Favorite Things Friday: My SPIBelt

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite things that make life with diabetes a little easier for me.

For most people with diabetes, there’s no such thing as traveling light.

It doesn’t matter if we’re packing for a vacation or taking a brisk afternoon stroll – we’ve got to have a certain amount of supplies on hand in order to be prepared for any number of scenarios that could occur while we’re “away”.

As you can imagine, this can be pretty annoying, especially when it comes to simple matters like leaving the house for 20-30 minutes. It’s not like we can go out empty-handed. We need to stash our purses/backpacks/bags with the appropriate diabetes supplies, and it can get pretty bulky. I used to find it especially cumbersome if I was just trying to go for a walk in the neighborhood and had no choice but to carry a purse with me the entire way, which slowed me down and frustrated me.

Then I got my SPIBelt.

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My Dexcom SPIBelt

This miniature fanny pack changed everything for me! It looks small, but stretches to hold all of my essentials for when I head out on runs or longer walks. I can fit my cell phone, glucose tablets, and OmniPod PDM in the tiny pouch. There’s even enough room leftover for my dog’s treats and poo bags, leaving my arms and hands free to hold his leash when we go on walks together.

Other features of my SPIBelt include a slit in the pouch for earbuds, a secure clip in the back, and adjustable waistband so it can fit snug to the body, no matter how many layers of clothing I’m wearing. And unlike other armbands, pouches, and drawstring bags I’ve used in the past, my SPIBelt is actually comfortable. It stays in one place, so I’m not distracted by constant movement around my waist. I was definitely impressed by it the first time I took it on a run and didn’t have to keep on adjusting it as I moved. It’s much more discreet and doesn’t look quite as “old-school” as fanny packs or other similar bags.

This particular SPIBelt was given to me by Dexcom as a thank you for participating in their G6 ad campaign, but as I’ve come to find out, SPIBelts are widely available online and in stores.

Why I Decided to do a 3-Day Cleanse (and How it Impacted my Blood Sugars)

No carbs. No dairy. No meat. No processed foods. Strictly vegetables, fruits, and shakes for the next three days. 72 hours – I could do it, right?

Last week, I completed a 3-Day Cleanse. My goal was that it would help me feel a little bit refreshed after a couple weeks of nonstop gluttony. I figured it’d help reset my system and make me feel less bloated and tired. I didn’t want to do a typical “cleanse” though, the kind that forces you to stop eating any and all food and stick with juices. That’s why I did this particular program – I would be eating real foods on a regular basis throughout all three days. The bonus was that it would be foods I’m familiar with and are generally low carb, which could only mean good things for my blood sugar.

My routine for all three days would follow this format: Wake up, drink a glass of water, blend a shake together with one serving size of fruit. I’d have a cup of herbal tea one hour after breakfast, and one hour after that, I’d have a fiber-filled drink. Lunch would consist of another shake, one serving of vegetables, one serving of fruit, and one spoonful of hummus. I’d have an afternoon snack of baby carrots and one spoonful of almond butter with another cup of herbal tea an hour after consuming the snack. Dinner would be one last shake, one cup of vegetable broth, and a spinach salad with olive oil and lemon juice drizzled on top. I could have a final cup of herbal tea any time in the evening.

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I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did throughout the program, but those three days taught me a lot about how the things I put into my body impact not just my blood sugar, but my state of mind. Here’s what happened during my cleanse:

  • Day 1 – This day was by far the easiest to complete. Despite dialing back the amounts and types of foods I was consuming, I didn’t feel hungry at all – everything sated me. I was really enjoying watching my Dexcom CGM graph because it barely budged. I stayed right around 90-110 mg/dL for most of the day, probably because I was eating minimal carbs. Fewer carbs means less room for error, and this concept was definitely cemented into my mind by the end of the cleanse. I went to bed with a slight headache at the end of day 1, but a smile on my face. This would be a breeze!
  • Day 2 – My CGM sensor went kaput by mid-morning, and I was PISSED about it. I wanted the ability to continue tracking my blood sugars on this cleanse, and suddenly it was no longer available to me (because oh-so-conveniently, it was my last sensor in stock). Fuming over my CGM situation, I started feeling slight pangs of hunger shortly after having my fiber drink. I ate lunch as soon as I could after that, and spent much of the rest of the afternoon fighting a headache and dreading going home to see – not eat – my mom’s delicious home cooking. On the brighter side of things, my digestion seemed to be improving already and I felt a bit less bloated.
  • Day 3 – I went from “Oh, this cleanse will be a breeze!” to “OMG THESE ARE THE LONGEST THREE DAYS OF MY LIFE GIMME REAL FOOD AGAIN BEFORE I HAVE A MELTDOWN” in less than 48 hours. That’s gotta be a new record. I distracted myself as much as I could from my misery by burying myself in my work, which helped to a degree. But I couldn’t fight the lightheaded sensation that seemed to grip my entire body. I was confused by that – I though only eating real, plant-based foods would eliminate crummy feelings. Maybe I was experiencing a sort of withdrawal as my body got used to this new diet? I can’t confirm that, but I suspect that after a few more days, I likely would’ve felt much better…or hungrier. I’ll leave it to speculation because there is no way I’m doing this again any time soon. But MAN, am I proud of myself for completing the cleanse without cheating, not even once.

So if I felt THAT miserable toward the end of the cleanse, then why am I glad that I did it? Mainly, I’m astonished at how much easier it was to maintain my diabetes and “desirable” blood sugar levels in that three-day time period. Even without my CGM, I was still getting great results. It reinforced something that I already knew: that the body will react accordingly to the quantity and quality of foods that are used to nourish it. It made me realize that perhaps I should toy with cutting down my daily carb intake and upping my veggie/fruit/protein consumption to find out whether that positively impacts my blood sugar in the way that I think it will. This doesn’t mean I’m starting a low-carb or keto diet; rather, I’m simply going to follow a more thoughtful one.

To sum it up, this three-day cleanse/torture act/lesson (whatever you want to call it) helped make my understanding and appreciation of food much stronger, which makes it worth it in my book.

 

Bike Beyond, the Documentary: An Emotional Cinematic Experience

Last summer, a team of 20 international riders embarked on the journey of a lifetime. They spent 10 weeks cycling from New York City to San Francisco – east coast to west coast. As if this feat weren’t incredible enough, this team was comprised of individuals with type 1 diabetes.

This ride was risky enough, but throw diabetes into the mix, and it seemed impossible. Blood sugars would be a constant concern. Diabetes technology could fail. Careful watch of blood sugars could clash with the focus on cycling. Diabetes burnout could affect the riders physically and mentally.

But – spoiler alert – neither fear nor diabetes would prevent these riders from completing their arduous trip.

When Team Bike Beyond officially started their trek last summer, I remember following along as best as I could through various social media channels. I felt connected to the team: not just because of diabetes, but because I personally befriended a couple of the riders a few years ago at one of the College Diabetes Network’s Annual Student Retreats. I attended as a volunteer, and Jesse and Meagan were there as students. It’s funny how quickly friendships can form over the course of five days, but as anyone who’s gone to one of these retreats can tell you, there’s something about being immersed for a few days with a group of people who just get it. So it’s natural that we bonded over our mutually dysfunctional pancreases.

Anyways, as neat as it was to read those updates from Jesse, Meagan, and the team, there’s no way that words could capture what they were actually experiencing out on the road. I think that’s why watching the documentary was so emotionally captivating to me: Within the first few minutes, tears were rolling down my cheeks as the bikers explained the nervous energy they felt in the days leading up to the ride kickoff. In fact, my facial expressions changed so frequently throughout the film that I’m sure it was comical. One moment I’d be beaming, and in the next my jaw would drop open. I’d laugh when the riders were being goofy together on camera, and marvel with them as they took in stunning scenery across the country.

Overall, the documentary was incredibly well done. Victor Garber’s narration was fantastic – smooth and clear without taking attention away from what was happening onscreen – and the visuals were beautiful. I liked how footage from the riders’ GoPro cameras was incorporated so viewers could get an accurate representation of their perspectives from the bikes. It made me appreciate the physical intensity of the ride that much more, because diabetes aside, cycling such a long distance filled with rocky roads and steep inclines is extremely demanding on the body.

My recommendation? Check out the trailer. I included it above. I guarantee it’ll pique your interest and stir your emotions. You’ll want to watch the full documentary, which you can get here. After watching it, I think you’d agree with me that Team Bike Beyond crushed their goals of raising T1D awareness and eliminating stereotypes by completing this journey.

Three Things I Learned about Myself after Running a 5K

I recently ran in my first-ever 5K race. In the weeks leading up to the race, I experienced a variety of emotions – particularly self-doubt – that made me question whether I could really do it. Would my diabetes cooperate the morning of the race? Should I eat a big breakfast before running, or go into the race fasting? How would I handle correcting a low blood sugar while running? What about a high blood sugar? Was I even competent enough to run?

All of my diabetes anxieties aside, I’ve always hated running. HATED it. I played field hockey every fall when I was in high school, and we were required to run a timed mile before the start of each season. I dreaded this mile because I usually wound up finishing the mile last, or close to last – my asthmatic lungs and negative attitude helped ensure that I would give up running halfway through and resort to walking a sluggish, defeated pace.

So like I explained in a recent blog post, making the decision to go through with this 5K wasn’t easy. But I wanted to take on the challenge and prove something to myself.

AND I DID IT!!! I’m pleased to say that I completed the race on a gorgeously sunny Saturday morning along with hundreds of other runners. I was totally proud of myself for accomplishing this goal, especially since I had less than a month to train for it. Plus, I learned a few things about myself after participating in the race:

  1. I should have more faith in my ability to manage my diabetes. I spent so much time dwelling on the “what ifs” (a bad habit of mine) regarding what my diabetes might do during the race that my stomach was doing somersaults as I approached the start line. But as soon as I turned my music up and started running with everyone else, my doubts vanished. And better yet, I was absolutely fine throughout the race. I didn’t eat anything beforehand and went into it with a blood sugar of 142, and I stayed pretty steady for most of the 3.1 miles (I did start to spike soon after crossing the finish line, but I’m certain that was because of the adrenaline). I simply did what I’d been doing during my past month of training, and my experimentation with fasting vs. non-fasting paid off.
  1. I’m a lot more determined than I realized. I’ll admit that there were a few points throughout the race when I wanted to give up. I was breathing hard and my legs were starting to ache, but not once did I stop running and slow down to a walk. I pushed myself to keep going, even though I didn’t want to, and my determination helped me achieve my personal best running time.
  2. I’m ready to train for future races. This experience awakened something in me that wants more challenges. I’m still not in love with running, but I think I am a fan of trying things out of my comfort zone. I want to continue to get faster and stronger so I can try tougher races and physical tests. It’s almost like it’s an outlet for me to tell my T1D that it can’t stop me – that I’m stronger than it no matter how hard it tries to knock me down.

Training for my First 5K

At the start of the year, I told myself, this is your year. You’re going to be in the best shape of your life and finally run a 5K. I’ve never particularly enjoyed running, which is why the challenge of a 5K was more alluring than a different fitness goal. I felt that doing something I practically dreaded would make accomplishing it that much more gratifying.

But just a few short weeks into 2018, I broke a bone in my arm. I was crushed, because the kinds of physical activity I could do suddenly became severely limited. Instead of taking the injury in stride, I spent a long length of time moping over it. My exercise levels decreased and I stopped caring (for a short while, anyways) about my lean and mean pursuits. All I wanted was to heal, and heal swiftly.

Fortunately, I’ve fully recovered from the fracture, and so have my spirits. A renewed vigor took hold of me in April, and I spent many weekday mornings waking up early to complete a variety of workouts. I started to feel stronger and more confident in my athletic ability. So in the second week of May, just a few days after my 25th birthday, I decided the time was right to register for my first 5K.

And so I did, and I’ve devoted time training for it since then. It’s far from easy, but I must admit that each time I successfully complete a run, the feeling of accomplishment and pride that courses through my body makes it all worth it. It’s doubly wonderfully when I’m able to achieve in-range blood sugars before, during, and after each run.

I don’t have a convoluted strategy for stabilizing my blood sugar while running; rather, it seems to work best for me if I simply complete a fasting workout first thing in the morning. This eliminates a few variables affecting my blood sugar, including carbs consumed during a meal or insulin on board. I’ve found that I don’t even need to run a temporary basal or suspend any insulin – my body seems to do well if I’m running my normal basal rate. But with diabetes being a fickle fiend, I’m always prepared for a potential high or low blood sugar to occur on a run. In other words, portable glucose and my PDM are my constant running companions.

Race day is just a few short weeks away, and I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to it. Sure, I’m a little anxious, but I’m choosing to focus on the fact that I’m finally taking on something that tests me – and my diabetes – in all the right ways. I should be proud of that alone, but I must say, I’ll be over the moon when I get to cross that finish line.

Diabetes Connections: Gym Edition

“Are you a diabetic?” Despite the fact that I was wearing earbuds, I heard the question that was undoubtedly being directed toward me.

I glanced to my right and met the gaze of the teenage girl on the treadmill next to me. I smiled, tugging an earbud out, and said, “Yes, I am. My OmniPod gave it away, didn’t it?”

She nodded eagerly. “I have a Medtronic pump, but I know what an OmniPod looks like. When I saw it, I had to say something to you.”

This marked the beginning of what wound up being a thirty minute interaction with Shae, a high school senior with bucketloads of energy and questions for me about life with diabetes. We specifically chatted about college, and I couldn’t resist telling her all about the College Diabetes Network and what a useful tool it was for me during my three and a half years at UMass. The more we spoke, the more it felt like I was looking at a mirror image of myself from seven years ago. She had just finished taking her AP Psych exam and was relieved it was done. Her senior prom was in a few days, and she described how she’d wear her pump while donning her fancy gown. She was excited about college, but a little nervous about the dreaded “Freshman 15” and whether her diabetes would adjust well to college dining halls.

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It’s so funny to think how something as crappy as diabetes can introduce so many amazing people into your life.

I did my best to answer Shae’s rapid-fire questions frankly but reassuringly. As I told her about how much my CGM helped me in college (especially since I was still on multiple daily injection therapy at that time), she exclaimed that I was inspiring her to want to give her CGM another shot (pun unintended – I love spontaneous diabetes humor).

As we parted ways, we both grinned broadly and wished one another well. This is why moments like this – diabetes in the wild – are so great. Diabetes instantly bonds you to a stranger who you might not otherwise ever interact with, and the beauty in that immediate connection is priceless.

On the Road to Recovery

I shared the story of how I broke a bone in my arm last month. I was pretty down in the dumps about it, so I’m particularly pleased to say today that I am 90% healed from the injury!

I know I’m lucky: My healing time was relatively quick. I spent just over four weeks in a cast. Others can spend six or more weeks trapped in layers of medical gauze and tape. I had my cast removed one month and four days after the accident happened, and my orthopedist advised me to wear a brace for another week to ten days as my arm got used to mobility again.

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Naturally, I decked out the brace with stickers. Peep the cactus.

Yes, the broken bone was a total bummer. It slowed me down, messed up my exercise regimen (and my diet), and made me moody. But the experience may have been the kick I needed to get back on track with my overall health and take the best possible care of myself.

So the road to recovery looks promising. Now, I’m just looking forward to getting clearance to hit the boxing gym again and get reacquainted with my fitness.