Diabetes For The Day: Part Two.
A few weeks ago, I had a co-worker who wanted to experience diabetes for the day to help him better understand what life with diabetes can be like. His experiment prompted another co-worker to want to give it a go. For her day, she tested her blood sugar approximately 10 times, wore a make-shift "insulin pump" that we fashioned in a hurry out of a Kool-Aid box (sugar-free Kool-aid, don't worry), and tried to "think like a diabetic" as best she could. She recorded her numbers, her food, and her experiences. (And her feedback was amazing - check it out!)
Co-Worker: I’ve been writing about health and nutrition for 10 years now, and as I’ve followed the scientific literature, I’ve formed some basic beliefs about the way we fuel our bodies and how that impacts everything about us. I tell people to think “caveman” any time they are unsure about how to eat (or even exercise). Our DNA hasn’t changed a bit, and our bodies were beautifully designed to thrive on the nutrients that come from animals, fish, and plants. Diabetes or no, when we eat “from the earth,” blood sugar and insulin levels are steadier. When we consume too much of the stuff that is made in factories and comes with a long list of ingredients on the box, among many other negative effects blood sugar and insulin are on a lifelong rollercoaster. And, increasingly, research is showing this is an important factor in the physiological damage that leads to cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
(Are you bored yet? Can you believe I still find it all fascinating?)
Kerri: How did testing your blood sugar affect the way you thought about food?
Co-Worker: It didn’t change what I ate or how I thought about my food, but it made me more conscious of my various states -- very hungry, very full, lightheaded. Because I was obsessively looking at the clock all the time and figuring out when I could test next and wondering what my blood sugar was doing.
Kerri: Did you find the blood sugar testing to be painful? How comfortable were you with the process?
Co-Worker: The actual prick didn’t bother me, except when I accidentally had the thingie turned up to 4. But I ended up with a surprisingly sore fingertip the first day, because I thought I should do all of my pricks on the same finger for some reason. When I got in my car, it hurt pressing the button to make my window go down and when I was doing yoga later, it hurt to have my fingertips pressing into my mat!
This was how we clipped the "pump" to her clothes for the day.
Kerri: How did the blood glucose numbers make you feel? Did any of your results make you raise an eyebrow?
Co-Worker: I expected to see more fluctuation, so the steadiness of my numbers amazed me. And I have to say, I felt great about my numbers because they seemed to vindicate -- in a very concrete way -- the way I eat and the way I advise others to, which is basically protein with everything you eat, no low-fat anything, and treat all “white” foods as if they’re straight sugar. And don’t drink soft drinks other than unsweetened tea. My consistent blood sugar levels made me feel more confident that I’m doing the right thing and interpreting the research correctly. My poor friends and co-workers! If I wasn’t already, I will now be totally insufferable.
Kerri: Do you feel as though you have a better idea of what life with diabetes is like? What else would you want to know? What are you grateful for not knowing?
Co-Worker: Just a tiny bit, I guess. It was humbling to see that I can prick my finger a gazillion times and end up with blood spots on my clothes and experience the exasperation of running out of test strips and yet, really have only a smidge of an understanding of what it’s like to be in the shoes of someone living with real diabetes. I did have this one moment where I realized I’d forgotten to test and I was exercising and I kind of panicked for a split second, as if there could be real consequences. And there was another time when I was sitting somewhere very relaxed and having fun and suddenly had another little momentary freak-out that I’d forgotten about the whole diabetes thing for a little while and oh my god, did I mess up my experiment? I guess what I’d like to know is how well someone with real diabetes would do eating the way I do, and how closely you could stick to it. And what I’m grateful for not knowing is what’s it’s really like having to stay so on top of something 24/7. There’s nothing in my life I need to be aware of all the time like that. And the only time I did feel that was when I had a baby and that’s just a bit different.
Kerri: Did this experiment make you appreciate your health any more? Less?
Co-Worker: I’m pretty good at appreciating my health, because I’m a cancer survivor and maybe a bit because of what I do. But did it make me aware that I’m lucky I don’t have diabetes? Yes. Unless having diabetes would mean I’d be more like Zippy, my hero.
[Editor's Note: This particular co-worker has slapped the nickname of "Zippy" on me because I'm incessantly chatty and fast-talking. Hers is "Princess," for dozens of lovable reasons. We all have nicknames here in the editorial department - and t-shirts to prove it - but that's a story for another post. :) ]
Zippy - er, Kerri: Do you think other people who are close to diabetes, but aren’t diabetic themselves, should spend a day as a diabetic?
Co-Worker: I think everyone should. Honestly, for some, it wouldn’t really increase their level of empathy or understanding. But yeah, if we’re talking about borderline type 2 -- and it’s a result of poor eating and lifestyle -- if I were a doctor and I wanted to strike fear in my patients’ hearts to get them to start taking care of themselves, I might use it as a strategy.
Kerri: Anything else you want to add?
Co-Worker: Oh my gosh, no. I’m such a blabbermouth. :)
The results of her blood work were as follows (these are her notes):
Coffee with half and half and splenda
More coffee, 1 plain cookie, nuts
Snack & lunch: HB egg, cheese stick, nuts; small pesto pasta w/chicken,
small beet salad, 3 plain cookies
Yoga class, drank coconut water
Thin crust pizza with mushrooms, spinach, garlic oil; salad, olives, 2
THURSDAY (did not write down food)
I think her numbers are an interesting contrast to those of my other co-worker, who ate more pizza and white breads and subsequently saw more spikes. It's amazing to see how food affects people without diabetes - this helps me to clearly see how food affects me.
Another co-worker just finished her day with diabetes, and I'll have her results in the next few days. Have a great weekend, guys, and I'll see you on Monday!!