Apple-ing Blood Sugars Post-Apple Picking and Pie Baking

I’m gonna forewarn you now – this blog post is gonna have a bushelful amount of puns. If you don’t find that appealing, then it might be fruitful for you to walk away now – I’ll seed you out.

OKAY JUST KIDDING, I actually think I used up all of my good apple puns in that opening paragraph. I can’t think of any evercrisp ones at the moment…

For real, I’m done now (at least for the time being).

So the title of this blog post (and all the ridiculous puns) will indicate to you that I recently went apple picking! And turned some of those apples into yummy pies!

But that’s not all, folks – I did both of those activities, in addition to actually eating slices from those pies, while maintaining excellent blood sugars!!

Pictured above: the brown sugar bourbon apple pie that is the best kind of apple pie I’ve ever had, hands down.

To this day, I still don’t really understand the sorcery that must’ve been at work in order for me to accomplish such a feat. I have a theory when it comes to the apple picking – I was walking all around a large orchard for like an hour, on a quest for the most perfect apples possible – and all that roaming up and down the rows of apple trees kept my blood sugar levels steady, even as I sampled upwards of 10 different types of apples (and I even had to eat an entire apple as I exited the orchard because my blood sugar was, in fact, beginning to dip). So that helps to explain why my blood sugars were so good when I was picking the apples.

But with the baking and eating of the pies…I have no idea how I dodged a high blood sugar. My boyfriend and I made the most decadent apple pies we could think of – one had a peanut butter crumble topping and the other was a brown sugar bourbon apple pie with an ooey gooey caramel sauce. Surely, I thought as we chopped apples, folded ingredients together, and did latticework with our crusts, my blood sugar is gonna suffer when we dig into these pies later tonight.

Much to my utter befuddlement and delight, though, my blood sugar never rose above 150, even after I had two decently portioned slices of pie with caramel sauce generously drizzled over them.

Maybe I nailed the carb counts. Maybe I know my body’s reaction to pies – which I only ever eat at Thanksgiving, normally – better than I thought I did. Who knows, but there’s one thing that’s for sure…

I was happy to my core over my delicious pies and sweet blood sugars!

3 Tips for Maintaining Good Blood Sugars on Vacation

As promised in my last blog post, I’m going to share how I kept my blood sugars (mostly) in range while I was on my trip to California a few weeks ago!

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy; in fact, I had a couple of not-so-fun nights where I was stacking insulin like crazy due to some post-dinner highs. But the vast majority of the time, I was really proud of my diabetes management when I was away. It can be tough to take good care of diabetes when in a new place and thrown off schedule, but it can be done, and these are the three biggest tips that I used that were most helpful to me:

Pro tip – Going on long scenic hikes where you can take in views like the one above AFTER eating a huge breakfast is an amazing way to keep blood sugar in range.
  1. Split meals with travel partner(s). I don’t know about you, but when I’m on vacation, any self-control as well as the idea of eating super healthy/clean goes out the window. I want to indulge when I’m in a new place! I want to try new foods and enjoy them rather than stress over how they might impact my blood sugar levels. So I was thrilled when my partner suggested we split any meals that we ate out at restaurants. We figured this was a smart strategy because most restaurants serve ridiculous portions of food anyways, and this also meant that I could order a carb-heavy item from the menu and automatically split the carb count in half because I was sharing the dish. This worked out so well and I got to eat foods that I normally don’t dare to touch, such as a fisherman’s platter (consisting of 3 different kinds of fried seafood) and garlic french fries (these were beyond incredible).
  2. Stay as active as possible. This is kind of a no-brainer – most vacations that I’ve ever gone on have involved lots of walking in order to sightsee and get from point A to point B. But it’s worth mentioning that getting in any other types of activity in addition to walking can reap benefits on blood sugar. For example, I started off one morning with a 25-minute yoga practice soon after I ate a heavy breakfast and my blood sugar levels were stellar for hours. On the night of the wedding that we flew out there for, I balanced sampling every dessert at the reception with hitting the dance floor, which worked wonders for my blood sugars. And generally speaking, I found that sneaking in at least 15 minutes or so of extra exercise after meals was a great way to keep my blood sugars in check, even if it was just walking around the block for a bit.
  3. Keep a consistent eating schedule. Traveling can make it difficult to maintain a regular meal schedule, but with a little extra effort it can be done. Within hours of landing in California, we made a trip to Target to stock up on a bunch of extra snacks and drinks so that we would always have something within reach, whether my blood sugar was going low or one of us just needed an extra energy boost. We also made sure to take advantage of complimentary breakfast provided by the hotel we stayed at for the first couple of nights – the fact that they stopped serving it at 10 A.M. automatically put us on some type of schedule. And on the day of our friends’ wedding, we ordered pizza and timed it so that we’d have it about an hour before we were due to leave for the ceremony…because as anyone who’s ever been to a wedding before knows, guests sometimes have to wait a looooong time before they’re served food. I didn’t want either of us to have an empty stomach for potentially hours on end, so ordering food before the wedding pulled double-duty as a late lunch and as something that would keep our bellies full until we were served dinner at the reception.

But what made it the easiest to take care of my diabetes while on vacation was the support from my partner, who always put me and my blood sugars first and checked in on me frequently (but without being overbearing). That alone goes a long way in making diabetes management a breeze when my normal routine is disrupted, but when combined with all the tips above, it’s practically like taking a vacation from diabetes itself.

How Time Travel Affected My Blood Sugar

This was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on May 25, 2018. I decided to share it again today because in light of my travels last week and this week, I thought it’d be fun to revisit how my blood sugar was impacted by a long flight. Read on to learn more about my last long flight experience…

I traveled through time last week.

No, I didn’t use a magical device or step through a portal. It’s much more boring than that: I flew across the country, east coast to west coast, to spend a few days in Las Vegas.

Okay, there’s no way in hell that I could justifiably describe my Vegas trip as BORING.

But my point here is that flying through a couple different time zones is totally trippy. And, of course, it impacted my blood sugar. Because why wouldn’t diabetes just cooperatively come along for the ride?

Travelbetes is guaranteed to keep me on my toes.

I knew I should anticipate some sort of blood sugar swings going to and from my destination, I just wasn’t sure of when and how they’d hit. But I did know that when I landed in Vegas, the first thing I needed to do was adjust the time on my PDM (my insulin pump). Surely, my blood sugar would not react kindly to thinking that it was three hours later than it truly was in my new time zone. My question, though, was when should I do this? On the plane? After we landed? Should I adjust it slowly, in one-hour increments? Or should I dial it back entirely in one go?

Normally, I would’ve asked my endocrinologist what to do – but I forgot to bring it up during my last appointment with her a few weeks ago. So naturally, I asked the next best source: the Diabetes Online Community (DOC).

The answers I received were varied; nevertheless, I appreciated the immediate replies. I decided to quit stressing about it so much and focus on getting to the actual destination, vowing to keep an eye on my blood sugar for any suspicious trends while on the flight.

Five and a half long hours later, my travel companions and I arrived at our hotel. While in line for check in, I fixed the time on my pump and glanced at my CGM (which I didn’t bother adjusting, since none of the settings on it or my meter were dependent on time). I was steady at 97 mg/dL…not too shabby at all. And I’m pleased to say that I maintained that decent graph for the next day or so. I was nonplussed by the phenomenon, but I couldn’t complain about it.

The next few days are a different story, due to some “lifestyle choices” I made while in Vegas (c’mon, you know all I mean by that is eating junk food and imbibing alcohol). But that’s a tale for another post, coming soon.

This one’s about time travel, and while I had no issues flying TO Vegas, I did encounter trouble flying home FROM Vegas. My friends and I chose to a red-eye flight, which I don’t regret per se, but I’d never done one before and didn’t realize how much trouble I’d have falling asleep on the plane. It was disorienting enough leaving one place at 9 P.M. to arrive in another at 5 A.M., but add a freezing cold aircraft, turbulence, and an unsettled stomach to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. As I tossed and turned in my seat, violently shivering a few times, my blood sugar was very slowly, incrementally, rising. I didn’t realize how much until we landed and drove home, where I had to bolus for an out-of-the-blue 308 mg/dL. I was so bloody tired, yet sleep evaded me further as I anxiously waited for my blood sugar to budge – which it did, but not for several, agonizingly long hours.

It definitely didn’t help matters that I wasn’t eating regularly; at the time of our arrival home, I hadn’t eaten real food in about 36 hours due to nausea that wouldn’t seem to leave me alone. I’d muscled down toast and a couple of granola bars, but not much else. I’d like to think that my entire body was just rebelling against me for spending the weekend eating too much pizza, staying up too late, and drinking a little too much whiskey, because that train of thought at least helps me make sense of my lack of appetite and recurring high blood sugars.

I’ve been back on the east coast for a couple days now, and I’m relieved to report that things have settled down. I’m eating regular meals (and I actually feel hungry for them), and besides a few flukes in my CGM graph, my blood sugars are mostly back to normal. I wish I could say that there was some big takeaway from this all: that I know exactly what to do next time I travel through time zones, or that I know just what to do to prevent it. But that’d be silly, because with diabetes, there are just too many variables. At least I CAN say that I know to take it in stride next time, to roll with the punches. Monitor my blood sugar like a hawk, correct as often as needed, eat normal meals as much as possible, and drink plenty of WATER. In any case, isn’t that what diabetes is all about…

…regardless of time travel and/or sorcery?

The 1 A.M. Cupcake

Zzzzz…huh? What’s that? I was sleeping so deeply…

Oh, I’m low.

Dazed, I roll out of bed and suddenly become aware of how hot I am. Beads of sweat are rolling down my back, making my pajamas stick to my skin. I look at the number on my Dexcom – there isn’t one.

It just says LOW.

I grow more alert and turn to my test kit to do a fingerstick check and verify my Dexcom reading. My meter says that I’m 44.

And suddenly, I’m feeling that low. I need sugar, stat. I could open the bottle of glucose tabs conveniently perched on my nightstand, chew 5 or 6, and then get settled into bed and fall back asleep relatively quickly. But the desire to get downstairs and eat the contents of my kitchen strikes, even though it’s 1 A.M. and eating too much at this time of night wouldn’t be good for either my blood sugar or my sleep hygiene.

Ignoring my more rational side (as well as my glucose tabs), I grab my phone, my meter, my PDM, and my bathrobe and stumble down the stairs in the dark. I turn on the ceiling fan in my living room in a desperate attempt to cool down faster before I walk into the kitchen.

My eyes fall on a cupcake sitting innocently on the counter.

This isn’t a picture from this particular incident – nobody wants to see me when I’m this low – but this is one of the cupcakes that I’d made. Violet always wants me to share.

I don’t think twice – I tear the wrapper off and three bites later, it’s gone.

I collapse on the couch, directly under my ceiling fan. I am a sweaty mess. This low is hitting me hard. I put the TV on in a futile attempt to distract myself while I wait for the cupcake to kick in, but instead of paying attention to what’s on the screen, all I can feel is gross for choosing to eat a damn cupcake at 1 in the morning instead of doing the “right” thing and treating my low from the comfort of my bed with glucose tabs.

20 minutes later, I start to feel chilly. I’m no longer perspiring and I feel all of my low symptoms subside. I’m better, so it’s time to head back upstairs and try to fall back asleep.

I toss and turn for a bit, cursing diabetes and its middle-of-the-night low blood sugar curveballs, and the stupid 1 A.M. cupcake that my diabetes somehow convinced me to eat to treat a low instead of waiting to have it at a time that I could actually enjoy it.

Diabetes strikes again, I think as I drift back to sleep.

Highs Won’t Ruin My Happy

High blood sugar isn’t fun.

When I experience it for prolonged periods of time (say, 2+ hours), I’m far from a happy camper. I anxiously check my Dexcom every 5 minutes until I see my blood sugar start to come back down to range. I gulp down glass after glass of water. I stack insulin (only sometimes). And I will even march or dance around in place as a means of getting my number to come down faster.

Needless to say, my mood tends to be pretty foul when I have a high blood sugar…

…except on the occasions when I refuse to let it steal my happiness.

One such event recently occurred. I was away for the weekend to attend a wedding that I was so dang excited to go to. I couldn’t wait to get all dolled up and spend some quality time with my partner and his friends. It was the first large event that I was going to since the pandemic began, and I admit there were some nerves despite being fully vaccinated. However, I felt better knowing that 1) everything was taking place outdoors, 2) I was surrounded by other like-minded individuals, and 3) I would still be taking extra precautions (e.g., using copious amounts of hand sanitizer all weekend long) to make sure that I was protecting myself and others, too.

I just wanted to have fun without worrying about the what-ifs…delta or diabetes be damned.

High blood sugar was no match for me and my happiness bubble.

And I just wanted to live in what I’ve since dubbed my “happiness bubble”, otherwise known as my own personal la-la land, in which everything is lovely and safe and none of the world’s many issues can penetrate.

An ignorant and naive place? Yes, for sure, but one that allowed me to embrace everything about the weekend:

It allowed me to enjoy every bit of food and drink all weekend long, even though it caused crazy high blood sugars.

It allowed me to forget about my diabetes for awhile and just soak up the company of others and the (truly beautiful) environment that I was experiencing.

It allowed me to feel bliss that I hadn’t really felt since before the pandemic.

Sure, it’s not sustainable to live this way all the time, and it definitely is not an effective diabetes management tactic. However, it was beyond worth it, just for a weekend, to live in my happiness bubble that high blood sugars or diabetes couldn’t ruin, no matter how hard they tried.

How I Learned the Importance of Carb Counting

This blog post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on April 6, 2018. I’m reposting it today because most people know that carb counting is important to a person with diabetes, but they might not understand exactly why. This post features an example that demonstrates all too well the negative implications associated with neglecting to carb count. Read on to learn how I figured out the importance of carb counting…the hard way…

One recent evening, I was rummaging through the kitchen pantry and noticed a bag of “veggie stix” stashed away, waiting to get opened. The sight of the bag instantly brought back memories of a time I was blatantly irresponsible with my carb counting and insulin dosing…

I learned the hard way that neglecting to count carbs can lead to scary high blood sugars…

…It was my junior year of college. I had plans to meet with a friend for dinner at seven o’clock. While that’s a standard suppertime for many people, it was kind of late for me. So that explains why I decided to treat myself to a snack a couple hours before it was time to go, just to hold me until I had my meal. My snack of choice? A bag of veggie stix just like these were sitting in the kitchen of my on-campus apartment. I thought I’d help myself to a few, believing (naively) that I had enough self control to know when to stop shoveling them down my gullet. That’s right, instead of doing the right thing and counting out a bunch before stowing the bag away, I was blindly consuming handful after handful without dosing for a single stick.

I can’t even use the defense that these veggie stix are strangely addicting – they really are, they taste a little like those potato sticks that used to come in cans – because I knew what I was doing wasn’t good for me. I just didn’t care. I had munched my way through half of the bag when it dawned on me that it would probably be smart to stop myself from eating more. I rolled up the bag, returned to my room, and did some homework until it was time to meet with my gal pal.

Little did I know that my blood sugar was rising to potentially dangerous levels.

I didn’t find out how high I was – over 400 mg/dL – until I reached the sandwich shop and had a plate full of chicken pesto carb-y goodness waiting to be consumed. My face must’ve shown my shock, because my friend asked me if I was alright. I quickly explained to her my mistake, and took an extra large bolus to cover my food and correct my blood sugar. Once that was done, I somehow managed to stop panicking long enough to enjoy the dinner with my friend, even though I couldn’t eat a bite of mine until an hour or so after injecting my insulin.

Although it sucked to go through this, I’m kind of glad that it happened because I learned a major lesson from it: ALWAYS count my carbs. It doesn’t matter if I WANT to be lazy or pretend that my diabetes doesn’t exist, I HAVE to hold myself accountable. It may be mentally draining and a bit of a nuisance, but it’s my own health here. It’s up to me, and me alone, to manage it.

And by the way, I did just help myself to the above bag of veggie stix. I had exactly 24 pieces, which equals exactly 5.4 grams of carbohydrates – a much smaller amount than what I ate that one night five years ago.

My Close Encounter with the Keto Diet

Remember that time that Oprah Winfrey did a Weight Watchers commercial and proclaimed loudly and proudly before the cameras that she loves bread? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the link to the ad with a little doctoring done to it – it is worth a watch.)

Well, I can relate to Ms. Winfrey – except my obsession with carbs extends beyond bread. I love cake, candy, chocolate, pizza, pasta, sushi…and just about every other carbohydrate-laden food that exists. So while I think it’s awesome that many of my peers with T1D choose to follow low or close to no-carb diets, that’s not the kind of thing that works for a girl like me: I’m happy managing my diabetes in tandem with a moderate carb intake. But that’s not to say that I don’t eat lower carb sometimes or that I don’t have an interest in the principles of the keto diet, just because it’s so restrictive.

At least, that’s what I used to think about it.

Would my love of carbs prevent me from trying out aspects of the keto diet?

When my boyfriend decided to go on the keto diet back in May (he’s had experience with it before), I was simultaneously impressed with his dedication to it, but also a little worried. We have dinner together a few times each week and since I wanted to show him that I support him 100%, I knew that I’d have to change up my cooking so it adhered better with the dietary guidelines of keto.

So for the last two months, I’ve had a lot of exposure to the keto diet, and this is what I’ve learned about it:

  • It’s not as restrictive as I thought it would be. I figured that eating strictly keto meant that the only food groups we could eat were meats/proteins, fibrous vegetables, and cheese. That wasn’t 100% true. While we stuck to proteins and vegetables for most dinners, we also had plenty of snacks that kept things fun and interesting. I developed a mild addiction to cheese crisps and chicharrons (otherwise known as pork rinds). I also had a lot of fun trying different keto dessert options out there, including cookies, ice creams, and peanut butter cups (the latter being my absolute favorite).
  • Snacks can get expensive. One of the keto peanut butter cups that we ate cost $10 for a bag of 7. That’s an insane price. When you factor in the cost of other more expensive grocery items, like beef jerky or nuts, things add up quickly, which is definitely a downside to the keto diet.
  • My blood sugars tended to respond well when I ate keto…for the most part, anyways. Eating keto dinners was mostly great for my blood sugar and it stayed relatively steady more often than not. On the occasions it didn’t, it was because I was trying to bolus for the amount of protein or the negligible amount of carbs in the veggies I was consuming at dinner, and I would go low as a result. There’s an art to bolusing on the keto diet, for sure, but since I was half-assing it (really quarter-assing it) and not following it all the time, I never got a grip on how to account for minimal carbs.
  • Keto can inspire creativity in the kitchen. The best thing I made, ate, and loved throughout my experience with the keto diet was cauliflower crust pizza. I found the best recipe for it that was so easy to make and yielded delicious results. I always assumed that cauliflower pizza crust would be too difficult to make or not satisfying in the same way that pizza is, but that isn’t accurate at all. I grew to appreciate the challenge that keto presented me to come up with new things to eat that were tasty and filling, which I didn’t expect but liked.

Trying to Outwalk a Low Blood Sugar

I was a mile into my regular morning walk when the beeps started.

Dammit.

The beeps were coming from my Dexcom app on my phone and they were alerting me to a low blood sugar. Rather than correcting the low, though, or even opening up the app to dismiss the alarm, I just kept walking.

Outwalk the low blood sugar, Molly.

Outwalking a low blood sugar is easier said than done.

I really couldn’t understand why my blood sugar was low in the first place considering that I had no food in my system or insulin on board (other than my standard basal rate). Fasting workouts tend to virtually guarantee stable blood sugars for me, which is wonderful because otherwise exercise tends to make me crash. But what was different about this morning? I was utterly befuddled. My Dexcom alarm chimed a second time.

Outwalk the low blood sugar, Molly.

Even more confusing was my complete and utter determination to not treat the low blood sugar until I got home. I had glucose tablets on me, so it’s not like it was a matter of lacking a treatment. Rather, I think I was more focused on maintaining my fasted state for as long as possible, since I almost always do an exercise circuit (weight lifting, cardio training, HIIT intervals, etc.) when I return home from my morning walks. My low alarm rang a third time, just as loudly as it had before.

Outwalk the low blood sugar. You’re only 15 minutes from home.

I was deaf to my Dexcom’s persistent alarms for the next 15 minutes as I somewhat floundered down the road home, letting my impatient puppy tug me along. It’s almost like she knew that I was low and was trying to hurry me home, and I was 100% okay with that because my brain was starting to get fuzzy.

Outwalk the low blood sugar…

At long last, nearly half an hour after my first low alarm sounded, I was crossing the threshold of my front door and fishing my phone from my bag. I tapped through my notifications and cleared the low alert, noting that I was 66 mg/dL and definitely needed to eat something before continuing on with my morning routine. I sighed, set my sight on the kitchen (where a low blood sugar food stash awaited me), and resigned myself to the fact that I couldn’t outwalk the low blood sugar this time.

T1D and “Inspired” Food Choices

There’s no doubt that T1D directly affects my relationship with food.

Sometimes, I eat whatever I want with zero guilt. Other times, I painstakingly count not just the carbs, but every single macro of any morsel that meets my mouth. And more often than not, I fall somewhere between those two extremes.

But no matter what, my relationship with food is exhausting and probably one of the most inconsistent relationships I’ve ever had in my entire life.

It’s also a relationship that causes me to make what I’m calling “inspired” food choices.

Diabetes certainly impacts my food choices…especially when it comes to blood-sugar spikers like pizza, pasta, waffles, cake, and more.

Choices like eating dessert before dinner because my blood sugar is low.

Choices like only eating low- or no-carb foods because my blood sugar is high.

Choices like timing my meals down to the minute because I know that my body functions best when I eat regularly.

Choices like keeping snacks in my purse, my overnight bags, my car, and miscellaneous other locations because I never know when I might need food on the fly.

Choices like restricting my eating because a low blood sugar made me binge on food one day, and the guilt carried over to the next day.

Maybe “inspired” isn’t the right word to describe my food choices here. There’s so many more that could apply: weird, strategic, healthy, unhealthy…the list is limitless.

Just like the number of “inspired” food choices that my diabetes triggers.

Good, bad, and everything in between, though, the first step in making changes to my relationship with food is acknowledging the flaws in it. While I admit that I’m not sure what the next step is, I do know that I’m feeling determined to finally establish a guilt-free relationship with food.

Diabetes already takes too much from me…I refuse to let it continue to make my relationship with food negative.

Reflecting on my Experience with Metformin

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post series about my experience with Metformin. As I was paging through my blog, looking for either an old post to republish or inspiration for a new post to write, I came across that series and got to thinking about how I felt on Metformin.

If you aren’t familiar with what Metformin is, it’s an oral medication that’s typically used to help stabilize blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes. This is where you might be thinking…I (Molly) have type 1 diabetes, so why was I prescribed this medication?

Well, my endocrinologist at the time wanted me to try taking Metformin in tandem with doses of insulin in an attempt to reduce my overall insulin needs. She expressed concerns that my daily insulin intake was high (something I disagree with now, as I think about it a couple of years later), and that she had some general awareness of studies that indicated it might not be good for my future health if I continued using so much insulin each day. (Note: I don’t know what study or studies she was referring to, and this is where I should’ve done more research before just taking her word for it and going on the pill. This is an example of poor patient advocacy on my part.)

I did not enjoy my time on Metformin.

Even though I met her sentiments with skepticism, I trusted this endocrinologist, so I decided to give Metformin the old college try. And I hated it. Hated it! I tried taking it per my doctor’s instructions for two separate spans of time (each lasting a month or so) and made the decision to stop using it because I simply didn’t see that it was making any sort of difference. Actually, it was affecting something, just not my blood sugar levels or insulin intake – it was affecting my anxiety levels. I was afraid that Metformin, coupled with my insulin, would cause me to have low blood sugars all the time. While in reality, I didn’t experience many lows, I was still always paranoid about them and it was an unpleasant thing to have to deal with.

So now, about two years later as I think about these ineffective encounters with Metformin, I realize that I should have done a lot more before even considering taking it. I should’ve asked more questions. I should’ve done more research. I should’ve asked around the diabetes online community to see if anyone had advice for me. I should’ve pushed back more with my doctor to get to the bottom of the reason(s) why she wanted me to take Metformin. Going back to my point above…this was a big lesson in patient advocacy. It’s important to ask questions and gather all the facts, especially in situations like this where there was so much uncertainty, in order to receive the best care possible. And it’s important to remember that even the most trusted and well-liked doctors aren’t always right when it comes to the medical guidance they suggest or give. At the end of the day, I’ve got to keep in mind that nobody knows my body and brain better than I do, so it’s okay to challenge the authority of the experts (in a respectful, kind way of course).