September 23, 2007

I'm Sweet on You

Buon giorno. How's it going, Cupcake? Actually, I have to pass on the cupcakes. And the Milky Way bars. And the brownies...

You see, yours truly has Type 2 Diabetes. Don't run away,
you're not going to catch it, especially through a computer screen. They call it a "disease", but it's nothing I caught or can give away. "Condition" is a much better expression.

Here's something ironic: the place I work had a bake sale, proceeds to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Guess what? They weren't selling anything that a diabetic can have!

I'm interested in a couple of things. One is to sort of sound a warning so that other people don't develop this condition. The other is to offer some advice. (And I'm more than willing to receive advice as well!)

Everything in moderation.

"Gosh, Bob, how did you lose twenty pounds in just a few months?"

Intelligent question! First off, losing the tonnage is an important part of managing diabetes. My doctor illustrated it like a building. Your system is putting out energy for a single-level, and I've turned it into a multi-level, and it's not working. Also, the sugar thing is corrosive; that's why they had me go to an eye doctor as one of my first requirements. I've had friends and relatives lose vision, limbs, kidney function and their lives to diabetes. It has to be caught early and controlled before it becomes a hell-on-earth condition.

"Enough of that. Get on with it!"

OK, don't get your panties in a bunch.

They put me on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Diet? Well, sort of. But a "diet" in the common sense is a guaranteed failure. What is needed is a lifestyle change and deliberate choices. I'm supposed to have 45 carbohydrates with each major meal. Those cans of mini-ravioli are poison. Nobody should eat that stuff. A serving is supposed to be half a can, but I have been known to eat an entire can as a side dish. Read the label. One can has about 90 carbs. That puts a dent in your day, doesn't it?

Always read the label! And you can't just read the carbs, you have to add the sugars. "Oh, look, 23 carbs." Yeah, and 25 sugars. That number 48 is something to give you serious second thoughts.

Diabetics have known for years things that other nutritionists are coming around to realize: eat several smaller meals a day, not just three big ones.

After choosing what I want my totals to add up to, I start the day with cereal or oatmeal, milk, my vitamins and medications. To get some protein in there, I put in a scoop of whey protein. On weekends, I take the time to have eggs (wow, almost no carbs or sugars!) and cheese.

My mid-morning snack during the week is one hard-boiled egg and a yogurt (read the label). Mini-meals and snacks are important so the blood glucose level can remain consistent (for everyone, not just diabetics), and so you don't get the munchies so bad that you trash the eating program.

Lately, I've been having a Slim-Fast with a small peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Low-carb bread, sugar-free jelly. Read the labels on you foods.

Some nifty low-carb low-sugar crackers for another snack, and/or a handful of almonds. (Love those almonds, there's fiber in them to offset the carbs.) Beef jerky is fun, too, if your teeth can take it, but the sodium is high, so be careful.

Supper is a basic balanced thing with meat, veggies, potatoes. The basic guideline on portions is the size of your fist, or what will fit in your hand.

Listen, I've found that, after a while, your stomach will adjust. When I've gotten carried away and had extras of something really groovy, I get very uncomfortable later. Slow down, eat a decent portion, and let your system catch up and realize that it's been fed.

Later in the evening, I have problems. More almonds, maybe. Cheese and crackers, but lately, I've been botching the carbs on that. When I mess up, I can adjust for it at the next meal — or even do it if eating anything sizable that day.

It's time for the list again, gang!

  • Read the labels!
  • Never skip meals, your system thinks it's starving and converts the next food to fat. Especially breakfast, it fires up your metabolism for the entire day.
  • Keep track of the carbs for each meal and for the entire day.
  • Don't beat yourself up if you miss it, try harder tomorrow. Or adjust for it later today.
  • Eat consistently, with balanced meals. Don't skip, don't pig.
  • You'll have to read elsewhere for this, but it's true: regular patterns are essential for survival. Regular eating, sleeping and exercise habits are powerful medicine. Not only for diabetes, but other ailments. I've read things on psychology for years, and I guarantee that good diet, exercise and sleep habits will straighten out many of your psychotic episodes and mood swings.
  • Read the labels!
  • Do research. And check out how fiber will help offset the carb intake.
  • Alternative, healthy snacks are available. A veggie platter with Italian dressing is good eatin'. 
  • Don't whine, realize you have to make lifestyle changes to survive.
  • Read the labels!
There's another vitally important point to be made here: carbohydrates are not your enemy. They are your fuel. But we take in too many of them, and some of us cannot convert them efficiently. More than one nutritionist has told me that the Atkins diet is junk, and even dangerous. Yes, more protein and fewer carbs. But let's not get carried away.

I know this is longer than usual, but it's important. I hope some of you will take proactive action now and develop good habits while you can so this doesn't happen to you. Sure, I miss the candies sometimes. But I've found alternatives to take the sting out of it, or even indulge in moderation.

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