Guest Post: The One About the Pork Rinds.
Today, I'm hosting a guest post from Christopher Angell (he's a cover model now ... or at least his glucose tabs are) about the food choices we make in pursuit of a stellar CGM graph. As someone who frequently skips an early morning meal in efforts to avoid a blood sugar spike, this post resonated for me quite a bit. Take it, Chris!
* * *
There's no question that for most of us our blood sugar is the center of our diabetic universe. And why not? That's the symptom that most readily defines our disease, and most concretely separates us from the non-diabetics of the world. It also most reliably (though not infallibly) predicts our likelihood of complications. So a zealous fixation on the numbers on our meters is understandable.
Sometimes, however, I get carried a little too far, and my focus on blood sugar obscures other important levers on my well being. I have to occasionally remind myself of two things that, while obvious to me as I write them, are also lost or overlooked more often than I realize in the moment. It's worth considering them and taking stock of how frequently they really affect my behavior.
1. Just because something helps my blood sugar does not mean that it's good for me.
2. Just because something doesn't affect my blood sugar does not mean that it doesn't affect me.
Some good examples of this:
- The best looking lines on my Dexcom frequently occur on days when I skip lunch. Nice, flat, straight, goal-hugging lines, right through the work day. What's not to love? What's not to love is my diminished ability to focus in the afternoon, or my increased irritability and impatience in the hours (or minutes) between when I leave the office and get some dinner in my belly.
- In my quest for salty crunchy snacks that don't send me spiking (the way pretzels and chips do) I started eating pork rinds while on a trip to Mexico (calling them “chicharrones” somehow made it seem far more acceptable). I can eat them all day without a blip on my Dexcom. That does NOT mean that it's OK to eat pork rinds all day long. Still, I have come close a time or two, just because I didn't have to bolus (and, say what you will, they are really, really tasty). I let the BG myth convince me that a bad decision was actually a good decision.
- When my blood sugar is just a little bit low (below 80 but above 60 and not dropping) I can definitely eat a cookie and not go out of target. Sometimes I can have two cookies. But there are problems with cookies that go beyond what they do to my blood sugar. They affect my triglycerides/cholesterol. They affect my energy levels. They add mostly useless calories. They make me crave EVEN MORE cookies. None of these things are particularly desirable, even if my meter gives my cookie and me a tacit thumbs up.
There are plenty of other examples, and I'm sure you could all add examples from your own lives.
A big contributing factor is that so often decisions about blood sugar are made in moments of diminished mental clarity (when low, when busy) which is why taking stock of those decisions after the fact and planning for similar situations in the future can be a big help. I keep nutritious snacks (nuts mostly) at my desk, and, when I can, pack a bg-friendly lunch for the office. I micro-manage those sort-of-lows with glucose tablets. I try to force myself to be really honest about what sweets and treats I'm going to allow myself, and stick to that. I often fail. But living a great life with diabetes is a series of trials, failures, successes, and more trials.
It's through experimentation, driven by self awareness (whether that's awareness of numbers, or of behaviors like those described above) that we keep improving.
* * *