Individuality matters the most

No one size fits all. Clothes that advertise this lie. Healthcare professionals who try to sell you their programs with this idea lie. People who try to convince you to go on their diet and say their diet works for everyone lie. Fact of the matter is, there is always going to be a group of people for whom something isn’t going to work out. Diabetics in particular are a good example of this, regardless of their type.

Some diabetics have very poor control on LCHF (low carb high fat). Some diabetics have the best control they’ve ever had in their entire lives on LCHF.

Some diabetics are constantly in a state of hyperglycemia on a plant based, high carb (vegan) diet. Some diabetics have never seen better numbers in 40+ years of being diabetic ever since becoming vegan.

Some diabetics can’t eat ‘regular’ meals consisting of carbs, proteins, fibers and fats because it skyrockets their values. Some diabetics have excellent numbers as long as they take their medication properly for what they eat.

Being involved with the diabetic community I’ve seen all of the above and then some. It’s becoming ever more obvious to me that there is no “One” diet for diabetics, just like there is no “One” treatment in general. It’s also why it becomes so aggravating when people get pushy in sharing their success with their diet and treatment. They’re so glad that they found something that works that they insist it works for all, without taking into consideration that two people can be on the same exact diet, meal after meal, and have wildly varying results. Where one person drops weight like crazy, the other gains. Where one person sees dramatic improvement, the other just gets worse.

I deeply encourage every person to explore their options. Give diets a try, see which lifestyle change works for you. You’ll notice soon enough whether it’s effective for you or not. But please, pretty please, be considerate of those who have something that works for them. I can’t even begin to express my frustrations with people carelessly pushing their way of life onto me without knowing anything about my history or situation. Yes, I am very happy that it works for you. Genuinely, I am, because diabetes is a bitch and struggling for years with a diet that makes you feel bad is not fun. It’s fantastic when you find your holy grail in your diabetes treatment.

Just accept that it is probably different from that of others. Don’t lecture unless someone asks you to share information. Don’t try to guilt-trip them into it by saying ‘But don’t you want to live long and healthily?!’. That’s very disrespectful and dismissive of the nature of this disease. I’ve only been diabetic since 2014, and on insulin for 4 months now, but I’ve already heard most of it and I’m already exhausted from other people trying to meddle in my affairs.

I know my body. I know what happens when I eat x food. I know what my wallet allows me to buy. I know what foods upset my IBS and give me unbearable cramps. A stranger on the internet can’t ever possibly know enough about my body and my life to give me adequate advice. If advice is asked for, it should be suggestive and encouraging, not demanding and reprimanding.

Be kind to each other, especially if you’re fellow diabetics. Trust that someone knows themselves well enough to make the right decisions. Give guidance only when asked for because nobody likes it when others stick their noses in your business. Embrace individuality and respect it, because that’s how we can be our best and bring out the best in others.

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Low carb and me

I don’t do low carb. I try to on most days, but it’s not a lifestyle diet I can maintain right now.

I’ve connected with a lot of diabetics around the globe and one ‘helpful piece of advice’ that gets thrown at me all the time is “go low carb!”. Every time I have to politely tell them “That’s not an option for me right now, sorry” and hope that they won’t pester (bully) me into accepting this choice of diet.

Let me break it down in a few simple points.

  1. I am bound to a very tight budget. I have €30-40 a week to buy all the groceries I need, which is more than just food. Cat litter and cat food, toiletries, household items like cleaning supplies and anything else you can imagine that are needed on a weekly basis. It doesn’t get you a whole lot when everything is added up, and there are choices to make. Sometimes the carb rich junk food is cheaper than the fresh plants and proteins that are the better options. Meat isn’t cheap. I don’t eat pork so I’m down to chicken and beef – both expensive meats if you can’t get them on sale. I buy according to whatever is discounted most of the time, and the fresh, healthy alternatives are very often not included (or items that I can’t stomach). Healthy food is expensive where I live. (To illustrate, I can get two cheese or chicken burger that you reheat in the microwave, buns and cheese included, for just a little over €1 a pair. That €1 combo counts as two whole meals to me. Do the math when two pieces of chicken breast cost almost €4.)
  2. My diabetes doesn’t play nice. I caught my type LADA early, and my pancreas throws random insulin parties and I have to bring all the carby snacks because nobody else will. I can’t do without my basal insulin which my values and day curves are testimony to, along with my general sense of feeling healthier, and I can’t do without 40-60 grams of carbs in a meal when my glucose level decides to drop to 3.0 because of my body’s own insulin production. Low carbing is something I strive for on days that my glucose runs high, but as long as I am still riding my (very long) honeymoon wave, it’s not something I can faithfully and consistently pull off. And that should be okay. 

I understand the many benefits of the diet, but we’re all different. Everyone has unique needs and I’m so frustrated that, within a community where ‘individual needs’ are at the front of all treatment and diet methods, this is so easily disregarded when it comes to giving advice about low carbing.

When you have been T1D for 15+ years and your insulin production is zero, then low carbing means lower/less insulin injections are necessary to meet your body’s needs. That just doesn’t work for me. It will one day, but not right now. I am frustrated that my weight problems and dietary choices are somehow turned into a blame game of me not doing something right, when I’m doing the best I possibly can. I can’t inject less insulin and exercise without eating heaps of crackers because of the way my body works. If you’re the kind of person who advocates low carb, that’s alright, but please be considerate of who you advocate to. Understand that my issues happen to others as well.

Be less judgmental and less eager to preach, and take some more time to listen and consider in silence.

Your shoe won’t fit my foot.

I weighed in at 118.3 kgs the other day. It’s a new milestone! I haven’t been this light in years. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve lost 7 kilograms. It may not seem like much, but here’s the thing: I’m going and I’m not stopping, so it doesn’t matter how slow it goes. My weight fluctuates a lot, but there’s a steady downward trend and that’s the most important thing. 🙂 The best pat is I’m not on an actual weight loss diet. There are no obligations, no reprimanding myself for ‘cheating’, no stress over not having lost that pound I set as my goal this week etc. It’s what killed all my previous attempts at losing weight, I’m sure. At some point the weight loss takes over your life and becomes a burden that you cannot carry forever. At some point counting calories is going to take the fun out of enjoying your meals. When you start thinking that frying your food is the worst thing that you can do because it means you MUST do three times as much exercise, you have a problem with your relationship with food. So you stop dieting, you feel like a failure for not being able to stick with it, and you pack on twice as much weight as you lost.

Dieting works for some people, but it just doesn’t for me. It took me so long to realize that small changes in my daily life can be incorporated without obsessing over my weight, and even longer to feel that is absolutely okay. It’s why I gave up on weight loss communities — everyone just tries to one-up one another and makes you feel like shit when there’s yet another thing in your life you can’t seem to get done. People always telling you what you should and shouldn’t do without realizing that everyone is different and their methods may not work for you. Inspire, don’t dictate!

So, yes. I’m doing well! My birth control implant is also working well, my period came but it’s so light I only need to wear pantyliners. My periods used to be crippling with heavy bleeding, cramps that wouldn’t allow me to sit up and extreme fatigue. If I can have periods like this for 3 years, I won’t even mind having periods. Though there’s hope that they’ll go away entirely, too.

I’m still going strong with my bento boxes. Even when I don’t go out, I prepare them. It helps me to prepare nutritious meals and my increased protein intake also makes it easier to have smaller portions for dinner. Ergo, I’m full longer. A bento’s traditional formula is pretty brilliant in that aspect.

What have you been achieving as of late? What’s your latest food craze?

One size doesn’t fit all.

If you look around for apps or devices that help you with your health goals (I really don’t like calling them just ‘fitness’ or ‘weight loss’ goals) you’ll probably feel overwhelmed by the choices presented to you. They can range from $2 pedometers you find at the dollar store, to the $300 FitBit with extensive phone application, to simple and hugely complex fitness and calorie tracking apps.

So what’s the right one for you? One could argue that the more extensive a device or app is, the better. But I think the opposite holds true. I personally believe that if you start simple and it meets your needs, there’s really no reason to dish out a lot of cash or spend most of your time navigating and updating an app.

The only downside is that it doesn't track your steps automatically if you don't have your phone in your pocket.

The only downside is that it doesn’t track your steps automatically if you don’t have your phone in your pocket.

The other day, I was browsing through our version of a dollar store looking for a pedometer I had seen there last year. Unfortunately they were out, but it’s not a huge deal as I looked on the Google Play Store for a pedometer app, and found out that Google had its own called Google Fit. I installed the app and used it out of curiosity, and it’s perfect for what I need. It tracks your steps, it lets you log activity and weight, and it has nifty charts to show you what you accomplished. All without being too complex or adding features I never use anyway. There are little encouraging messages to help you meet your goal (“You’re almost there, just a little more to go”) and when you meet it, you get a congratulatory message with a cute animation. Unlike the FitBit it doesn’t seem to encourage you to do more, which in my case is good to combat my unhealthy obsession tendencies. It seems to set certain values automatically and I can’t ascertain their validity, but I suppose that’s why it’s always a good thing to use these tools as guidelines rather than hard facts, yes?

I used to be an active member of MyFitnessPal, and I do still log in sometimes to update my weight or activity just out of curiosity, but I became so obsessed with counting everything I burned out hardcore. My mental conditions make even doing simple chores hard, and unfortunately MFP was not a good combination with that. It works wonderfully for other people, as I’ve found many success stories there. I do warn ahead about the community however; there are many great people present, but also many opinions on health and biological functions that are spread without scientific basis (which can be incredibly frustrating and misleading). If you’re like me and get caught up in listening to what other people say is healthy, I recommend you stay away from their forums and just focus on blogging about your progress instead! Consult a doctor or dietitian if you’re ever unsure, and get a second opinion if you don’t feel 100% confident with what they say.

One thing all of these apps, devices and sites have in common is the setting of and meeting goals. I have set mine relatively low to 30 minutes a day of activity, whether that is walking (the dog) or riding my stationary bike. I’m not after intense fitness, weight lifting or other exercise routines because my physical health doesn’t really allow it. I have to be careful with my herniated discs and I’m really not interested in exercising through a hypo to end up with a hyper from my diabetes. I used to be almost full-time stationary, so as long as I meet 30 minutes of walking or stationary bike riding 5 days a week, I’m absolutely content! Does that mean I always stop at the 30 minute mark? Absolutely not. If there are days where my back and blood sugar are fine and can take it, I’ll happily go for a 1 hour walk through the forest with my dad and the dog (which has the added bonus of some father-daughter time!).

My point is that if I set my daily goal to a low but reasonable time, I don’t stress myself out and I don’t push myself past my limits and cause harm to my body. I can always exceed it if I can and want to, and to be honest with you, knowing you’re not just meeting your goal but surpassing it feels MUCH more awesome and kickass than just barely meeting a 1 hour goal because you forced yourself when you didn’t feel like it. So far my health has been improving drastically by taking it slow. I can’t be doing that much wrong then, can I?

If you’re working on your health as well, what tools are you using to manage your exercise and diet? Which ones have you tried but not liked?

Don’t forget to breathe

It’s really important to keep doing that! My week has been crazy, and today was a nerve wrecking day like woah. The important thing to know is that things are finally moving again, and it’s going steady with the promise that I won’t be left hanging.

Wednesday I talked to my therapist about a number of things. Primarily about getting a proper schedule back on track for my days and finding ways to incorporate some resting moments during the day. I set up a private blog with password protected entries that she can login to, in which I track my days, what I eat and what my bloodsugar levels are. When I’m really tired or didn’t sleep well, I’ll be trying to rest up shortly after noon instead of later in the afternoon, even if that means I won’t be fully asleep. This will allow me to go to bed at a reasonable time.

This morning I went to group therapy and my counselor took some ‘alone time’ with me to sort through my opened and unopened mail. My financial situation is still shit, but she’s helping me out wonderfully to get a financial administrator setup for me. This person will receive my mail, receive my disability income, pay my bills on my behalf, take care of any forms and other shit that needs to be done and then pay the rest out to me for my groceries and everything else I need. This would be a MASSIVE burden off my shoulders so getting the application out is crucial. Either way, on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being super chill, I was a 90 in terms of anxiety. Opening mail is terrifying. So many angry letters making demands I can’t possibly hope to pay. But she was calm and collected and we made it through. I sorted it by date and we put it into a folder. I still have two pieces left to collect.

My counselor did mention I was very quiet and withdrawn, very different from usual. It amazes me how perceptive she is of people. (Although… it is her job I suppose.) When another girl arrived at group, we were done and I sat down with her in the kitchen to talk about whatever. I felt better afterwards, but it took almost the entire day for my anxiety to go down.

Once I got home around 1:30pm, I got a call from the doctor’s assistant. I had my diabetes checkup earlier this week, got an ECG done (all okay), had to give a urine sample (all okay), and had to have blood drawn for my A1C (all okay) and my cholesterol (not okay!). She told me that the doctor is worried about the rise in my cholesterol, and this worries me too. It’s never been high to worrying heights, mainly just ‘a touch too high on the bad kind, and a touch too low on the good one, but nothing to fret over’. My diet has been altered drastically, I eat way more vegetables, fruits and fibers. Fat is limited to dinners only in terms of cooking oils, and hasn’t changed at all. Logic would assume that my cholesterol has gone down (especially as my oatmeal consumption has blown up, I use it in EVERYTHING). My bloodsugar is under control during the day and on my A1C, which means my diet is working. So why does my cholesterol keep climbing?

I have a suspicion it’s the meds I take to get my sugar under control, which is frustrating. Unfortunately it’s also typical for diabetics. Ugh. I got a prescription for 15 Simvastatine Accord pills to see if I can tolerate them with refills (and if not I can switch to a different kind) and I got another blood test scheduled in six weeks. Let’s hope they work and all my values will be normal by then. ALL of them.

I’m totally exhausted now, so I’m heading off to an early night’s sleep.