3 Things I Learned About T1D From my 10-Hour Road Trip

What do you do when a road trip that’s only supposed to last 7 hours turns into a 10 hour trek?

The answer isn’t cry, or whine, or freak the eff out. The answer is to roll with the punches…because you have no other choice.

At least that’s the way I saw it when my journey from Virginia to Massachusetts dragged out from 9 A.M. to 7 P.M. a couple of Fridays ago.

As someone who loathes driving, I was dreading this trip. But I knew it was important for me to conquer a fear of long-distance driving, as well as bring my car back to Massachusetts for a cutting-it-close car inspection. Plus, driving is much cheaper than flying, and you can’t beat the convenience of loading up your car with as much crap as you need to pack.

So I made myself do it, and besides teaching myself that I can handle a longer road trip, I also learned three interesting things about my diabetes from the many hours I spent in my car:hugging the cactus - a t1d blog.png

1. My diabetes doesn’t like for me to stay idle for so long.

This trip was an excellent reminder of how much my body and my diabetes rely on me to get up and move throughout the day. Throughout the workweek, I tend to get up from my desk chair at least once every hour, if only to stretch my legs. But that frequency of movement must make a difference, because I only visited a rest stop once during the full 10 hour trip. It felt awesome to move around for a few minutes, but I was eager to get back on the road and didn’t walk much while I was at the rest stop. Now, I’m wondering if I should factor that into my next long drive, but the idea of taking too many rest stops and prolonging my travel time is not exactly favorable to me…unless it means that my diabetes is guaranteed to be better behaved.

2. My diabetes is better behaved when I eat regular meals.

I eat a lot throughout the day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and at least two snacks are part of my daily meal plan. I typically eat all three meals and two snacks around the same times each day, to boot, so my diabetes depends on that consistency. It’s no wonder that I was dealing with rebelliously high blood sugars for most of my drive home, because I was fueling myself with absolute garbage: chicken nuggets (and only chicken nuggets for lunch), Fritos for a snack, and a granola bar for ANOTHER snack. In hindsight, it would’ve been much easier for me to pack a healthy lunch and maybe an additional, in-case-of-emergency snack, because I could’ve had a low-carb option available to me whenever I was ready for it. Plus, chicken nuggets and Fritos are things that I rarely consume, so of course my blood sugar wasn’t loving them.

3. My diabetes HATES stress.

And my goodness, was I stressed. I hate driving, period, so I doubly hate it when it’s a long distance. And my stress was exacerbated by the fact that I had to transport 60 cupcakes, on ice, back to Massachusetts with me for a bridal shower that I was planning for my cousin. That’s quite a bit to contend with, so it makes sense that my blood sugar shot up within minutes of me hitting the road. Even though I ran temp basals and bolused somewhat aggressively, it didn’t make much of a difference in my levels. And I suppose that I was hesitant to give myself too much insulin while I was behind the wheel, because going low seemed more dangerous and difficult to contend with than going high. Truthfully, though, there’s nothing fun about high or low blood sugar. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving, sleeping, exercising, whatever – anything other than “in-range” is just a pest to me.

So now that I’m aware of these three things, what am I going to do about it? For starters, I’m definitely going to get better about planning my meals for long car trips. I’m also going to try to take it easy a little bit…I put so much pressure on myself (I’m very good at working myself up into hysterics, really). So I might try some mindfulness exercises (e.g., meditating) before the next long drive…because anything I can do to take back control of my diabetes before going on my next one will be worth it.

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An Ode to Diet Coke

Growing up, Diet Coke was my lifeblood. It was my zero-carb drink of choice with every meal, the one beverage I craved when dealing with high blood sugar. Liters of it were in my house at all times, because once a fresh bottle was popped open, it was certain that it wouldn’t last long.

But as I got older (and wiser, I’d like to think), I realized that I needed to wean myself off Diet Coke for my health. My water intake was practically non-existent, and reports of large quantities of soda made me wary of what it was doing to my body. So I replaced Diet Coke, slowly, with flavored water and sparkling water. At first, it was tough, but I got used to it. Gradually, Diet Coke evolved from an everyday dietary staple to a monthly indulgence. I didn’t even really miss it as I began to incorporate funky flavors of seltzer water into my lineup of drinks.

Of course, it was harder to stay away from Diet Coke when I began working at my current job. Suddenly, a fully-stocked fridge of Coca-Cola products was within my reach. It wasn’t just Diet Coke, it was Coke Zero and its enticing kin, Vanilla and Cherry Coke Zero. Boy, was it difficult to avoid the temptation of cracking one open. I would cast longing looks in the direction of the red and black cans as I forced myself to opt for lime and mixed berry seltzer waters. The fizz quelled my desire for carbonation, but it was far from replacing the peppery sweet satisfaction of an ice-cold sip of Diet Coke.

A few months ago, though, my attitude towards my diet soda ban changed. Why was I depriving myself so much? What’s the harm in having a Diet Coke once or twice a week? Surely, that would be an improvement compared to my younger years of gulping down gallons of the cola weekly. So I’ve stuck with this plan, and I’m happier to have rekindled a more positive relationship with my beloved diet drink of choice.

And everything came full circle when I visited the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta, Georgia earlier this month. A fellow T1D friend and I had an absolute field day tasting dozens (and I mean DOZENS) of diet and sugar-free Coca-Cola products. Seriously, that Coca-Cola Freestyle machine is an amazing invention. Without it, we never would’ve discovered how awesome Sprite Zero Strawberry tastes, or how aesthetically alarming diet Fanta products are, with their neon green and purple hues. We felt like diet soda wizards, summoning the most wild flavor combinations from the machine with just a touch of a button. Though our bellies quickly filled up from all the carbonation, we had a blast experimenting with all the zero-sugar possibilities. Plus, learning the history of Coca-Cola and experiencing all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes made for a fabulously fun afternoon.

Ah, Diet Coke – I admit that I tried to quit you, but you’re just a part of my life. You’ve consoled me through sticky high blood sugars and you’ve been my drink of choice at countless parties and occasions over the years. Thanks for being a loyal pal to this T1D.