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.

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.

When Carbs Collide with a Bent Cannula, Chaos Ensues

Sushi. Wine. Not one, but two slices (I swear they were slivers, honest) of cake. A pod with a cannula that got bent out of shape accidentally due to clumsiness.

The above sounds like some sort of weird laundry list, but it’s really just all the factors that contributed to a night of high blood sugars and relative sleeplessness.

Let me explain what happened: The night started out fabulously! I got sushi for dinner from a local spot that I was trying for the first time. I was excited about it because sushi is a rare treat for me, and I figured the occasion warranted some wine – my first glass(es) that I’ve had in about 2 months (I gave it up for Lent).

Those two things right there are definitely a “dangerous” duo that can cause carbohydrate calculation errors or prolonged blood sugars, but I tucked that in the back of my mind because I wasn’t done with indulgences for the evening.

I want to say I regret nothing about this carb-o-licious evening, but…

That’s right, I kept up with the carb-loading by enjoying some cake (white chocolate blueberry cake that I made myself that is just as decadent as it sounds) soon after dinner was done. My problem is that I thought I’d curbed the impact of the carbs by setting a temporary basal increase and stacking a small amount of my insulin, but no such luck. I’d destroyed my second piece (it was just a tiny sliver, people) and noticed that I was creeping up. I took more insulin and soon forgot about my high blood sugar as I immersed myself in episode after episode of Impractical Jokers, which, side note: It’s a series I just discovered and it’s hilarious cringe comedy that is the perfect thing to watch after a long day.

A handful of episodes later, it was time for bed. Or so I thought…because soon after I was settled in bed, I twisted around in just the right – or in this case, wrong – manner that was rough enough to loosen my pod from its allegedly secure location on my back. The smell of insulin was pungent and indicated to me immediately that the pod would have to be ripped off completely and replaced. And the sooner, the better, because my blood sugar was getting closer and closer to 300…definitely not a level I want to see before I go to sleep.

By 12:30 A.M., the new pod was on my arm and a temp basal increase was running to combat my lingering high blood sugar. I also gave myself yet another bolus and crossed my fingers, hoping that the combination would be enough to bring my levels down overnight.

At around 2 A.M., my PDM started beeping to let me know that it’d been about 90 minutes since the new pod was activated, so in response I woke up to silence it and glance at my CGM. My blood sugar barely budged! Frustrated, I gave myself more insulin and fell back into a restless sleep.

Several hours later, my alarm was blaring, far sooner than I wanted it to. I hit the snooze button, also taking care to check out my CGM yet again before I made an attempt at 15 more minutes of sleep. And guess what – I was still high. Quite high. Not 300, but in the mid-200s.

It was official: My blood sugar was punishing me for my night of careless carb consumption and reckless pod-handling. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the resulting chaos, but at least I was able to restore peace again the next morning…eventually.

4 Tips on How to Handle T1D, Treats, and Temptation

If you regularly read this blog, then you know that I’m not a strict person with diabetes, in the sense that I don’t really restrict the foods that I include in my diet.

I’ve always been of the mindset that my diabetes can’t dictate what I choose to consume, though it might limit the actual quantity of a given food type that I eat.

So while my fridge and freezer is almost always stocked with fresh and frozen fruits/veggies/proteins, my pantry often stores more shelf-stable (and usually less healthy) things like crackers, cookies, and even candy. In fact, a full week post-Easter, my cabinets contain 3 bags of jellybeans, a chocolate bunny, and several Reese’s eggs. And it’s very tempting to reach into the cupboards and help myself to as much sugary sweetness as I can stomach in one sitting – screw my diabetes/blood sugar, I’ve got delectable confections to consume!

I don’t even like jelly beans very much, but that doesn’t mean that I doubt my ability to crush this bag in one sitting…

But of course, I know that indulging my cravings will only wreak havoc on my blood sugar levels, so I’ve found a few ways to curb temptation but still keep tasty treats in my home. Here’s 4 things that have worked for me:

  1. Only eat these treats when my blood sugar is low. I call this “medically necessary” candy consumption, and let me tell you, it makes low blood sugars a whole lot more tolerable when they’re treated with something that’s more fun and yummier than chalky glucose tablets or juice boxes.
  2. Keep them out of sight. I do my best to shove bags of treats in the very back of my top cabinets. That way, if I’m tempted to dig into them, I remember that I won’t be able to reach them unless I get a chair and rummage through the contents of the top shelves…and usually, that’s enough to take away my desire to snack on something sugary. I’m not saying it always happens, but laziness will typically beat my sweet tooth.
  3. Pre-portion single servings of treats. I have a real problem with snacks that come in bottomless bags – it’s hard to know when to stop and my blood sugar always suffers the consequences. So I like to study the serving size on bags and use it as a guide to portion out single servings of treats. It’s much easier to bolus for whatever it may be (or treat a low blood sugar as described in tip #1) when I know the exact carbohydrate count; after all, a few handfuls of an unknown number of Skittles have far more carbs than a single serving of 15 Skittles.
  4. Be picky about the types of treats kept in the house. My kryptonite is most definitely Reese’s cups…I love the salty/sweet combination of peanut butter and chocolate almost as much as I love my dog. So I recognized that a bad habit was forming when I kept a little bowl out in my living room filled to the brim with mini cups. I was breaking every single one of the above rules with this practice! After I realized this, I put the bowl away and stopped buying Reese’s every time I went to the grocery store. I still have other things around the house that will satisfy my sweet tooth (before Easter, I bought a package of dark chocolate Oreos that I’ve easily kept around for the last 6 weeks because they don’t tempt me in the same way that Reese’s cups do), so I’m really not depriving myself at all.

Temptation can be tricky to navigate when you have T1Ds and love sugary treats as much as I do…but as long as you can come up with ways to cope with temptation like I did, then you don’t have to feel guilty for giving in to your cravings every now and then. I sure don’t!

Luck O’ the Irish Diabetic

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

Last week, it occurred to me that in more than 3 years of running this blog, I’ve never written anything about St. Paddy’s Day here…so I sought out to rectify that immediately; hence, today’s blog post.

I love St. Patrick’s Day. Always have, always will. I celebrate it each year decking myself out in head-to-toe green. I eat a traditional Irish dinner – always prepared by my mother, until this year when I will attempt to cook the meal myself – that consists of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and Irish soda bread. We eat it while listening to Irish music and more often than not, we’ll have a Guinness or an Irish coffee along with the meal. My family’s attended St. Patrick’s Day parades in various locations in years past, though obviously, we didn’t go to any last year and we won’t this year, either. But we’re still proud of our Irish heritage and we made the most of it in 2020, as I know we’ll do today.

My parents’ dog, Clarence, and I certainly made the most of the day last year. I was dressed up like this for all of my work video conference calls, which made my colleagues laugh at a time when we all needed one.

So you know my plans for St. Patrick’s Day, but what does this have to do with my blog that’s about diabetes?

Let me explain.

The common denominator between this holidays, all the others, and my diabetes is…food.

Foods consumed on holidays are often special and laden with carbohydrates. Rather than deprive myself, I like to indulge on holidays, and worry a little less about my topsy-turvy blood sugar levels.

You might be thinking, “But the food you described isn’t even that carb-heavy!” and you’d be right, for the most part. Corned beef, cabbage, carrots…those are all easy to bolus for seeing as the carbohydrate content is negligible.

It’s the combo of potatoes – which normally, I can bolus for without any troubles – and Irish soda bread – hellooooo, carbs – that really screws me up.

You see, the problem is that Irish soda bread is too delicious. It’s a quick bread that has a buttery exterior and a tender, mouthwatering interior that’s densely packed with raisins. It doesn’t sound like much, but my mother’s recipe is sheer perfection and I can’t resist helping myself to a big ol’ slice (and a couple of mini, just-one-more-taste slices) of the stuff every year.

So more often than not, my St. Patrick’s Days end with high blood sugars (which I suppose is better than ending with a trip to the toilet due to excessive…ahem, celebrating).

The Irish soda bread is worth the high blood sugar alone, but this year, I’m hoping for a little luck when I tuck into this festive feast. I’m tired of simultaneously welcoming holidays and high blood sugars…it’s about time that I make more of an effort to have better levels when I’m eating special meals. I know the extra work will make the day and the food that much more enjoyable and special.

With a little luck o’ the Irish (and some aggressive bolusing), this diabetic will finally have a St. Patrick’s Day filled with lots o’ green, Guinness, and great blood sugar levels.

The Best Breakfast for my ‘Betes

I have a new favorite breakfast, both blood-sugar-wise and taste-wise, that I just had to write about here.

And that breakfast is: egg wraps! I take a low-carb spinach and herb tortilla, add eggs, sprinkle on some cheese, tuck in some turkey sausage or a scoop of guacamole, and wrap it all up for a totally delicious, lower-carb meal that I honestly can’t get enough of these days.

I love how surprisingly versatile this breakfast wrap is. I can lighten it by using scrambled egg whites in place of eggs with yolks, I can season it however I want (though my preference is everything but the bagel seasoning), and when I’m feeling spicy, I can add a few shakes of garlicky hot sauce for some zip. When I have fresh veggies, I’ll add those to the wrap, too, for some more color, flavor, and texture. Sprouts are really great in this kind of wrap, as is spinach or even chopped onions and peppers (I like cooking frozen ones with my eggs because they’re easy to have on hand at all times).

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t take a picture of my wonderful wraps for this posts and well…I ain’t a food blogger, I take awful food pictures! So just pretend this photo is a perfect representation of my new fave breakfast. Please and thanks. 🙂

So obviously this wrap is a winner in terms of taste, but it’s really excellent for my blood sugars, too. I don’t typically bolus for more than 15 carbs for this meal (the wrap is only 4 net carbs and everything else that I add in has negligible carb content OR I just bolus for the protein) and the low glycemic index means that I never see a blood sugar spike after eating one of my wraps. And let me be real: I love my breakfast carbs (waffles, pancakes, muffins, even cereal…omg they’re all amazing to me), but they’re a pain in the ass to bolus for properly. Even when I do nail my bolus for a high-carb breakfast item, I’m not always able to do a pre-bolus (in other words, take insulin 15-20 minutes before I eat to give it time to start working ahead of the carbs) and avoid that carb-induced spike…which means I end up skyrocketing shortly after I eat, only to level out later. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but I’d prefer to not experience any sudden blood sugar jump, period.

Need I sell the benefits of this breakfast any further?! Knowing myself, I’ll have a new morning staple before too long, but for now I’ll *wrap* up this blog post on my *eggs*cellent breakfast wrap before I get too *cheesy* with the puns…

…Okay, okay, I’ll see myself out now.

The Bad ‘Betes Habit I’ve Tried to Break for 23 Years (and It’s Still a Work in Progress)

Bad habits are notoriously difficult to break.

Nail-biting. Forgetting to floss. A social media addiction. Swearing. Luckily, I only struggle with two out of the four of those (I’ll let you figure out which ones are a big fuckin’ problem for me while I go check my Instagram account real quick).

When it comes to diabetes-specific bad habits, though, well let’s just say that in more than two decades of life with diabetes, there’s a biiiiiig bad (Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, think Big Bad like Evil Willow or Glorificus) habit that feels impossible to break.

And for me, that’s snacking freely without bolusing.

When I’m snacking throughout the day, I am not nearly as adorable about it as this cartoon girl (and I am almost never snacking on something as healthy as the piece of fruit she’s cutting up).

When I say “snacking freely”, I think it’s more accurate to call it grazing…I’m not eating large quantities of food or anything particularly carb-heavy, but it is usually enough to impact my blood sugar, at least moderately.

I’ve acknowledged this as a bad habit in a previous blog post, but for the first time, I’m really taking a step back and thinking about how if I stop doing this, I might see a tangible change in not just my blood sugar levels, but my A1c.

Don’t get me wrong, my A1c reading isn’t the most important thing to me (I’d rather focus on time in range, or the amount of time I spend each day below my high limit and above my low limit). But it is something that does come up, and will always come up, during appointments with all of my healthcare professionals. It’s definitely not something that they will be ignoring any time soon, and this year, I’d like to have an A1c that I’m a little more proud to own.

So I’m going to actively try and break this bad habit.

Whenever the desire to snack/graze strikes, I’m going to do what the pros recommend: Have a glass of water. Walk outside for a few minutes. Play with my puppy. Find a task around the house to focus on instead. Actively seek something else that will consume my time instead of me consuming something that will ultimately have a negative impact on my blood sugar as well as my mood. Be more careful about portion control when treating low blood sugars, because I can really spiral and eat half the damn kitchen when correcting a low, and it ain’t cute. And when all else fails and I need a snack (no shame in that game) actually take a freaking bolus for it because it’s okay to eat something extra throughout the day, I just need to stop being lazy and measure out whatever it is so I know exactly how much insulin I need to cover for it. That part isn’t rocket science, so I should stop treating it as such.

All bad habits are difficult to break, and I know one that’s been around for most of my life will make it particularly challenging…but it’s a new year, a great excuse for making a positive change with my eating habits and blood sugar levels, so I say bring on the challenge.

It’s the Most Bolus-Worthy Time of the Year

This post originally appeared on Hugging the Cactus on December 20, 2019. I am sharing it again today because, well, look at the first line! In addition, I simply haven’t got the creativity this year to rewrite a different Christmas tune, so this will have to do. I’m quite proud of this one, anyways, and even though I’ll be celebrating a socially distanced Christmas this year, I will still most definitely be eating plenty of bolus-worthy goodies. Read (and sing) on for my rewrite of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”…

It wouldn’t be the Christmas season if I didn’t attempt to rewrite a classic Christmas carol…

I apologize in advance for the cheesiness of this “new” tune, but I was thinking about how there are just so many parties, gatherings, and opportunities to eat absolute junk food this time of year. But even though I’m feeling pretty disgusting by the time January rolls around, I don’t regret it because I love everything about this season…so you might say that I think it’s worth every extra unit of insulin I have to take to cover the food I eat, making it the most “bolus-worthy” time of the year.

So naturally, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was the perfect song to redo for this blog post.

I sprinkled in references about questions that people with diabetes commonly get, as well…because with all the time that’s spent with family and loved ones, they’re bound to come up again just as they do year after year.

Without further ado, here is my rendition of the song…please feel free to read (sing!) along to the tune of the original – it makes it so much more fun, trust me!

If you have any doubt about people with diabetes consuming treats this time of year (or any time of the year), then please refer to my blog post from earlier this month entitled “Yes, I Can Eat Those Christmas Cookies”.

It’s the Most Bolus-Worthy Time of the Year

It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year
With the Dexcom CGMs yelling
And everyone telling you “what’s that I hear?”
It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year

It’s the ca-carb-iest season of all
With those holiday sweets
And so many treats when friends come to call
It’s the ca-carb-iest season of all

There’ll be parties for pumping
Temp basals a-bumping
And answering the same old,
There’ll be “can you eat that?”
And all that chit-chat
You can’t help that your eyes rolled

It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year
There’ll be so much indulging
And insulin will be flowing when goodies are near
It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year

There’ll be blood sugar for checking
Marshmallows for correcting
And sensors and sites to change
There’ll be silly relatives’ questions
And answers in your irate expressions
They should know by now ‘betes isn’t so strange

It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year
There’ll be so much indulging
And insulin will be flowing when goodies are near
It’s the most bolus-worthy time
It’s the most bolus-worthy time
It’s the most bolus-worthy time
It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year!

Yes, I Can Eat Those Christmas Cookies

This post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on December 12, 2018. I’m sharing it again now because the holidays are quickly approaching, and just because they look different this year, it doesn’t mean that cookies and other baked goods won’t be in abundance (baking is a great hunker-down activity, after all)! If you’re doubting whether a person with diabetes could or should eat cookies…then please continue reading this post. And excuse the absence of photos of the cookies described in the first paragraph, I didn’t want to trigger any drooling (‘cuz I totally would).

Check out that spread. You’re looking at an assortment of nine different kinds of Christmas cookies, all baked fresh by my mom, aunts, and cousins for our annual cookie swap this past weekend. And I can attest to the fact that each of them were effing delicious.

Now, if you’re thinking that people with diabetes can’t or shouldn’t eat cookies, sweets, or carbs in general…I’m here to (gently) tell you that you’re wrong. It’s a myth, a grain of utmost untruth, that people with diabetes cannot have carbohydrates of the sugary or starchy varieties. It’s fake news, y’all!!!

The FACT of the matter is that people with diabetes don’t have limits on what foods they’re able to eat. But there are matters of condition and preference to take into consideration here. First and foremost, carbs MUST be counted before they’re consumed. This is crucial because it determines how much insulin a T1D must inject. And then things like personal taste, diet, and comfort levels come into play that account for the variations in eating habits among people with diabetes. And that is the reason why you’ll meet some who are low carb, high fat followers, some who do not consume gluten, and others who do not exclude any particular food group from their diet.

I tried to choose a photo of Christmas cookies that weren’t absolutely delicious looking in order to avoid cravings…a much harder task than it sounds!

I’ve written a bit about this before, so why am I repeating it again? Because it’s worth knowing and accepting that everyone is different. Bodies respond differently to different stimuli, including the foods and insulin we put into them. And whatever works best for someone should be unconditionally tolerated, not judged, by others.

So if I want to eat a bunch of Christmas cookies as part of my Christmastime celebrations, then here’s my friendly reminder that I can – and you bet your bottom dollar that I did, and was very grateful for insulin after doing so.

The Impact of Diabetes on My Relationship with Food

There’s no cutesy lead-in to this post…I’m going with a very straightforward statement here:

Diabetes has caused me to have a very weird and strained relationship with food.

How? Oh, let me count the ways…

Diabetes has positively impacted my relationship with food because it has helped me understand the importance of nutrition. I’ve had to learn how carbohydrates, proteins, and fats affect my levels, as well as the role that the glycemic index of foods play into the picture. I’m also grateful that diabetes has caused me to realize there are limits – I can’t mindlessly eat huge quantities of food (though on occasion I do, more on that in a minute). I must measure everything out, and I believe that this forced sense of portion control has helped me maintain a (mostly) healthy weight.

But diabetes has also, absolutely, negatively impacted my relationship with food.

Here’s pretend cartoon me, being absolutely adorable as she calmly whips up a feast in the kitchen (LOL there’s so much wrong about that sentence)!!!

For starters, I can get so fed-up with having to account for every single morsel I consume in a given day – I resent having to take insulin for foods I’d otherwise find enjoyable. Plus, there’s a lot of guilt associated with my regular food consumption. “Should you eat that?” is question I hear not just from others, but from myself as I have to think about whether certain foods are worth not just the calories, but also the amount of insulin that I have to dose for it. And don’t even get me started on how literally unsavory it is to have to eat food when I’m already full but dealing with a low blood sugar…

In a word, my relationship with food is complicated…and I don’t hesitate to blame my diabetes for that. Don’t get me wrong: At the end of the day, I loooooooove food. Really, there’s very few things that I don’t (or won’t) eat or at least try. I enjoy consuming a large variety of foods and I like to eat veggies almost as much as I like eating chocolate (that may be a bit of a stretch, but I think you get my point).

It’s just unfortunate that my diabetes forces me to overthink every food choice that I make. So I’m that much more hopeful for the day which I can eat food without having to think twice about it, without having to feel guilt, shame, doubt, anger, sadness…nothing but pure enjoyment.