Hello sweet peeps! It's about that time of the year again! Diabetes awareness month is fast approaching... and with it will come another year of living with diabetes, for me. November 17th will mark my four year anniversary of living with this insidious disease.
What will you do for diabetes awareness month? Will you wear a diabetes awareness pin? Will you hand out fliers, or educational materials? Will you donate money to the cause, or participate in a walk? Will you help the International Diabetes Federation light up a building blue? There are so many things we could do. I was considering making little educational booklets for the recently diagnosed type 2 diabetic, being as there is often so little information given to patients. This might take me a little time, and expense... but it's a goal I have.
November is also a month in which I contemplate my life with diabetes: Where am I? Where am I going? Am I where I want to be? What have I learned about myself.
Through my four years of living with diabetes, I've gone through several approaches as to how to manage and cope. From stricter, to less so, to more of a balanced and moderate approach. I've had to sit down and think long and hard about my attitudes toward food, weight loss, and how I was emotionally comforting myself. For a while, I practiced extreme low carbing, and realized it was not the best approach for me: it was not financially doable, plus it was also not realistic as to enjoying life with others in social situations. And well... I just dislike almond flour and excess fat. Now, I love the approach of eating with awareness, or intuitive eating, but I must be aware that as a person with diabetes, I must mind my level of carbohydrate consumption, as well as some of my calories, so I still needed to put some limitations on myself.
So far, I've come to a place where I practice a sort of hybrid of both: I try not to eat more than 400 calories per main meal (I'm only 4'9... I really don't need that many calories), and then I eat my meals with awareness, so I may not end up eating that whole meal, if I don't feel like it. I can be one of those people who eat distractedly, or emotionally, so if I 'fail' to stop where I want, at least I won't have eaten a lot more than 400 calories in one sitting meal. If I am physically hungry and need more food than this, I'll eat it. I try to do this approach of mindful eating when I'm in restaurants, too. If I can, I will order less of the regular portion, or box away half of the portion, etc., adding veggies or side salads, helping to balance things out, as well. I generally don't like to take portions home.
I've started trying to cut ties with certain foods, not because I can't have them, but to reduce my cravings for them, while increasing my appetite for others. It has given me quite a bit of freedom in my walk with diabetes... leaving some foods to rare occasions. I won't say what these foods are: I think that's irrelevant, really. What those foods are, could be different for everyone. It's the concept that matters.
I am fortunate right now, that I have a very physical job at a restaurant, and I get quite a bit of exercise running around a busy dining room all day, and often lifting heavy things. I should add more physical activity to my life, though, as I go along. And this won't be too difficult to do. I just need to schedule it in, and go do it.
Pacing myself with weight loss has also been another big lesson. When I first was diagnosed with diabetes, I was in such a hurry to lose weight and be healthy -- I was so scared of this disease. I did manage to go from 243 lbs down to 170, which was a great accomplishment, but it left me feeling tired, deprived and trapped by having diabetes. It made me burnt out. Eventually, I yo-yo'ed a lot with my weight, gaining and losing weight quite a few times, up to reaching 226 lbs again. I am now, presently at 183 lbs... and losing slowly, and as peacefully as possible. Even us advocates need to be reminded that this is not a sprint, but a marathon; that we need to pace ourselves along the way. Love ourselves along the way. It is hard to feel much love for life, ourselves, or any peace with diabetes, when one is pursuing strict, short term solutions, to long term problems. This rocky relationship brings moodiness as well; depression, anger, eventual high blood sugars, and further uncontrolled emotions.
Diabetes has been for me then, a deep exercise in introspection: a deep learning to pay attention to my needs, to want those things I'm doing for myself, to love and desire to be healthy, and in good spirits. It is the courage to look at what we want in the face, versus what we need... and to turn what we need into what we want.