No Sugar Free Ice Cream for Me

I have strong opinions about ice cream. Potentially controversial ones:

  • Chocolate ice cream is the weakest flavor out there.
  • My ratio of ice cream to mix-ins is…gimme ALL the mix-ins. The more chopped-up chunks of goodness, whether it be cookie dough or candy, the better.
  • Ice cream tastes best when it’s a little softened – like, almost to the point of being soft-serve consistency. I used to microwave my ice cream for about 20 seconds when I was a kid before eating it and loved every drop of my ice cream “soup”.

See? I warned you. Those are some triggering statements I just made about my personal ice cream preferences. But one not on that list, that I think most people would happen to agree with me on, is that sugar-free ice cream just ain’t it.

Even my parents’ dog, Clarence, can’t resist a delicious serving of ice cream (of course, he gets the special doggie kind, saving the good stuff for us humans).

“Oooh, Molly, look! They have sugar-free ice cream on the menu, are you going to get some?” One of my truly well-meaning girlfriends asked me this, ever-so innocently, on a recent ice cream outing.

I remember raising my eyebrows incredulously as my eyes scanned the regular list of ice cream compared to the sugar-free options. There were dozens of delectable-sounding regular ice cream flavors: all the traditional ones, plus more exotic ones like cotton candy, blueberry pie, s’mores, German chocolate cake, coffee kahlua cream…and then in direct opposition to that were TWO, yes TWO meagerly sugar-free choices: black raspberry and coffee.

I turned to my friend and, as non-condescendingly as I possibly could say it, told her that those “choices” had to be a joke and that furthermore, sugar-free ice cream just ain’t it for me. If I’m going to eat ice cream (and I’ve consumed LOTS of it this summer, let alone throughout my lifetime), then I’m going for the real stuff – no question about it. So with the air cleared on that particular matter, we both got matching ice creams (the blueberry pie flavor with blueberry and graham cracker swirled in a vanilla cream base) and enjoyed the heck out of them.

Worth every drop of insulin.

A Weekend of Bagels, Pizza, Ice Cream, and…Good Blood Sugar?

Would you believe me if I told you that last weekend, I ate mostly carbs for 36 hours straight and totally avoided high blood sugars the whole time?

I looooove carbs. Almost as much as Oprah Winfrey loves bread.

It sounds wild, but it’s the truth! I went on my annual weekend getaway with my college besties and it was the loveliest time filled with sunshine, conversation, and tons of delicious food. I can’t remember the last time I ate that much in such a short window of time, but it was all worth it, especially because my blood sugars didn’t pay the price for it for once.

Here’s the breakdown of what I ate:

  • Friday:
    • 2 slices of Mediterranean-style pizza and 3 chicken tenders for dinner, the first official meal of the weekend trip
    • 2 glasses of wine
    • Handfuls of crackers and cheese because who doesn’t love that with wine
  • Saturday
    • 1 blueberry bagel accompanied by 1 fried egg for breakfast
    • Salad and heaping scoop of ice cream for lunch
    • Pita chips for a snack
    • Panko-crusted haddock with jasmine rice and veggies for dinner
    • 2 cans of cider (and maybeeeee a glass or two of bubbly)
  • Sunday
    • 1 everything bagel slathered in goat cheese plus 1 fried egg for breakfast
    • 2 slices of leftover pizza for lunch, which is also when I arrived home from the trip

It definitely wasn’t my healthiest, most balanced weekend of eating, but I’m more than okay with that because it was about enjoying my time with my friends and indulging a little rather than stressing the whole time about bolusing and blood sugars. And you know what, I think that my laidback, let’s-just-savor-this approach is partially the reason why I had such stellar weekend blood sugar levels. That, coupled with extended boluses for most of my meals (you know that pizza and bagels contain alllll the slow-acting carbohydrates), really helped me achieve the relaxing weekend that I wanted.

Now if only I could get away with this on a regular basis – as I write this, my blood sugar is coasting from a peak of 248 back into the low 190s after I dared to consume a bagel at lunch in the middle of my busy workweek. But it’s all good, and maybe just evidence that I should try to remember to live in the moment on weekends of fun like this one and prevent diabetes/blood sugar from taking center stage. Perhaps that’s the key to more stable numbers.

If nothing else, this serves as a reminder to me that even with diabetes, I can still enjoy a sh*t ton of carbs every now and then.

My “New” Low Blood Sugar Treatment of Choice

The concept of a “low blood sugar treatment” makes me giggle, because it implies that the glucose (sugar) needed to bring levels back within range is basically medicinal. Sugar? As medicine??? Kind of, sort of, pretty much when it comes to fixing a low.

Over the years, my preferred low treatment has taken many forms. In the early days of my diabetes, it was usually glucose tablets or orange juice. In most of my youth, juice boxes were number one, but as I got older I felt ridiculous carrying those around, so I switched to fruit snacks and kept glucose tablets around as an old reliable. In college, I loved mini boxes of yogurt-covered raisins (they were great for less urgent lows, with roughly 10 grams of carbs in one teensy little portable package). And in my adulthood, I’ve rotated through a mix of all the aforementioned items, but with a brand-new one entering the forefront for me as of late.

And that new one is…Smarties!

One of the many Smarties stashes I’ve got scattered around my home.

Yup, Smarties, the classic candy that just might be the most ideal low blood sugar treatment I’ve used in recent years. There’s solid grounding behind that logic: For starters, Smarties come bundled up in tiny rolls that are easy to slip just about anywhere – a pocket, a glovebox, a nightstand, and the list goes on. Smarties don’t melt and withstand just about any weather condition. They’re also perfectly portioned, with one roll containing 6 grams of carbs so it’s convenient to eat just one for a slightly low blood sugar or 2-3 for more stubborn lows. There are even giant Smarties rolls that are great for when I need a quick blood sugar boost before a workout – I just eat one or two individual giant-size Smarties and I’m good to go. And despite being reminiscent of chalky glucose tabs, they do taste significantly better and I swear they dissolve faster compared to their drugstore counterpart.

All those pros and nary a con for me to nitpick…I think I’ve finally found the best low blood sugar treatment for myself – for now, anyways.

Yes, I Can Eat Cheesecake and Pizza.

Yes, I have diabetes.

Yes, I can eat cheesecake and pizza.

Yes, I can actually eat whatever I want – I just have to know the carbohydrate content of whatever I’m consuming (and being mindful of portion size doesn’t hurt either).

Yes, I’m telling you this because at the time of this writing, that’s actually what I had for lunch this afternoon: homemade pizza and cheesecake. The pizza crust was store-bought, but everything else – from the sauce to the cheesecake crust to the strawberry topping – was made by me and it was damn good.

Funny story: I sent a picture of my cheesecake (shown above) to my coworkers and because I have terrible lighting/I’m not a food blogger, someone thought it was a photo of baked beans and I couldn’t stop laughing.

I guess I’m just taking a moment to 1) congratulate myself on semi-mastering the home-cooked versions of these two foods, but also to 2) reflect on how there’s so much stigma, STILL, on what people with diabetes can/can’t or should/shouldn’t eat. It’s wild to me that there are countless people in our world who misunderstand that a diabetes diagnosis automatically eliminates certain food groups from an individual’s diet.

Let me say it louder for those in the back who can’t hear: People with diabetes can eat whatever they want. Diabetes varies from person to person, and so do dietary preferences – so just because one person with diabetes might follow a strict keto diet, it doesn’t mean that ALL people with diabetes do. It doesn’t make it right or wrong for a person with diabetes to choose or not choose to eat certain things – period, bottom line, end of the story.

And by the way – I took a big old bolus of insulin for aforementioned pizza and insulin and my blood sugar didn’t spike past 188 mg/dL several hours later – score! So I’m also using this blog post to remind myself that it’s okay to eat “treat” foods like this from time to time, and that does not make me a bad diabetic.

When Diabetes Disrupts Dinnertime

I collapsed onto my dining room chair, grappling with a dinnertime dilemma as my hands shook from a swiftly dropping blood sugar:

Do I correct the low now with something sweet, and wait to eat my dinner awhile, or do I wolf down my meal and stay seated until my blood sugar stabilizes?

Both options come with their own set of pros and cons. In the first scenario, I’d be eating dessert before dinner – nothing totally groundbreaking, but not overly appealing and requiring me to account for the sweet’s extra carbs in my dinnertime bolus. But at least I wouldn’t deal with low symptoms all throughout my meal. In the second scenario, I wouldn’t be enjoying my food at all; instead, I’d hoover it down like a human vacuum and keep all my fingers and toes crossed that the complex carbohydrates would kick in as quickly as possible. On the bright side, I also wouldn’t have to eat or bolus for any extra/unwanted sweets if I went with the inhale-all-the-food choice.

But what both options have in common is that they also completely ruin the dinner experience for me by either delaying the timing of my meal or rushing me through it, neither of which is desirable.

Hey, diabetes…you weren’t invited to the dinner table.

That’s just life with diabetes, though – dealing with a series of undesirable scenarios. In this particular situation, I ended up eating my dinner as quickly as I could and my blood sugar came back up about 20 minutes after I was done with it. I was simultaneously annoyed and relieved. Sure, I didn’t get to enjoy dinner at the pace I wanted, but at least my blood sugar was back to normal. And I suppose it just makes me appreciate all the other meals that I get to eat that aren’t disrupted by diabetes, and those totally exceed the ones that do (thank goodness).

The Daily Drink that My Diabetes Dislikes

I remember my first-ever cup of coffee. I was around 10 years old. I had it at my grandparents’ house, where much of my family was gathered for some sort of holiday or other occasion. Coffee was being served with dessert, and I asked my mother if I could try some – I wanted to know why all the adults in the room were so enamored with the seemingly innocuous brown beverage.

I’d like to say it was love at first sip, but I think it was only after I poured in a hearty amount of cream and 2 or 3 Splenda packets that I felt any affection for coffee. But once I did that? I was a goner. Coffee became a staple for me. I’d get it from Dunkin’ Donuts at the mall whenever I went shopping with friends, pour a cup on the weekends to have at breakfast, and when I was feeling fancy, I’d go to Starbucks and get a couple of pumps of sugar-free syrup to jazz up an otherwise ordinary order.

But whenever I try to add anything like milk, real sugar, syrups, or whipped cream…coffee gets real dicey for me and my diabetes.

Coffee can get real confusing for a person with diabetes.

In other words? I’m at a loss as to how to bolus for things like lattes, mochas, or cappuccinos – let alone any of the crazy, carb-loaded concoctions that you can get at cafes or Starbucks.

As a result of my confusion around coffee drinks and, let’s be real here, my laziness (because I could look up carb counts, but the sugary spike that my blood sugar could experience after having one of these drinks make it not even worth it for me to do research), I tend to drink coffee black. And luckily, I like it that way. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not tempted from time to time – like when the local coffee shop that’s just a half-mile away from my home introduced a winter drink menu with things like an Irish cream latte, eggnog latte, and gingerbread latte on it. I seldom give into the impulse to try those kinds of drinks, but they sounded too good to skip out on.

So rather than have all 3 at once – because I’m not totally reckless like that – I did give the seemingly-lower-carb option a try (the Irish cream latte), while my boyfriend got the eggnog latte. I figured it was the best of both worlds because I could have a fancy drink to myself while also getting to try one of the more sugary options.

And guess what? My blood sugar didn’t spike after I drank it, not even a little bit. I think the secret to my success was being super active all morning long after I got the latte (I was busy running errands and tidying up my home for guests that were coming over later in the day). My insulin intake for the latte, coupled with lots of movement, seemed to prevent any disastrous blood sugars – and I think it also helped that I ordered almond milk in lieu of regular milk to go in the latte. Whatever the actual cause(s), I was just thrilled to learn from this little experiment that I can enjoy specialty coffee drinks after all – probably not all the time, but definitely as an occasional treat, which makes me a happy and well- caffeinated T1D.

Carbs, Christmastime, and a Conundrum

I can’t believe Christmas is just a couple of days away!

It feels like the Christmas season just started, but really, I’ve had visions of sugar plums dancing in my head a whole lot longer than 23 days now.

Not just sugar plums, though. Christmas cookies. Homemade caramel sauce. Spiked hot chocolate. Reese’s trees (and bells, and nutcrackers, and any other shape Reese’s comes in)…

Conundrum: I love baking. I love Christmas cookies. I love tasting Christmas cookies that I’ve baked. As such, the above image of my Irish cream cookies is very tempting to me.

Needless to say, I feel like my sugar consumption is at an all-time high lately, no doubt due in part to the endless array of seasonal treats that seem to be readily available to me. This is partially my fault – I always have a stash of Reese’s in my home, and baking is one of my favorite hobbies (I feel obligated to try my creations before doling them out to friends and family, y’know, for quality assurance purposes). I should know better because I am very aware of the fact that I have little self-control, but said self-control is completely lacking lately.

So my conundrum is: Do I consume all the carbs this Christmastime and just have a “IDGAF” attitude about it? Or do I go ahead and enjoy all the delicious, carbohydrate-laden sweets of the season with minimal guilt?

I think the solution lies somewhere between those two extremes.

I won’t deprive myself of carbs, but I’ll be deliberate in how I go about eating them. I’ll pre-bolus so sugary spikes won’t appear as often in my Dexcom graphs. I’ll look up carb counts when I can. I’ll enjoy things in moderation, eating one treat at a time or sharing with others when I can so my carb intake gets automatically halved. And I won’t stop baking – it’s one of the things that brings me joy in life, so I know better than to cut out that entirely.

Besides, the Christmas season is so fleeting. I should indulge a little here and there and remind myself that it’s not just about the carbs and blood sugar spikes that cookies cause…it’s also about the holiday traditions associated with cookie baking and the memories made when eating them (and all the carbs). That fuzzy feeling makes me feel a whole lot better about my carb conundrum; coupled with my plan on how to approach carb consumption, I’m actually looking forward to eating many more Christmassy confections over the next few days.

An Ode to Reese’s Cups

There is no doubt about it: My favorite candy in the entire world (in fact, one of my favorite foods ever) is the utterly irresistible Reese’s cup.

Something about the combination of smooth, salty peanut butter and sweet milk chocolate speaks to my very soul – or perhaps it’s more accurate to say my taste buds. I know that I’m not the only one who feels so passionately about Reese’s (in any shape or form) – in my immediate circle, it’s the candy of choice of my mom, my boyfriend, several coworkers, and countless of other T1Ds that I know in the community.

Oh Reese’s, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Besides the impeccable taste, what is it about Reese’s that is so appealing to people with diabetes, specifically? I pondered this as I had a conversation with one of my coworkers who does not have T1D. She mused that it could be because of the higher protein/fat content of Reese’s compared to other candies, which could make it easier to bolus for. I found myself agreeing with this notion – Reese’s doesn’t cause major spikes to my blood sugar, unlike Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, or Gummi Bears. The peanut butter in a Reese’s probably causes it to have a lower glycemic index, meaning it takes longer to process in the system. And according to the very little research I’ve done, nutritionists tend to agree that Reese’s are a relatively smart candy choice for those reasons, and in spite of their higher sugar content.

Beyond this, though, I honestly don’t know why so many people with diabetes that I know rank Reese’s as their number one candy. But I do know this: We’re definitely right about it being number one. And I can get behind any excuse to eat more Reese’s – bolusing properly for every one that I have, of course.

So it was with zero shame that when I recently picked up my 90-day supply of insulin from the pharmacy, I also added 3 bags of seasonal Reese’s shapes to my basket…they are absolutely worthy of me using that insulin on in the coming weeks!

How I Managed to Avoid High Blood Sugar on Thanksgiving

2021 marks the most triumphant Thanksgiving celebration of my life.

No, it wasn’t because of the accolades that my tasty apple bourbon pie received (though that was for sure among the highlights of the day). It was because, for the first time in recent memory, I avoided high blood sugar the entire day. I got up to 164 at one point, but that was a brief high point in an otherwise wonderful day of smooth blood sugar sailing.

How the heck did I do it?!

Good blood sugars all Thanksgiving-day-long makes for an extra grateful Molly.

Well, for starters, I did my best to follow the tips I outlined in this blog post. But I figured it would be helpful to describe exactly how I went about following these tips and to explain what did and didn’t work. So here’s the method behind my blood sugar success:

  • I started out my day with a walk and an English muffin for breakfast. The exercise made me feel slightly better about all the calories I’d be consuming later in the day, and the small breakfast kept my appetite satisfied until I sat down for my first real meal of the day. I knew exactly how many carbs were in that English muffin, too, which helped me not only dose for it perfectly but also kept my blood sugar steady in the low 100s right up until mealtime.
  • For my first Thanksgiving meal of the day (yes, that’s right – I was lucky enough to attend two feasts), I kept the portions on my plate small and mostly carb-free. I had a bit of turkey, a scoop of brussels sprouts, carrots, and a few pieces of cubed sweet potato. By my estimation, I had no more than 25 or so carbs on the plate, but I bolused for just under that amount because my CGM was alerting me to an oncoming low.
  • There was only an hour and a half between my first meal and my second, and I knew I was going to load up on carbs for my second meal. So I took my next bolus a few minutes before sitting down for food in order to give my insulin a head start. I loaded up my plate with all the good stuff – more turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, a roll, etc. I calculated that I was consuming at least 60 carbs (though I definitely ate more than that) and chose to wait an hour or two after dinner before taking more insulin because I was drinking wine and didn’t want to run the risk of the alcohol/insulin combo making me go low.
  • After the second meal, I spent the next couple of hours assisting with cleanup and chatting away, eyeballing my CGM every so often to ensure that my blood sugar wasn’t skyrocketing – and feeling very proud when it didn’t!
  • The final food event of the day was dessert at a relative’s house. Even though a few hours had lapsed between then and the second meal, I wasn’t as keen as I usually am to hit up the dessert table because there were far too many yummy looking options in front of me. I knew there was no way I could try every single item, so I settled for the two things I wanted the most: a pie of my pie and a cannoli. This time, I was aggressive with my insulin intake, bolusing for about 45 carbs for both desserts (I cut a smaller slice of pie and wound up splitting the cannoli with my boyfriend). I also decided to set a temp basal increase out of fear that my complex carbs from earlier in the day would catch up to me later in the evening.
  • Fortunately, my proactiveness worked like a charm and I actually went a little low by the end of the day! I couldn’t believe how well I finally executed my own advice.

All of that, and I didn’t even have any exercise after dinner or dessert. But I felt 100% in control the entire time because I chose exactly what I wanted to eat, I was familiar with all of the foods, and I didn’t make it a priority to consume as many pieces of pie as I possibly could. It felt awesome and it made me that much more grateful for the fact that I was surrounded by the people I love all day long.

And now that it’s December, I’m especially excited to see repeat success during the holiday gatherings happening throughout the month!

My Top 10 Tips for Managing T1D at Family Gatherings

A version of this blog post originally appeared on Hugging the Cactus on November 23, 2017. I’ve decided to share it again today (with some slight updates) because I felt like I needed a reminder as to what a successful game plan looks like heading into a food-centric holiday! Read on for more…

Holidays that are centered around gratitude and eating…what’s not to love? As much as I enjoy the holidays, though, I can’t quite say that my diabetes feels the same about them. Fortunately, I’ve developed a bit of a game plan as to how to handle diabetes when family feasts come rolling around – here are my top 10 tips for making the most of eating-centric holidays with diabetes!

The only thing missing from this picture is the massive pre-bolus that I’ll likely be taking before sitting down at a major meal.

10) Don’t skip breakfast in the morning. This helps me avoid over-eating when dinner is served later in the day. Breakfast doesn’t have to be a huge thing, maybe just a bowl of oatmeal or a piece of fresh fruit – anything that will sate me for a few hours.

9) Volunteer to prepare a couple of dishes. If I’m going somewhere for the feast, I like to know what my host needs me to bring. If I have creative control over the dish, I prefer to make it something that I know won’t be too hard on my blood sugars, such as a side of veggies or a sugar-free dessert.

8) Familiarize yourself with what’s being served prior to sitting down for the meal. Before my family sits down to eat, I like to know what exactly we’re being served so I can plan accordingly. I can usually get away with strolling around the kitchen to get an idea, but sometimes the chef (my aunts or my mom) kick me out while they finish cooking dinner!

7) Don’t feel pressured to try everything. It all looks and smells so good, but I have to remind myself to use some restraint when piling my plate with food. I’ll add staples like turkey and green beans (both of which are low-carb!) and take smaller portions of the heavy things, such as stuffing and potatoes.

6) If it’s necessary, extend my bolus. This all depends on what my blood sugar is before the meal, but sometimes, I’ll extend it in order to prevent lows or highs post-feast.

5) Check my blood sugar often. I’d rather have an idea of where my blood sugar is headed than leave it to chance and guess incorrectly.

4) Go for a walk or organize another outdoor activity. The weather doesn’t always cooperate with this idea, but I’ve found that dragging my cousins on a 20-minute walk after eating helps my blood sugar and provides us all a chance to hang out while our uncles take control of the TV and our aunts chitchat over cups of coffee.

3) Wait a bit before having seconds or starting on desserts. I try to indulge a bit on the sweets, but I know that it never works out for me if I help myself to desserts too soon after consuming the main course. So I avoid the temptation by staying busy after eating dinner – my mom and aunts always appreciate an extra set of hands to assist with clean up!

2) Look up carb counts if I’m struggling to come up with them on my own. Sometimes, I can’t quite determine how many carbs are in a serving of pumpkin pie – I’ll guess too low and end up high, as a result! But I know that there are tons of carb counting resources at the tip of my fingers, thanks to my smartphone.

1) Remember what the holiday’s all about: being thankful! Enjoy the day and time with loved ones! Whether you’re part of a large family like mine, a small one, or choose to spend the day with friends or a partner, just relish it for what you want it to be.