Tag Archives: diabetes

Opinions and Judgements

There’s a lot to be said about words, in words, for words; but I think we can all agree on the fact that talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words…etc.

“Where did this ridiculous insight come from?” you wonder?

From overhearing various people talking, on the bus, at the Cafe, on the street, in the check-out line at the IGA or Woolworths, you know, just regular places people talk freely. Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone – and I really do mean everyone – is entitled to their opinion – provided they’re not trying to shove it down your throat: I’m looking at you would-be-converters! But nevermind that right now! Without our opinions we can’t really call ourselves human; and let’s be honest, most of us have opinions about pretty much everything; whether it’s the food we are served in a restaurant, the car our neighbours just bought, the state of politics in our country – I’m not even going to try and touch that one with a barge pole – and yes, we’ve all got an opinion about our weight and the weight of the person sitting next to us on the train or in the cubicle two seats down at work. We might be envious of Sally’s ability to roll out of bed and look like a movie star, or we might be a little judgmental of Marshall’s inability to regulate his eating even though he’s morbidly obese. Let’s face it, as humans we tend – largely – to be a judgmental and opinionated lot.

On the whole that’s okay, we’ll keep most of the negative opinions to ourselves or air them in the appropriate arenas – having a little giggle with your partner about how fat that woman was in the supermarket and would you just look at what she was buying! Well, we all do that. It’s not exactly the nicest thing to be doing, but let’s face it, the woman in the supermarket won’t have heard us and as a result she won’t be hurt by our commentary. Likely enough, she knows she’s got a weight problem and has enough on her plate dealing with it.

I know I’ve written a little bit about this before in Weigh your Words, but I think it’s an important issue so I’d like to touch on it again. The reason why this has come up again is because I just got abused by a woman in the street for ‘not understanding what it’s like to be fat’. Here’s what happened, so you have the full context: I was walking down the street back to the Cafe, minding my own business, when this woman, rather large but nothing particularly massive or anything – I mean, I’ve seen worse! – steps out of her car into the street in front of me and begins to make her way up the hill. She’s breathing fairly heavily, and she’s carrying what looks like a rather heavy bag full of who knows what. I felt for her; I mean, a few months ago that was me! But I needed to get back to the Cafe, so I murmured a polite ‘excuse me’ and slipped by her with a bright smile. I am not  a confrontational person in the least, and I believe in respect for everyone without exception. As I slipped by her, I may have accidentally bumped in to her a little bit – no harm done, but the footpath is narrow enough as it is and she…well, you get the picture. I apologised, of course, and instead of the usual ‘that’s okay’ I was expecting I got this tirade about how slim people should really pay more attention to their surroundings and be more spacially aware. I won’t go into the details, but the gist of the argument went along the lines of: because a slim person is slim they have no understanding of the spacial requirements that a large person needs to get around. Or something. I stood there, more than a little dumbfounded, but before I could apologise again – as is my nature – she went off again with how I had no idea what it was like to be her size and the hardship she went through and, again, in essence, how ‘pretty people had no troubles in life’ and ‘doors just open for them’. Funny thing is, I don’t necessarily disagree with her – we do  live in a world where slim ‘beautiful’ people seem to get ahead more easily than others. It’s kind of like a backhanded slap to the face: obviously she thought I was ‘pretty’, which is very flattering, but the weird thing is, I never really considered myself pretty, let alone ‘slim and pretty’. So backhanded self-esteem boost coupled with a full slap to the face of ‘you made someone feel bad’. Now, obviously – I picked up on this fairly fast – she was having an awful day and the last thing she needed was me to say something about the fact that I’d lost 20kg in the last 9 months so I knew exactly how she felt – when you’re feeling down you don’t really need to hear about the you who’s been successful at the weight loss game. So instead I waited until she’d stopped shouting and I apologised again, asked her I’d hurt her, and when she seemed slightly surprised at my calm rejoinder I told her I understood exactly what she meant and that I had had to fight to get to this shape and weight and I didn’t mean to make her feel bad. Then she apologised, realising that she’d been out of line…and, well, that was it.

Much fun.

What this raised in me was an interest in the psychology behind the perception of weight loss. I don’t see myself as slim. I should, clearly, since I have lost all that weight and I now have a waist that could be defined as ‘slim’. I’m happy with my body for the first time in decades; sure I have a few problem patches that I’m working on, but clearly I need to take a look at myself in the mirror and redefine how I see myself. This probably means thinking about how other people see me too, and that’s always tricky. End result? A stranger on the street isn’t going to know the uphill battles we’ve fought to get to our target weights, they’re just going to see the final result and hold their opinions and judgements about that. It’s silly, and yes, it can be petty and even hurtful, but it’s important to remember that you and I were both there at that point. Next time you see a ‘slim’ person walking down the street, don’t just assume they were born that way, because they might not have been and might be in the same boat you are.

Food for thought.

Weigh Your Words

I envy people who can eat whatever they want and not bear any consequences. You lot are extremely lucky! I think we are all aware that most of us don’t have that luxury. Whether it’s because of PCOS, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, cancer or whatever other reason, some of us really need to watch what we eat.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I sometimes get really annoyed by naturally skinny people – and not to be sexist, but yes, its primarily other women – waving a dismissive hand and saying something like ‘Oh, surely it isn’t as bad as all that, I don’t have to keep track of what I eat no reason you should.’ I respect that people who say things like that aren’t concerned with their own weight or size, and in all honesty that’s super for them, but the reality of this all is: you simply cannot compare one person to another. Especially not when it comes to weight, health and/or necessity.

This doesn’t just go for people not trying to lose weight mind you. This also goes for the lot of us who do watch what we eat. I may lose 2kg this fortnight while you only lose 0.5kg even if we are doing the exact same thing. Why? Because our bodies are different. My metabolism might be a little quicker than yours, I might be less further along in the weight loss than you at a point where I dot have to inrease my kj deficit yet. There are a whole range of reasons why two people may not lose weight the same way.

This is why I always get so worried when a friend tells me they’re on the latest celebrity diet because such and such lost 20kg in 6 weeks. Not only is that unhealthy and puts you at risk, it’s probably unattainable unless you’re a celebrity with time and money on hand to fix your diet. It’s also stupid. The quicker you lose weight the faster it’ll come back, which is really why you need to set yourself reasonable targets. Me, for example, I need to lose 30kg in total and I originally aimed for the steep 1 year timeframe. I’ve amended that to 1.5 years because while the initial burst of weight loss was awesome, I do nit just want to gain it all right back again and that means slowing down a little and adding in more exercise. By May next year at the latest I aim to weigh 52kg, so I’ve still got a little ways to go, but I’m nearly through.

The other type of person I have trouble with is the obese person who excuses their weight by saying ‘It’s okay, I’m healthy’ or that they’ve tried dieting and exercising but ‘it’s just too hard’ or ‘it didn’t do anything for me’. Now, its really none of my business, your weight and health don’t really affect me, but when I hear that I just want to throttle them. When I hear that I feel like my battle against obesity – and let’s be honest here, it is a battle – is being dismissed as some sort of vain attempt to conform to society. I’m being trendy, clearly. I find it rather upsetting and lately it’s been getting under my skin; I know, not very professional of me.

The truth is that Western society does seem to promote skinniness as being ultra healthy, thus the rise in eating disorders and fad diets, but on the flip side we are also plagued with obesity to such a degree that people do get dismissive about their weight. The truth is, if you are obese, you are not healthy. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Forget how much you weigh, studies are showing that increase in waist size along can lead to diabetes and other problems. I’m sick and tired of people saying ‘I can’t’, the answer may not be Low-Carb for them in particular, but there’s something out there so grow a spine and lose the extra kgs before you keel over and die. Seriously, people, your health is important! If you’re thinking about losing weight but doubt whether you can, your first step is always to say:

Yes, I can!

Clear skies (with apologies for the slight rant),
Vee

A Word About: Sugar Alcohols

A lot of us on LC will explore the constrictions we place upon ourselves, and that often means we will jump for joy when we discover something that has ‘sugar-free’ or ‘low carb’ written on it in big fancy letters. Let’s face it, we’re putting ourselves through a series of serious changes by cutting out things we like; we’re going to be looking for alternatives for the things we can’t have. That means trying to substitute flour things with cauliflower crusts, or almond meal, or something; we’re only human, we’re going to want to duplicate our favourite carb foods. Imagination is the only limitation here!

But what about sugar? I used to like sugar in my tea, I certainly miss my ability to eat muffins and cakes. Well, there’s a whole host of artificial or alternative sweeteners that we can turn to, but this is where the waters get a little muddied. We don’t want to ingest anything that’ll mess up our good record so far; so nothing that affects our insulin levels, and you probably want to avoid anything with a high kilojoule count. So where does that leave us?

Well, we’ve got a few choices: artificial sweeteners, stevia, or sugar alcohols. There’s a lot of drama revolving around artificial sweeteners, a lot of arguments saying that they’re carcinogenic and have other detrimental health affects. In all honesty, I don’t know. The research is still inconclusive and wherever you look there’s conflicting data. I’ll try to explore a little further and get back to you in a later post. I’ll do the same with stevia, the natural alternative to sugar – I really want to focus on sugar alcohols in this post.

Sugar alcohols derive their name from their molecular structure: kind of halfway between an alcohol molecule and a sugar one. They’re not either of those things: they’re not sugar, and they’re not alcohol.  What they are is a type of carbohydrate also called ‘polyols’. They occur naturally in plants and are extracted from plants as syrups or powder. There’s several different types of sugar alcohols, but if you’ve been browsing labels and ingredients lists you’ll most likely have come across these three: xylitol, malitol, and sorbitol. Good on you for taking notice and doing the research!

Alrighty, down to the nitty-gritty we go.

Sugar alcohols taste sweet – though maybe not as sweet as actual sugar – and are often used in products promoting themselves as sugar-free. Unlike sugar they don’t mess around with your teeth and so people use them in sugar-free chewing gum – go ahead, check the side of that packet, is one of the three in there? I’ll bet it is! These substitutes, however, also come with a bit of a warning: they’re not always completely digested or absorbed by our bodies and that can lead to some serious gas, bloating and stomach aches, not to mention diarrhoea and burping! These affects vary from person to person and depend on which sugar alcohol is ingested. For example, remember those sugar-free liquorices I was talking about when I was sick? Yeah, those had malitol in them. I thought nothing of it because I have little to no reaction to sorbitol or xylitol  – and I do love my sugar-free gum.  Apparently, however, malitol is my worst enemy.  I had an immediate reaction: bloating, gas, and a stomach ache. I was blocked up for days! I’ll not be doing that again, let me tell you; no more malitol for me, ever. Apart from the occasional stick of gum to help with nausea, I’ve managed to avoid sorbitol and xylitol, but I’m glad that I can have something if malitol is definitely off the menu.

Which brings me to erythritol. Unlike the other three, a large amount erythritol does manage to get digested and absorbed so there’s less left in the intestines to fester and cause any ill side effects. In addition, it’s meant to have less of an impact on your blood sugar levels. I have yet to experiment with this, so I can’t really give you an real world experience, but if you have used it – had it in candy, baked with it, etc., I’d love to hear about it.

Remember: whatever you’re replacing anything with go with moderation, start slow and build up, don’t go crazy all at once because you’ve done the research and it says you can definitely eat this! The theories are there, but your body might react differently to things! No one is the same, we’re all special and unique snowflakes (etc.,etc.,etc.) so just keep that in mind: you might have a different reaction to something than the next person. So go carefully!

Clear skies,
Vee

Low-Carb ‘Morning Sickness’

A couple of days ago I rolled out of bed, went through my morning routine and headed off to the Cafe. Nothing new, nothing different, except that about half way there a wave of unbelievable nausea hit me. No, I’m not pregnant; though, ironically, diet-change nausea is remarkably similar to morning sickness!

I’m sure some of you have experienced the nausea, the headaches, the dizziness – and not necessarily during the first weeks of carb flu hell. Don’t worry, this is a normal thing, though, if you’re doing things right you shouldn’t be experiencing it more than once in a while. If you’re experiencing constant or regular dizziness, nausea, or other symptoms you find worrying, see your GP. The reason why we experience these symptoms is – sardonic drum-roll, please – because of our blood sugar. So say you’ve had a great LC day, you’ve been exceptionally good and you’ve even managed to squeeze in some exercise time! Awesome. Now, make sure you have a snack before you go to bed, preferably something protein or slow-burning carby – like, say a bit of cheese, or some nuts.

“Why?” you ask.

Remember, you’ve been eating regularly ever two-three hours while you’re awake – theoretically, anyways – to keep your energy levels up and your blood sugar steady; you’re not doing that while you’re asleep. So say you sleep for 8-10 hours, that’s a long time for your newly programmed body to go without fuel, and sure, you’re not using as much fuel as you would when you’re awake, but still… What I’m getting at is that by the time you wake up your body’s out of fuel to burn up so you’re running on left over energy. This means your blood sugar’s going to drop drastically, so until eat you’re going to feel off. Sometimes it can just be that feeling you have normally when you first get out of bed – especially if you’re not a morning person! – but other times, if you’ve had a particularly low carb day the day before, you’ll feel the heavier symptoms of nausea and dizziness etc. This is exactly what women go through with morning sickness as their body’s adjust to their new physical needs. It’s normal, and it’s easy to fix.

“Okay, that’s interesting enough…but how do you fix it?”

Easy: eat something! Just don’t go nuts – er, crazy – eat something simple that your body’s not going to throw right back up. For me that usually means avoiding my usual breakfast foods of eggs and ham and avocado, so I’ll have half a tomato with some salt on it. I’ll wait half an hour after that, then have some more – the other half of the tomato with salt – and if that settles it I’ll try a proper breakfast. Due  to the fact that I no longer have a gallbladder I have to be extra careful, so you might find you can eat heavier foods to fix your ‘morning sickness’, it’s really a matter of trial and error. The things I would definitely avoid however are dairy products, they are just too fatty + carby for an instant fix. It you’re really not getting anywhere with light foods, try getting a whole-grain cracker – like 9 grain Vitawheats, for example – and munching on one of them. Check the box and count the carbs to see how many you can have to stay within your limit, for me that’s usually around 2-3, but I only ever eat them if I’m desperate for something that feels like a cookie.

The other thing I can advise is peppermint or spearmint tea. I use it pretty much as a cure all for headaches and nausea but not everyone likes the taste – especially not without honey or sugar. So if you’re really stuck, say you’ve got a meeting and you really need to be able to concentrate, get some sugar-free spearmint chewing gum and chew on two of those for a while; the menthol and spearmint flavouring should fix your nausea, but keep in mind that it does contain sorbitol – which is a sugar alcohol, something I’ll discuss in greater detail later.

Clear Skies,

Vee

A Word About: Diabetes

Over the last few decades, we have seen a drastic rise in diabetes. As we’ve turned to more and more processed food, pre-packed convenient meals, and given into the spread of readily available soft drinks, diabetes has erupted all over the world. In a lot of ways, it can be likened to a pandemic.  And yes, it can kill you.

In the last few entries I’ve been harping on and on about insulin resistance, low GI, low carb and diabetes, mostly assuming that we’re all on the same page. I figure most of us who have stumbled across this blog will know something about diabetes, whether or not we have firsthand experience or not. Those of you following LCO because of PCOS will hopefully know that we are considered high-risk pre-diabetic because of the insulin resistance that’s triggered a lot of our issues. So I figured it was time to have a closer look at this disease, especially given that we are now all at risk of diabetes because it isn’t always clear what we’re eating.

The fact is, just as I can’t talk about Low Carb Lifestyles without discussing PCOS or eating disorders, I can’t write about it without dedicated space to Diabetes, not with it becoming as widespread as it is, and not without it being tied in directly with this particular lifestyle change.

Now, before I start rambling, Diabetes Australia has a great explanation of the disease here.

So, in my own words…

Diabetes lasts a very, very long time; often a person’s entire life. It can start at any age, from the very young to the elderly and some people are more susceptible to it than others due to genetic markers and other influences beyond their control.

Now while most of us on a low carb or low GI diet are juggling all sorts of things, no other ‘thing’ needs careful low Gi/Carb monitoring as diabetes. What it comes down to is this: sugar in your bloodstream is toxic. This is why your body prioritizes sugar for energy burning; as soon as it hits your bloodstream, insulin is released to ferry the sugar to the liver where it can then be converted. When you’re diabetic, your body isn’t producing the right amount of insulin to deal with any sugars in your blood, leading to blood-sugar toxicity or hyperglycaemia. Hyperglycaemic symptoms include extreme thirst, weight loss, heavy urination, blurred vision, exhaustion and a drop in immune system functionality – this is often evidenced by infection, such as yeast infections, or wounds not healing as they should. The causes of this are very simple: you’ve eaten too many carbs in too short a time – and we’re talking primarily simple carbs here: potatoes, rice, cake, pasta, bread, candy/sweets, ice cream, milk, etc. -, the flu – or another sickness – that’s messing with your internal body chemistry, stress – a biggie! Stress can mess with your body’s natural insulin production and immune system! –, medications – some of these can not only knock your system about but can actual inhibit the body’s production of hormones that it needs –, and of course not having taken your insulin on time, or simply not getting enough of a dose for whatever reason.

The opposite can happen with hypoglycaemia, which is when your blood sugar is too low. This can happen when a person has skipped meals, isn’t eating enough carbohydrates – I know, it’s a frustrating balance! -, experiences extreme physical exercise, consumes too much alcohol, or has taken too much insulin. Most people with Type 2 Diabetes (see below) have less of a hard time avoiding hypoglycaemia through appropriate dietary intakes, while Type 1s run a greater risk. The symptoms of this extremely low blood sugar include moodiness – and in some cases, sever mood swings – and depression, weakness – trembling, shaking, that sort of thing -, profuse sweating, dizziness and/or light headedness, lack of concentration, hunger, and numbness around the fingers and lips. A quick fix is to find a quick sugar boost – a bit of soda pop, a glass of juice, some jellybeans, glucose tablets. If you’re prone to low blood sugar, eat accordingly – eat more often, or add in some heavier carbs to sustain yourself between meals.

Now, we’ve got two main types of diabetes. With Type 1 Diabetes the pancreas no longer produces any insulin. This means that the body’s not burning that sugar at all. People with Type 1 require regular doses of insulin to stay alive, it’s as simple as that; without an external source of insulin they die, no questions asked, no second chances. There’s no cure, and people with Type 1 can really only manage their disease as best they can with a healthy low GI lifestyle and regular insulin doses.

Type 2 Diabetes is more common. If you’ve been told you’re pre-diabetic or at risk of becoming diabetic, chances are you’re lined up for Type 2. In this case, your pancreas is still producing insulin but you’ve effectively developed a resistance to it to such an extent that it’s not enough and certainly not as effective.  As with Type 1, there’s no cure, but it’s easier to manage Type 2 with a low carb/low gi lifestyle. Occasionally, people require an external insulin source to keep them alive, but for the most part a change to a healthier, low sugar lifestyle seems to allow them to manage it.

The other type of diabetes I’ll talk about quickly is gestational diabetes, which pops up during pregnancy. When with child, women require a lot more insulin than they normally would – unsurprising really, given that they’re carrying a whole other person around! Gestational diabetes raises the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, and can put the mother at risk of developing Type 2 after the pregnancy. However, if managed correctly during the pregnancy, these risks can be drastically alleviated. If you’re thinking about conceiving, especially if you’re pre-diabetic – or you have PCOS! – talk to your gynaecologist or GP about the how to best deal with this risk.

So there we have it, in a nutshell, and no doubt we’ll talk about it again: diabetes, spreading like wild fire.

Clear Skies,

Vee

 

Insulin Talk

Insulin.

If you don’t know what it is, it’s okay, you’re not alone. I imagine most of us who don’t have a close relationship with diabetes only really get a picture about insulin from the movies; syringes, blood pricks to test sugar, that sort of thing. Let’s explore a little so we know what we’re talking about, and I promise, we’ll soon get to the good bits: LC recipes, side effects like carb flu (I know, sounds awful, but it’s good to know about!), and foods you can enjoy to the end of the world. They’re coming, I promise.

So. Insulin. Master hormone, expert sugar manager, secreted by the pancreas. It can kill you, save your life, or just go about its business without you ever knowing a thing about it. A couple of years ago someone very close to me nearly died of pancreatitis (this is what happens when the pancreas goes postal for whatever reason) and one of the godlike nurses said: ‘Forget liver failure, we can fix that. If your pancreas goes you drop dead, no questions asked.’  That’s the thing: when your pancreas fails, it can dump insulin into your system, and too much insulin in your system will kill you.

But apart from that morbid anecdote, insulin is quite awesome. Wikipedia will tell you that insulin is a ‘peptide hormone’, which means a lot of complicated medically things that aren’t really important; what we need to know here is that insulin is vital in the regulation of carbohydrates and fat metabolism. Here, let me give you an excerpt from Diabetes Australia – an excellent source of information for diabetics, I must add:

“Insulin is a hormone made by beta cells in the pancreas. When we eat, insulin is released into the blood stream where it helps to move glucose from the food we have eaten into cells to be used as energy. In people with diabetes the body produces little or no insulin.

For Type 1 – In people with type 1 diabetes, the body produces little or no insulin as the cells that produce insulin have been destroyed by an autoimmune reaction in the body. Insulin replacement is required by daily injections.

For Type 2 – In people with type 2 diabetes the body produces insulin but the insulin does not work as well as it should. This is often referred to as insulin resistance.  To compensate the body makes more but eventually cannot make enough to keep the balance right. Lifestyle changes can delay the need for tablets and/or insulin to stabilise blood glucose levels. When insulin is required, it is important to understand that this is just the natural progression of the disease.”

At this stage, insulin can only be injected.

Insulin cannot be given in tablet form as it would be destroyed in the stomach. This means that the insulin would not be available to convert glucose into energy.”

In a nutshell: insulin makes sure that the sugars we consume don’t stay in the bloodstream where they can become poisonous. This means that the moment you eat something carby, like a piece of bread, your body releases a certain amount of insulin to turn the sugars you get out of the bread into energy that you then use for energy. What we need to remember here is this: sugars are considered toxic – glucose toxicity I believe it’s called, please correct me if I’m wrong! – so the body will burn them up as quick as it can. People with diabetes (I & II) or high insulin resistence (pre-diabetics, for example) don’t get enough of the hormone to deal with the sugars in their food, thus the insulin injections and blood testing. Insulin aims at keeping the body running by maintaining a steady flow of energy – i.e. high blood sugar = bad, too low blood sugar = can also be bad. When there’s no sugar left to burn, insulin turns its attention to sugar it’s put aside earlier which is when we finally start losing weight. Your liver – a big player in all this right along side your pancreas – is where this all really happens; your liver, with the aid of all that insulin, transforms sugars into fuel and once the fuel guage is full, it’ll turn it into fatty acids (there’s the fat you were looking for!) that’s then stored throughout the body – which is where body fat comes from.  Too fatty can lead to organ damage, which (obviously!) be extremely detrimental to your health! It raises blood pressure, decreases metabolism, and can mess up your immune system – all of which can lead to things like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hormonal imbalances.

This is why a lot of people turn to Low Gi or Low Carb lifestyles: one of the goals of these diets is to keep your blood sugar as level as possible.

So, summary: Insulin is important, you need it to turn carbs into fuel. Excess sugar carbs turn into fat. Too much fat is bad.

And that’s enough about insulin for now. There’s a lot more information about it out there online, from far more reputable people than I so if my ramblings haven’t made too much sense, do a Google search.

Most definitely check out http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/, and as always, make sure sources you use are reliable, don’t just use Wikipedia as gospel. Be smart.

Clear Skies, Vee