How to Hit Your Step (and Blood Sugar) Goals When You’re Stuck at Home

My diabetes has never liked it very much when I’ve stayed idle for too long.

Unfortunately, my diabetes and I don’t really have much of a choice these days other than to stay put – and I know that just about everyone else in the world is in the same boat.

So how do you hit your daily step goals when you can’t leave the house?

You get creative.

hugging the cactus - a t1d blog
With a little creativity, you can find tons of ways to stay active when you’re stuck at home – which will make your blood sugar and body happy.

And, in turn, your blood sugars will generally respond positively to any extra movement you get throughout the day…plus, with endorphins spiking (instead of bg levels), you can see a huge improvement in your mood. And who doesn’t need a mood booster right now?!

Here are the ways in which I’ve been getting 10,000 steps or more each day:

Taking spontaneous dance breaks. My mom and I are both working from home and sitting in front of our computers for long stretches of time Monday through Friday. To combat this, we’ve come up with a ridiculous but fun game called “DJ Dance Party”. It’s simple: Every couple of hours, one of us cues up music and we just dance around for the duration of the song. DJ Dance Party is a welcome reprieve from work, especially when it happens right after long conference calls!

Playing with pets. Our animals can get just as stir-crazy as we can, so by helping them combat boredom, we’re also doing ourselves a favor by getting off our butts. I play with my parents’ dog, Clarence, by chasing him around the house, throwing his toys at him, taking him for neighborhood walks, and kicking the soccer ball around in the backyard (weather permitting).

Dust off those old fitness videos. Do you have old Jane Fonda/Windsor Pilates/Jazzercise tapes or DVDs just laying around, untouched for years? Dig ’em out from wherever you’ve got them and give them a spin. It might feel silly, but then again you might also get a good laugh in addition to some exercise. I’ve done a few Zumba routines in the last couple of weeks because we have some old DVDs, and they’ve been surprisingly fun.

Hit up YouTube and other fitness platforms for free workouts. Personally, I pay for a subscription to Beachbody, which gives me access to countless workouts lead by professional personal trainers. I’ve used Beachbody workouts in lieu of going to the gym for about a year now and it has worked really well for me, but if I didn’t have the service, I know I could rely on YouTube – in fact, one search of the word “workout” on that platform brought up tons of results that vary in length and intensity. It’s a treasure trove!

Pace around when on conference calls. When I’m not attending a virtual meeting with a video chat component, I’m constantly walking around while I talk on the phone. And it honestly helps me become a more active participant in meetings, sometimes, because I don’t have the distraction of my computer monitors in front of me. I imagine this is the closest I’ll get to having a fancy-schmancy treadmill desk, but I don’t knock it because it works!

March in place while watching TV. Binge on all the TV shows and movies you want guilt-free and challenge yourself by marching in place in 15-minute intervals or at every commercial break. Steps rack up quickly this way, and it’s a go-to for me when I can’t get a walk in during the day.

So even though I’ve barely left the house, doing one, two, or a combination of these above exercises have guaranteed that I’ll meet my step goal each day. And they’ve also really come in handy after meals and long stretches of sitting, when my blood sugars are most prone to going up.

Staying at home has disrupted routines for most people, but it’s good to know that we can still control how much exercise we get in a day.

I’m Still Here

Hey friends. You probably noticed I didn’t have a new post up this week. (Unless you are one of the few people who saw my incomplete post go up on Monday…I took it down as fast as I could, and the finished version should be up soon. My bad!)

The reason for that is simple: I didn’t really know what to say. We’re living in an interesting time, to say the least, and I didn’t know how to address that on my blog. It seems silly to not address it at all (especially considering I just talked about it a few posts ago). But it also feels inauthentic to continue adding to the already-immense volume of information out there. I don’t feel that I have any commentary to add that would be of any value.

So I’m not talking about our current health situation right now. But that leaves the question…do I still talk about my health situation, meaning my diabetes? Is it stupid to blog about given everything else going on in the world?

Maybe, but maybe not.

I'm still here
I’m still here, making dorky faces.

My diabetes – and everyone else’s diabetes – won’t be going away just because there’s a pandemic right now. So why stop blogging about it? It might be nice for others to have a continuous reminder that they’re not alone with diabetes, not before, not now, and not ever. If sharing my story here helps other people in the diabetes community feel more connected in this time of social distancing, then I’m more than happy to keep telling it.

Plus…I think it’ll be good for my mental health (and hopefully for that of other people) to have something to write/read that won’t be anxiety-provoking.

Anyways, I just wanted to give you all a friendly little wave with this blog post – *waves energetically* – and let you know that I’m here if you need someone to talk to. Let’s all remember to stay human amid the chaos: Be kind, help others when you can, and we’ll weather the storm together.

A Problematic Post

I am not the kind of person who scrolls through social media looking for posts that will make me angry. And I’m certainly not the kind of person who likes the idea of calling someone out on their perceived wrongs via social media (or any other medium) because I think that it’s usually not constructive.

But I am the kind of person who thinks that word choice matters. So when I saw Autumn Calabrese, a celebrity fitness and nutrition expert, post the following text on Instagram, I got pretty upset. (Click photos to see them more clearly).

I’m not going to lie, I was pretty upset by this post. I’ve followed Autumn on Instagram for almost two and a half years now, ever since I subscribed to the popular Beachbody workout app. I really like her 21 Day Fix workout program because it kicks my butt every time in just 30 minutes. She comes across as a fun person who is really passionate about her job and enjoys the opportunity to help others, which is why I decided to follow her Instagram profile. Normally, I enjoy her posts because they’re filled with motivating fitness and eating tips that promote a healthier lifestyle. She definitely knows what she’s talking about when it comes to exercise and eating properly.

But after seeing this post, I think that Autumn – and people like her who are not educated in the minutiae chronic conditions like diabetes – needs to step off her soapbox.

She is using her post to say that diabetes – mind you, just generic “diabetes”, there’s no mention of any of the many types – is a lifestyle killer. She says that “the worst part about it is that you are 100% in control of if it happens to you.”

OMG. No, no, NO.

Forget that she was using the current coronavirus outbreak to promote her healthy eating plan (which in itself is a pretty weird way to advertise something) – she came after the diabetes community with this post. Now, I’ll never know what her true intent was, and I don’t care if Autumn was talking about a specific type of diabetes here. That doesn’t make a damn difference. The problem with this post is that she is perpetuating diabetes stigma and alluding to a myth that an individual has control over whether or not they get diabetes. Posts like this are the reason why there is so much confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to all types of diabetes, and I think she should be ashamed of herself for putting this on her profile.

It’s even more upsetting that she immediately got defensive when people started writing comments under her post, trying to inform and educate her. I was one of those people, and I think that I kindly and respectfully directed her to learn more by visiting beyondtype1.org so she could be better informed on all types of diabetes and maybe find out why what she wrote was harmful. Sadly, I never got a response, and her post remains on her profile, unchanged.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You can also unfollow a person on social media and write a blog post to get your feelings out there, so that’s just what I’ll do here.

 

Ethan Zohn, An Inspiring Survivor Contestant

If you’re a reality TV junkie like me, then chances are you’ve probably watched Survivor at some point during its 20-year (and counting) run.

And if you’ve never seen a single episode, it’s still highly likely that you’re familiar with the concept of the show:

  1. Find a group of strangers willing to be stranded on an island for 40 days
  2. Make them compete against one another in tribes, then individually, for food/other rewards and “immunity” from tribal council
  3. Force the losing tribe to go to tribal council and vote one of their own off the island (“the tribe has spoken”, anyone?)
  4. Watch as a jury of voted-off contestants selects a winner, also known as the sole survivor
  5. Plunk a bunch of cameras in front of these people and watch all of their antics, including plenty of twists and turns introduced by the producers, that happen in-between
  6. Marvel over how Jeff Probst has not aged a day in the 20-year time span and looks like a million bucks in front of these dirty, hungry people who are actually competing for a million bucks

So yeah, that’s the basic premise…it might sound like a stupid show to some, but I know that Survivor has a devout and large fan following that includes my dad.

Growing up, my dad, my brother, and I watched Survivor almost religiously. We’d ooh and ahh when tribes pulled off unsuspected victories and make bets on who would be voted off the show each week. We’d have our favorites and our far-from-favorites that we rooted for and against. The three of us were nuts about the show for years, until one day we weren’t and only my dad continued to tune in.

Ethan Zohn_ A Survivor Contestant Who Inspires
Yes, that it is a photo of me on the last day of 5th grade, wearing my very own Survivor buff around my head…a buff that I still actually own.

Things changed for me this season, though…Survivor, Season 40 (!), takes previous winners and pits them against each other for the title of perhaps the ultimate sole survivor. The prize is a cool two million this time around, and I decided to start watching because I wanted to see how winners from when I watched fared in a show that would be a very different experience for them compared to when they first played.

And I’m having a lot more fun watching than I expected. Even though a couple of my early favorites were voted off too soon, there’s a chance for someone to re-enter the game thanks to the “edge of extinction” rules. This means that, for a few minutes each episode (so far), the camera focuses on the voted-off survivors who are trying to earn a way back into the game by surviving the edge of extinction.

Again…I get that this all sounds hokey so far. But what’s actually pretty cool to me is that I found a bit of inspiration from one of the survivors who is trying to fight the edge of extinction.

And that survivor is Ethan. I remember watching Ethan in two previous seasons of Survivor. I tooooootally had a crush on him (my brother made fun of me for it and yes, I know Ethan is happily married now) in his first season, which he won, and I remember being thrilled when it was announced that he’d compete a second time in an all-star contestant season. On TV, he came across as a friendly, smart guy who wasn’t cutthroat like some of the other contestants, but just as determined to win, so rooting for him was natural and it was crushing when he was eventually voted off.

It’s been 16 years since he last played the game, and a lot has happened to the guy in that span of time. In 2009, Ethan was diagnosed with a rare form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. From what I’ve read, he endured a difficult battle with cancer that lasted four years. Obviously, I don’t know details about that time in his life, but I can only imagine how emotionally and physically challenging it was to face that ordeal…certainly, though, it was much more difficult than competing on Survivor.

Fast-forward to the present: Ethan’s back in the game after that long gap of time away from it in which he’s faced a serious health condition. He might be on the Survivor-dubbed edge of extinction right now, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t fighting to stay in the game.

In fact, during last week’s episode, Ethan was struggling to complete the challenge that he and the other voted-off contestants had to do before sundown. It was a physically grueling task that required Ethan and the others to climb up and down a treacherous, steep path over and over again. As a viewer, seeing him lose his balance, become super pale, and admit to the other contestants that he wasn’t okay was hard to watch – he looked like what it feels like to have a severe low blood sugar. I was practically convinced that he was going to be forced to tap out of the game altogether, especially when he was visited by one of the show’s paramedics.

But then…he turned it all around, drawing on the strength he gleaned from literally fighting his way back from a different kind of edge of extinction from his cancer battle, and finished the challenge. It was a pretty spectacular comeback.

On-camera, Ethan explained how he was able to push through:

I wanted to complete this for myself, I did not want to quit. I want to set a good example for everyone who’s been through a health challenge and thinks that they can’t do it anymore…you can do it, you can get through those hard moments.

I kept saying to myself, remember when you were getting spinal taps, radiation…I started saying the mantras I was saying when I was going through chemotherapy to get me through those moments.

Watching this, I felt incredibly awe-struck by Ethan’s courage and resilience…and I felt like he was speaking directly to me, as well as any other person who is dealing with a health problem, whether it’s type 1 diabetes, cancer, or anything else. While all of these conditions vary greatly from each other, it’s amazing just how much the right mindset can help fight against whatever it may be.

So I’m writing this post to say thank you to Ethan for sending some inspiration my way, and undoubtedly, the ways of so many other individuals who struggle with the mental and physical side effects of an illness. Thank you for reminding us that we have to just keep going and do whatever it takes to overcome the obstacles we face.

Watch the clip in question below:

COVID-19, Chronic Conditions, and…Telecommuting?

First, let me apologize for adding to what seems like a never-ending cycle of news and media about COVID-19, a.k.a. the coronavirus. But I wanted to write this post because a friend of mine works for a company that sent out a communication about it that I found…interesting, to say the least.

The email in question was about the company’s current coronavirus protocol. The following is an excerpt from the email, provided by my friend:

If you have or live with someone who has a medical condition that the WHO has highlighted as being at higher risk for complications from the virus (elderly, immunocompromised state, chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease), you are strongly urged to work from home if possible with your job function. If you cannot work from home, please consult with your manager.

So…the wording of this email struck me as a little odd for a few reasons. If I worked for this company, I’d wonder: 1) Just because I have one of the named chronic conditions, does this mean I must seriously reconsider my present working environment even though nobody in my office travels internationally? 2) What exactly does “strongly urged” mean, anyways? and 3) What is a manager expected to do if someone cannot work from home, for whatever reason? Make up their own set of rules? Force someone to come in or not come in? And if the latter is the case…would a paycheck have to be forfeited?

hugging the cactus - a t1d blog
I’m absolutely amazed that I managed to find a stock image that wasn’t terrifying for this particular blog post and topic…

As I pondered the answers to these questions, I also started to think that there was a chance I was overreacting to the wording of the email. So I asked other friends how they felt about it and they reacted the same way I did. Everyone was generally confused by the message that this was saying (or not saying) about people living with chronic conditions and how they should handle a situation like this.

Plus, I can’t shake the feeling that emails like this just add to all the hype/panic that we’re already being inundated with, and if I were to receive something like this, it certainly wouldn’t do anything to ease my normally-anxious mind. It’s getting more and more challenging to tune it all out…

…but on the bright side, at least I know how to properly wash my hands and sneeze/cough into my elbow. So I’ll continue those common-sense practices every day, and when I’m doing my own work, I’ll be glad it’s from the comfort of my own cubicle.

A Tough Topic: Diabetes Complications

I’m broaching a subject I’ve never openly discussed in an online forum in today’s blog post…and that is diabetes complications.

The reason why I’ve never talked about complications is straightforward: They absolutely terrify me.

It’s a topic that’s so foreign and frightening to me that I don’t even know the full extent of diabetes complications. You can Google them, for sure, and discover a long list of scary conditions involving the heart, eyes, extremities, and other internal organs. But I’d rather not do that to myself, let alone the audience of this blog.

I don’t want you to think that I’m naive, though…I know that not talking about something doesn’t mean that it’ll just go away or never happen.

Recently, I became glaringly aware of this fact through the form of (what I presume to be) my own diabetes complication: tendonitis in my left hand.

In the last year or two, I’ve felt sporadic sensitivity in my left hand when I fully extend my wrist, bear any weight on it, or even when I do simple wrist rotations. I never really knew when to expect the pain, but it happened every few months and lasted about a week each time. So when I felt it again around the time I was due for my annual physical with my PCP, I decided to ask him about it.

He explained to me that, based on the type of pain and its duration, it wasn’t carpal tunnel (numbness and tingling are symptoms of that, not pain) like I thought it might be. It also wasn’t arthritis (I didn’t have swelling or reduced range of motion) or neuropathy (I wasn’t experiencing pins and needles), but he did say that those aren’t uncommon in people with diabetes. That’s when he located the exact inflamed tendon – the thick, fibrous cord that attaches muscle to bone – in my left hand/wrist that was giving me trouble.

A Tough Topic_ Diabetes Complications
Me with my new (but occasional) accessory.

Just like all the aforementioned conditions, my tendonitis is probably due to my diabetes. Although my PCP didn’t explicitly state that I definitely have it because I’ve had diabetes for 22 years, he did identify a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. But, fortunately, he also reassured me that my occasional flares of tendonitis are nothing to worry about. As long as I continue to do what I’m doing (which is supporting my hand and wrist with a brace when I experience bouts of pain, as well as rest the area as much as possible during those times), then I’ll be totally fine.

While I’m not exactly thrilled to have to deal with tendonitis, I am very relieved that I know there’s an explanation to help make sense of it all, and that I’ve been doing the right things to handle it. So even though I won’t be going out of my way to research any other diabetes complications any time soon (why on earth would I want to stress myself out unnecessarily), I have come to terms with my tendonitis as a possible complication for me. And rather than seeing it as a completely negative thing, I’ve decided to just keep doing what I’m doing, and continue to take the best possible care I can of myself and my diabetes.

They say prevention is the best medicine for a reason, right?

 

 

5 Things I’ve Learned about Exercising with Diabetes

It’s November 26th which means it’s day 26 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt is about diabetes and exercise. There’s so much I could say on the subject, so I decided to settle for a bit of a round-up post that explains what I’ve learned about exercising with diabetes over the years…

I exercise on a daily basis.

This statement is not a faux-humble brag, nor is it an exaggeration. Unless I’m sick, I work out in some form or fashion every single day. My workouts will vary in their intensity, but one thing is consistent: My diabetes plays a major role in how long, when, and what type of exercise I choose to do.

Since I grew up playing sports, I’ve had just about my entire lifetime with diabetes to figure out how to make it peacefully coexist – or, at least, merely coexist – with whatever exercise routine I’m completing. As a result, I’ve learned quite a few lessons along the way, and I’ve come to recognize several patterns that my diabetes follows when I exercise:

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My diabetes is practically BFFs with exercise.

1. My diabetes is happiest if I work out first thing in the morning. I never thought I’d be the type of person who works out before eating breakfast, but trial and error has taught me that this is the way to go in order to better manage my blood sugars during a workout. Fasting exercise has worked wonders on my blood sugars: I never have to worry about dealing with an insulin-on-board-inducing low blood sugar, nor do I have to be concerned about what the food I ate prior to my workout will do to my blood sugars while I’m exercising.

2. Different types of exercise affect me (and my blood sugars) in different ways. Many people probably relate to me when I say that weightlifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) often yield stable blood sugars during workouts but then trigger the need for more insulin hours later, whereas cardio (such as dancing, running, or circuit training) usually causes sudden drops in blood sugar levels. Of course, it depends on the timing, duration, and intensity of the workout, but it’s interesting to see how different types will require me to react in different ways in terms of my diabetes care.

3. Sometimes I need to suspend my insulin, sometimes I don’t. Again, whether or not I suspend my insulin – or even run a temp basal – depends heavily on when and how I exercise. If I’m doing my morning routine (which happens 75% of the time), then I don’t really do anything with my basal rates: I just keep them running normally. But if I’m taking a midday walk or decide to exercise in the evening, I often have to do something about my basal rate to avoid crashes or spikes. Insulin suspensions or temp basals are wait-and-see situations in those cases.

4. The hardest part about exercise and diabetes is that I can do the exact same routine every day and get different results. If I worked out at precisely the same time, for the same amount of time, and with the same sequence of movements every single day, then…my diabetes wouldn’t give a damn. Every day of life with diabetes is different because of the variables that inevitably cross my path. Things like mood, that time o’ the month, stress, diet, illness, and more can cause major changes in my blood sugar levels. It’s my job to react accordingly to those changes, but that doesn’t mean I always hit the mark on the first try. So with that in mind, it can sometimes be hard to accurately predict how my blood sugar will fare after every single exercise routine. Just thinking about it can be more exhausting than the workout itself.

5. My diabetes is my biggest motivator/fuels my desire to exercise. At the end of the day, I work out because of my diabetes, not because I’m trying to sculpt washboard abs (though I wouldn’t complain if that actually happened). My diabetes loves exercise: It results in an increase in insulin sensitivity and it helps tame my blood sugar levels overall. How could I not be motivated to work out every day with outcomes so tangible?