Confessions of a Diabetic: What I Do to Survive in Your World
Yes, I Am a Diabetic
You know me, of course you do. But did you know that I’m a diabetic? Oh, you think you know me, but are you aware of the things I must do to live a seemingly normal lifestyle?
People like me are everywhere, you see. I'm your neighbor, your co-worker, maybe even your brother or sister. You probably don't know how many of us there out there in the world. (For that information, please see the table, below.)
Actually, I’m one of the lucky ones because I’m a Type-2 Diabetic and not the dreaded Type-1. Having diabetes is a case where you do not want to be number one.
Being Type-2 means that I’m not on insulin shots, and the things I have to do to control my blood sugar are a lot less dramatic than what a Type-1 diabetic has to do. But as a Type-2 Diabetic, I do have to live a controlled lifestyle. But again, it’s not so bad if you consider how tough it is for Type-1 diabetics.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease where the human body cannot produce enough, or any, insulin. This causes elevated levels of glucose in the blood.
Diabetes Statistics From the American Diabetes Association
Prevalence of Diabetes
In 2012, there were 29.1 million Americans with Diabetes
roughly 1.25 million of these Americans have Type-1 Diabetes
11.8 million Seniors
Newly diagnosed diabetics
1.4 million new Diabetics per year
Death Toll of Diabetes
7th leading cause of deth in the US in 2010
How Is Diabetes Diagnosed?
Technically, a person is considered to be diabetic if they have a blood glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher after an overnight fast. The main sign of having this condition is excessive urination.
Type-1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is not caused by being overweight or having diet problems. It occurs when the body's immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys its insulin-producing cells. This type has no known cure.
Simply put, when a person's body stops using insulin properly they are considered to be Insulin-resistant. This condition is labeled as Type-2 diabetes and is normally treatable with a combination of; diet, exercise, and certain medications.
What Is Pre-Diabetes?
A person is consider to be a pre-diabetic when their blood sugar is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be considered a Type-2.
Why Am I a Diabetic?
I was actually diagnosed as being a diabetic about a dozen years ago now. But, as I look back, I can say with some confidence that I was probably a borderline diabetic who had “episodes” of high blood sugar for a decade or more, long before I was formally diagnosed.
My dad became a Type-2 diabetic late in his life, like me. When I started thinking about it, I also remembered that my grandmother and several of my aunts were also diabetics and taking insulin.
Then, you can add my lifestyle of being consistently overweight, eating high-sugar foods, and exercising only occasionally. These bad habits, in themselves should have been a warning to me. I was a ticking time-bomb, and I didn't know it.
Anyway, as I learned more about diabetes, I realized that the statistical probability of my becoming a diabetic was always pretty high.
Living the Wrong lifestyle
My doctor told me, right after the diagnosis, that I could have a long and healthy life if I just controlled a few things in my lifestyle. Of course, like so many of my fellow diabetics, I stuck my head into my personal bucket of sand and just ignored the doctor’s warnings for years.
I continued to live my own life, my own way. I was overweight for years—and in my job, I spent most of my time; sitting at a computer, sitting in meetings, sitting on airplanes, and traveling around the world sitting in more meetings and eating great, but high-carb foods.
The rest of the time, I lived the high life of a successful professional who enjoyed eating at nice restaurants and attending numerous parties. Life was good, I would tell people—but looking back, I always knew something was wrong.
In fact, I remember one specific morning, after yet another night out, when I accepted the fact that I had to do something about my lifestyle. It was morning, and I was sitting on the sofa, literally feeling like hell.
I was “fuzzy headed,” my eyesight was blurry, and I was sweating like crazy. When I complained, my wife told me, for the millionth time, "Don, its your diabetes acting up." I started to argue, but I realized that the way my body felt was not normal.
Top 10 Early Warning Signs of Diabetes
Changing Your Lifestyle Safely Takes Time
Wondering what was wrong with me, I went online and did a little research.
It didn’t take long, after some reading, to understand that the data I saw was pretty conclusive for me. I saw that I was literally killing myself. I was doing it slowly, yes, but still, I was killing myself with my numerous bad habits.
I was already taking three diabetes prescriptions, each one more powerful that the previous one, and my numbers were still off the charts, so to speak. In fact, after yet another visit to my doctor, he told me that the next step for me would be to start taking daily insulin shots.
This shocked me. After a moment, I gathered my wits and I asked him what I had to do to avoid going onto insulin.
He told me that if I really wanted to stay off of insulin I had to do four things:
- Lose weight
- Get more exercise
- Eat the proper foods for a diabetic
- Avoid certain foods
Well, I went home, and my wife and I came up with a plan for my survival.
My plan was nothing magical at all. In fact, it was a simple one that would eventually cause change for me, but my plan would do it slowly and I knew that it would be some time before I would see real signs of improvement.
So, I can say that today, several years later, I am over fifty pounds lighter, I exercise by walking 4-5 miles a day, three to four days a week, and I eat very controlled combinations of what I call "safe" foods.
Also, now I'm taking only one common prescription for my diabetes, and my numbers are consistently within the range of a normal non-diabetic.
As a Diabetic, I Am Different From You
There was no magic formula to my plan, and my transformation has occurred over a 4-plus-year period of time. But, I am a healthier person, and my chances of ever being on insulin are now very slight.
But looking back, the hardest thing for me to do was accepting the fact that I AM A DIABETIC.
So, as I said: you think you know me. You see me all the time, right?
Things I Must Do Every Day of My Life
But you need to realize the many things I do every day of my life just to keep this insidious disease under control. I don’t need anyone’s sympathy, but I’m the guy who:
- weighs himself every morning and records his weight as one of his warning tools for managing the many things he has to look out for in his daily lifestyle.
- measures his blood sugar every morning before anything else, and records the "overnight fasting" measurement as another of his lifestyle management tools.
- measures his blood sugar 30 minutes after one of his meals several times a week and records these numbers also to give a more rounded view of my sugar level throughout the day.
- walks several miles at least three times a week to support having a healthier body as well as stronger, better functioning organs in his body.
- eats a combination of several daily meals, which are timed to maintain a more level blood sugar reading throughout the day.
- lives in a house where the only sugar you will find is a container of brown sugar that is used exclusively for certain rarely eaten holiday recipes.
- avoids breads, in fact, you will not find high carbohydrate breads or cereals in our house, except for the croutons we use to make our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner stuffing each year (what we call our "special treat" meals).
- has no sweet snacks in the house other than a small bag of hard candy for me to take when my blood sugar mysteriously drops
- now considers a snack to be nuts (but not peanuts). We only eat what are considered “tree nuts”
- sweetens our coffee (or tea) with whatever is considered to be the safest artificial sweetener, specifically, Stevia/Truvia at this time
- reads every food label. When we go to the supermarket, we read every canned or packaged label looking specifically for such deadly words: sugar, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sweetener, natural sweetener and others that indicate some level of added sugar put in the food by the manufacturer. Then we have to look at the sugar content per serving to determine if we really want to eat that food at all.
- tracks calories, carbs, protein, and fiber content of foods. When we are reading our food labels, or preparing our meals, we check for not only calories per serving, but also carbohydrates per serving, to manage our daily food content and its effect on our diets.
- monitors deadly chemical content s in foods. While reading food labels, we also monitor such ingredients as added preservatives, MSG, and more than a dozen of what we consider as the worst top ten chemical additives food growers and packagers add.
A necessary tool for every diabetic is a Blood Glucose meter. I found this one to work best for me.
Eating Properly in the Real World With Others
So, with all of what you have read, you would think we have everything under control.
Well, over these past years of our new home lifestyle we eventually realized that we were often destroying a whole weeks' worth of work by going out to dinner or to a cookout with our friends.
So, we eventually set a few standards for ourselves. Our goals were to still enjoy our times out with our friends, but at the same time minimize what would affect my blood sugar.
Remember, I said minimize, not eliminate. I'm not sure a diabetic can really go out and enjoy themselves if they try to eat strictly within the constraints we need to.
So, when we go out to dinner in a restaurant, or even a cookout at a friends home, here are what you might notice about me:
- You will never see me eating barbecue ribs, shrimp, or other meats because almost all of the BBQ sauces used are loaded with sugar.
- You will almost never see me eating potatoes in any form, due to the high level of carbs which are what I call "time-delayed sugars".
- At a cookout, you will not see me loading my plate with potato salad (carbs, sugar), sweet potatoes (usually prepared with sugar-laden sauces), most coleslaws (loaded with sugar), baked beans (sugar), corn (carbs, GMO’s).
- In a restaurant, you will never see me eating any of that fantastic smelling breads in the basket they place in from to of you. They are invariably white breads; stripped of their nutrients and often laden with preservatives and deadly chemicals.
- If you see me eating a burger or hot dog, it will most likely be without the bun. I usually take at least half (sometimes all) the bun off of a sandwich to reduce the consumed carbs and the deadly preservatives put into most popular white breads.
- If you see me in a bar, you will notice me reading all of the names on the beer tap handles, in a futile hope there is some new “low-carb” beer I can drink other than Mic Ultra.
- If you see me with a mixed drink, it will be vodka or gin, mixed with soda water (not a sugar loaded tonic or cola). And I will ask for several added lemon slices to be added.
- When they offer me dessert, I will either refuse outright, or maybe in a moment of weakness, I’ll ask my wife to order something so I can ”have a bite."
- If you see me at a beach, on a golf course, or wherever, you will maybe notice that either I or my wife are carrying a bag with small snack that I can eat, if I begin to feel my blood sugar going too low, which can happen anytime when it’s been more than two hours since my last meal.
- And sometimes, for no reason at all, I will go into what I call “a sugar high” and start acting strangely, no matter how careful I might have been that day.
- And, when my body sugar is off, you might notice that my breath has a peculiar smell, or that I have strange body odor (even if I had just showered).
Yeah, you know me, but I am a diabetic. So, bear with me and my attempts to live the good life with you.
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Questions & Answers
© 2017 Don Bobbitt