By: Meagan Esler
Trying to lose weight as an insulin-injecting person with type 1 diabetes couldn’t be more frustrating. It gets on my last nerve that exercise can trigger mind-numbing lows, lows that cause me to inhale a portion of those recently burned calories. That said, I don’t skip exercise to avoid lows. I just check my blood sugars more often, use caution with my insulin dosing, and follow the advice of my doctors.
At a doctor appointment a few months ago, I discovered to my horror that I’d gained seven pounds since declaring war on my A1C. Determined to have a lower A1C, I had started a higher insulin-to-carb ratio with help from my diabetes educator. While giving myself tighter control, I also had to eat to treat more lows than usual. Although my A1C did respond positively, some of my meals had high amounts of carbohydrates, so I was taking even more insulin to avoid elevated blood sugar. I started thinking, what if I ate fewer carbs and therefore needed less insulin?
My husband and I decided to begin watching our carb intake. He avoids most carbs, adding a few healthy, high-fiber ones like beans to soups. Since I don’t feel safe trying to go completely low carb with insulin-dependent diabetes, and because I honestly can’t imagine life without my precious carbs, I spoke with my nutritionist and decided to limit mine to about thirty carbohydrates per meal. In her words, “Any less than thirty carbs, and it’s not a meal”. I also try to keep snacks at fifteen or less.
Hubby lost forty pounds in a little over two months. I lost ten. You might think I’m disappointed, but really, I’m ecstatic that I didn’t gain ten! I’ve been far less strict, allowing myself small treats here and there. It keeps me motivated a whole lot better than total deprivation.
Losing weight is hard work for everyone. It’s even more frustrating with diabetes, however, because when I’m low, I don’t give a hoot how many calories are in something–I just want to eat everything. When my brain is starving for glucose, it simply doesn’t care that the cupcakes we keep in the house for my son’s lunches are not “diet” food. With diabetes, when you need food, you need food. Sometimes you eat when you’re not hungry, or even just after you had a meal, if your carbs and insulin doses were miscalculated or your activity levels were elevated.
My father and I had a discussion about eating one evening when he knew I was working on losing weight. Without thinking about my diabetes, he said, “Eating late at night isn’t going to help with weight loss,” as I munched on a mouthful of granola bar. Sometimes even our loved ones forget that we need to have safe numbers before going to sleep. For me, that means eating a snack at bedtime most nights. Depending on my blood sugar, I cannot skip my snack–the consequences of low blood sugar overnight are too dire.
I explained to my dad that while Oprah might boast about cutting herself off three hours before bedtime, until there’s a cure, I will not have that luxury. Sometimes you eat, sip, or suck on various forms of glucose until you feel nauseated, just to stop the shaking and avoid emergency medical attention.
I’m not in my “skinny jeans” just yet, or anywhere near zipping up my old high school prom dress (though the fashion police would likely argue that not fitting into my prom dress from the nineties isn’t such a bad thing). I’m sticking with it though, and little by little, through healthy eating and exercise, I’m determined to watch both my weight and my A1C continue to diminish.