Thursday, December 16, 2010

Avoiding Sugar: Lessons from a Diabetic in a Sugar Shack

"It's the most fattening time of the year." -Bob Rivers

My mother enjoys telling people she lives in a crack house. That's true, metaphorically speaking: she has a raging case of diabetes and a husband who lives on sweets and starch and offers them to her every day. (He's diabetic too--he just doesn't care.)

The junk food temptations people deal with at holidays are part of everyday life for my mother. Her stakes are high: an average person might gain ten or fifteen pounds over a month of indulgence, but two bites of healthywholegrainoatmeal sends my mom's blood sugar over 200--the definition of diabetes. Blood sugars at that level can cause tissue and organ damage.

I asked Mom what her strategies were for resisting starchy food--which she loves. Her answer:

I just don't eat it.

Why not?

It raises my blood sugar.


About an hour later.

What happens?

I don't feel good. I get nervous and shaky and I can't write.

I've seen my mother when her blood sugar is jacked up. She gets so tired she can't stay awake. Since she's the bookkeeper and writes all the Christmas cards in the household, and does these things by hand, it's not good if she can't write.

Any other strategies?

I have some sugar-free candy, and I eat cereal about three times a year.

Breakfast cereal is the food she misses most.

A few other observations: my mother cut way back on the carbs because she was desperate to get well. She was in a rehab center for back surgery and ensuing complications from neglect and an assault. She'd been there so long she started to forget what her own house looked like. Laying off the carbs brought her fasting blood sugar from the mid-200s to the low 100s. (Yes, that was her fasting blood sugar after she came home and went on a carbohydrate bender. Her own records show some fasting blood sugars in the 300s. Her blood sugar level takes a long time to come down, just like mine.)

Even if you don't have diabetes, it's not a bad idea to avoid overindulging. I've noticed that even healthy young people tend to get tired an hour or two after a carby meal. Just today, the building's management had a free chocolate fest in the lobby at 2:00. Most of my coworkers rushed down there like--well, like there was free chocolate in the lobby. Just over an hour later, one of them said "God, I'm so tired." Someone else said she didn't feel good. (Does that sound familiar--feeling lousy and tired an hour after eating a bunch of sugar?) I didn't go to the chocolatorium because I knew my self control would have folded and I'd have felt lousy along with them.

A strategy I used to avoid the chocolate orgy was to bring a big lunch. I was full from chicken, veg with ranch dip, cheese and olives and wasn't hungry for dessert.


Anonymous said...

One of my co-workers fell to sleep at his desk 2 hours after lunch several times (a norwegian lunch is typically juice or milk + 2-4 slices of bread with butter and ham or cheese) ... :D

Lori Miller said...

I used to fall asleep in afternoon classes all the time.