What can you eat?

Nine days in to 30 days of writing for Diabetes Awareness Month and today’s topic is diet.  I can’t keep count of the number of times I’ve been asked, ” What can you eat?” It’s actually a loaded question because the answer from a person with diabetes would be, “what can’t I eat?” As long as we know how many carbs we are ingesting (everything from veggies to fat to protein breaks down into a carbohydrate in the system) we can eat whatever we like based on our insulin to carb ratio. I.e how much insulin is needed per carbohydrate. Do the math and presto every food is available.

But that doesn’t mean I choose to eat whatever I want.

julian-hanslmaier-bWg-BeVJPG4-unsplash

Since I was little I’ve been a fussy eater. I didn’t like green vegetables, any kind of meat,  or corn on the cob. I can remember being at the dinner table and slowly scooting portions of pork chop into a napkin when no one was looking and then excusing myself to hastily flush it down the toilet.

In my late teens I was put on a strict candida diet which meant no dairy, sugar, fruit or fermented foods. Not being a huge fan of animal foods I became a vegan.  My strict diet was hard to maintain during pregnancy so I reluctantly ate fish, chicken and eggs, but as soon as I could I went back to my vegetarian ways.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008 I had already started eating foods that resonated with my constitution. Being a fire type, pitta in ayurveda, I avoided nightshades and spicy food and instead focussed on cooling foods with sweet, bitter and sour tones, pulses, avocados, whole grains, roasted veggie salads and gut healing protein smoothies. As my initial diagnosis wasn’t clear (they weren’t sure if it was type 2, type 1 or even diabetes) the only change I made to my diet was to eat low glycemic foods and to add fish, chicken and eggs back in.

At that stage I was eating linseed/soy bread, enjoying oats, quinoa, low carb fruits like blueberries and strawberries and lots of different kinds of veggies, soft cheeses like paneer and ricotta. I still dabbled in eating pasta and pizza as long as there was a good quantity of protein in the mix. I never ate packaged or processed food even if it was a ‘healthy’ packaged food. I’ve never been able to deal with fillers and preservatives.

Once my levels became unmanageable my doctor suggested I look at the ketogenic diet. That was in 2013. Keto was just getting popular and having tried everything else bar insulin, I enjoyed the strict discipline of dropping all carbs. At that stage my diet was mainly eggs, some fish and green veggies like chard, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, fennel, cauliflower, avocado, ghee and the same soft cheeses. My doctor expressed concern that it was too narrow a corridor of foods. So did I, it seemed that blood sugar wasn’t my only issue with what I ate, I also had a lot of trouble digesting foods. Later I found out that the pancreas also helps with digestion and that sometimes it doesn’t work as well as it should in people living with diabetes. Eating the same foods over and over was actually making me sensitive to the only foods I could tolerate. A never ending cycle.

IMG_6970

Thank goodness I went on Insulin after a proper diagnosis in 2014. It has opened up my diet to include more foods again, even though I’ve stuck to a low carb vegetarian diet. It’s so much easier to cook the same meals at the same time each day, to take the same amount of insulin and know exactly how my body will respond. My friends wonder why I don’t get bored, or ask me if I feel like I’m missing out and my answer is always the same. Eating in a way that keeps me calm and balanced is more important and desirable than the headache of eating something that will later cause blood sugar issues or hinder my digestion.

Whether you live with diabetes or not diet is a very personal thing. The body needs nutritious food. It knows what works, how to process it and what to eliminate. All the intricacies of digestion and assimilation of food are out of our hands. It’s up to us to feed the body with nutrient dense foods.

Something I’ve learned to say to anyone who questions why I eat the way I do is this; “I eat to feel well so I can best serve others to feel well too.” 

And that’s that…

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

A little goes a long way

Oatcakes it’s been a while. A long while, I don’t think I’ve even so much as looked at you since 2014. 2014 was when I read Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, learned about the benefits of low carb eating, the law of small numbers and laid down my carb habit for what I hoped would be forever. So far, it’s worked well… but there have been some issues.

The biggest one being my ongoing food intolerances which includes reacting to seeds and nuts. Cutting them out of my diet has meant less flow in the plumbing department and it’s starting to bum me out. (literally!)

Over the last three days I’ve been reintroducing oats into my diet. Day one I took ¼ of an oatcake, which made me a mucous ball. It didn’t deter me though. Day 2 I had ½ a cracker and my blood sugar pretty well stayed stable. Day 3 I lashed out and had a whole 4.7 carb of a cracker with my egg and avocado brekky, took the same amount of Insulin as always (1 unit) and watched my blood sugar go up up and away.

I did crack open a fresh pen, could it be that? Not sure…because yesterday I had too much insulin and went low.

66275055_2053687664932630_7390644912523313152_n

I also made a post into the DOC to get advice and someone suggested I try switching up the timing of my bolus. Someone else said I should eat fat with fat and carbs with carbs to get the dose right.

To be honest I am actually terrified to add more carbs into my diet because I am still working out how to manage my lows. At the same time my goal for this year is to be able to eat a broader range of foods and to be relaxed around food. I’d like to feel comfortable eating out, eating in… whatever.

It’s been super interesting to observe my attitude change towards my blood sugar levels since I’ve nailed my A1c goal. I used to see a spike and be like, “oh well, try again next time” I had a no sweat attitude because I didn’t realise how important it was for my health to have better time in range. But now after nearly 6 months of flat lines and what I perceive to be excellent control a few days of peaks and troughs has me completely agitated and freaked.

Not a good look for someone who is touting the mind calming benefits of yoga. If I can’t maintain my cool during a breakout experiment with an oat cracker well what the F…k?What Sarah Said BlogDiayogi Sarah Macleod, shared in her latest Instagram post that non-judgement, one of the attitudes we can adopt through our yoga practice, is about stopping ourselves from labelling a blood sugar level as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In other words, practice with the attitude of going for the best outcome while letting go of the end result.

Not so easy for a type A like myself!

As a few days have gone by since I started writing this post I ended up invoking the principle of flexibility from my yoga practice to help me work up to adding foods into my diet.

When I go into a yoga pose and feel challenged and inflexible I initially hold back from forcing myself in the pose. I watch my breath and wait. After about a minute I can feel all my muscles soften, then I can creep deeper into the pose. A little bit of movement actually takes me a long way.

So even though I was keen to get going with oats, I’ve stopped taken a breath and adopted a wait and see attitude. Oh and I added psyllium husks into my diet instead ( a great low carb option) and wouldn’t you know… a little goes a long way….

with great respect….

rachel

Rachel Portraits 2015-40

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.

IMG_6613

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.

katie-smith-104748-unsplash

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.

14991320_10154719317886410_1781108433128284127_o

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.

13346869_1420245684668049_1634820084135886253_n

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.

IMG_8534

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.

IMG_5755

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