Tag Archives: Type 2 Diabetes

The importance of looking out for #1

In a perfect marriage, you and your spouse would always walk side-by-side, hand-in-hand, tackling whatever life throws at you as a team. You’d always say (and mean) I love you before turning out the light, and the toilet seat would always be in the down position.

But let’s face it, there is no such thing as the perfect marriage. The toilet seat is up more often than not, one or both of you will be too tired or angry to utter those three special words, and sometimes one of you will need more holding hands.

There will be times when you will need to be your spouse’s support system (emotional, mental, and sometimes even physical), and you just can’t expect much support in return. And that’s okay. That’s one of the reasons marriage can be so awesome—they support you when you need it, and you support them.

But what happens, when your own strength begins to fail and they still need you to hold them up?

Andy’s Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis began a period of struggle within our marriage. He was dealing with anger, embarrassment, fear, frustration, and a myriad of other emotions. I was struggling with my own frustration and fear, but I knew it was important to be strong for him. I started making dinner more often. I encouraged him to exercise with me—all the while spending hours online trying to figure out a way to keep our current lifestyle from disappearing into a world of broccoli and kale.

I was exhausted trying to stay positive and uplifting when all I really wanted was to dive into a gallon of ice cream (it didn’t even need to be good ice cream) and drown my sorrows.

I can remember one day, I just needed to feel like everything was normal so I went to Taco Bell and got a soft taco and a 7-layer burrito. I stuffed both in my purse and sneakily ate them in the kitchen while Andy was watching TV. It wasn’t healthy—emotionally, or physically—but it was what I needed at the time.

It’s important to remember as you’re struggling with your spouse, or friend, or parent, or sibling as they go through the early stages of a Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis, that sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and do something for yourself. Go buy yourself some nail polish, get a massage, go for a walk, indulge in something you really love. And don’t feel guilty. You’ll feel renewed and stronger. Strong enough to keep being the strong one for a little while longer.

In the years that have passed, our lives have returned to a better form of normal. Our meals are healthier, we spend more time being active, and less time watching TV. We’re happier inside and out. We’ve gone back to walking side-by-side, hand-in-hand. And we’ve realized that all the struggle was worth it to see Andy come out on the other side stronger than before.

Confessions of a sugar addict

(That was my kitchen table the day before Easter with Andy’s family. Four different desserts, and I ended up with marshmallow on the ceiling.)

A while back I shared my tale of a sweet tooth. Today, I wanted to share a little bit more about my relationship with sugar.

First, it makes me very happy. Almost euphorically happy. I LOVE sugar!

Then it makes me unhappy. My blood sugar drops and I get angry. I HATE sugar (and just about everyone around me at the time).

If I’m strong enough to push through the sugar low without indulging in any more sweets, within a few hours (or up to a day or two later) my eczema will flare up. Phew, I’m feeling drained. And why do my hands itch so much? If I’m really on a bender, I may even develop a cold sore (mine are triggered by stress and sugar).

If I’m not strong enough to push through the sugar low and I go in for more, I start the cycle over again, my eczema gets even worse, and it takes even longer for the inflammation to go down. Nothing makes me feel more like a child than the inability to not scratch my hands when they break out.

Physical manifestations of sugar aside (the eczema is pretty awful), it’s the mental and emotional extremes that really take their toll. Not just on me, but on Andy. When my blood sugar drops, I get quiet. Like really really quiet. The “it’s always the quiet ones” quiet. You’ve probably heard the word “hangry”, well I embody that term.

When my blood sugar drops I say things that I wouldn’t normally say with very little care how the other person (usually Andy) might take them. This leads to a lot of hurt feelings, the occasional fight, and when my blood sugar finally returns to normal (this could take hours or even up to a day or two) a heaping pile of guilt for my words and actions. I’ve become very good at saying “I’m sorry.”

I’d like to say that at this point in our health journey I’ve learned my lesson. I’d like to say that broccoli and I are BFFs. But that’s not true. I still indulge on a somewhat regular basis. Definitely not as often as before Andy’s Type 2 Diagnosis, but definitely more than I should.

I don’t share my story out of guilt or shame, but more as a reminder to myself (and anyone else) that this health journey we’re on is just that–a journey. Some days are going to be a stroll. Others will be an easy jog. Still others will leave me gasping for air at the end of the day. Andy and I have both learned that forgiveness of self is one of the hardest things to do, and that every now and then an indulgent break is okay.

Grocery shopping 101: Where we shop

Some people I know shop solely at New Seasons and Whole Foods, and I totally get it. Those places are great sources for healthy food. They have beautiful produce sections, solid meat and dairy, and let’s face it, bakeries to die for. I do the bulk of my shopping at Winco, with stops at New Seasons, Trader Joe’s, and Fred Meyer to supplement what Winco doesn’t have. Why don’t I do all my shopping at these other places? Because we have a grocery budget and the way we eat now isn’t cheap.

After Andy was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes the way we shopped for groceries changed, and our weekly grocery expenses went up. Sticking to a budget has always been important to me, and I didn’t want our budget to suffer because of our health (or vice versa) in order to afford an $8/lb. bunch of asparagus. I knew we wouldn’t always be able to afford organic produce (thankfully, we have a garden full or organic veggies), but incorporating more fruit and veggies into our meals was a necessity.

I don’t want to start a political discussion about the virtues of eating locally sourced food, but I wanted to share where and how we shop for groceries because I know how expensive it can be to start living a healthy lifestyle. Good-for-you food isn’t cheap—that’s another discussion for another time. I grew up in home that didn’t have a lot of money to spare. There were weeks when I know my mom had no idea how she was going to put food on the table for a family of five. We ate a lot of beans and rice.

In this economy, not everyone can afford to shop at the local high-end natural foods market. And that’s okay. Winco’s produce isn’t always the best around, but they do have a fairly new organic section, and if you buy what’s in season you’ll be okay. Plus, they have an amazing bulk section full of dried fruits, nuts, spices, and other goodies that I have on my list on a weekly basis.

If you’re just starting out on this lifestyle journey, don’t feel that you have to take out a second mortgage to put healthy food on the table. By making small changes where you can–swapping out that bag of chips for a new vegetable to experiment with in the kitchen–and adding in the freshest ingredients possible, you’re already making a step in the right direction.

Next week, I’m going to share how I navigate the grocery store, and give you some tips and tricks for making the process easier and healthier.

The power of marketing

Have you walked through a grocery aisle lately? I’m not talking about rushing through the aisle as quickly as possible to cross things off your shopping list. I’m talking about just walking through and looking at stuff—in particular, labels. Both front and back.

You might be surprised.

One of the things both Andy and I started doing after his Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis was reading labels. Okay, maybe you’re one of those people who’s been doing it for years. The point is we did start looking, and found ourselves putting stuff back on the shelf on a frequent basis. To say our eyes were opened is an understatement. High fructose corn syrup is in everything. Everything! Why would you put HFCS in dill pickles of all random things? It blew our minds.

I have a background in marketing so I’m very familiar with “spin”. Ever look at a movie poster and wonder what those ellipses (…) might be omitting? That’s spin! In the food industry spin is all over the packaging—from the flashy color labels that distract you from what’s really in the product, to the word burstss that proclaim: Fat Free! Sugar Free! All Natural! Organic!

The fact of the matter is, you can’t really trust the front of the label. I wish you could. It would make shopping so much easier. The only way to truly know what’s going into your body is to turn the product over and read through the ingredients list on the back. You’d be amazed at what they like to hide in that fine print. A while back, someone gave us a bottle of salsa that had both chicken and beef paste in the ingredient list. Meat paste. In salsa. Bummer dude.

If you’re just starting out on your own lifestyle obstacle course, I encourage you to start peeking at those food labels. Yes, it does require some work, and you’ll probably start putting some of your favorite foods back on the shelf when you realize what they’ve been sneaking into your body. The more we read, the more we realized the only “real” food we ate came out of our own kitchen. Even those awesome, time saving, rotisserie chickens from the grocery store have questionable ingredients.

I’m not saying you have to avoid all boxed food, but I encourage you to, at the very least, turn the box over and look at the ingredients list so you know what you’re getting into with your eyes wide open.

In his words: Documentation, Accountability, and Consistency (or “You’re Only Cheating Yourself”)

Have you ever heard the phrase “You’re only cheating yourself!”? Have you ever wondered exactly what someone meant by that? Growing up teachers, parents, and other adult/authority figures would say that to me and it really didn’t make sense. Until I was 34 years old. Then it made complete sense.

After my initial diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes I started to record my daily blood sugar numbers along with the times that I took them as well as any pertinent notes regarding what I ate or drank that may explain a spike or dip in numbers. I know that the digital meters all record numbers, but over the years I have found for myself that if I write something down in my own handwriting, it tends to stick with me.

Starting April 21st, 2011, at 7:51 AM, I began a lifelong habit that, while it did not directly result in reversing Type 2 Diabetes, definitely supported the effort–I began documenting my progress in a tiny little notebook. The first entry was 240, “no food.” Right when I woke up.

The reason I started doing this was so that I could track my progress in my handwriting. Type 2 Diabetes is all about a number. Oversimplified explanation: Less than 6 (your A1C number) and you don’t have it. Over 6, and depending on how high it is, you’re either a pre-diabetic or full on Type 2 Diabetic.

If I could see a pattern, then I could figure out what to change, what to keep doing, and what to do more of. That’s also when I started to record my weight. I wanted to see a correlation and pattern with that as well.

For about a month before I started walking (more on that in a bit), I made dietary changes thanks to my beautiful, patient, and loving wife. And as the days went by, my numbers went down–weight AND blood sugar!

When we hit Memorial Day weekend that year, I went and bought a pair of Nike ACG hiking shoes (mentioned in this post) and started walking. That same weekend, I decided it might be a good idea to start logging my miles in addition to my blood sugar and weight to see what those numbers would show me.

It may seem silly, or obsessive, or a waste of time to most people, but one of the greatest tools that helped me was that notebook. Every day that I walked, I weighed myself and wrote down the mileage and the weight. At the beginning, walking wasn’t a daily, let alone twice daily, occurrence. There wasn’t a LOT of consistency until late June when I began walking twice a day.

But as I walked more and more, I weighed less and less, and my blood sugar numbers came down. As I got more consistent with my efforts, I got more consistent results. And documenting that was what helped me on days when I might have weighed MORE than the day before or my numbers were inexplicably higher than they should have been based on what I ate and how much I moved prior to checking myself (… by the way, always make sure that you wash your hands before you check yourself…). If I hit a plateau or stalled, I could flip back a page or two and look at the progress that I *HAD* made and be encouraged.

One the biggest challenges to my success early on was myself. Liv has admitted in earlier posts, she was a bit naggy at the beginning. Some days after a rough day of work, I understandably didn’t feel like doing anything but sitting on the couch and vegging out. And truth be told, there are still nights like this and sometimes I do skip my afternoon walk, but it’s very rare and it’s either weather related or my cat cries/whimpers at me and she just wants to play.

One evening that first year, I was walking past the middle school and it was a really nice evening and I thought to myself, “You know, I could just go lay down in the grass, set an alarm, close my eyes for a minute, and then go home. Liv would *never* know!” And then a voice said very clearly, “YEAH, you could do that. But you’d know. And you would only be cheating yourself.”

That’s the day my attitude changed. That’s the day that I got serious about the lifestyle change. That’s the day that I went from “Well, I’m gonna do this until I am all better and then go back to the KFC and Taco Bell for lunch every day and a couple of Cadbury Easter Eggs for dessert every night” to That was the moment that I realized no one could or should actually care more than me. As concerned as Liv was for me and my health, at the end of the day, I was the only person who could change. If I wanted to cheat on the diet when I was at work, there wasn’t a thing that she could do to stop me. If I wanted to lay down and take a nap in the park before dinner, I could. She’d never know (until of course she realized that all that walking wasn’t doing anything!). I could cheat, sure. But in the end, I would have been cheating myself. And I would have known. And I didn’t want to live with that.

My advice to anyone starting out on a health/lifestyle change or weight loss effort is this: Be consistent with what you do, when you do it, how you do it. Be patient and believe in the process. Document your efforts for self-encouragement down the road. Write it down in a notebook like I do or take photos, but be consistent with that as well. And be accountable to you. Take it seriously and if you do these things as well as make simple, modest adjustments to your diet and activity level, you will be successful.

By the way, I still have those original notebooks. The blood sugar notebook entries ended in August 2011 and I filled up my fitness log notebook on December 31st, 2014. That one contains my notes from over 6000+ miles and I started a new notebook the next day on the 1st.

A tale of a sweet tooth

This week I (Liv) wanted to take a little time to share my own personal relationship/struggle with food. You’ve read a lot about Andy and how our lives have changed post Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, but Andy wasn’t the only one with food issues prior to Spring 2011. Here’s a little bit of my story:

For as long as I can remember I have loved sweet things. From candy to donuts, muffins to ice cream, if you put something sweet in front of me I will eat it. I’ve never smoked. I’ve never done drugs. Sugar is my addiction.

When Andy and I first started dating, I would get home late at night and dig into the freezer for the German chocolate cake ice cream my mom had stashed away. There’s something very special about eating ice cream with a fork (those cake pieces were pretty big) at 2:30 on a Saturday morning.

There was rarely a time when I needed an excuse to indulge in a treat. Usually “I want it” would suffice. Andy would chuckle and call me his little junky.

After Andy was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I started to take a hard look at my own health journey and realized that I may have a slight problem. Little junky indeed. My reliance on all things sweet was beginning to be a crutch. Any day of the week warranted a side trip to the store for some candy. Whether I’d had a good day (Hooray, candy!), or a bad day (Blerg. I need candy.), I was becoming overly familiar with my store’s candy aisle.

Sometimes the candy would be completely gone before I got home. It was only a 5 minute drive, and I’d have no idea where it had gone. Not good.

After a fairly indulgent family vacation week in 2012, I decided to curtail my sugar habit. I didn’t want to rely on any food (much less candy) to provide me with life happiness. So I stopped. Cold turkey. And frankly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Sure, I still had mild cravings, but the first few weeks were a breeze.

After that, the cravings came back full force. If possible, they might have been even louder. For those who say the cravings go away, well, they lie. For me anyways. My struggle with sugar is still daily battle (you’ll see what I mean later this week). Almonds don’t replace See’s Polar Bear Paws. Cashews and avocados don’t replace Brach’s Bridge Mix.

I did notice, however, that my blood sugar issues drastically diminished. Low blood sugar used to plague me at least once a week. In the first six weeks of “no sugar”, I think I had 2 episodes, and they were much less severe.

Over the last 3 years, my relationship with sugar has had its ups and downs. I haven’t kicked the habit fully but I do have a better understanding of how my  body responds to sugar, and what it means for me when I do indulge.

Coming down the mountain

This week I (Liv) wanted to take a little time to share my own personal relationship/struggle with food. You’ve read a lot about Andy and how our lives have changed post Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, but Andy wasn’t the only one with food issues prior to Spring 2011. Here’s a little bit of my story:

Did you know that walking downhill is actually harder and more physically taxing on your body than walking up hill? It seems counter intuitive, but it’s true. It’s certainly that way in the dieting world. It’s very easy to eat yourself up that food mountain, but the descent is always a rude awakening—at least it is for me.

The first holiday season after Andy’s Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis was difficult. While we were definitely eating better than the previous year, by the time we hit Andy’s birthday in mid-February, we’d hit full stride up that sugar/carb mountain. At the end of a long birthday weekend—where we essentially ate out every single meal—Andy and I decided that we needed a major food break.

And so began the descent. Our bodies were so overwhelmed with the food we’d been eating that the first couple of days were a relief. We were eating our standard diet of lots of lean protein, veggies, and fruit. It was refreshing! Then our bodies started detoxing. We weren’t detoxing intentionally, but when you stop eating processed food all those toxins eventually start leaching out—and that’s when my cravings hit. The kind of sweet cravings that can’t be satisfied by an apple or some pineapple.

I’ll be straight up, Andy is much better at this food self-control thing than I am. I caved more than once on the journey from his birthday to mine (exactly six weeks later). Most women’s food issues are much more deeply rooted than men’s and I shamefully used that as my excuse. I wanted candy, so I had candy. Not to the extent that I was eating it before, but enough that my climb off the sugar mountain had a lot more hills and valleys than Andy’s. Slowly–finally–my metabolism, blood sugar, and willpower returned to pre-holiday levels.

Lifestyle changes are difficult (no one ever said they were easy), but in those six weeks I found that I didn’t need a “night off” in the kitchen at least once a week. Eating out wasn’t cutting it anymore. Andy’s diagnosis had changed more than him– it changed us, and me.

A bit of a backslide

There were times that first year when Andy and I would convince ourselves that we really could eat the way we used to and be just fine. One Saturday in particular, after a long day of excursioning (in and around town), I was tired. The last thing I wanted to do after a full day of errands was make a healthy dinner. As we headed home I had a brilliant idea! Andy had mentioned how he had a hankering for sandwiches, and I thought that would be an awesome dinner idea—if we kept it on the healthier side.

I pitched the idea and he was all in. We stopped at the store to grab some fixins’: a loaf of Dave’s Killer Bread (like I said, we were trying to be healthy), some deli lunch meat, a tomato, and a bag of salt and vinegar Kettle Chips. (Okay, we weren’t trying to be *that* healthy.) We had pickles, cheese, avocado, and mayo at home already.

I’m not going to lie, it was the most amazing dinner I’d had in a long while. It had been so long, I’d almost forgotten what a perfect little package a sandwich is. And the salt and vinegar chips were scrumptious. We both had a sandwich (or two) and polished off the bag of chips in one sitting.

We had done our best to be as healthy as possible. The bread we chose had plenty of fiber, protein, and the smallest number of carbs we could find. The sandwiches were topped with lean protein, just a bit of cheese, and some nice veggies. We’d really gotten into the habit of lots of lean protein and veggies, and we honestly thought we’d be fine.

An hour after dinner we both had a headache.

The next day was even worse. I’ll be the first to admit that I suffer from a bit of the “hangries”. I’ll get into my own personal blood sugar issues at a later point, but they can be pretty awful. Ask Andy. He’ll tell you. Even so, it’s unusual for me to wake up with low blood sugar, eat breakfast and still have low blood sugar, and then eat a snack to see if that will help and still have low blood sugar. And then have lunch. And another snack—all good combinations of fruit, nuts, healthy carbs and lean proteins—and still have low blood sugar. Now, I wasn’t a raging maniac, just low-level cranky, but 8 hours of feeling low-level cranky sucks the fun out of a lazy Sunday.

I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me until I reminded myself of the delicious dinner I’d had the night before. Chock full of whole grains, and heavily processed white potatoes.

The truth of the matter is, our new lifestyle required sacrifice. But is it really a sacrifice to eat healthier and feel better? Every now and then we still get a hankering for a taste of our old life. We just have to remind ourselves that it’s not worth a headache, the hangries, or the digestive issues (not to mention the temporary, or not, weight gain). At this point I’ll take an apple with some cheese over a sandwich any day. And I know Andy would agree.

In his words: Shoe count

Andy here! I just got the first of two shipments of new walking shoes this week, so I thought it’d be a good time to talk about my walking footwear. I am now currently on my 14th pair (not including the previously mentioned shoes that just arrived and the two that are on the way), dating back to Memorial Day weekend 2011.

  1. Nike ACG hiking shoes:

I can’t remember the exact name but they lasted 6 months and they were VERY comfortable.

  1. Nike Air Pegasus TR:

A gift from my beautiful wife. Great for the treadmill but not great for cold/wet winter weather.

  1. Nike Air Moto 8:

I demolished these in 6 weeks. No joke. Wore them down to the white cushiony part under the black sole. Running shoes are NOT good for walking and at the end, these hurt my shins and made walking very painful.

4-8. Nike Salbolier ACG:

These were the best and my absolute favorite shoe. A reasonably priced hiking shoe ($50.00 – $55.00 per pair) with a stiff ride with lots of tread which fits my walking stride very well. It’s counter-intuitive, but my shin-splint pain was gone almost immediately and these shoes allowed me to walk pretty fast.

I went through 5 pairs of these amazingly good shoes. They lasted an average of 2.5 months and from about July 1, 2012, through mid-May of 2014, this was the shoe. Sadly it was already discontinued by the time that I found them on clearance at Big 5 Sporting Goods in Beaverton. As soon as I fell in love with them and realized I didn’t want to have to ever switch to another shoe, I scoured the internet for them. I was able to order 4 pairs from Amazon.com (through a retailer in the UK).

I still look for them online when I have a few free minutes at work.

9-11. Merrell Moab (Ventilator):

A reasonable replacement for the Nike Salbolier ACG’s that I loved. I started in on these after a recommendation from a clerk at the Washington Square Track N’ Trail store. A good, stiff ride combined with a fairly thick Vibram sole made them great on wet or dry pavement.

The downside: $90.00 a pop, and they’d only last about a month and a half to 2 months before they were done. And when they were done, they were DONE i.e. shin splints. Also, the Ventilator version of the shoe means it’s a vented shoe and not great for winter/rainy weather walking.

  1. Merrell Moab (Waterproof):

Ditto to the above but waterproof*.
(*the extra $20.00 for this version isn’t worth it and if your pants hang just right, the water will run right down the pant leg onto your socks and get the shoe wet from the inside out. Better to just wear hiking shorts and have wet legs.)

13+14.Merrell Pulsate (Ventilator)

The closest that I have come to finding “the shoe”. I bought 2 pair from The Clymb on a lark in November 2014 (based on a suggestion from my beautiful wife). These have been a VERY good shoe. $60.00 a pair, lasting about 2 – 2.5 months with a stiff sole and lots of tread (not a Vibram sole, so they are a little slick on wet pavement).

I am now on the second pair. I first laced them up around January 24th and they seem to still be holding together quite well.

Because I like to have backups ready to go and ideally trade off on shoes to help them last longer, I have placed orders for 4 more pairs. The Clymb (www.theclymb.com) is an online retail clearance type site that sells sporting goods at less than retail. Normally this shoe is sold at $60.00 per pair, but recently they marked down to $50.00 so I ordered a couple pair. When I got an email a couple of weeks later that they were having a random, one day sale (sitewide – an extra 20% off orders over $75.00), I placed another order.

Based on my past usage, average mileage, and experience, the shoes I am on currently should last me through the end of March and the next 4 pair should get me through the end of 2015.

(Please note that the statements and reviews are NOT paid product endorsements of any kind. These shoes were all purchased through brick/mortar and online stores by my wife and I with our own money and were NOT given to us by any of the above named companies.)

Everyone’s got an opinion

If you’ve done any research at all on Type 2 diabetes- based diets and lifestyle changes, you’ve probably noticed that everybody’s got a cure-all. You’ve got high-protein/low-carb, low-protein/high-carb, vegetarian, vegan, whole grains, no grains, all meat, raw, and the list goes on!

After Andy’s diagnosis, I played around with dozens of diets to see if I could find the miracle cure that would get us back to normal. We tried South-Beach (neither one of us is a big fan—no matter how much we ate we always felt hungry). We tried recipes from diabetic cookbooks (I’m not a numbers person, so it was difficult to remember how many carbs we weren’t supposed to be eating). We tried switching entirely to whole grains (it just never felt quite right for us).

We realized that for our situation, no one-size-fits-all diet plan was going to work. We needed to find a combination of foods that worked with our chosen treatment program—one that kept our blood sugar in check, didn’t leave us hungry, and didn’t leave us missing all the food we’d “left behind.” This can mean different things to different people. But for us it meant more veggies and lean protein and less starchy carbs (including grains).

Andy and I were blessed because his diagnosis hit in early spring heading into the peak produce season of the year. We filled our plates with fresh fruits and vegetables. From tomatoes and broccoli to pineapple and watermelon our plates were always colorful. We found that a diet low in carbs (both whole and refined), high in lean protein (we eat a lot of eggs and ground turkey), and high in fruits and vegetables perfectly complemented Andy’s workout routine. Just enough food to energize his day, not too much leaving him dragging and sluggish.

We encourage you to play around—it’s very likely that certain elements of several diets will be your winning combination. And be patient. It will take you a while to determine which foods will and won’t work for your lifestyle.