Planning for Office Potlucks with T1D

Today is my office’s 10th annual holiday potluck! I’m looking forward to sampling a wide variety of dishes prepared by my coworkers. I know that it’ll be a carb heavy feast, though, so I’m going to have to do a little planning in order to prevent my blood sugar from spiraling out of control.

I feel like I consume the amount of carbs that this gingerbread house contains on office potluck days (okay sort of exaggerating but that’s how it FEELS).

Honestly, my strategy for office potlucks is a little similar to what I do on other food-centric holidays: test often, extend boluses as needed, consume everything in moderation, and so forth. But there’s a few additional things I like to take into account when it comes to potlucks:

  1. Request labels for the food. I want to know precisely what’s in front of me. No, I don’t expect or want someone to write down every single ingredient they used to prepare a dish, but I do think it’s not too much to ask for the name of the dish. Labels are everything!
  2. Ask the cook if more explanation is needed. Case in point: At our last potluck, I tried noodle kugel without knowing what was in it. I mean, it’s obvious that NOODLES are a main ingredient, but pasta aside, I had no clue that sugar, cinnamon, and raisins were also used to make it. Needless to say, my blood sugar was sky high after sampling this (delicious) carb bomb, and I think I could’ve mitigated the situation if I’d only spoken up.
  3. Find someone to share the sweet stuff with (or save it for later). Chances are, I can find a coworker who’d gladly split a cookie with me so we save ourselves from the calories and carbs in a whole one. But if I truly can’t resist having a big piece of cake to myself, then there’s no problem in saving it for later – I never know when my next low blood sugar will strike!
  4. Load up on low carb options. Typically, I take as much as I want of the veggies, salads, cheeses, and meats that people contribute to the potluck spread. I know that if I fill up on lower carb items first, then I won’t overdo it as much on the heavier pastas, breads, and cakes.
  5. Be upfront with coworkers. My colleagues are very understanding when it comes to my diabetes, which is awesome in certain situations – like a potluck! But every now and then, I encounter someone who just doesn’t get my diabetes (even if I’ve tried to explain it to them). They’ll insist upon me eating whatever they’re offering to me, and take it personally if I turn them down. So I’ve decided that the best way to cope with this is to be totally honest with my coworkers and tell them why I can’t or don’t want to have what they are offering. So if Edgar* is begging me to try a slice of the chocolate torte he slaved over, I’ll straight-up tell him my reasons for skipping it (whether it’s due to high BG or simply being too full!). There’s a reason it’s said that honesty is the best policy, and this certainly applies in an office setting.

Either way, I look forward to this potluck every year and I won’t let my diabetes prevent me from enjoying it. Here’s to an afternoon filled with food and festivities!

*Edgar isn’t a real coworker. I just made him up for the purpose of this post. But I bet his hypothetical chocolate torte is amazing.

10 Tips for T1Ds Celebrating Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

A holiday that promotes gratitude and eating…what’s not to love? As much as I enjoy Thanksgiving, though, I can’t quite say that my diabetes feels the same about it. Fortunately, I’ve developed a bit of a game plan as to how to handle diabetes when Turkey Day comes rolling around – here are my top 10 tips for making the most of a Thanksgiving feast with diabetes!

A tree of thanks I made many Thanksgivings ago – note my gratitude for Lindt chocolate, specifically.

10) Don’t skip breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. This helps me avoid over-eating when Thanksgiving 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 Thanksgiving 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’m not afraid to check my blood sugar as often as I need to throughout the Thanksgiving feast. 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 at Thanksgiving, 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. I rely on the MyFitnessPal app and the handy Thanksgiving carb chart from Beyond Type 1 to help me come up with complex counts.

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.

Memory Monday: 60-Second Meters

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

…it took blood glucose meters a full 60 seconds to generate a reading?!

A full minute to get a blood glucose reading. That just seems crazy now, considering most meters can deliver a number in a mere 5 seconds. But growing up, it was all that I had to use. I remember being sent down to the school nurse every day in elementary school to test my blood sugar before lunch. I would pace around the nurse’s office as I waited to see my number, making a game out of it. Those 60 seconds felt agonizingly long as they cut into the amount of time I had to eat my lunch. It wasn’t fun.

By the time I reached middle school, I obtained a OneTouch Ultra Mini blood sugar meter, which I coveted. It took only 15 seconds to check my blood sugar, and it came in a rainbow of colors! Over the years, I collected different versions of the mini in pink, blue, and purple. And as time went on, the countdown went from 15 to 5 seconds – so checking blood sugar was quicker and easier than ever before!

I kept one of the UltraMini meters – just in case.

These days, OneTouch meters are still my product of choice. I use the Verio IQ meter and I love how it lights up, allows data input, and tracks patterns. It serves as a reminder of the progress that’s been made in meter technology alone in the last 20 years!

What’s your blood glucose meter of choice? Why?


French Fries are Evil

Last week, my mom and I both rediscovered the reason why we usually order side salads with burgers or sandwiches served in restaurants: french fries. They’re tasty, carb-y, salt bombs that wreak havoc on our blood sugar. We’re both convinced that our indulgence in fries at dinner was responsible for the dramatic spikes, followed by sharp plummets, that interrupted our sleep overnight and made us understandably grumpy the following morning.

Here’s the timeline of what happened:

6:30 P.M. – Dinnertime. Ordered a chicken pesto sandwich with a side of sweet potato fries. I thought I’d be safe as long as I didn’t eat all of my fries, and if I left behind half of the bun. This certainly helped, but my carb counting was either severely off or the high amount of fat that I consumed threw my blood sugar for a loop.

7:30 P.M. – Blood sugar holding fairly steady around 160 mg/dL. Maybe restraining my carb consumption worked, after all!

9:00 P.M. – Eh, not so much. I’m seeing a diagonal arrow pointing up, indicating that I’m slowly creeping into the 200s. I’m not pleased.

10:13 P.M. – Yep, topping out at about 255 mg/dL. Gross! I take some insulin and wait for it to kick in.

This is as high as my blood sugar got after eating the evil french fries…

11:30 P.M. – I feel relieved, I’ve come down to below 180 mg/dL and I can now go to sleep. I’m not dropping fast and I suspect that, due to the insulin I have left on board, I’ll level out around 130 mg/dL overnight.

5:28 A.M. – Ah, a blissful five and a half hours of sleep before my diabetes said “LOL nope” and woke me up. I’m feeling shaky, so I roll over to check my CGM. Sure enough, I’m below my low limit (which is set at 80). My symptoms match my Dexcom graph, so I pop three glucose tablets into my mouth and plop my head back down on my pillow. I should be okay until I get up in a few hours.

…and this is one of the multiple low points I hit in the wee hours of the morning.

7:00 A.M. – Except nope! My CGM’s alarms and my low symptoms wake me up again. I’m frustrated, because it’s beyond annoying to wake up at the same time I normally do for work on a Sunday morning, and especially since it’s because of my diabetes. I reach for a granola bar that contained 22 grams of carbs (way more than I needed for my correction) and wolf it down. I toss and turn for the next hour. I can’t fall back asleep because it feels like my CGM won’t stop alerting me to what my blood sugar’s doing. It’s almost 8:00 A.M. when I decide to take a small bolus, because I definitely over-corrected for the last low.

9:30 A.M. – I get up for real and start my day. Miraculously, I test my blood sugar and it’s 148 mg/dL. I thought it would be worse but I guess the single unit of insulin I took did its job.

This is a night in the life of a PWD. This is what it’s like to have a chronic illness that doesn’t sleep. This is what it’s like to feel out of control of your own body.

And this is why I think french fries are evil – because they’re fatty, slow-releasing but high carb little jerks.

Why it’s Worth it to Work Out Your Ratios

It’s not easy to figure out the insulin-to-carb ratio and basal rates that work best for you. In fact, it involves commitment, communication with your diabetes care team, and solid carb counting skills. But the work is so, totally worth it, because your blood sugar readings can look like this:

These 12- and 24-hour graphs were the result of me kicking it into high gear with my diabetes management in recent days. I can’t explain how awesome it felt to achieve graphs like this. Yes, I dipped a little lower than I would have preferred a few times, but the main accomplishment here is that I avoided the sticky highs that were frustrating me in the afternoons and in the middle of the night. Just looking at those smooth, nearly straight lines overnight brings a smile to my face.

I’d like to note that I did this WITHOUT making any special changes to my diet. In a single day, I ate fairly high carb for a PWD: around 30 grams of carbs at breakfast, another 30 at lunch, and between 40 and 50 at dinner. And depending on what my blood sugar is before bed, I’ll have another small snack, between 10 and 15 grams of carbs. So I think the main factors at play that lead to these beautiful graphs are 1) I bolused for my meals 10-20 minutes before eating them, 2) I ate the right balance (for me) of carbs, fats, and proteins, and 3) My insulin-to-carb ratios are spot-on at this time.

As long as I continue to put forth the right amount of effort, I think I’ll continue to have graphs like this. Of course, I know I’m going to slip up from time to time – occasions during which meals are a little more difficult to predict, or periods in which I experience higher stress levels – but this is okay. I constantly remind myself that diabetes is not something that can be completely tamed, no matter how hard I try. I accept that mistakes will happen along the way, and the best thing I can do is to learn from them to avoid making the same ones in the future. This acceptance, combined with perseverance and a willingness to always learn more about how my body reacts to certain foods and events, will help me meet my blood sugar goals on a more regular basis, which makes it an incredibly worthwhile pursuit.