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

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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

I’m back…

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

My blood sugar hit 11.7 mmol today. It’s been a while. I mean a long while. Since starting Insulin in 2014 and simultaneously going low carb I’ve had excellent control. A high for me was about 9 mmol. In the last two years, even that was pretty rare.

The control I’ve had over my numbers has been directly related to a huge amount of food restriction. A.K.A living on eggs, non-starchy vegetables and avocados and olive oil for the last 6 years. When my husband would ask, “How is your dinner?” my standard reply was, “the same.” I could make breakfast, lunch or dinner in 15 minutes tops. Eating to live, and fine with that. Worth the sacrifice if it meant staying healthy.

Don’t get me wrong low carb works. It totally works. The question is… is it healthy and sustainable? I have been low carb for 6 years so it’s doable but healthy?anna-pelzer-IGfIGP5ONV0-unsplashHealthy is having a rainbow in your diet. Healthy is as much emotional satisfaction as physical satiation. Healthy is enjoying food, being social, being able to go out and pick something off the menu without guilt or fear. Healthy is putting the meal together and then trusting that what you inject will do the job. I’m not talking eat whatever you want and cover, rather eat whole foods that please the eye and the pallet. Know you are taking in life sustaining nutrients and that your body can take it in, digest it and distribute the energy accordingly.

This is the basis of a yoga practice, absorbing prana from food, the atmosphere, anything you consume. If our own energy is scattered, stuck or overly dogmatic, we can’t absorb prana which in turn builds Ojas, the basis of our immune system.

In Ayurveda diet should be mitahari, which means balanced. Eating whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables etc. Everything according to your type incorporating the six tastes of sour, salty, sweet, bitter, pungent and astringent.JMFO1826Before my diagnosis I was able to follow an Ayurvedic vegetarian diet ad infinitum. After diagnosis I found myself narrowing my diet according to what I felt sensitive to or what I thought wouldn’t cause a high blood sugar. Eventually I was so afraid of going low I stopped trying. I told myself I couldn’t have mung beans or quinoa because it was too confusing to dose for. I couldn’t have fruit because I would spike. My list of excuses was long. My openness and availability to try something new was zero.

In the last few years I’ve started each year with a diabetes goal. In 2018 it was braving meal time insulin (up until then I managed on a split dose of basal with severe carb restriction). In 2019 I worked on healing my gut. My 2020 goal came out of months of feeling helpless around the situation we are facing on the planet and watching two documentaries Cowspiracy and The Game Changers. Discovering that animal agriculture is one of the main contributing factors to climate change and seeing how athletes were able to maintain a vegan diet and increase their performance, made me question what I was eating and why.

To be honest wanting to go vegan was a total heart longing. I’ve never liked the feeling of eating animals (as a kid, I used to pretend to eat my pork chop and when no one was looking I’d push it into a napkin and then excuse myself and flush it down the toilet) so it made sense to stop.pexels-photo-3669638The big question for me was how. How could I make the transition from keto to vegan smoothly? Was it even possible? While I was mulling over the what and how, a T1D friend sent me a PM about a new program she was on which was high carb, low fat and and how successful it had been. She suggested I try it.

I balked at the idea. Then another T1D I follow on Instagram shared his story of going from keto to vegan.  His story was inspiring and confronting. I had to ask myself, what was my excuse really? Was I going to be terrified of carbs and insulin for the rest of my life? What was holding me back?

Doing some deep soul searching around these fundamental questions forced me to take stock of the times in my life where I’d faced a seemingly insurmountable hurdle. I reflected on giving birth. That was terrifying, yet I did it. I thought about how I managed during 9/11. How when I thought I couldn’t handle the shock I actually rose above it and made it through. Even after my diagnosis I was able to eventually find a way to acceptance. I also thought about the beach. Here in South Africa the water is beyond cold. Going in takes a certain kind of bravado.IMG_0674That’s how I decided to approach this new and exciting chapter in my diabetes management. If I didn’t jump in, I might regret it. If I did, hopefully I’d feel refreshed and invigorated.

Five weeks on from transitioning to a plant-based diet. I’ve introduced a huge range of foods, with hardly a hitch in my digestion. The big challenge has been to experiment with insulin to carb ratios to find what works best when. I’ve also had way more highs and lows then before. I’ve had to be courageous while watching that straight down arrow on my freestyle libre. Patient when I see a spike.

My insulin needs have completely changed. I need less basal; more bolus and I am becoming more and more sensitive to insulin. I’ve also had to slowly build my daily carb intake working my way up to about 250 carbs per day. That’s been hard, but I’m getting there. I’ve also rekindled my passion for creating recipes. I’ve made hummus, nori rolls, veggie burgers. I’ve been eating heaven in a bowl for breakfast. Smoothie bowls with dates and figs, bananas and papaya. I now look forward to eating and cooking. I’m excited to try things like beets, leeks, peppers again. I feel like every meal is a party. One I get to have for myself.

The best side effect of my new diet is increased energy and decreased aches and pains. When I step on my mat I feel open, balanced and clean from the inside out. It feels like I’m back.IMG_1095If you’d like to find out more about a plant based whole food diet check out this brilliant new book, Mastering Diabetes

If you’d like to have more one on one support to make the transition I highly recommend Drew Harrisberg from www.drewsdailydose.com

It’s not up to me

Setting myself the task to write something every day for 30 days about diabetes to spread diabetes awareness is definitely daunting. I live with diabetes for 365 days a year and deal with it 24/7 so it should be easy to articulate that right? In reality the way I deal with diabetes is deeply private.

After spending 6 years ignoring it and then spending 4 years shouting about it via writing a book and being a fierce advocate through social media, it’s been interesting to spend this past year taking a break from the need to externalise my experience.

In 2019 I set a goal to lower my Hba1c, heal some of my underlying digestion issues and be brave when it comes to taking Insulin. I started 2019 using the Diabetic Health Journal, created by yogi and  diabetes health coach Lauren Bongiorno, with incredible results. Writing down daily goals, things I was grateful for and staying accountable made a big difference. My Hba1c went from 6% to 5.6 % in 6 months. If you’re not sure what that means it’s like dropping your cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Moving it from a pass to a win.

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I also went into hyper drive with my digestion, adding different supplements, bone broth and more variety into my daily meals. I worked on stored trauma with network spinal analysis and neuroimmunology sessions. Finally I made sure to keep up a daily walk and my twice daily yoga practice.

Making a concerted effort to shift some deep seated patterns has been an interesting process. I didn’t necessarily make great strides or have major revelations, instead I settled more into accepting what is.

“What is” might not be what I want but if I can accept it that’s a pretty good place to be. It’s how I dealt with diagnosis after fighting it for so long and pretty much how I manage my finicky digestion and volatile blood sugars and everything else that comes my way.

My latest go to phrase for everything is, ” It’s not up to me” That’s not about not doing everything I can to stay balanced. It’s about understanding that I don’t know the recipe of creation.  Letting go of needing to know, enjoying the gifts I’ve been given and trusting that whatever comes is perfect, goes a long way in helping me manage my condition.

I never expected to be diagnosed with diabetes but now that I have been I can honestly share it’s a blessing in disguise.

More on that tomorrow  #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

With great respect…

rachel

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Rebalance your digestion with Ayurveda

Something I’ve struggled with since my diagnosis is digestion. In fact, before my diagnosis I was already sensitive to a variety of foods. No matter how many different kinds of treatments and doctors I saw nobody could actually tell me what was wrong. Once I knew that I had diabetes it all made sense. Higher blood sugars had contributed to yeast overgrowth and leaky gut. Luckily my knowledge of Ayurveda was a great starting point to rebalance and reboot my digestion. That’s why I am super excited to share with you a guest blog today by Nicole Young the founder of Three Harmony on how to recognise when your digestive system is dangerously compromised and how to rebalance it. Take it away Nicole

belly-3186730_640Proper digestion is key to a healthy life and maintaining a strong Agni (digestive fire) is essential. It is not only the way we digest food, but our emotions and thoughts as well, how we process stress, our lifestyle and environment. Ayurveda believes that the root cause of every imbalance and disease starts with improper digestion.

When the body is under stress, the soft tissues and channels are affected or constricted creating narrower passageways for the body to function normally and allow nutrients to become available to every part of the body. This creates blockages and Ama can build up in weaker areas. Over time this Ama could be a contributory factor to causing many serious illnesses.

The difference between Ama and toxins is that Ama is the undigested food residue and waste that forms a sticky sludge which is toxic and difficult to remove from the body, whereas toxins can be anything from the chemicals found in our food and environment to the stress responses in our body which can also create harmful chemical reactions.

Here are some signs and symptoms that you may notice when your digestion is not working properly:

  • feeling of tightness or discomfort in the abdomen
  • indigestion/pain in the stomach after eating
  • suffering from gas and bloating
  • abnormal bowel motion (diarrhoea and constipation etc.)
  • blood/mucus or undigested food in stool
  • haemorrhoids and anal bleeding
  • inflammation in the body
  • restless sleep, fatigue, general heaviness
  • headaches or migraines
  • skin conditions
  • thick coating on tongue

So what can done before this gets any worse and it becomes the possible cause of a more serious illness like an autoimmune disorder such as ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes.

A one to three-day digestive reset is a good place to start – this is where you will eat a mono-diet of a food like Kitchari (dish made with rice, mung dal and spices) or a bone/vegetable broth to cleanse the bowel and allow the body to start to heal itself. After the specified number of days, you can slowly introduce foods that are easy to digest making sure to reduce pitta aggravating foods for a while, especially nightshades, spicy/hot/sweet/sugary foods etc. and increasing those that are cooling and calming in nature.

natalia-figueredo-350529-unsplashI personally have suffered from UC (ulcerative colitis) an IBD (inflammatory bowel disorder), but have been able to self-manage this IBD and self-heal naturally without having to take harmful pharmaceuticals for the rest of my life. A disease my gastroenterologist told me was incurable.

So after many years of suffering and not wanting to take any more drugs/products or try different health practitioners and diets/tests/treatments, I did my own extensive research.  You should be sure to check that what you are reading is in fact true as there is so much conflicting information on the internet from people who are not really qualified to give it. Question everything, even your doctor’s advice because they may not be of the belief that healing is possible, even when it is, and they may only be able to offer specific advice and related drugs/products that are in their area of expertise or beneficial to their practice. You may find that this is just not enough to heal the body, especially if you want to do it naturally, and that things will work for some people but not for others – genetics and location certainly play a part too.

This is what has generally worked for me:

  • dietary changes
  • specific herbs and foods such as:
    • stress and anti-inflammatory support – magnesium, ashwagandha, curcumin, chyavanprash, herbal teas etc.
    • gut healing remedies – bone/vegetable broth, aloe vera juice, coconut oil/water, kefir, probiotics, fermented vegetables, digestive enzymes, clay, psyllium husk, liquorice root etc.
  • keeping to a routine
  • extra sleep when my body is digestively challenged
  • practising regular yoga for digestion
  • practising meditation to keep my state of mind balanced

I have also found this book very useful in relation to better understanding the digestive system, various digestive disorders and more specific suggestions on how to recover from them – Restoring your Digestive Health by Drs Jordan Rubin and Joseph Brasco. It has become a great reference guide for me when I’m digestively challenged.

And once you’re starting to feel better, it’s really important to keep on strengthening your Agni – here are some Ayurvedic tips for good digestion:

  • eat at the correct times of the day
  • eat warm/cooked foods
  • avoid cold/raw food
  • avoid chilled drinks while eating
  • avoid incompatible food combinations
  • use fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients
  • eat slowly and chew your food properly
  • have a calm and balanced mind
  • bathe before eating

Ayurveda plays a huge part in self-healing and I would also say that local food and indigenous plants in your area are really important as well because the microbiome in your gut will be assisted during the healing process if you include these in your diet. After all, your body is a reflection of your natural local environment.

Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food

Nicole Young - Three Harmony

Nicole Young is the founder of Three Harmony, a Melbourne-based Ayurvedic consultant, Yoga teacher, writer and online educator.  She is deeply passionate about traditional medicine and self-healing with Ayurveda and Yoga.

www.threeharmony.com.au

 

dialling up the dose

I’m getting braver when it comes to taking fast-acting Insulin. My insulin to carb ratio has been 1:30 for the last year but that seems to be shifting. Either that or I’ve upped my carbs enough to need more. After nearly 6 years of nothing but greens, I’ve added butternut pumpkin, carrots, apples, and the occasional sweet potato.

My whole life I’ve been told that I need to eat sweet foods to stay balanced. Before my diagnosis, warm veggie root stew was my staple. The first 6 years post diagnosis I managed to keep my levels in range with a low carb diet. The first thing to go was bread, then pulses and eventually all grains. I got really good at making bread with sesame seed or almond flour until I overdid all the seed and nut flours too, ending up with even more tummy issues. Before I tried insulin, I had a very narrow corridor of foods that I could tolerate.

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Starting Insulin has made things easier but being sensitive I haven’t been able to leap back into pancakes even when they are made with low carb ingredients. It seems my body wants simplicity when it comes to food. So, in spite of my desire to go wild, eat whatever and cover I’ve been building back my gut flora and adding foods in and out in cycles to see if I can tolerate them. Some things have worked, like butternut pumpkin and carrots while other things like cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts haven’t.

It’s been frustrating and disheartening at times, knowing that in choosing to ignore my diabetes I damaged my digestion.

My husband, who has very simple needs when it comes to food always shares that the body needs food, it doesn’t need a particular type of food. It’s only me, the one eating the food that has a desire for something special.

Food is a language and I’ve become conditioned into that language developing a taste for the foods I like. In reality, food is sustenance.

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Part of what the deeper teachings of yoga have brought to me is a way to be with my condition with compassion. The other day we walked into a health food store with rows and rows of delicious things. Things I know my body will react to if I eat them. Rather than get despondent or feel angry I felt a quiet acceptance. Reminding myself that I had 42 years of eating whatever I wanted. If I needed to avoid those foods so I have a more relaxed tummy so be it.

In the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”

As my journey into my 11th year with diabetes continues I am still coming to terms with this condition. I’ve shared before on the blog that my endo wants me to get to the point where managing my diabetes is so ordinary that it’s as easy as brushing my teeth and that I no longer panic about changing the amounts of insulin I need, that I trust my body and its ability to work with the medication.

I agree that I need to have a healthy attitude towards insulin, but I also feel I need to stay alert, check my blood sugar regularly and be sensitive to the timing of doses, exercise, and changes in my routine. I like to think of my life with diabetes as an adventure but at the same time have a good back up plan. For me, that’s the winning combo.

with great respect…

rachel

P.S I’d love to know your winning combo…comment below. It’s beautiful to learn and grow together.

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Thanks-Giving

I haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving since 2003. I was 37, living in NYC, raising two children, working as a group and private yoga instructor, teaching teachers and doing everything I could to make ends meet. I remember gathering around the table with my family that Thanksgiving and feeling exhausted and vulnerable. I was allergic to just about everything, including the cat and I was embarrassed that I was picking at my food.

As we went around the table to express our gratitude I muttered something about being grateful for family and friends. I meant it at the time, but looking back my words were hollow. I didn’t know that I was already in the throws of diabetes, or that in a matter of years my whole life would be turned upside down.

Rachy-26Coming home for Thanksgiving nearly 14 years later I’m nostalgic for my childhood. Days where I heaped cranberries on Turkey and ate four slices of pumpkin pie.

Of course, I can enjoy Thanksgiving food with all the trimmings but it’s taken me days to get my levels back to normal after weeks of flying and book launch events and I’d rather celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving in another way…

With a focus on thankfulness

In my daily life, I devote time each day to focus on what I am grateful and thankful for. It’s usually something I do at the end of my morning meditation. When my mind is quiet and my breath is still I think of all the good things that are happening in my life.

Lifestyle. Beautiful girl during yoga exerciseWhen I eat a meal I think about the magic of the seed, the person that planted the seed, the person that plowed the field and watered the plant, the one who harvested the fruit or vegetable, the driver who drove that vegetable to the grocery store, the person who stocked the shelf, the checkout person, the person who made the car so I could drive there in the first place. I think about my mother who taught me to cook and set the table. I even think about the people that made the table, the placemats, the pots and the cutlery.

From seed to table and in between a chain of people helped me to eat my dinner.

To me, Thanksgiving is so much more than gratitude it’s acknowledging how the whole of creation has facilitated that moment where the enjoyer and enjoyment are one.

Wishing each and every one of you a joyous Thanksgiving!

With great respect…

rachel

Do your best, get feedback and begin again

“Again! Let’s take it from D.” The young conductor was standing in front of a world class orchestra and a world famous conductor, my Dad and about to cast the first downbeat.

Young conductors know that this is the only way to improve. They do their best, get feedback and begin again. Watching the class and listening to my Dad’s comments it hit me; he has worked hard like this his whole life.

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When I was little, my dad was often hunched over a score at the piano making pencil markings, or waving his arms around with headphones on. I knew that we were supposed to be quiet and patient while Dad was studying, but I never quite ‘got’ why. I attended a dizzying amount of concerts and rehearsals as a kid and it all seemed so effortless.

It’s only now as an adult, living with diabetes, that I get it. What appears normal to others is actually a well thought out micromanaged existence designed to give the appearance of effortlessness.  If you knew that a conductor stopped the orchestra multiple times to correct a tempo, adjust the volume, or ask for more emotion, I wonder how you might listen to the final performance.

Knowing what goes on behind the scenes with my Dad makes me more sensitive and compassionate. These guys have worked their butts off. I also understand that making music is a true labor of love. Musicians use their bodies, their arms, legs, lips and voices to produce sound and hours of practice and effort takes its toll. Necks get sore, lips wear out, elbows get strained. But the orchestra keeps on going. The music survives and we the audience are entertained. It’s all worth it in the end.

DAD CONDUCTING

As someone who definitely micromanages their diabetes, I can relate. I’m not taking injections for meals yet, but I’m definitely on the verge. And I’m busy learning from my peers. I have to admit not only do I spend hours on my yoga mat, but an equal amount of hours reading articles on diabetes, chatting in facebook and twitter groups and staying abreast of the latest management strategies. Ideally I’d love to sit in on a master class with some of the greats.

Then last week it happened. I caught up with Hanna Boethius, a coach, writer and speaker who has lived with type 1 Diabetes for over 30 years. She offers motivational and inspiring ways to bring about change in diabetes management and has a profound understanding of how nutrition and lifestyle choices can balance diabetes.

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The first thing Hanna said to me, when I shared how often I check my blood sugar, was to remember that long acting insulin just slowly trickles through hour after hour. Without fast acting on board, I won’t suddenly drop low. If it hasn’t done it over the last 18 months, it’s not going to suddenly start now. With a gentle smile she suggested I trust my body more and give my fingers a rest.

We also discussed food and low carb diets. We both agreed that it has helped us immensely. But we also agreed it’s not for everyone. After nearly an hour and a half of sharing our insights on food and yoga in diabetes management, Hanna suggested we offer up our conversation as a webinar/google  hangout. We’d already planned a workshop in Zurich on how food and yoga can control diabetes, but thought it would be even better to spread our ‘masterclass’ to the worldwide DOC ( diabetes online community)

Hanna truly lives what she shares, which became even mores obvious when I headed over to her gorgeous and welcoming home on Lake Zurich for our webinar. She complained a little at the size of her kitchen, as it was too small for the amount of food they love to prepare at home, but we agreed that having a beautiful place makes up for it. She also shared with me later, as she walked me back to the train, that living in Switzerland has its perks when it comes to insurance. “I can have the sorts of medicines and equipment as I want and need it.”  I admit I’m envious. In Australia so many things aren’t covered (like CGM’s) and I would definitely have more confidence with my management if I knew I could afford to.

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Riding home after our webinar, reflecting on what I had learned from Hanna I thought again about my Dad and his mastery. When he steps out on stage and seamlessly conducts, the orchestra becomes one. One sound, One voice.

The word Yoga, as I described it in our webinar, also means oneness, wholeness. Understanding that the body is not separate from creation. Rather we are inseparably part of creation. And we can’t get out of creation either. Even if you get in a spaceship and head to Jupiter you’re still in creation.

With chronic illness we often isolate ourselves or feel like we’ve done something wrong. But the truth is there is no such thing as imperfection in creation. There’s just variations on a theme. In music those variations are celebrated, played with and teased out.

That’s how I work with my diabetes management as well.  In an upcycle (where my levels are stable) I think about what’s working and try and repeat that. In a downcycle (where my levels are more erratic) I can come back to what worked before or try something different to start again.

I can’t stress enough that no matter where you are on your journey with diabetes it’s important to reach out, be creative and keep exploring.  It’s something I learned from Dad when I was quite young and something I’m deeply grateful for today…

If you’d like to learn more about how food and yoga can help you control your diabetes check out our webinar below and if you want  to watch my awesome Dad go here

We’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or send me a message and if you’d like a free copy of the first chapter of my new book click here

 

Diary of a Bliss Ball

Todays topic for Diabetes Blog Week is Food food food….what we eat, how we manage and the lists we make.

I’m in Italy after a winding drive through the mountain vistas and picturesque lakes of Switzerland. Italy is famous for the Love of Food. So what’s a low carb yogini do when she rocks into town? Head to the local trattoria and have a pasta? I wish!

Instead it’s off to the supermercato to check out the green veggies on offer and the staples that will last me through the weekend.

And I’m in luck…Italians love salad!

My shopping list?

Fennel, green beans, swiss chard (which has an exotic name here like bietola) chicory leaves, insalata mista and lots and lots of variates of zucchini, Bio eggs, limone…and Italian burro (butter)…oh and olive olio…lots of it!

The supermarket aisles are full of cheeses, cured meats, biscotti’s, pasta, tomato sauces and more. Everything looks incredible and it’s hard not to reflect on my pre diagnosis days where I could literally pig out on all these foods. The funny thing is I never did. Even when we rented a Villa in Tuscany one year and I literally cooked everything a la Italian.

Diabetes Blog week Yoga for Diabetes     Rachel in Italy

I think my Yoga practice has a lot to do with it.  With the stronger practices of pranayama the body absolutely knows what’s nourishing and what’s depleting. I’ve learned over the years to eat to my ayurvedic type. I’m pitta/vata which means foods need to be warm, but not too spicy, naturally full of good fats and not too rich.

It was actually easier to let go of all the carbs then I thought it would be. That’s because it all happened so gradually. Insulin wasn’t in my plan so at first I let go of bread and wheat products, then eventually grains and legumes and finally the higher carbohydrate vegetables and dairy.

Instead of feeling hungry all the time and tired I had even more energy. It was at odds with my lab results which showed the signs of someone who was suffering from the symptoms of severe chronic fatigue.  My doctor and I agreed that it had to be my consistent yoga practice and my transition to the ketogenic diet that had made me asymptomatic.

But all that doesn’t mean it’s easy to replace my passion for pizza and that I don’t long for a sweet treat. And I know I could bite the bullet and just start bolusing for the extra carbs. But I’m also inspired by everything I’ve heard and read about having as little Insulin on board as possible. The less Insulin, the less likely a hypo. Sounds like a good recipe to me.

So how do I feed my sweet tooth?

Hemp Chia Coconut Butter Balls

Hemp seeds are packed with protein and phytonutrients and Omega 3’s and brilliant for healing the gut lining as are chia seeds. Unsweetened desiccated coconut provides healthy fats and protein as well as being super low carb and has a natural sweetness. And butter is the glue that sticks it all together. One bliss ball a day is enough for me, but sometimes I have one for breakfast when I don’t have time to make a bigger meal. I’ve added other ingredients to the recipe like a mixture of black and white sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds or even ground almonds. But sometimes all those varieties upset my digestion. After lots of trial and era I am happy with the basic recipe below.

Rachels Bliss BallsItalian ButterCompleted bliss Ball

Why not give it a try and tell me what you think. I’d love to know.

With great respect…. Rachel

Rachel’s Recipe for Bliss!

1 tablespoon unhulled hemp seeds

1 tablespoon chia or less if you are sensitive to the carbs in chia

2 tablespoons or a little more of desiccated sugar free coconut/or you can grind the two tablespoons

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon butter

Put all the dry ingredients into a shallow bowl, add the water first stir until the mixture is just a little damp and starts to stick together ( it shouldn’t be gloppy or wet) add the butter and mush everything together with your hands till thoroughly mixed, then form into a ball. You can wrap in baking paper and freeze for half an hour if you want it to be hard and crunchy, or refrigerate… or just eat as is.

Change is Here to Stay

Todays topic for Diabetes Blog Week is all about change.

The biggest personal change I have made and one that I hope really comes to the forefront in the management and care of diabetes is the merging of functional medicine with conventional approaches. I know it’s happening on a small scale. But I would love it, if on diagnosis, conventional doctors encouraged their patients to look into the diet and lifestyle changes that are on offer in the functional medicine world. I have learned so much from reading books like “Diabetes Solution” By Dr. Bernstein, Keto Clarity, by Jimmy Moore and attending The Diabetes Summit, which supports all types of diabetics in alternative approaches to self care and management.

Nearly a year ago today I paid my own visit to a functional medicine GP. During the visit we discussed what he called my “narrowing corridor of food issue”. I was controlling my carb intake but I was also suffering from food sensitivities due to leaky gut syndrome. Bottom line? I ate a total of 6 foods and had done so for nearly a year.

After feeling like a pincushion at the lab and shipping my poo off to the U.S.A  it was determined that my system was severely depleted due to an overgrowth of candida. I breathed a sigh of relief, candida was an old friend. I’d met her in my early twenties and had managed to quell her before. This was going to be a piece of cake. I naively held out hope that my BG levels were out of control because I had candida. It was all HER fault.

Boy was I wrong!

I was put on a host of remedies, creams, shots and more and crossed my fingers. Much to my surprise and disappointment my blood sugar levels went higher.  I told myself it was the detox, but after three months of high levels and the beginning signs of neuropathy it was time to get real with myself. We repeated the tests. There was good news and bad news. It was clear that the candida was in remission, but the diabetes hadn’t budged.

My functional medicine GP recommended I start insulin which was later re-affirmed by my endocrinologist.  It was assumed by both health care providers that I would keep up my diet and lifestyle management strategies as that’s what had kept me honeymooning for so long.  They both reiterated that being on insulin would increase the range of foods I could eat and rather than being a death sentence would make my life a whole lot better.

Diabetes blog week changes

And they were right! I am happy to report I am no longer tunnelling down a narrowing corridor.

Being able to eat properly again has completely changed my relationship to food. Instead of putting together a drab meal of egg and spinach omelette. I’m getting creative. Making hempseed coconut bliss balls, egg and avocado salads and feta cheese and spinach soufflés. I even lashed out and made coconut cauliflower pancakes. To those of you who eat these things as part of your regular low carb regime and think, no biggie.

For me its a BIGGIE… it’s like finally having chocolate and ice cream again.

With great respect….Rachel