TW/CW: Some reference to impact of history of weight loss dieting.
When I was first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, my doctor really didn’t give me any information about what to do. He just dropped the bomb, told me to come back in a few weeks, and sent me home. When I came back, he offered me medication. I said, no thank you – I would handle this naturally, if possible. He suggested that if I could get my fasting blood sugar down to 126, that would be good enough – that could be my goal.
Me being me (a recovering perfectionist), that obviously wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to get my blood sugar back into the “normal” range, preferably below 100. And I did that – for a little over 18 months. Actually, even longer than that – because even when I stopped being super strict about what I was eating and how much and how often I was engaging in activity (usually bike riding for me), it took many months for my blood sugar to start drifting up. Now, in retrospect, I’m wondering if 126 wasn’t a more realistic goal for me – one that would be protective of my health (and avoid negative health outcomes), but also that would allow me to have some leeway with my choices and enjoy my life (which, as it turns out, is an essential part of health and well-being). Once again, the concept of “balance” arose in my life – finding a manageable balance.
As I realized the other day, my home blood sugar meter isn’t necessarily accurate, so I’m confronted with the idea of not completely relying on the numbers to inform me of how I’m doing. I’m not abandoning the numbers altogether, but I’m not measuring every day – and when I do, I’m taking multiple readings at the same time to check for accuracy. A few mornings ago, my readings were 127, 133, 127 – so, I’m going to go with that it’s close to the goal of 126. Close enough – and also, room for improvement.
Speaking of numbers – in case I haven’t already made this perfectly clear, I will never look at a scale to measure how I am doing – my weight is completely irrelevant to my health, well-being, and how I am taking care of myself. A focus on weight is the very antithesis of helpful. It is damaging and has been shown to make people more likely to quit actions and habits beneficial to their health than to continue them. See ASDAH (Association for Size Diversity and Health) for more information on that. My focus is on my holistic well-being, not just on the numbers in my blood panels, and certainly not at all on my weight.
The difference with my current journey down this path (as opposed to at the beginning when I was operating from a panic/fear level after my diagnosis) is that I’m not demanding “perfection” of myself. Close enough is going to work for me. I’m going to celebrate the wins – and pay attention to how I’m feeling. The last few days, I’ve actually been feeling quite well. I’ve gone for 45- 60 minute walks each day. That helps a lot. I’m not walking very fast. I used to bike because it was easier on my knees (and I love riding my bike). My bike isn’t currently with me (and I’m not sure I could manage the hills here – I’m used to flatter terrain), so walking seems like the best choice for now. My friend is also going to bring home her rebounder from her office – which, I love jumping on a rebounder – I think it’s so good for me, both as movement and as fun! Walking is good for my mental/emotional state too – I notice that being out in nature is good for my spirits and energy. My legs are getting stronger – I’m able to go further now than I was going a couple of weeks ago.
The thing I’m mostly doing is paying attention to my body. If I’m tired, I don’t force myself to walk. I allow myself to rest. However, there are different kinds of tired – and sometimes, I feel like maybe I’d benefit from being outside, so when I feel like that, I may start walking and see how it feels. I can stop or keep going, honoring the moment. I’ve spent so much of my life ignoring my body’s signals, trying to force my body to my will, rather than listening to my body’s needs. It’s an interesting journey to unlearn that – and I want to be patient with myself as I learn new habits and form new neural pathways.
The same is true with eating. For a long time (decades), I forced myself to limit what I ate, to not eat even when I was very hungry – and also to eat when I wasn’t hungry just to keep my metabolism going. These behaviors over-rode the messages I was getting from my body. When I would go off my various diets, then I’d eat all of the foods I’d missed – and would often eat them until I felt sick, a response created by the psychological damage incurred from the denial of these foods and prolonged periods of hunger. In my opinion, dieting is an eating disorder that does considerable, inestimable damage.
What I’m discovering as I move forward on this path – is that I learn what works for me partly by going along and bumping into things that don’t work for me. Sometimes I don’t even notice they’re not working for me until I’ve done them a while and am confronted with a crisis or an awareness that finally captures my attention. And honestly, some things change for a variety of factors/reasons/circumstances. I’m trying to stay in flow and awareness, adjusting as needed and as is beneficial for me, my life, my health, and my happiness. It is definitely a juggling act – because these goals aren’t always going in the same direction or accomplished by the same choices. Example: while pizza may not be the ideal choice for my physical health (blood sugar), it is fairly high on my happiness list – so, I need to figure out a way to enjoy that pleasure while mitigating any negative effects it could have on my body. How do I do that? That’s what I’m figuring out.
I honestly believe that’s different for everyone, too. There’s no cookie-cutter recipe for this that will work for everyone. As the saying goes, “Don’t follow me – I’m lost too.” Even the so-called “experts” often don’t take into account, and cannot predict, different factors that influence the unique individuals that are also doing this dance with diabetes. What are the psychological factors? Emotional/mental health factors? Life situations/circumstances? Support systems? Food availability? Time constraints? Limitations imposed by work, finances, etc.? Environmental safety? Activity options? Mobility issues?
I’m fortunate to be staying somewhere where I can go out for a walk alone in the mornings and be safe. Not everyone has that. Not everyone has the time. I don’t have big time obligations right now regarding raising children or working outside the home or other major commitments. I’m fortunate to have the luxury of time and space to be able to make health-supporting choices for myself. I recognize that not everyone has the choices available that I have. So, we each have to figure out what we can do, what we can live with, how we can best support ourselves in every aspect of ourselves – not just our physical health, but the whole package – including our social connections, families, and those sorts of very important influences on our happiness, our sense of belonging, and our sense of purpose in life – all of which have much more impact than is commonly acknowledged on our health and well-being.
These days, my goal is more to notice how my body is feeling rather than to try to strictly control what foods I’m eating or how much. I’m playing with not eating if I’m not hungry – even if it seems like I “should” be eating. I know that it’s not good for me to allow myself to get too hungry – because that’s when I’m likely to make food choices that aren’t as beneficial for my goal of managing my blood sugar naturally. I try to have snacks and meals on hand, already prepared, so they’re easy to grab and eat. Ideally, I’ll eat a little bit every 2-3 waking hours – but if I’m not hungry, I’m not going to force myself – and if I am hungry, I’m not going to make myself wait. I’m feeling my way as I go along. It’s a new awareness for me. I measure if I’m actually hungry by mentally checking if a few nuts would do the trick. LOL If they wouldn’t, I’m probably actually having a craving – which, not judging that, just having an awareness and making my choices taking everything (hunger levels, emotions, etc.) into account. In a future blog post, I’m planning to address emotional eating on a deeper level, because I think it gets an unfairly bad rap. Obviously, like with anything else, we don’t want to be excessive with it, but it’s not all bad.
I skipped dinner last night because I just wasn’t hungry. I got up early this morning and took a delightful 3 mile walk. My blood sugar meter read 116, 117, 125, 136, 128, 114. (I’m testing less regularly now, but multiple times when I do to check the accuracy of the meter). I don’t find these meter readings particularly helpful, honestly. I think I’m doing okay. I am feeling stronger – my walking is definitely improving over time in how my legs (knees) feel, in how far I can walk, and my pace. I’m taking the wins. Mostly, just enjoying being outside and moving my body. I’ll add a little bit each day. My goal is to get back to walking 4 miles a day at least five days a week (I used to do that, once upon a time). Of course, I’m going to listen to my body – and not push past pain or fatigue. I’ll only go that far if it feels good to do so. Otherwise, a half hour of walking a day is what is recommended for adults by the CDC. I may have goals that go beyond what is recommended, but I am also learning to allow the concept of “enough” to be a part of my life. I can allow the 30 minutes to be enough – and some days, if it feels good, maybe I can walk for a couple of hours. We’ll see where the path leads.
My new goal is “enough.” I want to eat enough food – not too little or too much. I want to be mindful enough regarding what I eat without being too strict or too careless about my food choices. I want to get enough activity and enjoy moving my body without going overboard or getting obsessive as I have in the past. There is a nice balance in all things that I am looking to find – and that includes finding a balance in the balance because being overly committed to balance can also cause imbalance (that will make sense to anyone who struggles as I do – and will perhaps sound like nonsense to those who don’t). Being in the state of “enough-ness” is going to take some getting used to, but I’m here for it!
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.