There is a lot to be said about bedside manner when it comes to delivering the abrupt news to a patient, “You have diabetes”. It is that snapshot moment in the life of every diabetic, that we all remember. After all, there’s no really cool way of giving or receiving such life-altering information.
What happens after that initial stun gun blast, reveals a new pathway, a new way of being a player in the world, a new take on life in general. And because we are all unique specimens, we all have our own original twist and slant of how to stop worrying and learn to live with diabetes. For some, it’s incorporating it into a lifestyle without being a beast of burden, but rather an ally to help one do better and sharpen focus on the world around them. Some decide to pay it no mind. But this, inevitably, turns out to be a temporary situation. Some are overwhelmed and wind up serving every whim of diabetes while ignoring the broader spectrum life offers. The trick, to any of you in the “newly diagnosed” crowd who are here now, is to come to the negotiation table equipped with perception, good attitude, and balance.
One factor to understand is that when diabetes settles into a person’s life, it presents a manifesto of its rules and regulations. Reach an agreement with these and the two of you should more or less get along for the long haul. It’s sort of a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” kind of thing. This all sounds good, but on a logical and practical note, how does one manage life, balancing diabetes on their shoulders, every day and night.
For newcomers in the diabetes community, it can easily become daunting. Must you empty out the pantry and cupboards and stock up on boxes and cans of everything “sugar-free? In a word NO. Here’s where I may be able to help out a little. My own diabetes has encouraged me to seek out, learn and practice a healthy lifestyle of great meals, fun exercise and support of family and friends. I have learned to use my big mouth to try to make other diabetics aware of how to live a rewarding lifestyle, despite the disciplines of diabetes. Whenever I give talks or cooking demonstrations, a large portion of attendees has recently been diagnosed. They come for answers, solutions, recipes. I try to feed them a menu of tasty reality sandwiches.
- Love your grains. Fiber-rich fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, and grains are gifts of nature. Not only do they contain powerful nutritional elements, but some fiber slows down after-meal rises in blood sugar. Fiber gives the feeling of fullness without the fat and calories. In case you don’t know exactly what fiber is. It’s the part of the grains, seeds, etc. that is not digested by the body. There are 2 types of fiber: Soluble, which dissolves in water (oat and rice bran are good examples) and Insoluble, which does not dissolve in water but helps push food through the digestive process (whole-grain bread, fruit, vegetables, nuts seeds, for instance). Drink plenty of water as you add fiber to your diet.
- Keep in mind that Too much fat will make you too fat. 1 fat gram =9 calories, whereas 1 protein or carbohydrate gram = 4 calories. The grams add up pretty quickly when you eat fried foods, fast foods or fatty meat and dairy products. Treat your body to some beautiful extra virgin olive oil, nut or seed oil. A little goes a long way and the taste is worth the switch. A good rule of thumb to follow is, no more than 30% of your daily food intake should come from fat. This is something you and your dietitian can discuss to fine-tune the fat content in your diet. All the advice on fat that we hear every day from a myriad of sources, studies, diet gurus and TV pundits is enough to make us fat. Don’t let them weigh you down. The real tip is to think before you eat and start to cut bad fat from your diet.
- Be kind to blood sugar and blood pressure by curbing your sugar and salt intake. A pinch here or there is fine, but too many pinches cause too many problems, and tragically dull the taste buds, interfering with real taste. You’re tasting salt and sugar rather than real food.
Well, now that I’ve brought it up, let’s talk a little about sugar and what used to be called “Sugar Diabetes”. When a patient was diagnosed with diabetes, sugar was dissolved from their vocabulary and evaporated off the food allowance list. It was a blatant, forceful no-no. It was said that sugar was unsafe for diabetics to eat. But lucky for us, through the persistence of research and developments in the science of nutrition, we have learned that simple sugar in not the enemy it was once perceived to be. In fact, it can have a place in the diabetic diet if one so chooses. We now know that sugar is processed in much the same way as other starches, such as rice or potatoes and that it is the total grams of carbohydrate that raise blood sugar, not the type. The body processes sugars and starches to make glucose for fuel for energy. Some nutritionists believe that is why we have an innate craving for sugar. It’s best to speak with your diabetes educator or nutritionist, to understand where sugar is appropriate in your diet since we are all unique cases. Sugar comes by many names and styles. The general breakdown is caloric and non-caloric sweeteners.
Sucrose = table sugar, cane sugar, raw sugar, brown (molasses) sugar, confectioner’s sugar.
Fructose = sugar found in fruit.
Lactose = milk sugar.
Dextrose = obtained commercially from starch.
Maltose = derived from melting barley.
Corn Syrup = liquid corn sugar
Honey = nectar which bees gather from flowers.
Maple Sugar = sugar and syrup collected from maple trees.
Non-Caloric Sweeteners or Sugar Substitutes
Saccharin = a white crystalline powder 175 to 700 times sweeter than table sugar. It has been in use for over 100 years. It goes by the names of Sweet ‘n Low, Weight Watchers Sweetener, Sweet -10, Sprinkle Sweet, Sugar Twin Sucaryl and Zero-Cal.
Aspartane = We know this sweetener composed of 2 proteins as Nutrasweet, Sweetmate or Equal. It is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
Acesulfane K = has been in use since 1987. It is sold as Sweet One. It is also used in many commercial baked goods and is 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
Sucralose = approved in 1998, it is 600 times sweeter than table sugar. It can be used in baking that takes a long time in a hot oven. It is on the market under the name Splenda.
Stevia = natural leaf of a South American shrub. It is intensely sweet. It is sold in natural food stores.
Taste the various sweeteners and determine your preferences. Then, see how to fit them into your diet to enjoy, and at the same time keep blood sugars in balance.
In a recent issue of Diabetes Positive magazine, profiles of several super-elite diabetic athletes were featured. Some of the athletes are Olympians, They are all relatively new to diabetes and have broken out of the gate with great enthusiasm, daring, and determination. We can’t all be Olympians, but this group is certainly a good example to honor and inspire every person with diabetes to get on board immediately and do our very best with the challenge of diabetes. I say we celebrate these super achievers and ourselves with a dessert party. Join me in the cyber kitchen to get started preparing sweets for the festivities