What Is The Relationship Between Diabetes, Inflammation, And Environmental Toxins?

Y’all. I’ve just had a revelation. This may be old news to many people, but to me, it’s an epiphany.

Since the last time I wrote, up until three days ago, I’d been managing my blood sugar pretty well – at least, according to my own goal that I now have, which is to keep my morning fasting sugar below 120 (126 was what my doctor had suggested I keep it below to stay off medication). My blood sugar had been in basically the 115-117 range during that time. Cool, cool.

I was walking regularly, usually an hour a day. That used to be four miles for me once upon a time, now it’s three. That’s okay. My speed may improve or it may not. I’m not trying to win any awards here, just want to stay healthy. And sometimes, I only walk half of that, depending on how my knee is feeling. (I miss my bike! ­čś░)

My eating lately hasn’t been particularly careful – one night, I was reading a good book and didn’t want to stop to prepare food, so I just had a small hunk of cheese and a bag of microwave popcorn for dinner. I almost never do that and, LOL, it’s not something I would make a habit of, but I was relieved to see the next morning that it hadn’t impacted my blood sugar in a negative way. I’d mostly had my usual, “healthy” fare – salads with chicken, veggies with protein (chicken, turkey, and beef are what I like – unfortunately, I don’t like seafood) – and I’d also had some bread here and there, a Naan BBQ chicken pizza I make (YUM!), a little bit of ice cream, an occasional beer and chicken nachos. So, I wasn’t being super strict like I’d been before – but my blood sugar was at an acceptable level for me. This was livable! I could do this!

I also noted that I mostly hadn’t been taking any supplements (like my CALM magnesium, which I still think is a really good thing for me to take regularly). When I first did my program after I was first diagnosed, I took quite a number of supplements. When I’m doing a variety of things, it’s hard to tell which one(s) are working – or if it’s the combination of things. Do I need to keep doing all of the things? Due to my current financial circumstances, I can’t afford supplements, so I have had to take those out of the equation. (I do still use cinnamon and turmeric regularly on my foods, is the one exception.) Even without supplements, my blood sugar has (mostly) been at an acceptable level (for me). I do wonder – if I were taking them, would my sugar go even lower? Maybe even get back down under 100? Possibly?

But here’s why I’m writing today: three days ago, my housemate brought a big area rug a friend had given her into the house and had me help her unroll it in the living room. Immediately, the smell of the rug overwhelmed me – musty/moldy – I felt like I’d bitten into the air and gotten a mouthful of sand is how drastically my body reacted. I couldn’t breathe. Even when I went into my bedroom, closed the door, turned on the ionizer, and put on a filtered mask, I was still having a strong reaction to the rug. I had to go outside and sit in the fresh breeze to calm down my air passages and be able to breathe. As I sat outside, I noticed that it wasn’t just my breathing – that my neck felt tight, and my whole body felt stressed. Long story short, we got rid of the rug.

But here’s where it gets interesting. I forgot to take my reading the next morning after this happened, but yesterday morning, my blood sugar read 149 (and not just once, I tested multiple times for confirmation). I hadn’t done anything different or unusual in terms of my eating or activity. The only difference in my life had been this allergic/inflammatory response. I also noticed that my body felt bloated – my ankles and fingers were notably swollen (and that’s not usually the case). And the thing that helped me really make the connection that I noticed – is that my bladder felt painfully irritated, like I had an urge to urinate almost constantly. I’d felt that before ….

A few weeks (months?) before I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – and keep in mind that my blood sugar levels up until then had been just fine and that I’d been basically at the same weight for over 20 years – my dentist prescribed an antibiotic for a tooth infection. Then, after my root canal, the endodontist prescribed another round of that same antibiotic “just to be safe.” That antibiotic ravaged my body. I could feel it happening. The most alarming symptom was that my bladder felt like I’d been sitting in a movie theater holding it so I didn’t miss the end of the movie. You know that feeling where it just hurts and you can’t wait to run to the restroom and get relief? Only, when I was taking this antibiotic, that feeling remained – there was no relief from it – and it was becoming increasingly, unbearably painful. I saw my doctor and he told me to get off that antibiotic immediately.

I did stop taking it right away, but the side effects didn’t quickly disappear. It took time for my body to heal. At that time, I had several jobs and was working at least 60-80 hours a week, so I was running on fumes. Back then, I attributed my extreme fatigue to my work schedule, but now that I think about it, I’m sure that the effects of the antibiotic also contributed to what eventually became basically a physical breakdown. I had a few days (weeks?) where I could barely move. I had no energy. My whole body hurt. I couldn’t even think straight, I was so depleted energetically. Right after that, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, based on one routine blood test.

Here’s what I’m noticing and what I think: the feeling of irritation in my bladder these last three days is very reminiscent (not nearly as bad/painful, but I’m definitely having flashbacks) of when I was taking that antibiotic. And what I’m thinking is that in both cases, where my blood sugar was driven higher, it’s that my body was (is) in an inflammatory response – in once case to a medication, and in this case, a severe allergic response to an environmental toxin (mold or whatever else was in that rug).

Now, through my studying over the years (I used to own a health food store almost 30 years ago for 8 years and I’ve studied nutrition basically my whole life), I know that there are foods that can create an inflammatory response in the body. Sometimes people are allergic to specific foods, which can create a range of inflammatory responses – up to and including death. There are some foods (perhaps? – I’m not sure?) that tend to cause at least a small inflammatory response for most everybody (why are antacids so popular?). I’ve thought of these foods as being at the root of many disease processes in the body, including arthritis and digestive issues and who knows what else?

My point is this: in my case (not speaking for anyone other than myself), it seems to me that inflammatory processes caused by medication and by environmental toxins, had far more to do with my “diabetes” than anything to do with my food or activity or lifestyle choices. I’ve always had an awareness that my diagnosis had nothing to do with my weight. I’ve been a healthy, active fat person for decades. No problems with my blood sugar until I had that dangerous antibiotic (and yes, once I researched it, I saw that it had harmed LOTS of people, that it’s considered a “black box” antibiotic – and I’m so angry that I took it!). My recovery also had nothing to do with my weight – I was back to normal blood sugar fairly quickly, without any significant weight loss. It just took a little time to get the antibiotic and its effects fully out of my system – and it’s possible that I helped that process move along more quickly by the program that I was doing.

Now, I am acknowledging that doing a program that avoided foods that could potentially cause some inflammation in my body did help my blood sugar to go down – and that at the time, that was necessary because my body had been put into a crisis of inflammatory overload by the medication. But what I’d like to argue is that if my body hadn’t been in an inflammatory crisis caused by the medication, I would not have had my blood sugar spin out of control and would not have gotten a diabetes diagnosis. It just pushed me over the limit of what my body could handle, so then I had to be extremely careful not to introduce any more factors which could cause inflammation into my body (therefore, had to be careful about what I ate, whereas before I hadn’t needed to be so careful – and when I’m not in a toxin-induced crisis, I’m not sure that I ever need to be so careful).

What I’m going through now is similar. My blood sugar was down to 131 this morning. I expect at this trajectory, it will be below 120 again tomorrow. I had a chicken sandwich last night for dinner – something I wouldn’t have done right after my diagnosis. I can eat bread without a negative impact on my blood sugar. I think I can probably eat pretty much anything in moderation (which I would have been afraid to even consider before, when I was panicking about my diagnosis and how to return to wellness). I am still suffering some of the effects of the histamine coursing through my body from my allergic reaction to that rug. I imagine that my body will work through that in the next week or so and I’ll be feeling good again and my blood sugar will normalize.

So, now I’m thinking about how to live my best, happiest life, keeping my inflammatory load as low as possible. I’ve been sensitive to chemicals for years – I had a bad experience with a “100% natural, completely safe” shower cleaner a few years ago, which resulted in a lung injury that had me on inhalers and breathing treatments for months. That left me very sensitive to scents and sprays to a degree that I still have to be careful and carry an inhaler in case of exposure. I can be taken down by someone spraying air freshener. Yes, I do have an awareness of what foods could impact me in ways that may cause inflammation – but honestly, I think foods may be among the least of my problems. I haven’t drank soda and I’ve avoided corn syrup in general since 2006. I avoid artificial flavors and colors as much as possible. So, I’m not exactly incautious in my food choices – I think it’s fair to say that I’m mindful about what I eat. Chemicals on/in foods are more concerning to me than the foods themselves. But environmental toxins in general are where my greater concern lies – and where I certainly intend to pay more attention.

How much does what we eat really have to do with our blood sugar levels? I wonder!

As I look back to when I started this blog, when my blood sugar had gotten out of my desired range for the first time since my diagnosis, what I realize is that we had literally just moved into a new house (new to us, really an older house). We’d been cleaning – I was using mostly vinegar, but also had used some disinfectant wipes, figuring I was “safe” because I wasn’t spraying anything into the air (which can be very dangerous for me). Now I wonder, what if the chemicals from those wipes were absorbed through my fingers – and that is what drove my blood sugar up? I’m just speculating here, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. I’m going to keep paying attention and sharing what I notice. I’d be very interested if anyone else has had similar experiences/observations that you’d like to share in the comments!

I have some more questions and things I’m wondering about. First of all, I’m not 100% sure about my diabetes type 2 diagnosis. I realize that my blood sugar goes to high levels when I’ve been exposed to dangerous medications or environmental toxins – but otherwise? I’m not sure. Maybe without those stressors, it’s normal? That’s got me wondering if it’s at all possible that many people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are not necessarily finding themselves in that position due to genetics or lifestyle – but rather due to environmental factors. Think about it. Demographically speaking, African Americans and other people of color are more prone to a diabetes diagnosis than white Americans – and, due to systemic racism, are also more likely to live in communities where pollutants, dangerous chemicals, and other environmental toxins are more prevalent. Pete Buttigieg just recently talked about how urban highways were traditionally built through Black communities. Think about all of the pollution put into the air by traffic – and then consider the inflammatory response and toxic load which that could create for the people who live in communities afflicted with that kind of air and/or other environmental pollution.

Look at Tampa, Florida right now, where a holding reservoir containing radioactive waste from a phosphate mining company called Piney Point has leaked millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater into Tampa Bay and surrounding communities and water systems. This company has been polluting the air, soil, and water in the nearby communities for decades. This is just the latest, most devastating and publicly recognized environmental disaster this company has caused. What effect will the current disaster have on the people who live in that area? Will “diabetes” rates rise? Along with various cancers and other autoimmune disorders? Is anyone paying attention to that? Someone should definitely be tracking this sort of thing!

Also – we should be making sure to prevent this sort of thing! We need much stronger environmental protection laws – and enforcement of those laws! And perhaps instead of constantly focusing on developing more drugs – and even focusing quite so much on “healthy eating” and activity – we should be thinking more about how to clean up and protect the environment – and support people’s natural health in that way. I think it’s possible that the solution is not in medication, or even so much in “lifestyle” choices – but rather in environmental protections and preventing toxic conditions which can cause inflammatory responses in the human body. As the saying goes, “What happens to the water, happens to the people.” I think we need to think a whole lot more about that.

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 What I Can Live With – Finding Balance

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.

A moment to rest at the end of my walk.

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.

Home Blood Glucose Meters

I’m feeling a little discouraged right now, honestly. I’ve tried three blood glucose meters so far: One Touch Delica, Accu-Check (I can’t tell you which one, because the battery died in about six months and it’s in a box somewhere), and One Touch Verio Flex.

I tested the One Touch Delica several times against the test they did at the lab, testing my blood right before I went in, recording it, then comparing it to the result I got when that came in. One time, the lab tech even let me test it right from where he drew the blood in my arm. The consistent result there was that my meter read about 23 points higher than my actual lab tests. Not ideal, but I could subtract about 20 points from my readings and have a good idea where I stood.

Then I got the Accu-check – and I would test with both, out of curiosity. Sure enough, the Delica read about 20 points higher than the Accu-check. I would alternate which I tested with, occasionally testing with both until the Accu-check battery died. I wasn’t willing to go through the hassle or expense of replacing the battery – especially not after I got an email from them (that I admittedly don’t remember clearly) that said something along the lines of, yeah, we have this issue with batteries dying, but you still have to pay to have it fixed. No. Thanks. I was actually mad, because my Delica was still going strong after a year of consistent use (and still is after 3 years, although I think they’ve discontinued that line, which is why my doctor prescribed the Verio Flex) – and I’d only used the Accu-chek intermittently for a few months. I hadn’t even gone through a whole container of strips! At any rate, I didn’t throw it away because I still had lots of testing strips, but I did store the Accu-chek away and don’t use that one.

I thought I was happy with the Verio Flex. It seemed to read about 20 points lower than the Delica the couple of times I did a comparison, so I was thinking it was fairly accurate … until the other day, I questioned my reading, so took another one. There was a significant difference, so I took another. In all, I took six readings and got five different results, ranging from 117 to 144. It read 130 twice. Now, I understand that they have a variability, but now that I know how far the readings can swing, I’m questioning how valuable it is to even use the meter to monitor my blood sugar. When I was so upset that morning a few weeks ago when it read 145 … what if it had read 120? How would I have felt then?

I’ll tell you how I would have felt: relieved it wasn’t higher. Not as semi-panicking as I was in seeing the 145. And while I would have continued to pay attention to my choices (because I legit wasn’t feeling very well – tired and nauseous), I would have had a very different reaction than the one I had. What if I were tired and nauseous for a different reason than my blood sugar? What if, for example, I just needed to take some digestive enzymes with my meals, particularly when I eat certain foods? Or not go to bed so close to after dinner? Or, who knows? I saw that number and automatically semi-freaked out, attributed how I was feeling to my blood sugar “going out of control” – and what if that number wasn’t even accurate?

Yesterday, I had chicken nachos for lunch. I wanted to see the impact of eating corn chips on my blood sugar, so I measured two hours after eating. My first reading was 140. I was like, that’s great! This isn’t a problem! But I thought I’d double check. My next reading was 172. Not so great. Then 200, 181, 182. Not so good at all. Maybe I should stay away from nachos/corn chips as a general rule? (Not that I’ll never have them, just not so often). Problem is, I don’t know which of those numbers is accurate – but not only that – I don’t know how accurate any of the single shot readings I’ve been recording are. A 60 point spread is an enormous difference! ENORMOUS! I feel like all of my data since I’ve been using this meter is questionable now.

I think I may back off a bit from testing so regularly – and just pay attention to how I’m feeling. I know that high blood sugar doesn’t always have symptoms and that I won’t necessarily be able to feel it, but I also have the basics down of what I need to do to control my blood sugar – and I can keep (mostly) doing those things and monitor how I’m feeling. I’ll test weekly or maybe a couple of times a week rather than daily or multiple times daily. I know if I feel tired or nauseous or if I have to urinate more frequently that I need to pay closer attention and maybe be more careful. I’m bummed to not have as much confidence in the meters as I once had, but also feel like maybe it’s more important for me to be in tune with my body anyway. Ideally, I’d be able to do both.

Anybody out there have suggestions? What meter do you use? Have you double-checked, triple-checked, etc.? Have you measured it against lab results? Any companies out there want me to test your product?

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.

We Need Better Language to Talk About Diabetes Management

CW/TW: Discussion of weight loss terms and mental/emotional health issues.

As a survivor of twenty-plus years of dieting, I’m here to tell you that a lot of the language we use around health management (particularly in relation to diabetes) is triggering and potentially harmful – because many of the terms used in regard to creating ideal conditions for the body to heal are the same terms as used in weight loss dieting. They are triggering words and terms that too often create an unhealthy relationship to food, to activity/movement, and ultimately, to one’s own body and life.

What am I talking about? Well, for starters, the word “diet.” I understand that the technical meaning of this word is basically what foods a person or animal consumes – but that’s not how the word lands for most of us. Usually, when people talk about “diet,” the “weight loss” in front of it may be silent, but that’s understood to be what it means. It is understood to involve restrictions on food intake, rules about food and lifestyle, and a goal of changing the body’s size/weight. Some people use “food plan” or “eating program” or something like that – these terms are almost inextricably linked to the concept of weight loss/management. I’m bringing this up because I’m trying to be aware on this blog about how I talk about my personal strategies for dealing with diabetes, wanting to be clear and accurate, but with the least possible amount of harm done.

Because of the diet industry and the deeply ingrained anti-fat bias in this country, the words used to describe health-promoting lifestyle choices have become intertwined and often synonymous with the shaming, moralizing, judgmental terms of the weight loss culture. When people are dieting and eat something they “shouldn’t,” the term most often used is “cheating.” Think about the implications of that – of the moralizing of “should’s” and the judgments against someone who isn’t following the rules. There is shame attached to “cheating” – including increased body shame, as well as shame for not having more “self-control.” This coincides with blame assigned to people for failing to be compliant, and thus “deserving” whatever is going “wrong” with our bodies, whether that be an actual disease process or a natural variation of body size, which medical charts do not reflect in ways that honor diversity and genetic realities.

Other problematic terms include “blowing it” and “falling off the (diet) wagon.” These ideas imply that one is either in compliance or not in compliance to an outside set of extreme “rules” – rather than offering a flexible, health-supportive set of guidelines that allow room to create balance and recovery when the most ideal choices aren’t always available or possible. The result of this approach often plays out as: I already failed, so I completely give up and will now proceed to do whatever I want without constraint. We are all the way “on” or all the way “off.” This type of thinking fosters an “all or nothing” approach to self-care, which is not at all conducive to overall well-being.

The problem with “diet talk” is that it has one goal and focus: to make a person’s body smaller/weigh less. The diet culture does not take into account a person’s actual health and wellness – physical, mental, emotional, psychological, or social. On the contrary, the words of diet culture, fashioned to create compliance by shame, contribute to the ongoing psychological damage of its victims, often triggering traumatic responses in the people that we are supposedly trying to “help” or “serve.” If one reads about The Minnesota Starvation Experiment, conducted by Ancel Keys in the 1940’s, this will undoubtedly prove illuminating as to the traumatic and profound psychological effects of food deprivation (dieting).

If we take the time to understand some of the complex psychology involved when we alter what people (are allowed to) eat, as well as the potential traumas that many people have already suffered from dieting, I believe it will become apparent that we need to create a new lexicon in which we are able to discuss the most supportive and health-beneficial steps that people can take, without creating shame, stress, or further harm – those things most often resulting in the exact opposite consequences of our goals or intentions to help.

On this blog, I am attempting to be very aware of the words I use to describe how I am managing my own diabetes and the struggles I’m having as I go. I catch myself using words that are potentially triggering and I work to switch those out with words that make my point understandable, without adding the unwanted aspects of criticism, judgment, or moralism. It’s not an easy task. I think I’ve referred to the “program” I’m following multiple times in this blog already. I’m going to be thinking about better words to use. It’s an evolving process for me.

The choice of foods that we eat is not a moral issue. Food, itself, does not have a morality. I agree with others who have written that it is harm-causing to refer to foods as “good” or “bad,” “healthy” or “unhealthy,” “clean” or … dirty? – what’s the term used for the opposite of that? “Junk”? All of the moralism of categorizations of foods, all of the condescending superiority of what constitutes “good” and “acceptable” choices in food consumption – that crap is toxic and damaging. Nobody feels supported or improves their health in an atmosphere of shame.

It cannot be emphasized enough how every body needs to be treated with compassion and respect.
We are all sacred beings and deserve to be treated as such.

Also, the fact that doctors still heavily promote weight loss as the method to control diabetes is beyond problematic. Weight loss is not necessary to have improvement in blood sugar numbers, and a focus on weight loss is more likely to result in the opposite of the desired effect. A focus on weight loss is nearly always a losing proposition for the health and well-being of a person – body, mind, and spirit. It has been known and well-documented for decades that the vast majority (95-98%) of people who lose any amount of weight gain it back, often plus more, usually within 2-5 years. Just do a search about studies that show the percentage of people who lose weight and gain it back. Endless articles come up about this topic. Or check out the work of  ASDAH (the Association for Size Diversity and Health) and HAES ┬« (Health at Every Size┬«). Read the book Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Lindo Bacon for more detailed information and explanations. There are many factors to consider, and so much damage caused by a focus on weight loss.

When we make choices that aren’t necessarily in alignment with the best interests of our body’s health, we are not “cheating” or “being bad.” We are simply living, being human. Yes, we want to support our health, of course – but there’s so much more going on than just physiology and biological processes. Human beings are incredibly complex – and there are all kinds of factors that play into health and wellness and well-being. We must take into account a myriad of other factors – personal and social history, support systems, financial/economic security, food deprivation (voluntary and/or involuntary), food availability/security, culture, traumas, mental/emotional/psychological health, balance and well-being, happiness, quality of life, family, work schedules, time schedules, obligations, energy levels, and so much more. We can’t just look at a human being and say, “do this” without taking into account all of the factors that influence their actual ability to do that! Or how doing that impacts all of the other areas of their life. We need a holistic approach that considers the entirety of each unique, individual human life.

So, what is the answer? First of all, take “weight loss” and all of its related terms completely off the table. Second, develop a language of inherent respect for every human being and all of these various aspects of their lives. Third, offer flexibility, options, and above all, compassion. It is not easy having to deal with health issues. It’s scary and stressful. It is not easy having to eat differently from your family and friends. It’s depressing and can feel like we’re being excluded from things everyone else gets to enjoy. That’s where flexibility becomes so important. Sometimes, we have a psychological need to be included, to share in what everyone else is getting to do. Can we create a balance between making choices that are beneficial for our bodies and making choices that are beneficial for our mental/emotional health – particularly if the two are at odds? And can we do this in a way that isn’t critical, judgmental, or belittling of our humanity and our needs and desires?

I’d like to share a personal example. One of the clearest memories of my childhood is sitting in a booth at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant with my family on a road trip. I was 10, and although an average sized child, I had decided – with the help of “women’s magazines” and social pressures – that I was “too fat.” So, I sat in the booth, miserable and crying, and secretly starting to hate myself and my life, as everyone else in my family enjoyed a dessert of strawberry shortcake. I was denying myself something that I really wanted because I had condemned my body as being unacceptable. That was the first of many imprints of shame, self-judgment, and even self-hatred. It was a long, painful road that I went down for over 20 years of self-denial, self-negation, and self-inflicted (although also socially inflicted and supported) psychological torment.

Thanks to the size acceptance movement, which later became known as the body liberation movement, fat lib, fat celebration, and other terms, I was able to heal a lot of the damage and trauma from those years. I was able to learn to love and accept my body and myself as I am. I was able to develop a conflict-free relationship with food, which was a joyous head and heart space to be in. Then I got my diabetes diagnosis and was forced back into a more complicated relationship with food. In learning how to best handle my health condition, I was once again exposed to the toxic attitudes about bodies and weight that are prevalent in diet and medical culture. I have not succumbed to the old shame or anything like that, but I have noticed some triggering of old traumas. I have felt stress, anger, frustration, and even despair about … all of it.

I’m fighting now for my own wellness, balance, and peace of mind. When I first started strategies to balance my blood sugar, I went extreme and overboard. Much like the patterns of my younger years when I engaged in a nearly constant stream of weight loss dieting. That was a neural pathway that I knew too well. The challenge I face now is to step off of that pathway and find a new way – one that incorporates necessary information along with my own complex human needs at every level.

I made a BBQ chicken pizza on Naan bread the other night for dinner. I shared a bottle of wine with my friend. Theoretically, those choices were not the “ideal” for my blood sugar levels. But I felt happy and satisfied – and my blood sugar the next morning was actually improved over that of the previous morning, when my food choices had been more in line with the guidelines I’m (mostly) following. I’m still experimenting and trying to figure all of this out, but this I know for sure: I have to keep a perspective of caring as much for my own happiness and emotional health in my life as I do about my physical health. Denying myself my favorite foods messes with my head and emotions – and is never going to work long-term for me, so I continue my search for balance.

I’m trying to find some grace for myself (and others) in the words and terms we use that point us in the direction in which we want to be heading – and also the words and terms we use when there are discrepancies/differences between what is deemed to be the “ideal” versus what is our lived reality, as well as what is beneficial to our entire being. I’ll be talking a lot more about finding balance in some of my upcoming blog posts. Stay tuned!

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.

This May Be Helpful To Know

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 normal to have fluctuations that go up and down for no apparent reason –
have patience, stick with it, watch the overall trend.

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┬á┬« – 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.

Soups, stir-fries, salads – it’s the perfect size (for me) for all of them!

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.

This Time Feels A Little More Challenging

CW/TW: Mental/emotional health issues.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes almost three years ago, I went into complete panic mode. My doctor just said it matter-of-factly, “you have diabetes” – and offered no further information other than I could start on medication to control it. No thank you! I didn’t receive any nutritional counseling (or for that matter, emotional counseling) from him regarding how to handle this diagnosis and my future health potentials. I was left to figure it out on my own.

Like I said before, a friend suggested Dr. Hyman’s book, The Blood Sugar Solution, and I read that carefully and went on his program very strictly. (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). It produced quick and fairly dramatic results with my blood sugar, which I was happy with – but then I was also afraid to stray from that very strict program much at all. I added a little dark chocolate to my daily regimen, but I religiously avoided wheat, corn, dairy, alcoholic beverages, etc. My fear of possible complications from diabetes (blindness, neuropathy, losing a foot, etc.) was enough to keep me in line.

I attended a seminar on diabetes put on through the school system I was working for at the time. I was not impressed at all. As far as I was concerned, they were advocating a diet that would almost guarantee one would have to be on medication. I was sure they weren’t getting the same kind of results I was already getting. I read and studied a variety of books and articles. I didn’t see anything that seemed as effective as what I was already doing – and I was unwilling to take chances with my health/life.

The story of how I slipped from being so strict on my program is here. When I started seeing that I didn’t have to be quite so strict as I’d been being in order to control my blood sugar, I started relaxing and adding back most of the foods that I’d cut out. I even had ice cream once in a while (just a little). I was excited and happy to be able to eat some of my favorite foods that I hadn’t had in over a year and a half. I mostly stayed on my program, but I became less afraid of food again. I stopped thinking of food as an enemy I had to guard against. I measured my blood sugar one and two hours after I ate different foods – and recorded their effect on my glucose levels. I learned which foods I pretty much have to stay away from (cereals and bananas, for example) and which foods I can have in moderation. After a while, I didn’t bother measuring all of the time.

Which brings me to now. I’ve had almost a year of not being super careful about what I’ve been eating. In fact, as the pandemic went on, I got less and less careful. I still ate with some consideration for my blood sugar – however, that doesn’t even approach how careful I’d been before. What I can tell you is that in this past year of eating more “normally” again, I felt so much happier and more relaxed and content with life in general. Even in the midst of a pandemic, being able to eat foods that give me pleasure and comfort was so life-affirming for me – and I was happier than I’d been since my diagnosis. Being able to share meals with the people I was living with, without having to negotiate all of my food restrictions … it’s hard to put into words how that made me feel. More connected, more alive – happier and more grateful to be alive, honestly.

Food matters to me. Like, I take deep pleasure in food. Sometimes, looking forward to something good to eat is the only thing that gets me through the day. I really hate having to be careful about what I eat. It makes me angry and depressed. I was scared and upset to see my blood sugar so high a week ago, so sad to have to be more careful again. I now need to find ways to negotiate my mental/emotional health in relation to this management of my diabetes. I’m no longer afraid enough of the diabetes to stick so strictly to the program that I know works. I also am acknowledging that controlling my blood sugar is a moot point if I’m feeling miserable about my life. And honestly, when I’m super careful about what I eat, I do feel miserable about my life. That’s not good for my health either.

So, this time is a little more challenging. The urgency of fear has de-escalated and my motivational level has dropped, which is not to say that I’m not motivated. I am. I want to control my blood sugar to a reasonable level. As long as I keep it below 110, I’m okay with that. I’d rather have it under 100, but I have to make this livable for me too. I’m going to try to keep my post-prandial (after eating) sugar levels below 180. I definitely don’t want to land myself above 200 like I did the other day! That doesn’t feel good! Again, it’s a process of figuring out where the lines are for me. And there’s this: if a piece of pizza or two is what’s going to get me through this day, then I’m going to eat it. My body can handle it. I’m not planning to do that every day – because I do know that I feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally when my blood sugar is not going up too high.

It’s a delicate balance, I’m finding. I need to eat enough pleasurable foods to keep me happy emotionally … and be careful enough about what I eat to keep my blood sugar at a reasonable level. It’s not that the meals that I eat on program aren’t tasty, satisfying, even delicious sometimes – and a lot of the time, they are what I am craving and I am totally satisfied with them. The problem is that when I’m craving crusty bread and cheese or chicken pot pie or some other favorite, chicken breast and veggies just aren’t going to satisfy. I don’t have to give into my cravings all of the time – I can and do manage to say no to myself often and stick with the foods that won’t raise my blood sugar. But right now, I’m figuring out how often I can indulge myself in culinary pleasures that aren’t on the program. This may not seem like a big deal to most people, I’m not sure – but to a foodie like me, it’s a big deal. I’ll keep you posted how it’s going.

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.

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 saut├ęed 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.