I had no idea what to write about today, when I looked up and saw a butterfly (it’s the photo on this month’s calendar page). Butterflies represent many different things to many different people and cultures.
I started thinking about renewal and second chances. Butterflies start out as caterpillars, which aren’t all that beautiful (although, some people think they are pretty cute). After they emerge from the cocoon, butterflies are pretty stunning. They get to start over, so to speak.
So in terms of diabetes, and with a new year approaching, it’s time to think about ways we can refresh or renew. Can we make a stronger effort with blood glucose monitoring or exercise? Can we make different food choices? Maybe we’ve already made some great changes and we simply need to keep them up!
Maybe there are other areas in our lives where we need a fresh start. And if anything is stressing us out (or calling for change), that can certainly affect our lifestyle habits, which affects our diabetes.
So let’s be butterflies in 2014.
This post is inspired by a comment from Kathy. I used to work on a hospital unit, and I remember lots of food being given as gifts to the nurses and other health professionals. The nurses station and break room frequently had platters of goodies from well-meaning patients and family members.
It’s hard to resist partaking of these treats when we’re working hard, don’t have time to stop for a real meal, or just feel tempted! In honor of all the amazing people who recognize health (and other) professionals by bringing gifts during the holidays or any time of the year, here is a list of ideas for somewhat healthier edible gifts:
- dark chocolate (in reasonably-sized servings)
- fresh fruit (Harry & David has amazing pears – no joke)
- veggie platter with a healthy dip
- fresh guacamole with crunchy vegetables for dipping
- a huge salad with tons of veggies and a healthy dressing
I realize that some may be thinking, “but it’s the holidays, can’t we just splurge?” Yes, that’s definitely possible. But in some workplaces these food gifts are pretty much continuous and the calories can add up. While healthy “treats” may sound boring or unappetizing, I am willing to bet they’ll get eaten. I haven’t done any official research, but my observation is that when I bring a healthy appetizer or salad to a party…it gets eaten. People really do appreciate the effort – thank you!!
I have worked at many diabetes screening events where people have avoided me. I’m thinking, especially, of the table set up in the grocery store, where people walk in, see my table, avoid eye contact, and walk the other way.
Then again, a few weeks ago I heard some diabetes statistics and was pleasantly surprised that of the total number of people with diabetes, the percent of those who aren’t aware of it has gone from about 33% to about 27%. That means more people are aware.
But what about risk for diabetes? Are people aware of that? The other day I read this article, which says that many people who are at risk for diabetes don’t know it. Either they aren’t being told, or they aren’t listening (which is certainly not the same as not caring). Regardless, it’s important to know our risks and what we can do about them. Among other risk factors, people who carry extra weight and people who do not participate in physical activity are at risk for diabetes. Getting active and losing weight can help lower that risk.
Just like we don’t enjoy looking at our bank account when we know there’s not much in there, it’s no fun to find out about health risks. But knowledge is power and by knowing we can learn about changes that can improve our long-term health. And small changes count, so we don’t have to be intimidated. Information could save a life.
I know firsthand how easy it is to make excuses for eating more when I’m exercising. I walk three days a week and take an intensive exercise class three days a week. For the first year after joining the class, I definitely had a mindset of “I can eat that; I exercise more now.” But it didn’t pay off.
At two health-related appointments last spring I discovered that my weight was up, and I doubt it was from muscle. Yes, I’ve gotten a little toned and yes I’m a little stronger, but no, not enough to make that much of a difference in my weight. I decided to make some changes to my eating habits.
I just read an article about weight gain over the holidays. (Lots of great tidbits in the article!) We are now in the holiday season, and having just finished Thanksgiving (and almost all the leftovers), I can relate! I am still exercising, but there is a lot of food around, and it’s easy to let those portions creep back up and less healthy choices creep back in.
My approach is to still use moderation: if I decide to have a piece of pie, I have a “sliver,” and if I choose to have some of the carbohydrate foods that I have been staying away from, I just have a little bit. I don’t get worked up about it. I have also figured out some ways to eat vegetables in place of carbs – for instance with appetizers. Instead of crackers or chips, I eat veggies.
There is no doubt in my mind that exercise is key to long-term health and just feeling good in general. If nothing else, continuing to exercise through the holiday season is worth the effort.
When we think about keeping teens with diabetes safe, we may think about preventing low blood glucose or making sure they have supplies with them at all times. We want to be sure they are taking insulin when they need it and checking blood glucose levels. Have they changed their pump infusion set? Do they have unexpired ketone strips and glucagon kit readily available?
But how often do we think about preconception counseling? What if they’re not even sexually active? Denise Charron-Prochownik has been studying teens with diabetes and preconception counseling for a while. She and her colleagues conducted a study with over one hundred teens who have diabetes. Results showed that with a self-administered preconception counseling program, girls with diabetes are more knowledgeable and more willing to discuss reproductive health with health care professionals.
The researchers gave the following quote: ”READY-Girls appeared to have long-term sustaining effects on preconception counseling knowledge, beliefs, and intentions to initiate discussion with health care providers that could improve reproductive health behaviors and outcomes.”
You may be hearing the word “mindful” lately. There is research going on around becoming more aware (mindful) and the impact of doing so on our stress levels and our eating habits. Sounds good to me, especially since stress and eating can lead to higher blood glucose levels, which can lead to serious health problems.
An article about mindful eating caught my eye because it said this practice is more about how we eat than what we eat. My platform these days is all about the importance of attitude. I think our attitude is more important than the food we put in our mouths. If we are eating salad and really angry about it, how does that help our health? Seems to me that being angry about food just creates more stress, which can lead to high blood glucose and things like heart disease.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Mindful eating is simply listening to your body and being in tune with hunger, fullness, satiety and the other cues it gives you. This involves a few tactics:
- Eating away from distractions such as television, the computer or the car
- Being aware of your hunger and fullness cues, and using them to decide when to begin and end your meals, instead of following a schedule, set amount to eat or diet plan
- Choosing food that is pleasing and nourishing, and using your senses to pick and enjoy
- Slowing down the pace of your eating, taking breaks between bites, chewing slowly and assessing your fullness along the way
- Becoming aware of the reasons you eat—boredom, sadness or anything that isn’t mindful
- Meditating on, or practicing, experiencing food with all your senses and listening to your body
And here’s an article about mindful eating and weight loss. There’s even a Center for Mindful Eating in New Hampshire (and probably other places too). How awesome!
From personal experience I know that mindful eating works. Just like everything else in life, it’s a matter of putting it into practice and sticking with it. Tomorrow I’m going to use some mindfulness techniques during the carb fest that is Thanksgiving dinner. We’ll see how it goes! Happy Thanksgiving!
Blood glucose meters can be like security blankets – we tend to get pretty attached. (I’ve written about this before.) Every year there are reports on all the blood glucose meters available, their features, accuracy, and so on. Here’s the latest one from Consumer Reports.
So how do we possibly decide which meter is best? There are some features that really make a difference for people. For instance, some of us need larger numbers/letters on the display, others need a talking meter. Some people want the shortest possible time involved, or the smallest possible drop of blood. For others it’s the actual size of the meter that matters most.
Personally, I’m driven by cost. My insurance wants me to use one particular meter over another, so in order to get the strips for the cheapest price, that’s the one I use. Some health insurance plans allow a choice, others don’t (for the lowest price, that is). Luckily, most meters work about the same. Most no longer have to be coded. As far as accuracy and ability to find and follow trends, consistent use of one meter tends to be best, but it’s also good to know that there are groups of people advocating for better controls for blood glucose monitoring strips.
It’s probably a good idea to take a look at these reports each year and figure out if we are still using the best (and most cost-effective) meter. And very important: if you have health insurance, be sure to find out how to get your strips for the best price. I often hear about people who buy their strips out of pocket, not realizing that it’s a prescription (or durable medical – depending on coverage) item and would be covered.
I don’t think about a cure for diabetes. I honestly don’t. I live my life every day, work hard to take care of my body, work hard to raise good and successful kids, work hard in my job(s), and sometimes clean the house. I don’t think about a cure, because I’m just too busy living well with diabetes.
However, lots of people do think about a cure, and I have great appreciation for the people who think about and work on a cure. I’ve said before that I have no doubt there will be a cure someday. I also believe there will be a prevention before there’s a cure. But I don’t know that either will happen in my lifetime. The cure has been “five years away” for the 38 years that I’ve had diabetes. Hearing those words can elicit great excitement and anticipation and hope. But when it doesn’t come to fruition, they can also lead to great disappointment and discouragement. This is why I just don’t dwell on it.
I watched (and highly recommend) the trailer for a documentary that is currently being developed about the “race for the cure.” It got me choked up. I hope this film is a huge success, and more important, I hope the research groups find huge success. This is exciting stuff.
While I do believe it’s important for some people to focus on cure research and cure fundraising, I think it’s just as important for others to focus on living well today – with what we have. So I will continue to be and do the latter. And sometimes I will be inspired by a movement that stirs me to raise my voice. And the rest of the time I will work hard to help people with diabetes live well right now.
Despite using the ‘s-word’ (should), an article I read recently caught my eye because it has what I think is an important message. In fact, this is one of the messages that I emphasize in my book. For a very long time people with diabetes were made to feel different (and many still are), and because society is very slow to catch on to new ideas (well, sometimes), the idea that food messages are the same for people with and without diabetes has had a hard time sticking.
What we know about food in 2013 is good information and provides healthy guidelines for everyone. Trans fatty acids (from processed foods), and excess saturated fats, sodium, carbohydrate and protein are hard on our bodies. In other words: everything in moderation except vegetables! In addition, quitting smoking can save blood vessels and exercise is beneficial overall. Most important, a positive attitude about what we eat and how we live can help us live happier, longer lives.
Ok, there is one difference. While the message about food is the same for those with or without, eating and drinking involves more thinking for people with diabetes. And maybe a little more math. And that’s why people with diabetes are so darn smart.
Posted in about diabetes, diabetes and food, diabetes books, diabetes care, diabetes guidelines, diabetes news, diabetes research
Tagged diabetes, diabetes books, food, food advice, nutrition
I have more to report from the presentations I heard last week! There was a dentist on a panel of health professionals, and when asked to explain the best way to brush teeth he answered: “It’s more important how long you brush than how you brush.” He did say to ask your dentist/hygienist for tips on how to brush, but his take home message (which, by the way, I not only took home but shared with my husband and kids!) was that the most important thing is to brush for 2 to 4 minutes twice a day. And he strongly recommends using an electric toothbrush – because it has a timer!
He also said it’s important to share with your dentist that you have diabetes, because they can help you with your oral health. Diabetes can contribute to all sorts of problems in the mouth (oral cavity), teeth and gums, and likewise, problems in the mouth can contribute to difficulty managing blood glucose levels. Check out this post for more about diabetes and oral health.