I can’t eat that because…

I never considered myself a foodie until I changed my diet.  Now, thoughts about vegan pizza don’t seem so far-fetched. Nor does any kind of pasta or polenta adventure. Every day I incorporate more foods into my diet and every day I get a handle on how my body responds.

My biggest insight so far is that what I eat isn’t the problem, it is my relationship to food that I need to unpack.

My whole life ‘food’ has been a bumpy ride.

I’ve shared before that I was my own food police as a dancer. Watching my weight was critical to how I performed. I can remember being adamant that 2 lettuce leaves were plenty for lunch. I was never anorexic or bulimic, but I definitely had a pattern of starving myself followed by enjoying butter and sugar sandwiches. Luckily this pattern of behaviour didn’t last and by the time I was in my 20’s I had visited a sensible naturopath who explained to me the importance of eating a well-balanced diet.

Yoga, meditation, breathwork and a simple vegetarian diet were my mainstay for many years. I didn’t have the best digestion, but I certainly enjoyed a wide variety of foods and I cherished growing and eating home grown vegetables and trying out new recipes.

Then things got worse.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes there wasn’t much information about the connection between type 1 diabetes and the microbiome. My endo insisted I start eating meat, my GP suggested a keto diet. When I complained that my tummy was burning, or that I was constantly moving between diarrhoea and constipation, I was told it was parasites, leaky gut, candida overgrowth, IBS, gluten intolerance and so many more ailments.

Many alternative health practitioners later, I had narrowed the corridor of foods so much that I was literally starving myself.

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My mind was like a fortress. If anyone contested what I was doing. I.e. restricting my diet, I would defend myself by saying, “I can’t eat that because I’ll have to take too much insulin. I have bad digestion because of diabetes. I don’t want to go low! I have perfect control so what’s the problem?”

Now, after radically changing my diet (I’m doing a whole food plant-based vegan diet with up to 250 carbs a day) and learning how diet, exercise and insulin really work, I can see that I was in denial about my disordered eating. The package may have been different, but it was just as detrimental as those 2 lettuce leaf dancing days.

Coming out of a pattern of disordered eating is not easy. It’s easier to stress about food. Worrying about what I eat was giving me some semblance of control. Releasing the reigns has meant I’ve had to face how scary it is to try new foods, bigger doses of insulin and to trust my body.

My Diabetes Coach and I have been meeting about once a month to try and fine tune how my body responds to different types of carbs. In one of our most recent sessions he encouraged me to be more intuitive with how I dosed. If I feel like having more of a starchy meal, like with sourdough or sweet potato, or oats. Why not pre-bolus, split the dose or take 20% more insulin? I could even take less insulin on more physical days and switch up my dose of long acting insulin.

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At first his suggestions felt scary. If I could just eat the same meals every day I could get the same results, right? Trying different combinations feels way scarier. Like flying a plane solo.

This is what letting go is all about, letting go of should’s, expectations, assumptions, feelings of inadequacy and doubt. All things that led to my disordered eating in the first place. ‘I should be able to control my diabetes. I won’t be able to unless I do such and such. Even if I try I’ll fail.’

I am finally understanding that knowledge is power. When we know how to resolve a problem and have the right tools, anything is possible.

I wish my endo and health team had told me that diabetes is a subject that requires in depth study.  Instead I’ve gone through years of ups and downs to discover that:

  1. Managing overall health is tied to individual constitution; the way I learn and my emotional mental behaviours and patterns.
  2. Seventy percent of the immune system is in the gut. What I eat, when I eat, how I eat and my relationship with food affects EVERYTHING.
  3. Stress reducing activities like yoga, meditation and breath work increase my sensitivity to insulin, improve my mood and mindset.

Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 1.36.07 PMObviously, nothing is perfect, and living with diabetes is never going to be a walk in the park, but if I knew then what I know now. O. M. G. I could have saved myself so much headache, heartache, denial and self-harm.

Recently friends with diabetes have been contacting me and asking me how I made the transition from a low carb restrictive diet to a high carb low fat diet. We’ve had some big heart to hearts in our chats.  I know first-hand how hard it is to wrap your head around eating 250 carbs a day when you’ve spent years thinking low carb was the only way to get decent management.

The main thing I share is how scared I was, how I definitely needed hand holding and how I haven’t looked back. Having the opportunity to share my experience around food has been a source of healing too. It hasn’t just healed how I approach living with diabetes its transformed how I relate to myself.

If you’d like to learn more about how to transition to a whole food plant based vegan diet with support, check out my diabetes coach,  Drew Harrisberg and the books Mastering Diabetes and Fiber Fueled.

with great respect….

rachel

This post may contain affiliate links to products I trust. Please read Disclaimer for more info

The missing piece

This post may contain affiliate links to products I trust. Please read Disclaimer for more info

When I started writing my book, Yoga for Diabetes in 2015 I knew I wanted it to be something that would be a game changer when it came to diabetes management. If I couldn’t cure my diabetes at least I could use my lifelong passion and knowledge of yoga to manage it and share those life skills with others.

I was diagnosed in 2008 but didn’t start writing the book until starting insulin therapy in 2014. I wrote the book without having fully experimented on myself. Up to that point I didn’t need insulin, in fact I was in denial about my diabetes. However, I did have a deep understanding of yoga and Ayurveda and how potent this combination is in managing any health challenge. Especially in mitigating stress, balancing the nervous system, working with mental and emotional health and overall immune resilience.

How to put insulin into the mix was my personal nemesis, and even though I offered a chapter on insulin and exercise in my book. I was an “insulavirgin.”

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It was after launching my book and connecting with other Type 1’s that I popped my cherry. I decided that injecting once a day and having okay levels (my HbA1c at the time was around 7) wasn’t good enough. Why not at least try having some insulin with meals? Maybe it would make a difference?

Living with LADA ( Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) means diabetes has been a slow progression for me. I still produce some insulin. I had a lot of anxiety around increasing my insulin use and dosage and at the same time I kept questioning myself, “why stay stuck with what I felt was an “okay” HbA1c?” Surely, I could do better.

I took the plunge with some help from Gary Scheiner, author of “Think like a Pancreas”. Gary suggested I start small and take insulin after each meal. We worked out that I’d need about one unit of insulin to cover thirty carbs and that I should start with half units. I was already on a low carb diet sticking to around thirty carbs a day, so I wouldn’t need much insulin at all. Less insulin, less risk of lows.  My diet at the time consisted of eggs, green vegetables, pumpkin, carrot and avocado. I was so embarrassed to tell anyone that I only ate seven foods. I am not exaggerating S E V E N!

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Being on a full insulin regime even on such a restricted diet was amazing. I was able in a year to reach my goal of having an HbA1c of 5.5. I felt like a champion. There were other days though that I felt a sense of hopelessness. Was this my diet for the rest of my life? Living on seven foods because of gastric distress and food sensitivity? Being afraid to eat for fear of low or high blood sugars? Feeling a literal fear of food?

I’m nervous to share how defeated I felt around this aspect of my diabetes management. I had authored a book all about how to bring yoga into daily life, how to find the perfect practice, how to manage stress, how to live well with diabetes and here I was stopping myself in the one area that’s the foundation for everything.

Nutrition.

When people would ask me what sort of diet I was on I’d change the subject or suggest eating for their Ayurvedic constitution, but to be honest because I couldn’t or rather wouldn’t follow my own recommendations keeping quiet was the better option.

Everybody is different, every body is unique. We eat according to taste, conditioning, circumstance, and what we feel works best for us. Whether you are low carb, keto, paleo, AIP, high carb, standard American, or Australian Diet etc. there is no one size fits all. Or so I thought.

My breaking point happened on an innocent outing to our local farm stall for some Haloumi cheese. Something I indulged in every now and then because it was low carb/high fat and isn’t Haloumi the best taste ever?

I was in my car, cheese on the passenger seat, when I saw a newborn calf still covered in afterbirth being transported in a pickup truck. The mother cow was running after the truck trying to get close to her calf. She was obviously very distressed, her body still raw from giving birth. The farm handlers seemed completely unperturbed by what they were doing. It was just a normal part of farm life. The babies were separated, fed and then sold for veal, while the mother was kept for milking. I felt my heart ripping out of my chest. It was one thing to read about animal cruelty or factory farming, it was another to witness it with my own eyes. As I drove home, I made myself a promise, even if I am afraid of going low, afraid of getting sick from foods, afraid of trying something new, I couldn’t live this double life any longer.

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My will to align my lifestyle with my heart had to be my priority. It was time to step up and drop all animal products and embrace a whole food plant-based diet.

They say it takes seven different influences to make a change for the better. I think of that moment at the farm stall as number seven. I had already heard about going high carb/low fat/plant based from a fellow T1D yoga teacher, I’d seen a fellow T1D fitness and nutrition coach document his journey transitioning from keto to vegan, I’d watched several different webinars and documentaries with the founders of the Mastering Diabetes Program and I had started to struggle with my levels after almost every meal, needing more and more insulin to cover the same thirty carbs a day.

I think of the day I changed my diet as a crucial turning point in my life. Like the day I decided to move to Australia, or the decision to travel to India to meet my now beloved husband. There was a feeling in each of those moments. Something indescribable and deeply exciting.

Starting a plant-based diet hasn’t been a walk in the park, I’ve been lucky to have an expert diabetes and nutrition coach to walk me through some sinkholes and to cheer me on. I started by letting him know I was basically sensitive to every food imaginable and he started by saying “start with what you think you can tolerate.” Then when I had awful symptoms he’d commiserate and suggest they might go away as my body made the switch out of ketosis. “I believe in your metabolism, that it can kick back in and do its job. The more foods you can tolerate, the more diverse your diet, the more your body will thank you.”

Never were these words truer.

I don’t think I fully understood what he meant until I read Fiber Fueled by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz. This book is the bible for anyone wanting to go plant based. In just a few short chapters Dr. B makes the case for a diverse plant-based diet. Did you know that that out of the 400,000 plants on the planet, 300 of them are edible? And that we just eat a small percentage in our standard American diet? Or that there are 40 trillion microbes in our gut micro biome? We are more microbes than human. Did you know that these microbes feed on fiber? The more fiber we have the healthier our gut, our immune and nervous system. When we get into mono foods, or food restriction we deprive our microbes and that’s why we get gut dysbiosis. I.e. gut issues like leaky gut. He even explains how autoimmune disease and gut health are intrinsically linked.

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Since going 100% plant based I’ve noticed huge changes. My thyroid levels have normalised, I’m extremely sensitive to insulin, I’m eating up to 45 different plants in a day. My tolerance of foods has improved, my digestion has improved. My little arthritic aches and pains have disappeared. Besides all the physical changes, it’s my relationship to food that has excited me most.

I am finally loving cooking and creating meals again. Exploring recipes, trying new foods, incorporating miso, seaweed, legumes and grains. Nothing in excess with no restrictions. Managing my diabetes in the mix of eating this way takes dedication. I track my food in an app, I keep tweaking my insulin to carb ratios and checking in with my coach when things start to go awry. As I learn to feel my body in this new way I’m surprised at how easy it is to have steady levels and maintain a healthy Hba1c.

It took a long time, nearly 20 years for me find the answers I so desperately needed to get well. Now that I’m here it’s like the last few moments of finishing a puzzle.  There’s a sense of excitement and expectation and WOW that’s it, I finally found the missing piece!

If you’d like to find out more about Dr. B and his book you can go to his website or order the book here

With great respect…

rachel

The Inner Smile

Happy Solstice! Today we woke up in the dark and marvelled at Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn all lined up in an ark across the dawn sky. We watched the sun rise as she blanketed the earth with her golden hues.

I built an altar to the hindu goddess Lakshmi who for me represents abundance in health. I invoked her for nourishment and as a prayer that we as a human race come out of this very challenging time with a new vision, where every human being is treated with fairness and dignity. Where we cherish the earth and its plants and animals. That we can forgive each other for our ignorance and find strength in common goals. That those of us who struggle daily with illness find acceptance and strength.

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These prayers fill my heart daily. As much as I can contribute through my actions to worthy causes like supporting our local village here in South Africa to have food during this humanitarian crisis. I also find that daily offerings and prayers allow me to humble myself to what is out of my control.

This week I shared a meditation in my online yoga class which was taught to me by my mentor Alan Finger. It’s called the Inner Smile meditation and it’s a beautiful way to reset the nervous system simply by placing a smile in different parts of your body. The meditation includes relaxation in Savasana ( lying down) at the end.

Enjoy!

with great respect…

rachel

Matters of the Heart: a yoga sequence

Like everyone else I am grappling with the new normal. Never ending self-quarantine, Covid19, watching the US meltdown and most recently with the incredible frustration and fury of police brutality and the murder of George Floyd. “I can’t breathe!!!”

Yes, I am white and yes, I am speaking from a place of privilege and yes, I could have done more and educated myself more. As a yoga teacher, I’ve often felt it’s better not to take sides in politics. This however is an issue that cannot be justified by my vocation. I acknowledge that not saying anything is a form of racism.

Black lives matter, they more than matter. Living in South Africa for the past six months I am painfully aware of the divide between black and white, rich and poor. We do what we can, give where we can, share where we can. Anyone who shows black people anything less than dignity and respect is abhorrent and inhumane.

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photo credit: Renza Scibilia

I have cried a lot over the last week. My heart breaking with the weight of our collective ignorance and lack of humanity. How can one human even hurt another in deed, word or thought? Are we not all inseparably part of creation?

I know I’m not alone in these thoughts and feelings. In fact, this article by my friend Ali Psuik puts things into perspective and poses some excellent questions.

While educating myself and doing what I can during this very turbulent time, I’ve been focusing on being kind to myself and others. For me it always comes back to yoga, whether dealing with my diabetes or not, yoga affords me a moment to reflect and remember what’s good and beautiful.

This week I’ve been practicing and teaching gentle heart opening postures. If you’re feeling the need to destress, reset and transmute difficult emotions. You’ll love this 55 minute practice. The class finishes with a beautiful meditation which includes, sound, (mantra), visualisation (yantra) and gesture(mudra).

P.s This class comes from my weekly Zoom yoga room class.

Enjoy!

rachel

A Soul Crushing Low

It wasn’t 1.8 or 2.5. In fact, maybe in regard to numbers it wasn’t even that bad. But for me  3.3 was absolutely soul crushing.

I’ve had Diabetes for 12 years. In that time, I’ve had lows that freaked me out, inspired determination or forced me to face habits that weren’t serving me. This low, however, was different.

I felt numb, not just numb in my extremities, but numb to everything. My sole focus was watching the minutes tick over on my timer waiting for the sugar to kick in. When it didn’t it was hard to stay calm. Downing even more glucose gummies, resetting the 15-minute alarm and watching my breath were my only allies. My husband held me tightly from behind promising me my blood sugar would come up. “It always does,” he reminded me. “You got this.”

I kept thinking, “Why don’t I have a hypo kit? Why are we so far from town? What if I lose consciousness? What will my husband do? How fast will an ambulance come in lockdown?

I don’t think we talk about our lows enough. Sure, we post pictures on Instagram, express our frustration, tell each other to feel better or commiserate. In the short term it helps. It’s the aftermath that gets me. Like how today not even 24 hours later I’m feeling a subtle anxiety after eating my breakfast or how that rebound high took hours to resolve. Or my feelings about the interaction with my husband during the height of the hypo and shortly after; how hard it was to explain the feeling of being held underwater for 20 minutes, starved of glucose, mind slowing to lead and then how just like that I’m up for air, without really feeling like I’ve stopped drowning.

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Photo by Taylor Leopold on Unsplash

Being determined to get it right next time doesn’t always work with so many factors at play. Are my ratios correct? Is my basal set? Was there more fat, less carbs, did the carbs spike or didn’t they? Did I wipe down the mirrors in the bathroom for a little longer than I’d planned? Did I wait too long to eat after pre-bolusing? Did I weigh that last meal correctly? Is my correction factor too low or high? Did my yoga practice make me more sensitive to Insulin today?

Even when I do everything right, it’s like dancing on a tight rope. Turning, extending one leg, teetering, lifting and falling only to land back on the same foot again. I love dancing, but not like this.

After a hypo I usually cry. This time was no different, except maybe wailing was my way of expressing my pent-up frustration in general at being quarantined. I miss my family, I miss the beach, I miss the feelings of certainty and safety.  It’s awful thinking that grocery shopping is potentially life threatening or that breathing, laughing and hugging in close proximity is no longer ‘normal’. I’m heartbroken at how many people just five minutes down the road from us have no food, nor adequate shelter in which to ‘social distance’. With all these personal and not so personal things going on most days I feel at a complete loss for anything to say when everyone ‘out there’ is saying it anyway. I know I’m not alone in this.

And it’s hard not to push down feelings of guilt that I am in a beautiful place even while challenged with having a chronic illness.

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Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

I often mention in this blog how yoga is my lifeline. Yesterday was no different. Having gone super high after treating my hypo I decided to do a vigorous practice to kick start my metabolism. It wasn’t long before I felt energised, calm and rejuvenated. No matter how bad I feel physically, no matter what goes on emotionally, a simple balanced practice of posture and breathing sets me up for a good night’s sleep and a healthy mental attitude.

In particular it also helped me to put my soul crushing low into perspective. I caught it, handled it and recovered well. It’s all anyone can do.

If you’d like to join me for livestream yoga classes during isolation I’m teaching on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Entry is by donation with 50% of the proceeds going to our local village for masks, food and medical supplies. Donations can be made via www.paypal.me/yoga4diabetes

Tuesdays at 8.30 am South Africa Standard Time/ Zurich Time  which is 4.30 pm Australian East Coast time

Wednesdays at 11 am US East Coast time and 5 pm South Africa Standard Time/Zurich time

With great respect…

rachel

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all attitude baby!

From that first moment I was given a glucometer to measure my blood sugar I thought about success and failure. In fact, I considered my diagnosis the biggest failure of my life. How could a yoga teacher, who’d dedicated her life to living in peak health, be diagnosed with diabetes? I still have moments of absolute disbelief. Like last night during my injection after dinner, I couldn’t help remembering my life before diabetes and thinking… how did I get here?

My diagnosis was a defining moment, so was my denial for the following six years. My capacity to handle my diagnosis was zero. My fight to change it was a ten. Facing my fears, taking medication and starting the process of healing my bruised ideas of who I was and how life should be, was a huge step. Luckily, I took it.

In my world every day is a gift. I see my ability to want something better, my desire to live, as a blessing. What other being in the creation has the ability to desire, to strive and to dream? Humanity has been given the gift of desire, how we use it…that’s up to us.

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Living with diabetes has given me plenty of desire. Goals like a normal A1c, constant time in range, accurate use of insulin, healthy exercise, a good night’s sleep, meaningful work, a happy relationship, a place to call home. For the most part I live the life that I’ve chosen and I’m happy.

But what if I couldn’t live that life? How much have and do I take for granted? Including my ability to desire? What about the people who can’t afford their medication, don’t live a stable and comfortable life? It’s very apparent here in Africa how difficult it is to live comfortably with diabetes. Access to technology that supports blood sugar management is only available to those with money and good medical aid. Even the information about diabetes is limited. Most ignore their diabetes and hope for the best. Diabetes is not a condition one can ignore. Eventually one way or the other it gets you. Hence the 24/7 dance we do to stay in range. It’s in the moments that I forget my diabetes (which has happened) that I have to remind myself. Woman…you have diabetes…check your blood sugar!

So what is success? The wisdom teachings from the tradition of Atma Vidya (Self Knowledge) take an empowering track.

Instead of thinking of success as what you have or hope to achieve. Think of success as your capacity to handle whatever life gives you.

Based on our desire’s life will present itself in four different capacities.

  1. We will get precisely what we expect
  2. More than what we expect
  3. Less than what we expect
  4. The opposite of what we expect

Framing this through the lens of diabetes, imagine…

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You decide to have pizza, you estimate the dose, and at the two- and four-hour marks BOOM you’re coasting on a perfect number. You’ve done pizza, before and aced it. You high five yourself because you got exactly what you expected.

You decide to have Pizza, you dose, then have dessert, stay up late binge-watching Netflix and you still have perfect numbers. Way more than you expected. Did your pancreas decide to work again or what?

You decide to have Pizza, dose and woops go high and have to take more insulin at the four-hour mark. The pizza wreaks havoc and for the next day or so you’re rage bolusing and fighting highs. Definitely less than you expected

You decide to have Pizza, you take a bucket load of insulin, or plan a dual wave on your pump to catch the high and for some unknown reason, the whole thing tanks before it even gets started. You’re going low, so low you crash at the restaurant, even worse, the EMT’s have to come and you wind up in the hospital. This is totally the opposite of what you expected! Worst case scenario.

The way we normally see success is in the end result. i.e. dosing goes perfectly. Success! Dosing goes even better than planned…super success. Dosing doesn’t go quite as expected. Damn, almost. Pizza night ends in disaster. What a mess!

Here’s the twist. Think of success as the attitude you take towards getting what you expect, and more than you expect. Instead of comparing a win to a loss. Take a win and see it for what it is.

Let me explain:

Having something go the way you want, isn’t personal. Yes, it may be your past experiences that enable you to dose perfectly. But what about all the factors you can’t control? The amount of cheese in the Pizza, what’s going on with your insulin sensitivity, how much stress is on board and the other 39 factors influencing your blood sugar? As much as we like to think we have the power in any given situation, we don’t. The one thing that is absolutely guaranteed is that nothing is under our control. That includes our existence. Can you claim ownership of what brought you into existence? The only thing we do know is that we exist. But what is existing? That’s a mystery.

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When you get the dosing right for Pizza, did you do it? Or was it the dance between you and all the unknowns. We are always dancing with unknowns. That’s the most incredible thing about being alive. We don’t know who we are, how we got here, or what we are doing here. We’re not given a road map at birth as to the nature of who we are. We are taught how to navigate life on a relative level and more often than not we make mistakes. Life would be so much easier with instructions!

Seeing getting what you expect or more than you expect with dispassion, not getting carried away and expecting that to be the new normal builds your capacity to deal with getting less than you expected or the opposite of what you expected. It’s called equanimity. Happy regardless of the outcome. Happy isn’t elation or ecstasy. It’s acceptance.

Whatever I get, whatever life brings, the lows, the highs, the challenges, the frustrations, the blessings the amazing opportunities.  They aren’t good or bad. They just are. It’s not about me. Life flows through me and the more I accept what comes without making a judgement. The greater my capacity to deal with whatever comes next.

with great respect…

rachel

A yoga pose for our times

I am at a loss for words. Reading so many friends posts about the bushfires in Australia I notice that some feel guilty. Guilty that they are okay, living in relative comfort while others are suffering so much. Finding it hard to promote their 2020 offerings because who is thinking about that anyway?

I feel the same. That’s why I am grappling with “what next”. One thing I know for sure, the healing benefits of yoga, which by the way are free, work.

Breath, body, mind are free to use as we wish. Our hearts are also free. No one has taken our hearts hostage. It is the incredible outpouring of support and compassion which makes sense when nothing else does.

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I’m addicted, dumbfounded and political. Addicted to following what’s happening with a crazy cartoon president. Dumbfounded by our Australian Prime minister whom I’m convinced believes he’ll be saved while the world crumbles. And yes, even though experts might try to convince me that’s it’s bad for my brand to be political and take a stand. Screw that!

I am not happy with the state of things, period!

How do I cope with frustration and feelings of helplessness? My daily yoga practice. It helps to suspend the negativity, the constant identification with the thoughts and stress. Ultimately the practice reminds me, I am not this, not that. But the one in whose presence this and that takes place. It’s not about becoming the witness. It’s about knowing that the feelings of calm and peace are the natural state of every human being. Yoga gives me this insight. Day after day.

Today I want to share with you one simple yoga pose, which has helped me in so many ways. It’s from the Yin Yoga tradition. It’s called Saddle pose and it calms the nervous system. Opens the chest facilitating better breathing and also increases circulation into the legs and feet while stimulating specific energy pathways that link to the stomach and spleen. It also opens and frees the Psoas. If you have tight or muscular thighs or knee issues, this pose might be challenging. There are variations, which I will share in the video below.

Holding this pose for 10 to 15 minutes is a game changer. I can’t even begin to describe how it has helped me in all aspects of my diabetes management. After a long hold I sleep better, digest better and just plain FEEL better.

I hope you’ll join me in this short video tutorial.

With great respect…

rachel

Learning to colour outside the lines

This post may contain affiliate links to products I trust. Please read Disclaimer for more info

Yesterday we went for another delicious walk along our wild coastline to a pristine river. This time I was prepared for the inevitable hypo. It paid off. I hypo’d, downed 3 glucose gummies and in 10 minutes was back on track. It was deeply satisfying to know I handled the whole thing without freaking out.

It was in bed this morning having a D & M ( deep and meaningful) with my husband that I realised that managing diabetes is like trying to get good grades. As a kid I worked hard to get an A. I was more of a B+ kind of student but I knew that if I studied hard and went that extra mile I could do better. I liked the feeling of mastering the challenge. It meant getting my head around tricky hard to understand subjects and being rewarded for my effort.

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When I go off track in my diabetes management it’s not that it’s the end of the world, or that I won’t survive, its more that the goal I set for myself of staying in range is challenged. Taking my basal shot an hour later, or eating my dinner late, these things won’t make me sick, but they’ll change the landscape of the days to come. Questions like; will I need more or less insulin to manage the change in routine, how will my energy levels be, what should I eat? Things people without diabetes don’t even have to consider. It’s the mental energy needed to dissect the situation that can be frustrating and confusing.

It’s easier just to stick to my routine and forget about it.

Life however needs to be lived in full colour. 2020 for me is all about pushing the edges of my own ideas about management. These long nature hikes are part of it. As is experimenting with when to dose. I’ve taken to dosing at the start of a higher carb meal (I used to dose at the end of the meal) and am seeing less of a post meal spike (duh) and also seeing a flatter line up until my next meal. I may not have as good an A1c as I did mid 2019, but I am seeing flatter lines, less spikes and better overall control.

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Learning to colour outside the lines isn’t one of my strong points when it comes to living with diabetes, but I’m giving it my best. When friends and family are along for the ride I am learning that rather than expecting them to understand what I am going though it’s up to me to understand how I react and respond to my situation. If I’m cool with stopping mid walk to treat my hypo than naturally everyone else will be too. My tendency is to feel like my condition puts out other people’s plans. It’s a myth I’m determined to bust.

As I head into my 12th year with diabetes my New Years resolutions are simple. Try new approaches to management, do things that push the boundaries and most importantly put myself first.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year

With great respect…

rachel

P.s these were the gummies I downed on my walk. So easy and quick, better than glucose tabs overall and actually yummy with no artificial flavours or colours or preservatives. Highly recommend them!

 

The day I forgot my insulin

Forgetting things is normal. Like forgetting my wallet when I go to the store, or my phone or car keys. It’s usually a hassle and requires some unexpected backtracking, but in the scheme of things forgetting stuff is no biggie. But insulin? OMG! Who knew?

Suffice it to say I have never ever forgotten to bring my insulin with me on a trip. No matter how big or small if my outing includes a meal, I put it in my purse and that’s that. Until the other day. For some ridiculous reason, I forgot it.

And  I didn’t realise I’d forgotten it until we were already miles and miles away.  The morning had run as usual, yoga practice, followed by cooking my lunch, packing it and loading up the car. We were heading to Knysna, a picturesque town on the Garden Route here in South Africa. I’m not sure whether it was distraction, the fact that diabetes wasn’t number one on the list that morning or what. Once I realised what had happened there was absolutely no way I could forget. I was freaked out and mildly hysterical. Even though my husband encouraged me not to be.

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Our purpose driven trip turned into a race against the clock. If I don’t eat my lunch around 1.00 pm my blood sugar tanks. I am not sure exactly why, it’s either the long acting insulin peaking or my own insulin kicking in. Regardless I eat lunch to stop the drop.

As my blood sugar started to tank my husband suggested I eat my lunch. Nope…can’t do that. If I do I’ll go high with no way to bring it down for another 2 hours. The only solution was to fast and eat when I could dose. In the meantime I downed a few glucose tabs amidst a grumbling hungry tummy. I also downed my feelings; frustration, anger and fear.

Fasting wasn’t a problem, but heading to the local bakery to buy Christmas cake was. As I stood in line looking at all the bakery delights I felt defeated. This has been me now for over 11 years. I don’t eat gluten, sugar or dairy because it messes with my levels and my delicate digestion. I don’t usually get upset standing in the bakery line, in fact I don’t care, but today with a perfectly good lunch sitting in the car, fasting and skirting an endless low I was livid. Why can’t I just this once enjoy apple strudel! F…k

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As soon as we got home I ate my lunch. It was 3 pm. I calculated that we could still eat dinner at the normal time so that my schedule wouldn’t be too interrupted. Just because I craved normalcy after this hiccup didn’t mean it happened. The most annoying thing about a mishap in routine is that I have no idea how it’s going to influence anything. It’s a total experiment. It’s not just the physical stuff that goes topsy turvy, it’s my emotional responses.

Despite my efforts to use my go to practices for mental and emotional stability, i.e yoga, breathing, meditation and the teachings of yoga (Atma Vidya), I reacted. After lunch I had a tantrum. It made no sense, it was ugly and probably a result of pent up anxiety.

Reaction sucks. There is absolutely no point in blaming others for enjoying life and doing what they normally do. I could have gone to the chemist and gotten some insulin, I didn’t have to fast for the day, I could have stayed in the car rather than gone to the bakery. I could have relaxed and accepted that this sort of stuff happens, people forget stuff, even big stuff. I didn’t. It’s my style to do things the hard way.

It’s been a few days now since my major stuff up and it’s been interesting to reflect. I’ve learned some really valuable lessons.

  1. When travelling always bring insulin. Put it in purse.
  2. Fasting works, but it does have after affects. I ended up struggling with lows for a few days afterwards because it increased my insulin sensitivity
  3.  Stay balanced during a crisis. Don’t succumb to hysteria. Put things in perspective
  4. Be kind! Be kind to one’s self and others. No one no matter how close knows how it feels to live with diabetes.
  5. Take stock and be grateful! Just 4 hours without access to insulin is nothing compared to someone who can’t afford insulin or lives in a  country where access is limited or non existent.
  6. Never ever forget insulin again!

With great respect…

rachel

Preparation, practicality and cautious expectation

Yesterday was the start of my holiday. Piercing blue sky, slight breeze, the swell of the ocean and a day planned walking through the forest to a remote and pristine river. I was excited and frickin scared. I packed my backpack to overflowing with glucose tabs, insulin, lunch, phone fully charged, an extra and accurate blood testing meter and rescue remedy. My husband would have to carry my bathing suit, sarong and water bottle.

I love walking and I do it every day. 20 minutes hits the spot and lowers my levels just enough so that I cruise into dinner steady and in range. If I go beyond my 20 minute cruise I often end up high. Seems like the liver kicks in and releases more glycogen aka sugar into the blood stream.

Honestly, I am not a fan of long hikes. The last time I did one was before I started short acting insulin in 2018. That’s why I was scared. How would it work to walk for more than 3 hours, on a sunny hot day? Would my insulin stay cool? How would I dose for lunch when I knew I’d have to hike up a hill after our planned picnic at the river mouth. So many questions, so many unknowns. While my friends and husband were excited to walk I felt like I was jumping off a cliff.

As much as I use yoga to keep me balanced, it’s these normal everyday things that get me. I can’t take a vacation from diabetes. EVER!

In spite of my trepidation we went. The first hour was awesome. The forest was alive with wild flowers, trees dripping in moss, singing birds and dappled sunlight. I felt connected and alive. Our forest is 50 million years old.

IMG_0491By the end of the 2nd hour we had reached the lookout. My blood sugar was a steady 6.0 mmol. I started the walk with a 1/4 of an apple and didn’t take any insulin to cover.  Things were going well. We had to cross the river to get to our picnic spot. On went the bathing suit. With my backpack and shoes held above my waist we waded across. The water was brrr cold. Here in Africa the water is clean and crisp, full of prana, amazing!

As everyone else munched on snacks I pulled out my prepared lunch, enjoying every bite, it was crunch time. Would my usual two units be best considering that in an hour I’d  be climbing a steep hill followed by an even steeper descent? I opted for just under 2 units and an extra 1/4 of an apple. Then threw myself in the river, cold refreshing water. So good!

I started the next part of the walk around 5.7 mmol. It took 30 minutes to hit the dreaded low. 3.9 mmol with a downward pointing arrow. I took two and half glucose tabs, while gazing at the most beautiful view in the world. We waited for 15 long drawn out minutes.  My friends asked me what would happen if it didn’t come up. I’d take more tabs and wait some more. Waiting is the worst. On the plus side I was so tired from the walk I couldn’t feel the low or my fear. I was peaceful, relaxed and grateful. Grateful for my husbands arm around me, the patience of my friends, and the beauty of our surroundings. My levels returned to normal and we completed the walk. Topping it off with a dip in the wild ocean. It couldn’t have been a better day.

IMG_0505Back at home my husband reminded me, holidays are all about dropping the every day stresses. Time to take a break from normality, hang out with friends, talk about whatever, spend time in nature. I get it, I used to have that freedom, even took it for granted. Since diagnosis I’m a work in progress. I take each day as it comes. I work with what I have without expectation. Rather than define my ‘vacation’ by what everyone else does. I do relaxing my way.

Preparation, practicality and cautious expectation.

Have a wonderful holiday season

with great respect…

rachel