pretty angry this morning. I basically did everything the same yesterday as I did the day before. Same foods, same amount of exercise. The only thing I can think I did differently was I had a handful of blue corn tortilla chips with my dinner. Not a whole bowl, just a few. Yesterday morning, my reading was 110. This morning it was 134. It’s SO annoying! Just a little thing like that shouldn’t be able to set off my blood sugar! (in my humble and possibly irrational and emotionally-driven opinion)
It’s easy to get frustrated and want to give up. In weight loss dieting, I had that option (and finally chose to give it up permanently when I was exposed to fat acceptance and HAES ® – and realized how harmful weight loss dieting is in multiple ways). With diabetes management, I don’t have the choice of giving up. I mean, yeah, I suppose I could go on medication – but if you knew me at all, you’d know that’s really not an option for me – not if I can help it. I don’t want to be dependent on pharmaceuticals. So, I’m going to suck it up and just keep going. I’m tempted to say that I’ll be more careful until my blood sugar gets more stabilized and I don’t have to be quite so careful – but I’m already being pretty careful. I’m just going to keep going and see what happens. I recognize that my body is healing – and healing sometimes takes time. If I don’t see improvement in a week, then I’ll button down the hatches and take it to the next level of careful – we’re not there yet. This time, I am striving for balance. Patience is essential in that goal – one cannot rush into balance – rushing causes an overshot every time (at least in my experience).
I do want to talk about the psychological impact this is having on me, though – and the triggering nature of how close this feels to the traumas of weight loss dieting. I am someone who spent over two decades desperately trying to control the size and shape of my body through an endless string of diets, “lifestyle programs”, extreme exercising, and lots of food deprivation, fueled by self-hatred and body shame. I am someone who spent over two decades recovering from the physical and psychological damage of those previous two hellacious decades, and finally found peace in her body and mind. The diabetes diagnosis and subsequent efforts to get my blood sugar under control through a food program and regular exercise has pushed me perilously close to some trauma responses. It’s not an easy path for me to negotiate here.
The saving grace is that I am no longer steeped in body shame. I truly am at peace with my body. There is no fat-shaming going on, no calories being counted, no weight loss goal. Yes, the doctors say it is helpful to lose weight, but the reality is that my numbers had gotten back to near normal long before I lost any significant weight. Last time, I did eventually lose a significant amount of weight, but I was being way too strict with my program. It was unlivable long-term, even with my fear of diabetes driving me – and as soon as I stopped being so strict, all of the lost weight came back. I’m okay with that part of it. I have no issue with the size/shape of my body. I just want to be healthy and happy. What good is it to conquer diabetes if you basically feel miserable in your life? Answer: really no good at all! I need to find a balance where I can keep my sugar in range and also feel happy in my life. Note: even as I was gaining that weight back, my blood sugar levels were staying mostly okay – it wasn’t a sudden jump until many months later when due to the pandemic and the weather, I had stopped exercising as frequently – and also had been eating higher carb foods more regularly.
There are things that are helpful for me to be mindful of, and to adhere to at whatever levels that are workable for me. I do have to pay attention to the amount of carbohydrates in foods and limit my daily intake of them. I’ve also learned through trial and error which carbs have more of an impact on my sugar levels – and there are some foods, like bananas and cereals, that I simply need to avoid. This is a sad reality of my life. It doesn’t mean I can’t have any carbs or that I have to go super low carb – but I do have to pay attention. It’s not going to be a good idea for me to eat several high carb foods at a meal or even during a day. For example, having a sandwich and chips, followed by a chocolate chip cookie is not going to be a good choice for me. I could have any one of those things at a time with other, lower-carb foods (salad, chicken breast, veggies, etc.). Also, the world won’t end if I do have them together once in a while, but it’s definitely not something that is beneficial for me to do regularly. It’s what I do regularly that really matters.
It is helpful for me to eat small meals or snacks every 2-3 hours. This keeps my blood sugar generally more stable – and it prevents me from getting over-hungry, which can have an impact on my judgment of which foods I choose to eat. Additionally, smaller meals seem to be not only easier to digest, but also seem to help my blood sugar stay balanced. I noticed that even if I ate foods that I normally didn’t eat on program (like pizza or popcorn, for example), when I ate them in smaller amounts, there wasn’t as much of a spike. I have a blue bowl that is a good size for me – that’s about how much food my body can handle comfortably at one time – and I feel satisfied after eating that much. If I’m hungry, I eat. I’ve never gone hungry on my diabetes management program.
One final thing for today before I go: I try to listen to my body. I woke up tired today. I’m still tired. I could push myself to go for a walk right now, but I’m paying attention to my body and that’s not feeling like the right choice. Sometimes, I need to push myself, but this isn’t one of those times. I’ll go for a walk later today, or perhaps I’ll just dance in my room. We’ll see how I feel. For now, I’m going to lie down for a nap. That seems like the most me-supporting, health-benefiting thing I can do right now. I’m sure I’ll feel better when I wake up.
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.