From Strangers to Friends – #MasterLab

Posted by on Jul 11, 2014 in General |

(This blog pot was originally published on my blog, Diabetes Ramblings, on Sunday, July 6, 2o14.)

On Tuesday (July 1), I flew to Florida to attend MasterLab which was on Wednesday. This day of advocacy by Diabetes Hands Foundation occurred at the Friends for Life convention in Orlando, FL. Let me start by saying that I was beyond excited to be offered a scholarship to attend (see disclaimer below). I would not have been able to attend without it. After the initial excitement, I started the planning stage. I have to admit that I started to freak out a bit. The last time I flew was June 2001. Yes, before 9/11 and all the strict TSA security rules. I started reading up on these rules. The night before I left I dealt with a bad thunderstorm and insomnia. My stomach was a mess that morning.

MasterLab

All went well with my first ever taxi ride and as I went through security. I admit that I closed my eyes and prayed as we took off. Overall the flight wasn’t bad though we had a little turbulence here and there. I started to concentrate on MasterLab and my DOC friends who would be there. We landed in Orlando and I made my way to the shuttle that would take me to the hotel.

As I approached the van, there was someone waving in the window with a big smile. The van door opened, and I heard, “SUE!” How exciting it was to see Kim (the one waving), Rachel, and Kerri. What was even more exciting, more than recognizing them right away, was that they recognized me. ME? Kerri and Kim are big names in the DOC. But me? I almost started crying!

The rest of the evening was spent connecting with online friends as if we were long-time face-to-face friends and getting to know so many other wonderful people. It didn’t matter if we were Type 1, Type 2, or Type 3. We were all friends with a common mission – to advocate and educate until a cure can be found.

SueKate
(Sue & Kate from The Type 2 Experience at MasterLab)

During MasterLab, I got to meet so many wonderful people. I was excited to have at my table people like Kate, Aliza, and Karen. As I sat next to the wonderful Cherise, I asked if I could get a picture with her. She enthusiastically said yes. Both of us used our phones to get selfies to post online. The picture she posted on Twitter of us included the caption, “from strangers to friends.”

From strangers to friends. I miss you, my friends. Until we meet again…

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Disclaimer: I was offered a scholarship by the Diabetes Hands Foundation as part of my participation in the Diabetes Advocates program to attend the MasterLab. My conference fee, travel, and hotel were covered by the scholarship, but the opinions and ideas I will report on are my own.

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The Flawed One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Type 2 Diabetes

Posted by on Jun 28, 2014 in Management & Care, Treatment & Medication |

The more I observe the general approach being employed by many in the medical and diabetes health communities to address the ‘diabetes epidemic,’ the more I wince.

At the heart of the matter, there seems to be a general undercurrent of belief regarding the condition: diabetes type 2 is a straightforward situation, so just exercise more, and eat less. I get that vibe a lot when I watch TV, read the news, or read the blogs of many a well-meaning health professional and health advocacy organization. While this is generally true in principle and the advice and ideas of many of these folks are helpful, one comes away with the impression that they consider diabetes to be a one-size-fits-all situation, where people are simply undisciplined. This is a nearsighted perspective that is unhelpful for the patient – it fails to truly address the multi-dimensional psychological aspects of a person living with the condition, and thus, their ability to truly embrace the challenge.

What do I mean by this?

What I mean is that diabetes is simply a symptom of a problem. Let’s think about this situation for a moment. Would we tell an anorexic or bulimic patient who has developed heart disease to simply start eating more, or to simply stop throwing up? No. We understand that these behaviors are symptoms of a larger problem – that there are psychological challenges at work, creating disordered eating in this person’s life. We can tell a person with anorexia how undereating will kill them, or a bulimic how throwing up will damage the enamel of their teeth – but no amount of information is going to stop the disordered behavior. There needs to be intense psychological intervention in order to address the warped perceptions in the patient’s life.

This is just one example of how a chain of events can lead to chronic condition in someone’s life. Every ‘someone’ ought to be treated in ways which are tailored to their life experience. Now, while not all persons with diabetes are obese, the fact of the matter is that the majority of persons with type 2 diabetes have some disordered eating, are overweight, or are obese, and the reasons for this need to be addressed.

  • There are some folks who may have gained some weight simply because they are very busy — be it busy parents with families, or busy professionals – and they might just need some help tweaking their habits. These types of folks could benefit from just a bit of guidance on how to readjust, and minimize just reaching for the convenient meal or junk food snack;
  • There are folks who’ve gained weight due to illness, medications, or immobility, and could use some help juggling the situations; and
  • There are some folks who genuinely have disordered eating, and have gained massive amounts of weight: folks who use food as a form of comfort, as a form of treating pain or depression, as a form of coping with life much in the same ways a person might use drugs or alcohol, etc.

Whatever that person’s reason to struggle with disordered eating which has lead to weight gain – it needs to be addressed first. We recognize that disorders like anorexia and bulimia are dangerous, and not just a matter of ‘eating more,’ and stopping the dangerous habits. So why don’t we recognize that a large number of people who are obese also have a deadly eating disorder and are in need of psychological attention? Would we throw an eating plan at folks with anorexia, or bulimia, and expect them to fix themselves? Or would we give them much needed psychotherapy, and coaching, to help them succeed?

We need to understand that type 2 diabetes can affect a large variety of people who are in many different walks of life, and with many different social challenges. Assessing the patient in a wholistic way – addressing the level of psychosocial support and therapy that a patient might need in order to overcome their health challenges will be ESSENTIAL to managing the diabetes epidemic. There is no amount of healthy foods, exercise facilities, and information that can fix a person whose mind is warped by the thoughts and cycles of disordered eating. Therapy is needed, and it must not be ignored.

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Food diaries and honesty

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in Eating & Cooking |

People with diabetes are constantly aware of food, that’s a given. We need to pay attention to what we’re eating, how many carbs, when we’re eating and longing for foods we crave but probably shouldn’t eat. I have kept food journals in the past to get a grip on how different foods affect my blood sugar. I find them to be helpful. I was somewhat careful to write down what was in a particular meal (along with before and after glucose readings) but I never spent time writing down everything I ate in a day. A recent attempt to pinpoint another health issue, separate from my diabetes, was not only eye-opening but a bit uncomfortable.

I’ve been having “gut issues” for months now. I got to thinking about the possibility of lactose intolerance since I have family members who deal with that. Pretty much the only dairy I eat these days is cheese and a bit of cream in my coffee  but I figured it was worth a try. A food diary seemed like a good idea because, who knows, it might be something else I’m eating that’s causing me grief. If I just kept track of everything I ate for a week maybe my doctor could look at that and say, “Well there’s the culprit!” So I began. I lasted two days.

Have you ever really paid attention to everything you eat? Regardless of the fact that I think about food all the time, I never realized just how much I was eating. It was embarrassing. When you have to stop and write down what you’re eating, it puts a huge spotlight on that snack you’ve decided to eat. Knowing that I had to “own up” to eating something, I would either change my mind and eat something “safer” or else eat it anyway and then feel guilty. I even considered not writing something down just so no one else would see what I’d done! Talk about feeling like Big Brother is watching. It was awful.

I’m writing this to bring up the point that, even though we may have made dramatic changes to what we eat on a daily basis, even though we may be committed to a healthier lifestyle, even though we “know better”, it can be so easy to derail our good intentions with mindless munching. This is not to say that we can’t have a treat now and then, but it would be in our best interest to make it a planned treat and curtail the munching for munching’s sake. My short experiment in food journaling may not have been the success I was hoping for but it did cause me to pay closer attention to what I’m eating. I’m much more aware now and have been making better choices. What could you do to improve your diet?

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Type 2s at Friends for Life? MasterLab!

Posted by on Jun 8, 2014 in General |

This probably sounds silly, but for the last few years I’ve been jealous of Type 1s and their families. Why? Friends for Life (#FFL). This conference is sponsored by Children With Diabetes (CWD) and is designed for people with Type 1 diabetes and their families. I felt like a kid not invited to a birthday party.

MasterLab

This year there is an event at FFL with Type 2s on the invite list: Diabetes Hands Foundation’s MasterLab. Want to spend a day talking about advocacy? MasterLab is for you! Recently I was made aware of this day of advocacy discussion and asked to attend as a person with Type 2 diabetes (see disclaimer below). After looking at the schedule, how could I say no?

Kate and I (Sue) are two of the writers from The Type 2 Experience who will be there. I would love to see more Type 2s at this event so I wanted to help put the word out. Here’s a special deal for those attending FFL already:

Diabetes Hands Foundation offers this MasterLab in collaboration with Children with Diabetes (CWD). Registered participants in CWD’s Friends for Life conference are welcome to join the MasterLab as part of their experience at no additional cost. Separate registration for the MasterLab is required.

(Note: There’s more information on the MasterLab page if you want to take advantage of this offer.)

The excitement and anticipation grows as I try to figure out what to pack, find out which of my diabetes online community (DOC) friends will be there, and figure out what bag will fit under the seat in a 16″x14″x12″ space to carry my clothes and laptop.

Are you going to FFL or MasterLab? Let us know! Maybe we can meet up!

Disclaimer: I have been offered a scholarship by the Diabetes Hands Foundation as part of my participation in the Diabetes Advocates program to attend the MasterLab. My travel and hotel are being covered by the scholarship, but the opinions and ideas (as well as excitement and anticipation) I will report on are my own.

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It’s a Miracle!

Posted by on Feb 16, 2014 in Eating & Cooking, General, Management & Care | 4 comments

If you’re paying much attention to what is said on social media about type 2 diabetes; how we get it and how we can get rid of it, then you’ve probably seen this:

okra and water

Wouldn’t it be nice?  Let me say right up front: I hate the term Diabetes Sufferers!!!!

Let’s discuss this claim that okra water will make diabetes “go away”.  There are some rather scary claims here.

First, that okra water “played the role of insulin”.  Anyone who has type 1 knows that there isn’t anything that can replace their injected insulin.  However, many, many people with T2 are apt to grab onto any claim that will help them stop injections.  This is dangerous, in my opinion, because people may stock up on okra and not take their insulin shots based solely on this claim.  T2s who use insulin are doing so for a good reason.  Their blood glucose is on the high end and they need insulin to keep it under control.  While not injecting insulin with T2 doesn’t have the same ramifications as someone with T1, it does mean that folks may be dealing with much higher blood glucose than they should; wreaking havoc with their bodies and possibly developing complications down the road.

Second, the claim that okra water will make diabetes “go away” leaves you with the impression that “all you have to do” is drink this stuff and you can go on eating all the junk you want, without concern.  Diabetes will not go away.  Period.  There are many things we can do to help control our blood glucose but, even if we are seeing normal numbers, that doesn’t mean that diabetes is gone.  It’s still there, lurking, ready to rear its ugly head if we should stray from the path that is working for us.  We need to accept that reality and move on.

I did a little snoping (ie: I went to Snopes.com.  I do know how to spell).  This article at Snopes lays out the controversy quite well.  Lo and behold, Snopes didn’t call BS, but instead said that there is a mix of true and false in the information found in the plug about okra.  It basically says what I did above about the misinformation and added this:

As noted in the 2012 textbook Bioactive Food as Dietary Interventions for Diabetes:

There is anecdotal evidence for the amelioration of diabetes by dietary consumption of okra but what are lacking are controlled clinical trials. There are constituents of okra such as polyphenolic molucules that provide encouragement for such studies in the future.

The article goes on to say that there is enough evidence to indicate that consuming okra might have a positive effect on blood glucose but more, extensive, studies need to happen before it can be said that it makes a difference.

This all tells me that drinking okra water might help to lower blood glucose, just as cinnamon and vinegar (not together, blergh) might work.  Some people do see an improvement with both of these things, but some don’t.  Each of us is different.  The thing to take away from all the hoopla is that it may be worth it to try okra water to see if it helps you but don’t ever buy into claims that something, anything, will make your diabetes disappear.  Only hard work and attention, by you, can make a difference.  We need to take ownership  of our diabetes.  Okra is a good veggie to eat.  Add it to soups and stews or even drink the water, but don’t put it up on a pedestal and think it’s going to change your life.  It’s just a vegetable, one of many you should be eating.

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Putting On My Oxygen Mask

Posted by on Jan 21, 2014 in Management & Care | 1 comment

Why is it that as a parent I make sure my kids do things like go to the dentist religiously twice a year, but I don’t always do the best job at taking care of myself? I come up with excuses why I can’t exercise, forget to test my glucose levels, put off going to the dentist… The list goes on and on.

Ok, I’m not quite being the “model diabetic” here, am I? I want to set a good example for my children, but sometimes life gets in the way. It’s sometimes hard for me to take time and money away from the family to do something for myself. At one point my hair was half way down my back because I had a hard time justifying the cost of getting a haircut. Taking care of myself sometimes feels like an easy to ignore “luxury”.

Quite often in our busy lives, we grab a burger on the go instead of taking the time for a healthy meal. We sit at the computer instead of going for a walk. Finding little ways to stay healthy doesn’t have to take a lot of time, money, or effort.OxygenMask

I need to remind myself I’m not being selfish by taking care of me. Remember the talk before take-off on an airplane? Parents, please put on your oxygen mask before putting one on your child. I need to remember that I can’t take care of my family if I don’t take care of myself first.

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Too much of a good thing

Posted by on Jan 20, 2014 in Eating & Cooking, General |

I recently read an article that warns about the “dark side” of kale.  Kale is the latest superstar of the nutritional world and yet this article warns that if you’re consuming too much it can be bad for you.  Hmmm, too much of a good thing…

This caused me to stop and think about diet/health trends and how we are so eager to jump on any bandwagon that tells us we will be healthier/thinner/happier/stronger if we just eat this or that.  I’m always leery of the “just do this” advice we’re all weary of hearing but it doesn’t seem like a bad thing when someone is touting healthy vegetables.  What harm can it do?

The thing is that, even when it’s healthy foods being pushed, we’re still looking for that magic pill; that one thing we can do to make us healthier.  Here’s the deal: there isn’t just “one thing”.  Instead we should be concentrating on a combination of healthy foods.

Drinking kale shakes until we turn green isn’t a good thing.  It’s not going to cure your ills any better than popping cinnamon pills or drinking vinegar.  They all might help you be healthier but they won’t fix you all by themselves.  Kale is awesome, in moderation.  Add some to your salad or bake it into chips, but don’t fall into the trap that more is better.

Be smart and focus on a balance of healthy foods.  Don’t zero in on one idea and only do that one thing.  Eat sensibly.  Eat a variety of whole foods.  Take supplements that you and your healthcare provider agree might help.  There is no one thing that will do the trick, unless that one thing is you making smart choices.  Think about that before you buy into any health claims.

 

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